Pseudo-Chrysostomus. Opus Imperfectum in Matthaeum.—Among the works which have been ascribed to Chrysostom is a commentary on St. Matthew’s Gospel. It is divided into 54 homilies; but this division does not proceed from the author, and (32, 132109) the work was one intended, not for oral delivery, but to be read by persons from whom the writer was absent. The work is defective, wanting from the middle of the 13th to the end of the 19th chapter and breaking off at the end of the 25th. Hence its title, Opus Imperfectum, in distinction to the-genuine series of Chrysostom’s 90 homilies on St. Matthew, which have been preserved complete. It is quoted as Chrysostom’s by Nicolas I. (Respons. ad Bulg. Mansi, xv. 403) and other popes; and in the middle ages was accepted without doubt as his. In the Catena Aurea of Thomas Aquinas it is largely employed; and Fabricius quotes Dionysius the Carthusian as saying that he would rather have this imperfect work perfect than be lord of all Paris. Yet the author, far from being Chrysostom or any other orthodox divine, was undoubtedly a bitter Arian. Much of its heresy was hidden from many of its readers by the expurgations of successive transcribers and editors, and some parts may have been so deeply tainted with heresy that only, total excision would suffice. Some early critics, indeed, defended the genuineness of the expurgated form, contending that the passages found in some copies, where the doctrine of our Lord’s equality with the Father is formally combated, had been but scribblings by an Arian in the margin of an orthodox writer, which through mistake had crept into the text. Some of the heretical passages can be cut out without injury to the context, but there remain many passages of undisputed genuineness in which the author unmistakably defines his position, and reveals himself as a member of a small persecuted sect which condemned the dominant church as heretical, and was in turn denounced as heretical by the state and as such visited with temporal penalties; and he marks the reign of Theodosius as the time when orthodoxy was overwhelmed and when what he calls the heresy of the Homoousians became triumphant (48, 199; 49, 20). It being clear that the author was not a member of the Catholic church, it is unreasonable to doubt the genuineness of the passages where he exhibits his Arianism, e.g. where he explains that our Lord called heretics “spinas et tribulos,” because, foreseeing that heresy would prevail above all others, He called them “tribulos, quasi trinitatis professores et triangulam bajulantes impietatem.” We must therefore regard the expurgation of the passages as probably due to their heterodoxy. It was not only the Arian passages which were expurgated. E.g. where the writer speaks (19, 93) of “offering the sacrifice of bread and wine,” he is made to say “the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood”; and a passage is cut out altogether where he argues that if it be dangerous to transfer to private uses the consecrated vessels “which contain not the Lord’s real body, but the mystery of His body,” how much more to profane the vessels of our own body which God has prepared for His dwelling-place.
When the controversial passages had been expurgated, there was nothing to excite orthodox suspicions in our writer’s language about our Lord’s divinity. The Arians were not Unitarians, their doctrines, on the contrary, being open to the charge of Ditheism. Accordingly our writer uses very high language concerning our Lord, speaks of Him as “our great God and Saviour,” as does also Maximinus, whose doctrine is in accurate accordance with that of the present work. His formula is “Deus genitus de ingenito Deo.” Sometimes it is “unigenitus Deus” (μονογενὴς θεός). If in his controversial passages he is eager to argue that the Son, “to Whom all things were delivered by the Father,” can neither be identical with the Father nor equal to Him, he is equally energetic in repelling the doctrine that He was mere man; and the heresy of the Homoousians is not more reprobated 870than that of Photinus, who, in his recoil from Arian ditheism, completely separated the Saviour’s manhood from the one supreme Divinity. The Third Person of the Trinity is comparatively seldom mentioned, but on this head the writer’s doctrine is even more distinctly heretical. The Holy Spirit is evidently regarded as a third Being, as much inferior to the Son as the Son is to the Father (34, 146). This is the representation also of the Ascension of Isaiah, a work quoted in the present treatise.
Naturally a better side of Arianism is exhibited in this work than elsewhere, in the main not controversial but exegetical and practical, written when all court favour had long been lost, and when the sect met from the state with nothing but persecution. How much there was to recommend the book to a religious mind is evident from the fact that it passed so long as Chrysostom’s. The work itself makes no claim to such authorship; the writer is evidently addressing persons who knew him, and to whom he had no motive for trying to pass himself off as other than he was. He had also written commentaries on St. Mark (49, 211) and St. Luke (1, 23; 9, 56). Fragments of ancient Arian homilies on St. Luke have been published by Mai (Bib. Nov. Vet. Pat. iii.), but they have no resemblance to this work. Many favourable extracts from this commentary could be given to justify the estimation in which it was so long held: e.g. the whole comment on the text “Seek and ye shall find” (Hom. 17). But possibly the book was commended to medieval readers less by its merits than by what most modern readers would count its faults, for, utterly unlike Chrysostom, this writer constantly follows the mystical and allegorical method commonly connected with Alexandria. In this style he shews remarkable ingenuity. E.g. the name Bathsheba, or, as he reads it, Bersabee, he finds in Hebrew denotes “seven wells.” He deduces from Prov. v. 15 that “well” denotes “a wife.” Bathsheba was the seventh wife the literal David; but we learn spiritually that Christ is the spouse of seven churches, for so the one church is designated on account of the seven Spirits by which it is sustained, and accordingly both Paul and John wrote to seven churches. This last remark may suggest the writer’s acquaintance with the work of which the Muratorian Fragment is a part.
The writer shews a strong preference for the ascetic life. He remarks (24, 135) that when the disciples said “If the case of the man be so with his wife it is not good to marry,” our Lord did not contradict them or say it was good to marry. He holds (1, 24), that conjugal union is bad and in itself a sin; and although on account of God’s permission it ceases to be sin, yet it is not righteousness. In the beginning of the world men married sisters—a sin excusable at the time on account of the fewness of men. Afterwards this was forbidden, but a man was allowed to have more wives than one; then, as population increased, this too was forbidden, but a man was allowed to have one wife; “now that the world has grown old we know what is well-pleasing in God’s sight, though on account of incontinent men we dare not say it.” Some hard language concerning women will be found (24, 135). Yet to those who will not take his counsel he gives advice concerning the choosing and ruling of a wife. He regards the apostle’s permission of a second marriage as but licence given on account of the hardness of men’s hearts, a second marriage in itself being but “honesta fornicatio.” This is quoted as Chrysostom’s in the Decretum of Gratian (par. 2, caus. 31, quaest. 1, 9). The writer owns there was more continence in the dominant church than in his own sect, but is not any more disposed therefore to condone that church’s heresy. A heretical sect is no more a church than an ape is a man. If you see a man who does not worship God in truth doing what seem to you good works, do not believe your eyes and say he is a man of good life, but believe God, Who says “An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” If you call him good you make Christ a liar; you only see the outside, God sees the heart. The works of a man who does not care to believe rightly can spring from no good motive, for it is better to believe rightly than to act rightly. Faith without works is dead, but still it is something; works without faith are nothing at all. The foolish virgins had the lamps of right faith, but not the oil of good works to burn in them; but what avails the oil of good works to Jews or heretics who have no lamps wherein to light it? He will not even own the baptism of heretics as valid.
It has been questioned whether the original language of this commentary were Greek or Latin, but it appears to us that it was certainly Latin. A translator may conceivably, indeed, have modified the language “Jesse Latino sermone refrigerium appellatur” (p. 16), or “in graeco non dicit ‘beati pauperes’ sed ‘beati egeni’ vel ‘beati mendici’” (9, 56). But there are other passages where the argument turns on the use of Latin; e.g. (53, 223) money passing from hand to hand—”usu ipso multiplicatur, unde dicitur usura ab usu,” or (7, 53) where an explanation is suggested why, at the call of the apostles, Peter and his brother are described as “mittentes retia,” John and his brother “retia componentes,” “quia Petrus praedicavit evangelium et non composuit, sed Marcus ab eo praedicata composuit; Joannes autem et praedicavit evangelium et ipse composuit.” The commentator, however, clearly uses Greek authorities. From such he must have derived his explanation (49, 205) why the commandments are ten—”secundum mysterium nominis Jesu Christi quod est in litera iota, id est perfectionis indicio” (see also i, 23). He knew no Hebrew, though he lays great stress on the interpretation of Hebrew names, making use for this purpose of a glossary which we cannot identify with that used by any other writer. It must have been from the work of some Oriental writer that he came by the name of Varisuas as that of a heretic (48, 199), for Barjesus seems plainly intended. He does not use Jerome’s Vulgate, but a previous translation. Thus (Matt. v. 22) he has “sine causa,” which Jerome omits, and he anticipates bp. Butler in his observations as to the uses of anger—”Justa ira mater est disciplinae, ergo non solum peccant qui cum causa irascuntur sed e contra nisi irati fuerint 871peccant.” In the Lord’s Prayer he has “quotidianum,” not “supersubstantialem.” He has the doxology at the end; in this differing from the usage of Latin versions but agreeing with the Apostolic Constitutions (iii. 18), a work he highly valued. In the beatitudes he follows the received text in placing “Blessed are they that mourn” before “Blessed are the meek,” contrary to Jerome and the bulk of the Latin versions. Both here, however, and in the case of the doxology, he agrees with the Codex Brixianus. He reads “neque filius” (Matt. xxiv. 36); he distinctly omits Luke xvii. 36 (50, 213).
Besides the Scriptures he uses the Shepherd of Hermas (33, 142), but acknowledges that it was not universally received; the Clementine Recognitions (20, 94; 50, 212; 51, 214), the Apostolic Constitutions or Canons as he calls them (13, 74; 53, 221). The first of these passages does not appear in our present text of the Constitutions; the second is from bk. viii., which Krabbe gives good reason for thinking an Arian addition to the previously known work. In the latter half of the 4th cent. the Arians appear to have made active use of literary forgery. In their interests was made the longer edition of the Ignatian epistles, which Zahn has conjecturally attributed to Acacius of Caesarea. Interpolations of Arian tendency were also made in the Clementine Recognitions. Our writer used Josephus. He had also, besides the Ascension of Isaiah, another O.T. apocryphal book (not the book of Jubilees), from which he learned the names of Cain and Abel’s sisters, fuller details about the sacrifice of Isaac, was enabled to clear Judah from the guilt of incest in his union with Tamar, etc. He had further N.T. Apocrypha, which, though not absolutely authoritative, might, in his opinion, be read with pleasure. These related in full detail the story of the Magi, compendiously told by St. Matthew, telling how they had learned to expect the appearance of the star from a book preserved in their nation, called the book of Seth, and had in consequence for generations kept a systematic look-out for this star. Probably the same book told him that Joseph was not present when the angel appeared to Mary, and related how our Lord conferred His own baptism on John the Baptist. Directly or indirectly the writer was much indebted to Origen, and there may be traces of acquaintance with two or three other anti-Nicene fathers. His fanciful interpretations of Scripture, though including some few of what may be called patristical commonplaces, seem to be mostly original. With reference, however, to the question of authorship, it is important to determine whether his coincidences with St. Augustine are purely accidental. He is certainly no follower of Augustine. He has little in common with that father’s comments on the same passages of St. Matthew, and differs in various details, e.g. (49, 205) he follows Origen’s division of the Commandments, making “Honour thy father and mother” the fifth, and (p. 218) counting it as belonging to the first table; yet he appears to have been acquainted with Augustine’s Enarrationes on the Psalms, as he has scarcely a quotation from the Psalms which does not shew some resemblance to Augustine’s comment on the same passage; e.g. (4, 43) in Ps. viii. 4, “The heavens, the work of Thy fingers” mean the Holy Scriptures; (5, 37) on Ps. xc. 11, the remark “Portatur non quasi infirmus sed propter honorem potestatis” verbally agrees with Augustine’s “Obsequium angelorum non ad infirmitatem domini pertinet sed ad illorum honorificentiam.” There is a striking verbal similarity (7, 52) between the comment on “mittentes retia” and Augustine’s remarks on that subject in Ps. lxiv. 4. The interpretation that the “mountains” to which Christians are to flee are the Holy Scriptures may have been suggested by Augustine in Ps. lxxv. 2; see also the sermon (46) “de Pastoribus.”
Our author lays claim to no great antiquity. He says (52, 218) that the time since our Lord’s ascension had been nearly as long as the life of an antediluvian patriarch. Accordingly Mill (Praef. N.T.) fixes his date a.d. 961. In favour of the late date there is the use of the medieval word “bladum” for corn, though we do not know the exact date when such words crept into popular language. But a very strong argument for an earlier date is that the author’s studies appear all to have lain in Christian literature earlier than the middle of the 5th cent.; and that he appears to know nothing of any of the controversies in the Christian church after that date. Making all allowance for the narrowing influence of a small sect, we find it hard to believe that the type of Arianism which existed at the time specified could have been preserved in such complete purity two or three centuries later. Our author does not appear to have lived in an Arian kingdom outside the limits of the Roman empire. He draws illustrations (30, 130) from the relative powers of the offices praefectus, vicarius, consul; from the fact that a “solidus” which has not the “charagma Caesaris” is to be rejected as bad (38, 160). When he wrote, heathenism was not extinct, as appears from the end of Hom. 13 and from what he says (10, 13) as to the effect on the heathen of the good or bad conversation of Christians. All things considered, we are not disposed to date the work later than the middle of the 5th cent., which would allow it time to grow into such repute in an expurgated form as to pass for Chrysostom’s with Nicolas I. If so early a date can be assigned to it, we have at once a claimant for its authorship in the Arian by Maximinus, who held a conference with St. Augustine. The Opus Imperfectum was written by an Arian bishop at a distance from his people, as Maximinus then was. The doctrine of the two writers is identical, and there are points of agreement in what Maximinus says as to the temporal penalties to which the expression of his opinions was liable, and as to the duty, notwithstanding, of confessing the truth before men. Maximinus, while in Africa, could hardly help making some acquaintance with the writings of St. Augustine, and might very conceivably adopt his exegesis of particular passages, though on the whole slightly regarding his authority.
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