Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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ST. MATTHEW - Chapter 19

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Matthew xix.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 3. Is it lawful? Here again the Pharisees, ever anxious to ensnare Jesus in his words, come to him and ask him, is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? Thinking now they had to a certainty succeeded, they argue thus with themselves: shall he say that it is not lawful, we will accuse him of blasphemy, contradicting the Scriptures. For, it is written, Deuteronomy iv.[xxiv.?] 1, If a man take a wife, and she find not favour in his eyes, for some uncleanness, he shall write a bill of divorce. And Malachias, ii. 16, When thou shalt hate her, put her away. --- On the other hand, if he shall say it is lawful, we will accuse him of favouring the passions. But Jesus Christ, the wisdom of the eternal Father, silences them with the authority of that Scripture they attempted to bring against him. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder; intimating, that the connexion between husband and wife is so strict, that by it they become as one flesh, and can no more be separated than one member from another. (Denis the Carthusian) --- To put away his wife for every cause,[1] or upon every occasion. They did not doubt it, if the cause was considerable. (Witham)

Ver. 4. In the beginning. It is remarked by St. Jerome, St. Chrysostom, and Theophylactus, that the Almighty does not say of any of the animals which he created, as he does of man and woman, that he joined one male to one female; from which it appears, according to the reasoning of St. Augustine, that monogamy, as well as the indissolubility of marriage, was instituted from the beginning by the Almighty. (Tirinus)

Ver. 5. These words were pronounced by Adam. Genesis ii. 24. --- And they two shall be in one flesh.[2] I translate thus with submission to better judges; yet the sense may be, by a kind of Hebraism, they shall be esteemed as one person. (Witham)

Ver. 7. The Pharisees, not satisfied, again attack our Saviour. To this second attack he replies: Moses indeed permitted you to put away your wives on account of the hardness of your hearts, and to prevent a greater evil, lest through your cruelty you should poison them, or put them to violent death; but in the natural law, signified by the beginning, it was not so. (Denis the Carthusian)

Ver. 8. Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you, &c. Whether this was permitted in the old law, so that the man who was divorced from his wife could marry another woman, is disputed. Some think this second marriage was still unlawful, though tolerated, and not punished. At least in the new law, a divorce upon just causes may be sometimes permitted; but this does not make it lawful for the man or woman so separated to marry another. (Witham) --- The latter part of this verse, of St. Paul, (Romans vii. 3,) and the constant tradition of the Church, shew that the exception only refers to separation, but not to the marrying another during the life of the parties. In this place Christ restores the original condition of the marriage state, and henceforth will have it to be a perfect figure of the hypostatic union of his divine person with our human nature, as also of his nuptial union with his Church, and consequently that it should be indissoluble. (Tirinus)

Ver. 9. And I say to you. It is worthy of remark, that in the parallel texts, St. Mark x. 2. and St. Luke xvi. 18. and St. Paul to Corinthians vii. 10. omit the exception of fornication; and also that St. Matthew himself omits it in the second part of the verse; and says absolutely, that he who shall marry her that is put away committeth adultery. It perhaps crept in here from chap. v. 32, where it is found in a phrase very similar to this, but which expresses a case widely different. Divorce is in no case admitted but in that of adultery. This is what Christ teaches in chap. v. 32, and to this the exception is referred, marked in the two texts. But in this very case the separated parties cannot contract a second marriage without again committing adultery, as we must infer, from a comparison of this text with the parallel texts of St. Mark and St. Luke. (Bible de Vence) --- If we did not understand it in this manner, the case of the adulteress would be preferable to the case of her who should be put away without any crime of her own; as in this supposition, the former would be allowed to marry again, which the latter would not be allowed. (Tirinus) --- St. Augustine is very explicit on this subject. See lib. 11. de adult conjug. chap. xxi. xxii. xxiv. --- St. Jerome, in his high commendation of the noble matron, Fabiola, says of her: "that though she was the innocent party, for the unlawful act of marrying again, she did public penance." (In Epitaph. Fabiolæ.) --- This universally received doctrine of the Catholic Church was confirmed in the general council of Trent. (Session xxiv. canon 6.)

Ver. 11. All receive not this word.[3] To translate all cannot take, or cannot receive this word, is neither conformable to the Latin nor Greek text. To be able to live singly, and chastely, is given to every one that asketh, and prayeth for the grace of God to enable him to live so. (Witham) --- Jesus Christ takes occasion from the remark of the Pharisees to praise holy virginity, which he represents as a great and good gift of heaven; and such it has ever been considered in the eye of true and genuine religion. Hence it appears that besides commandments, there are evangelical counsels, to the observance of which it is both lawful and meritorious for a Christian to devote himself, especially for the purpose of employing himself with greater liberty and less encumbrance in the service of his God. --- Our Lord does not approve of the conclusion his disciples drew from his doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, lest he should seem to condemn matrimony both good and necessary; neither does he reprove them for it, lest he should seem to prefer it before the state of continency. His answer therefore prudently avoids both difficulties, by seeming to grant, on the one hand, that it was more expedient not to marry, because chastity is a great gift of God; (1 Corinthians vii.) and plainly shewing on the other, that only few can have this privilege, because all do not receive this word, i.e. all are not called to this state. (Jansenius) --- All cannot receive it, because all do not wish it. The reward is held out to all. Let him who seeks for glory, not think of the labour. None would overcome, if all were afraid of engaging in the conflict. If some fail, are we to be less careful in our pursuit of virtue? Is the soldier terrified, because his comrade fights and falls by his side? (St. Chrysostom) --- He that can receive it, let him receive it. He that can fight, let him fight, overcome and triumph. It is the voice of the Lord animating his soldiers to victory. (St. Jerome)

Ver. 12. And there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs, &c. It is not to be taken in the literal sense, but of such who have taken a firm and commendable resolution of leading a single life. --- He that can receive it, let him receive it. Some think that to receive, in this and the foregoing verse, is to understand; and so will have the sense to be, he that can understand what I have said of different eunuchs, let him understand it; as when Christ said elsewhere, he that hath ears to hear, let him hear. But others expound it as an admonition to men and women, not to engage themselves in a vow of living a single life, unless, after a serious deliberation, they have good grounds to think they can duly comply with this vow, otherwise let them not make it. Thus St. Jerome on this place, and St. Chrysostom where they both expressly take notice, that this grace is granted to every one that asketh and beggeth for it by prayer. (Witham) --- To the crown and glory of which state, let those aspire who feel themselves called by heaven.

Ver. 13. That he should lay his hands upon them. It was the custom to present children to men reputed holy, as it is now the custom for bishops and priests to pray and give a blessing to others. (Witham) --- It was customary with the Jews to present their children to the elders, that they might receive their blessing; hence they present them on this occasion to our Lord. (St. Remigius) --- And the disciples rebuked them, not because they were unwilling that the children should be blessed by the hands of our Saviour, but as they were yet weak in faith, they thought that, like other men, he would be teased by the importunity of the offerers. (St. Jerome) --- The people thought that the same hands, which could restore instantaneous health to the sick, must necessarily impart every good to such children as they should touch. The disciples thought they made too free with their Master, requesting what, in their ideas, was beneath his dignity. (Haydock)

Ver. 14. Jesus said ... Suffer the little children, &c. He here blames the conduct of the apostles, and shews that his assertions in praise of virginity, were not meant as derogatory from the holiness of the marriage state, by giving his blessing to these little ones, the fruits of lawful wedlock; and declares that the kingdom of heaven is the portion of such as resemble these little ones, by the innocence of their lives and simplicity of their hearts. He, moreover, shews that confidence in our own strength, in our own free-will, and in our merits, is an invincible obstacle to salvation. St. Mark (x. 16) says, that embracing them, and laying hands upon them, he blessed them. Hence probably arose the ancient custom of presenting children to bishops and priests, to receive their blessing, beside that of confirmation immediately after baptism. --- Nicephorus tells us that the celebrated St. Ignatius, afterwards bishop of Antioch, was one of these children who, on this occasion, received Christ's blessing. --- If we would enter into the kingdom of heaven, we must imitate the virtues of little children. Their souls are free from every passion; void of every thought of revenge, they approach those who have grieved them as to their best friends. Though the parent repeatedly chastise his child, it still will adhere to him, still will it love him, and prefer him in all his poverty to all the fascinating charms of dazzling gold and purple. They seek not beyond what is necessary, they admire not the beauty of the body, they are not grieved at the loss of worldly wealth, therefore does the Saviour of the world say, that theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxiii.)

Ver. 16. Behold one came. St. Luke (xviii. 18.) calls him a prince or lord. Some conjecture this young man came only in a dissembling way, to try or tempt our Saviour, as the Pharisees sometimes did, and without any design to follow his advice; but by all the circumstances related of him, by the evangelists particularly, when St. Mark (Chap. x. 22.) tells us, he went away sorrowful, he seems to have come with sincerity, but without resolution strong enough to leave his worldly goods and possessions. (Witham)

Ver. 17. Why askest thou me concerning good?[4] In the ordinary Greek copies, why dost thou call me good? (Witham) --- One is good, &c. God alone, by his own nature, is essentially, absolutely, and unchangeably good; at the same time, he is the source of all created goodness, as all goodness is a mere emanation from his. The person here addressing our Saviour, appears not to have believed that Christ was God: wherefore our Saviour, to rectify his misconception, tells him that God alone is good, insinuating thereby, that he should believe him to be God, or cease to address him by the title of good. (Tirinus) --- The sense is, that only God is good necessarily, and by his own nature. The Arians bring this place to shew, that Christ is not truly and properly God: but by this way of speaking, Christ does not deny that he is good, even by his nature, and consequently God; but seems to speak in this manner, to make the man know who he was. (Witham)

Ver. 19. St. Jerome thinks his answer was not conformable to truth, or he would not have been sorry when ordered to distribute his goods among the poor.

Ver. 21. If thou wilt be perfect. This shews there is a difference betwixt things that are of precept, and those that are of counsel only, which they aim at, that aspire to the greatest perfection. (Witham) --- Evangelical perfection essentially consists in the perfect observance of God's commandments, which is greatly assisted by embracing not only voluntary poverty, but also the other counsels given to us in the gospels, such as perpetual chastity, and entire obedience. --- Follow me. Thus to follow Christ, is to be without wife and care of children, to have no property, and to live in community; this state of life hath a great reward in heaven. This state, we learn from St. Augustine, the apostles followed; and he himself not only embraced it, but exhorted as many others as he possibly could to embrace it. (St. Augustine, ep. lxxxix, in fine, and in Ps. ciii. conc. 3. post. med.) (Bristow) --- The whole perfection of a Christian life consists in following Christ, by an imitation of his virtues. So that he who possesses poverty and chastity, does not immediately become perfect, but only enters upon the way of perfection, by facilitating his progress to perfection, removing hindrances, and laying aside all care of temporal concerns. (Nicholas of Lyra.) --- In this chapter Jesus Christ delivers the evangelical counsels. In ver. 12, he recommends continency---here he proposes voluntary poverty, and immediately adds that of obedience, follow me. St. Augustine teaches, that the apostles bound themselves by vow to the observance of these three counsels. (De civit. Dei. Book xvii. chap. 4.)

Ver. 22. Sorrowful. I know not how it happens, that when superfluous and earthly things are loved, we are more attached to what we possess in effect than in desire. For, why did this young man depart sad, but because he had great riches? It is one thing not to wish for, and another to part with them, when once we have them. They become incorporated, and, as it were, a part of ourselves, like food; and, when taken, are changed into our own members. No one easily suffers a member of his body to be cut off. (St. Augustine, ep. xxxi. ad Paul.)

Ver. 24. It is easier for a camel,[5] &c. This might be a common saying, to signify any thing impossible, or very hard. Some by a camel, would have to be meant a cable, or ship-rope, but that is differently writ in Greek, and here is commonly understood a true camel. (Witham) --- But nothing is impossible to God.

Ver. 25. They wondered very much. The apostles wondered how any person could be saved, not because all were rich, but because the poor were also included, who had their hearts and affections fixed on riches. (St. Augustine and Nicholas of Lyra.)

Ver. 27. Behold we have left all! What confidence this in Peter! He had been but a fisherman, always poor, living by his industry, and gaining his bread by the sweat of his brow; yet with great confidence he says, we have left all. (St. Jerome) --- For, we are not to consider what he left, but the will with which he left his all. He leaves a great deal, who reserves nothing for himself. It is a great matter to quit all, though the things we leave be very inconsiderable in themselves. Do we not observe with how great affection we love what we already have, and how earnestly we search after what we have not? It is on this account that St. Peter, and his brother, St. Andrew, left much, because they denied themselves even the desire and inclination of possessing any thing. (St. Gregory, on S. Mat. hom. v.) --- Though I have not been rich, I shall not, on that account, receive a less reward; for, the apostles, who have done the same thing with me, were no richer than myself. He therefore leaves all the world, who leaves all he has, and the desire of ever having more. (St. Augustine, ep. lxxxix. ad. Hilar.)

Ver. 28. In the regeneration. Jesus Christ here calls the general resurrection the regeneration, because there will then be a renovation of the human body, and of the whole world. The promise which is here made to the apostles of sitting on thrones at the general judgment, and passing sentence on the 12 tribes of Israel, must not be understood as limited to the apostles, or to the Jews. For St. Paul says, (1 Corinthians vi. 2. and 3,) that not only he, but also many of the Corinthians to whom he was writing, would judge not merely the 12 tribes, but the whole world, and moreover angels themselves. It is the opinion of many of the Fathers, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Gregory, and others, that all apostolical men, i.e. such as, renouncing the goods of this life, adhere to Christ in mind and affection, and by every possible means promote his reign and the propagation of his gospel, will be so far honoured as to sit in judgment with him at the general resurrection. (Tirinus) --- You also shall sit on twelve seats, or thrones, meaning at the general resurrection, when Christ will appear on the throne of his majesty, with his heavenly court, and with his elect, shall condemn the wicked world. (Witham)

Ver. 29. Shall receive a hundred-fold. In St. Mark we read a hundred-fold now in this time, and in the world to come life everlasting. Which hundred-fold is to be understood of the blessings in this life, of interior consolations, of the peace of a good conscience, and in general of spiritual gifts and graces, which are much more valuable than all temporal goods. And besides these spiritual graces in this world, he shall have everlasting glory in the world to come. (Witham) --- Our Saviour does not here lay down a precept of separating from wives; but, as when he before said, he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it, he did not counsel, much less command us to lay violent hands upon ourselves; so here he teaches us to prefer the duties of piety to every other consideration. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxv.) --- The reward will be a hundred-fold, by the accumulation of spiritual gifts and graces in this life, infinitely superior to all we have left, and the inheritance of life eternal in the next. (Bible de Vence)


[1] Ver. 3. Quacunque ex causa, kata pasan aitian, ex qualibet causa.

[2] Ver. 5. Erunt duo in carne una, duo eis sarka mian, in carnem unam, as Genesis ii. 7. factus est homo in animam viventem. See Maldonat.

[3] Ver. 11. Non omnes capiunt, ou pantes chorousi. Maldonat will needs have chorein, to signify intelligere, as it does sometimes. But St. Jerome on this place, unusquisque consideret vires suas, &c. And St. Chrysostom (hom. lxiii.) ut singulare esse certamen perdiscas. St. Jerome adds, Sed his datum est, qui petierunt; qui voluerunt; qui ut acciperent, laboraverunt. And St. Chrysostom, His enim datum est, qui spontè id eligunt. dedotai gar ekeinois tois boulomenois. Ed. Sav. p. 397.

[4] Ver. 17. Quid me interrogas de bono? erotas peri agathou. In the common Greek copies, ti me legeis agathon.

[5] Ver. 24. Camelum, kamelun, which is observed to be different from kamilos, a cable, or ship-rope. See Mr. Legh, Critica Sacra.


Bible Text & Cross-references:

Christ declares matrimony to be indissoluble: he recommends the making one's self an eunuch for the kingdom of heaven; and parting with all things for him. He shews the danger of riches, and the reward of leaving all to follow him.

1 And it came to pass when Jesus had ended these words, he departed from Galilee, *and came into the confines of Judea beyond the Jordan.

2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.

3 *And the Pharisees came to him tempting him, and saying: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

4 But he answering, said to them: Have ye not read, that he *who made man in the beginning, made them male and female? And he said:

5 *For this cause, shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh.

6 Therefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

7 They say to him: *Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorce, and to put away?

8 He saith to them: Moses because of the hardness of your hearts permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

9 *And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and he who shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.

10 His disciples say unto him: If the case of a man with his wife be so, it is not good to marry.

11 He said to them: All receive not this word, but they to whom it is given.

12 For there are eunuchs, who were born so from their mother's womb: and there are eunuchs, who were made so by men: and there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can receive, let him receive it.

13 *Then were little children presented to him, that he should lay his hands upon them and pray. And the disciples rebuked them.

14 But Jesus said to them: *Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such.

15 And when he had laid his hands upon them, he departed thence.

16 And behold one came and said to him: Good Master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?

17 But he said to him: Why askest thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

18 He saith to him: Which? And Jesus said: *Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness.

19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

20 The young man saith to him: All these have I kept from my youth: what is yet wanting to me?

21 Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

22 And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples: Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

24 And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

25 And when the disciples had heard this, they wondered very much, saying: Who then can be saved?

26 And Jesus beholding, said to them: With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible.

27 Then Peter answering, said to him: Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have?

28 And Jesus said to them: Amen, I say to you, that you, who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

29 And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundred-fold, and shall possess life everlasting.

30 *But many that are first, shall be last: and the last shall be first.



1: about the year A.D. 32.; Mark x. 1, 12.; Luke xvi. 1, 18.

3: Mark x. 2.

4: Genesis i. 27.

5: Genesis ii. 24.; 1 Corinthians vi. 16.; Ephesians v. 31.

7: Deuteronomy xxiv. 1.

9: Matthew v. 32.; Mark x. 11.; Luke xvi. 18.; 1 Corinthians vii. 10.

13: about the year A.D. 33.; Mark x. 18.; Luke xviii. 15.

14: Matthew xviii. 3.

18: Exodus xx. 13.

30: Matthew xx. 16.; Mark x. 31.; Luke xiii. 30.