Matt. 5:21-26 (Part 1)

5:21ff IRENAEUS: Moreover, this impious opinion of theirs [Gnostics] with respect to actions—namely, that it is incumbent on them to have experience of all kinds of deeds, even the most abominable—is refuted by the teaching of the Lord, with whom not only is the adulterer rejected, but also the man who desires to commit adultery; and not only is the actual murderer held guilty of having killed another to his own damnation, but the man also who is angry with his brother without a cause: who commanded His disciples not only not to hate men, but also to love their enemies; and enjoined them not only not to swear falsely, but not even to swear at all; and not only not to speak evil of their neighbors, but not even to style any one “Raca” and “fool;” declaring that otherwise they were in danger of hell-fire; and not only not to strike, but even, when themselves struck, to present the other cheek to those that maltreated them; and not only not to refuse to give up the property of others, but even if their own were taken away, not to demand it back again from those that took it; and not only not to injure their neighbors, nor to do them any evil, but also, when themselves wickedly dealt with, to be long-suffering, and to show kindness towards those that injured them, and to pray for them, that by means of repentance they might be saved—so that we should in no respect imitate the arrogance, lust, and pride of others.
Against Heresies, 1.408.

IRENAEUS: Instead of that which runs thus, “Do not kill,” He prohibited anger. Against Heresies, 1.477.

TATIAN: You have heard that it was said to the ancients, “Do not kill; and every one that kills is worthy of the judgement.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause is worthy of the judgement; and every one that says to his brother, “You foul one,” is condemned by the synagogue; and whoever says to him, “You fool,” is worthy of the fire of Gehenna. If you are now offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has any grudge against you, leave your gift at the altar, and go first and satisfy your brother, and then return and offer your gift. Join your adversary quickly, and while you are still with him in the way, give a ransom and free yourself from him; lest your adversary delivers you to the judge, and the judge delivers you to the tax- collector, and you fall into prison. And truly I say to you, you shall not get out from there until you pay the last penny. The Diatessaron, 9.57.

TERTULLIAN: The memory of God's precepts paves for our prayers a way into heaven; of which precepts the chief is, that we do not go up to God’s altar before we compose whatever of discord or offense we have contracted with our brethren. For what sort of deed is it to approach the peace of God without peace? The remission of debts while you retain them? How will he appease his Father who is angry with his brother, when from the beginning “all anger” is forbidden us? For even Joseph, when dismissing his brethren for the purpose of fetching their father, said, “And do not be angry in the way.” He warned us, to be sure, at that time (for elsewhere our Discipline is called “the Way”), that when, set in “the way” of prayer, we do not go to “the Father” with anger. After that, the Lord, “amplifying the law,” openly adds the prohibition of anger against a brother to that of murder. Not even by an evil word does He permit it to be vented. Ever if we must be angry, our anger must not be maintained beyond sunset, as the apostle admonishes. But how rash is it either to pass a day without prayer, while you refuse to make satisfaction to your brother; or else, by perseverance in anger, to lose your prayer? On Prayer, 3.685.

ORIGEN: To give assent to sin is already a completed evil, even if someone does not actually commit the deed. And by this saying our Savior, hurling us away from the cause of sins, endeavors to cut sin off completely. For when this intention is not present in our souls, neither shall the action accompany it. Fragment 103.

CYPRIAN: In Solomon in the Proverbs: “Better is a patient man than a strong man; for he who restrains his anger is better than he who takes a city.” Also in the same place: “The imprudent man declares his anger on the same day, but the crafty man hides away his dishonor.” Of this same thing to the Ephesians: “Be angry, and do not sin. Do not let the sun set upon your wrath.” Also in the Gospel according to Matthew: “You have heard that it was said by the ancients, Do not kill; and whoever shall kill shall be guilty of the judgment. But I say to you, That every one who is angry with his brother without cause shall be guilty of the judgment.” The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.535.

5:22ff EDITOR'S NOTE: The qualifier “without a cause” appears in IRENAEUS, TATIAN and CYPRIAN. But certain Greek manuscripts, the Gospel of the Nazarenes (2nd c.) and ORIGEN do not contain “without a cause.” This addition may have been an attempt by scribes to soften Jesus' bold assertion.

THE DIDACHE: Do not be prone to anger, for anger leads the way to murder; neither jealous, nor quarrelsome, nor of hot temper; for out of all these murders are engendered. 7.378.

IRENAEUS: “He that is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.” All this is declared, that we may know that we shall give account to God not of deeds only, as slaves, but even of words and thoughts, as those who have truly received the power of liberty, in which condition a man is more severely tested, whether he will reverence, and fear, and love the Lord. Against Heresies, 1.482.

IRENAEUS: From that Father, therefore, from whom the Son was sent to those husbandmen who slew Him, from Him also were the servants sent.But the Son, as coming from the Father with supreme authority, used to express Himself thus: “But I say to you.” The servants, again, who came as from their Lord, spoke after the manner of servants, delivering a message; and they therefore used to say, “Thus says the Lord.”
Against Heresies, 1.515.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: This filthy speaking the apostle beats off, saying, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good.” And again, “As is fitting for saints, do not let filthiness be named among you, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which things are not seemly, but rather giving of thanks." And if “he that calls his brother a fool be in danger of the judgment,” what shall we pronounce regarding him who speaks what is foolish? Is it not written respecting such: “Whosoever shall speak an idle word, shall give an account to the Lord in the day of judgment?” And again, “By your speech you will be justified,” He says, “and by your speech you will be condemned.” What, then, are the salutary ear-guards, and what the regulations for slippery eyes? Conversations with the righteous, preoccupying and forearming the ears against those that would lead away from the truth. The Instructor, 2.250-251.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Wisdom pronounces anger a wretched thing. The Instructor, 2.293.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: He that wishes to commit murder is a murderer, although he is unable to kill. The Stromata, 2.424.

TERTULLIAN: He judges murder to consist even in a word of curse or of reproach, and in every impulse of anger, and in the neglect of charity toward a brother just as John teaches, that he who hates his brother is a murderer.On Idolatry, 3.62.

TERTULLIAN: If concupiscence or malice have ascended into a man’s heart, Jesus says it is held as a deed. On Idolatry, 3.75.

ORIGEN: And now, to confirm the deductions of reason by the authority of Scripture—namely, that it is our own doing whether we live rightly or not, and that we are not compelled, either by those causes which come to us from without, or, as some think, by the presence of fate—we adduce the testimony of the prophet Micah, in these words: “If it has been announced to you, O man, what is good, or what the Lord requires of you, except that you should do justice, and love mercy, and be ready to walk with the Lord your God.” Moses also speaks as follows: “I have placed before your face the way of life and the way of death: choose what is good, and walk in it.” Isaiah, moreover, makes this declaration: “If you are willing, and hear me, you shall eat the good of the land. But if you be unwilling, and will not hear me, the sword shall consume you; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken this.” In the Psalm, too, it is written: “If My people had heard Me, if Israel had walked in My ways, I would have humbled her enemies to nothing;” by which he shows that it was in the power of the people to hear, and to walk in the ways of God. The Savior also saying, “I say to you, do not resist evildoers;” and, “Whoever shall be angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment;” and, “Whoever shall look upon a woman to lust after her, has already committed adultery with her in his heart;” and in issuing certain other commands,—conveys no other meaning than this, that it is in our own power to observe what is commanded. And therefore we are rightly rendered liable to condemnation if we transgress those commandments which we are able to keep.
De Principiis, 4.305-306.

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