Matt. 5:43-48 (Part 1)

5:43ff TATIAN: You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy:' but I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those that curse you, and deal well with those that hate you, and pray for those who take you with violence and persecute you; that you may be sons of your heavenly Father, who makes his sun to rise on the good and the evil, and sends down his rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? For the tax-collectors and sinners also love those that love them. And if you do a kindness to those who treat you well, where is your superiority? For sinners also do likewise. And if you lend to him of whom you hope for a reward, where is your superiority? For the sinners also lend to sinners, seeking recompense from them. But love your enemies, and do good to them, and lend, and do not cut off the hope of any man; that your reward may be great, and you may be the children of the Highest: for he is lenient towards the wicked and the ungrateful. Be merciful, even as your Father also is merciful. And if you inquire for the good of your brethren only, what more have you done than others? Is not this the conduct of the publicans also? Be now perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. The Diatessaron, 9.57-58.

ORIGEN: [Celsus, a pagan critic, asks:] “How could he command them through Moses to gather wealth, to extend their dominion, to fill the earth, to put their enemies of every age to the sword, and to destroy them utterly, which indeed he himself did—as Moses says—threatening them, moreover, that if they did not obey his commands, he would treat them as his avowed enemies; while, on the other hand, his Son, the man of Nazareth, promulgated laws quite opposed to these, declaring that no one can come to the Father who loves power, or riches, or glory; that men ought not to be more careful in providing food than the ravens; that they were to be less concerned about their raiment than the lilies; that to him who has given them one blow, they should offer to receive another? Whether is it Moses or Jesus who teaches falsely? Did the Father, when he sent Jesus, forget the commands which he had given to Moses? Or did he change his mind, condemn his own laws, and send forth a messenger with counter instructions?” . . .

[Origen's response:] However, if we must refer briefly to the difference between the constitution which was given to the Jews of old by Moses, and that which the Christians, under the direction of Christ’s teaching, wish now to establish, we would observe that it must be impossible for the legislation of Moses, taken literally, to harmonize with the calling of the Gentiles, and with their subjection to the Roman government; and on the other hand, it would be impossible for the Jews to preserve their civil economy unchanged, supposing that they should embrace the Gospel. For Christians could not slay their enemies, or condemn to be burned or stoned, as Moses commands, those who had broken the law, and were therefore condemned as deserving of these punishments; since the Jews themselves, however desirous of carrying out their law, are not able to inflict these punishments.

But in the case of the ancient Jews, who had a land and a form of government of their own, to take from them the right of making war upon their enemies, of fighting for their country, of putting to death or otherwise punishing adulterers, murderers, or others who were guilty of similar crimes, would be to subject them to sudden and utter destruction whenever the enemy fell upon them; for their very laws would in that case restrain them, and prevent them from resisting the enemy. And that same providence which of old gave the law, and has now given the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not wishing the Jewish state to continue longer, has destroyed their city and their temple: it has abolished the worship which was offered to God in that temple by the sacrifice of victims, and other ceremonies which He had prescribed. And as it has destroyed these things, not wishing that they should longer continue, in like manner it has extended day by day the Christian religion, so that it is now preached everywhere with boldness, and that in spite of the numerous obstacles which oppose the spread of Christ’s teaching in the world. But since it was the purpose of God that the nations should receive the benefits of Christ’s teaching, all the devices of men against Christians have been brought to nothing; for the more that kings, and rulers, and peoples have persecuted them everywhere, the more have they increased in number and grown in strength.
Against Celsus, 4.617-621.

TERTULLIAN: God certainly forbids us to hate even with a reason for our hating; for He commands us to love our enemies. God forbids us to curse, though there be some ground for doing so, in commanding that those who curse us we are to bless. The Shows, 3.86.

TERTULLIAN: For our religion commands us to love even our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us, aiming at a perfection all its own, and seeking in its disciples something of a higher type than the commonplace goodness of the world. For all love those who love them; it is peculiar to Christians alone to love those that hate them. To Scapula, 3.105.

CYPRIAN: And that we may more fully understand, beloved brethren, that patience is a thing of God, and that whoever is gentle, and patient, and meek, is an imitator of God the Father; when the Lord in His Gospel was giving precepts for salvation, and, bringing forth divine warnings, was instructing His disciples to perfection, He laid it down, and said, “You have heard that it is said, 'Love your neighbor, and have your enemy in hatred.' But I say to you, 'Love your enemies, and pray for them which persecute you;' that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven, who makes His sun to rise on the good and on the evil, and rains upon the just and on the unjust. For if you love them which love you, what reward shall you have? Do not even the publicans the same? And if you shall salute your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the heathens the same thing? Be therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” He said that the children of God would thus become perfect. He showed that they were thus completed, and taught that they were restored by a heavenly birth, if the patience of God our Father dwell in us—if the divine likeness, which Adam had lost by sin, be manifested and shine in our actions. What a glory is it to become like to God! what and how great a felicity, to possess among our virtues, that which may be placed on the level of divine praises! Treatises of Cyprian, 5.485.

CYPRIAN: For this is to change what you had been, and to begin to be what you were not, that the divine birth might shine forth in you, that the godly discipline might respond to God, the Father, that in the honor and praise of living, God may be glorified in man; as He Himself exhorts, and warns, and promises to those who glorify Him a reward in their turn, saying, “Them that glorify me I will glorify, and he who despises me shall be despised.” For which glorification the Lord, forming and preparing us, and the Son of God instilling the likeness of God the Father, says in His Gospel: “You have heard that it has been said, 'Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, 'Love your enemies, and pray for them which persecute you;' that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven, who makes His sun to rise on the good and on the evil, and sends rain upon the just and on the unjust.” If it is a source of joy and glory to men to have children like to themselves—and it is more agreeable to have begotten an offspring then when the remaining descendant responds to the parent with like characteristics—how much greater is the gladness in God the Father, when any one is so spiritually born that in his acts and praises the divine eminence of race is announced! What a palm of righteousness is it, what a crown to be such a one as that the Lord should not say of you, “I have begotten and brought up children, but they have despised me!” Let Christ rather applaud you, and invite you to the reward, saying, “Come, you blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom which is prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” Treatises of Cyprian, 5.495.

LACTANTIUS: For how can a man be just who injures, who hates, who despoils, who puts to death? And they who strive to be serviceable to their country do all these things. The Divine Institutes, 7.169.

5:44ff EDITOR'S NOTE: A textual variant for Matthew 5:44 is “pray for those persecuting you” as opposed to the longer reading, “bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you.” The shorter reading is supported by earlier Greek manuscripts, and the citations from early Christians such as TERTULLIAN, ORIGEN, THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH and CYPRIAN. But the longer reading is found in early witnesses such as THE DIDACHE, JUSTIN MARTYR, ATHENAGORAS , and CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA. The additional words must have been borrowed from Luke's account of the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:27-28). Otherwise, there is no good reason why the words would have been dropped from Matthew 5:44.

IGNATIUS: And pray without ceasing in behalf of other men. For there is in them hope of repentance that they may attain to God. See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way. Be meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting: to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error, be stedfast in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness.
Epistle to the Ephesians, 1.53-54.

POLYCARP: Pray for all the saints. Pray also for kings, and potentates, and princes,14 and for those that persecute and hate you, and for the enemies of the cross, that your fruit may be manifest to all, and that you may be perfect in Him. Epistle to the Philippians, 1.36.

THE DIDACHE: The teaching is this: Bless them that curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for them that persecute you. For what thank is there, if you love them that love you? Do not also the Gentiles do the same? But love them that hate you; and you shall not have an enemy. 7.377.

JUSTIN MARTYR: We who hated and destroyed one another, and on account of their different manners would not live with men of a different tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live familiarly with them, and pray for our enemies, and endeavor to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all. . . .

And of our love to all, He taught thus: “If you love them that love you, what new thing do you do? For even fornicators do this. But I say to you, 'Pray for your enemies, and love them that hate you, and bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.’” And that we should share with the needy, and do nothing for glory, He said, “Give to him that asks, and from him that would borrow do not turn away; for if you lend to them of whom you hope to receive, what new thing do you do? Even the publicans do this.  Do not lay up for yourselves treasure upon earth, where moth and rust corrupts, and where robbers break through; but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupts.  For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  Lay up treasure, therefore, in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupts.”  And, “Be kind and merciful, as your Father also is kind and merciful, and makes His sun to rise on sinners, and the righteous, and the wicked. 1.167- 168.

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