Ver. 1. † And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week. According to the letter, in the evening of the sabbath, which began to dawn on the first of the sabbath; (or of the sabbaths in the common Greek copies.) This latter translation, which is that of the Rheims Testament, is certainly more according to the letter, and more obscure than it need to be. First, by translating, on the first of the sabbath, where sabbath is taken for a week, as in other places, Luke xviii. 12. Acts xx. 7. and 1 Cor. xvi. 2. It may therefore here be literally translated, on the first day of the week. Secondly, By the evening, is here meant the night: for in the Scriptures, both the Latin and Greek word, which we find in this place, not only signifies that time which we commonly call the evening, but is also put for the whole night itself, and for the time from sunset to sunrise next morning. Thus it is taken in the first chapter of Genesis, where, in the computation of natural days of 24 hours, all the hours in which it was dark, are called vespere, in the Sept. And all the hours in which it was light, are called mane, prwi. et factum est vespere & mane dies unus, i.e. primus. And from the fourth day, on which were created sun and moon, by vespere was understood all the time from the sun setting on such parts of the earth, to its rising to them again: and mane signified all the day, or the hours that the sun appeared to the like parts of the earth. Therefore, the literal and proper sense of the verse is: in the night, i.e. in the latter part of the night of the sabbath, or after the sabbath, towards the morning of the first day of the week. And that in this place is signified the latter part of the night, and not what is commonly called the evening, appears first by the following words, when it began to dawn, or to be light. Secondly, It appears by the other evangelists. S. Mark (xvi. 1.) says, when the sabbath was past . . . very early in the morning. S. Luke says, (xxiv. 1,) very early in the morning. S. John (xx. 1.) says of Mary Magdalene, that she came in the morning, when it was yet dark. From all which it is plain, that Mary Magdalene, and the other pious women, came to the sepulchre at the end of the night after the sabbath-day, or when it began to be light, and about sunrise on the first day of the week, on our Sunday.
--- There may indeed be some doubt whether the Latin word vesperè be not an adverb, corresponding to the Greek oye, serò. And then it may be translated with Dr. Wells: late in the night after the sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week. But this makes no difference at all as to the sense. And the other Mary, &c. S. Mark says, Mary, the mother of James and Salome. S. Luke also names Joanna, who was wife to Chusa, Herod's steward. These women had rested the sabbath, and as soon as it was over, i.e. after sunset, they bought spices, and prepared them in the night, in order to embalm the body next morning. Wi.
[†] V. 1. Vespere autem Sabbati quæ lucescit in prima Sabbati. oye de sabbatwn, (one Greek copy, sabbatou) th epifwskoush eiV mian sabbatwn, (in unam seu primam Sabbatorum.) What must the Latin, quæ, and the Greek, epifwskoush, agree with? We must understand in the Latin, dies; i.e. die quæ lucescit: and in the Greek, we must understand, hmera th epifwskoush.
--- We may also observe, that in the Greek we read not oyia, but oye, the adverb, sero; so that in the Latin to correspond with the Greek, it should also be vespere, late after the sabbath. In fine, that vespera is used in Scripture for the night: see what is said in Genesis, on all the days of creation; and the annotations on Matt. xiv. 15.
--- Paulus Burgensis, in his Additions, published with his Glossa on Gen. 1 p, Attendendum quod Hebræi per vespere intelligunt Noctem, quæ incipit a vespera, et terminatur in mane sequenti, &c.
Ver. 2. Behold . . an angel. The angel did not remove the stone to afford a passage to Christ when he arose; for Christ most certainly arose before the angel appeared; but he removed the stone to prepare the way for the women, and to shew the soldiers that Christ was arisen. He sat on the stone, that the women might know he had removed it; and, in the second place, that they might not be terrified at the appearance of the soldiers; for he exhorted them not to fear, but to come and see; and lastly, to prevent the soldiers from putting in another body, had they been so disposed. The holy women seem not to have known that there were guards placed near the sepulchre; otherwise they would not have been so solicitous who should roll away the stone for them, as how they should deceive the guards and break the seal. Tirinus.
--- For an angel of the Lord. This angel, who came to testify Christ's resurrection, removed the great stone; but Christ was risen before, who according to all the fathers, says Estius, rose, the sepulchre being yet shut.†
--- S. Matthew and S. Mark name but one angel; S. Luke and S. John name two. It may be answered, that the women saw one at one time, and two at another: one upon the stone, out of the monument; (which also frightened the guards) afterwards this angel disappeared, and the women coming near, and looking into the vault, saw two angels, when he that was on the right side said, why seek you him that is living, among the dead?
--- Another difference to be observed, is, that S. Matthew, Mark and John tell us, that the angel, or angels, sat; and S. Luke, that they stood: they might sit at one time, and stand at another. Besides that in the style of the Scriptures, standing, or sitting, many times imply no more than that they were present there.
--- In the third place, we take notice that Mary Magdalene seems to have come running to S. Peter, and S. John, as soon as she saw the stone removed, with these words, They have taken away the Lord . . . and we know not where they have laid him: John xx. 2, we do not there read that she said any thing of the angels. Or perhaps S. Peter and S. John ran away before they heard all that Magdalene had to say. In all these there is no contradiction; and the difficulties rise only from this, that each evangelist does not relate all the circumstances. Wi.
[†] V. 2. Estius. Est omnium Patrum sententia Christum resurrexisse clauso sepulchro.
Ver. 4. The guards were struck, &c. Fear and astonishment seized upon them, because they had not that charity for our Redeemer, of which he is so deserving; and they became petrified, like statues, at the thought that the crucified Jesus was arisen from the sepulchre. For these men guarded the sacred tomb, actuated more by passion and cruelty than by any sentiment of love and duty. Rabanus.
Ver. 5. It is not yours to fear, who love Jesus Christ: let those rather fear, who through hatred have crucified Jesus. All such, if they do not repent of their wickedness, must have to undergo the greatest extremities of pain. S. Chrys. hom. xc.
--- Those miscreants fear, because they have not charity, but fear not you; for I know you seek him that was crucified, who is risen, as he promised you. These affectionate women sought Jesus among the dead, who was then among the living. The recent storm of calamities had nearly overwhelmed their faith, and the weight of temptations had so enfeebled their understanding, that they came to seek the Lord of heaven as one dead among the dead. S. Jerom.
--- The angel blushes not to style Jesus the crucified; for this is now the height and perfection of all good. By these glad tidings he endeavoured to expel their fears, speaking with a smiling countenance, as the messenger of the most joyful news. S. Chrys. hom. xc.
Ver. 6. He is risen, as he said. This is to put them in mind of what they ought to have remembered, and believed.
--- S. Luke is more particular; and tells us the angel said: remember how he spoke to you, when he was yet in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again. Wi.
--- By this the angel give them to understand, that if they would not believe him upon his own testimony, they should at least on the testimony of their Redeemer's promises, who had frequently assured them that on the third day he should rise again. S. Chrys. hom. xc.
Ver. 7. Into Galilee. It is not without reason that the angel informs the women that he will go before them into Galilee; for Galilee is interpreted a transmigration, or a passage. O happy women, who merited the glorious ministry of announcing to a sunk and distressed world the triumphant resurrection of our Redeemer. But thrice happy those souls, who in the day of judgment shall deserve to sing in everlasting canticles, the joy you now conceive in your breasts at the happy resurrection of Jesus. Ven. Bede.
--- Moreover, the disciples being Galileans, it was natural for them to return to Galilee, after the festival week of the Passover. V.
Ver. 9. Jesus met them. According to S. Mark, Christ appeared first to Mary Magdalene; and the particulars are related by S. John. She at first did not know him, but took him for the gardener: then he called her by her name Mary, and she knew him: he said to her, touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to my Father; i.e. according to the common exposition, I have not ascended, nor am yet going to ascend; thou mayest see me again before I ascend: this is not the last time.
--- We also read here, (v. 9,) that he appeared to some of the other women, as they were returning to Jerusalem from the sepulchre, and that they laid hold on his feet, and adored him; nor is it said that he hindered them. Wi.
--- They were then returning to carry the news to the disciples, when they laid hold of his feet. To touch the feet, was in the Scripture a species of veneration; (see Exod. iv. 25. 4 Kings iv. 27.) as among the Greeks, the touching of the knees. Thus Homer's Illiad, b. i.,
Kai ra paroiq autoio Kaqezeto, Kai labe gounwn. v 500.
And again, v. 512; wV hyato gounwn.
Ver. 10. There they shall see me. Our Saviour, on the day of his resurrection, shewed himself alive five different times: 1. to Mary Magdalene; 2. to the women leaving the sepulchre; 3. to S. Peter; 4. to the two disciples going to Emmaus; 5. to the disciples assembled together, when the two returned from Emmaus. And after the day of his resurrection, before he ascended into heaven, he appeared other five times: 1. after eight days, when Thomas was present; 2. when the seven disciples were fishing on the sea of Tiberias; (S. John c. xxi.) 3. to the eleven on Mount Thabor; 4. in Jerusalem, on the day of his ascension; and 5. on the same day on Mount Olivet, when he was taken from them. Dion. Carth.
--- The seventh apparition of Jesus, which was by the sea or lake of Tiberias, S. John calls the third, which may mean in any numerous assembly of his disciples; the first being on the day of his resurrection, and the second the Sunday following. This may also be referred to the number of days. He first appeared to different persons on the very day of his resurrection; secondly, eight days afterwards, and then a third time. S. Aug.
--- The history of our Lord's different apparitions in not very clear, and it is necessary to have recourse to the first chapter of the Acts, and to the 15th chapter of S. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians. S. Austin says, (l. iii. de cons. Evang. c. xxv,) that there are ten apparitions of our Lord recorded in the four evangelists, which he specifies; but Maldonatus, on the 28th chap. of S. Mat. enumerates 13 different apparitions.
Ver. 11. Some of the guards came into the city. It is probable they had retired a while to some place to consult what to say, and how to avoid being punished. The chief priests, after consulting upon the matter, ordered them to say, that when they were asleep, the disciples came and stole away Jesus's body. This report was spread about every where. S. Augustin laughs at them for their blindness and folly, in bringing men in for witnesses of a fact, which they themselves own was done whilst they were asleep. Wi.
--- The poet, Sedulius, also is no less severe on these faithless guards:
Mentita est vox vana sibi; tamen ista figuram
Res habet egregiam, Judæis constat ademptum,
Quem nos devoto portamus pectore Christum.
Ver. 12. Gave a great sum of money. These princes of the Jewish nation still persisting in their malice, refused to turn to their Creator by hearty repentance, and wished to persuade the world that Jesus was not risen, sacrificing that money to falsehood, which was given for the use of the temple. For as they offered Judas 30 pieces of silver to betray his Master, so now they offer a great sum of money to suppress a truth so useful and so necessary for man. S. Jerom.
Ver. 13. It hence appears, that the chief priests themselves were fully convinced of the fact; for otherwise, they would not have bribed the soldiers to dissemble, but would have accused the soldiers before the president of a neglect of duty. T.
--- How was it possible for the timid and weak disciples, who dared not shew themselves in public, to come in defiance of an armed multitude to steal away the body! If these men dared not even to come forward in defence of their Master when alive, is it probable that these same men after his death would steal away his body? And could they, even allowing the possibility of conceiving the design, have removed the stone, which required a great number of hands to stir? Was not the mouth of the sepulchre also sealed? But whydi they not steal away the body the first night, before the guards were stationed? For it was on Saturday the priests petitioned for a guard. Why did they not also take the clothes, which S. Peter saw lying in the sepulchre? Would not a delay in taking off the clothes, and the napkin that bound his head, have appeared dangerous? Would it not have exposed their lives, particularly as the body had been anointed, and some time would be requisite to remove the linen, which would adhere to the body? The means they take to make the miracle uncertain, render it utterly undeniable. For in protesting that the disciples stole it away, they confessed that the body was no longer in the sepulchre. The fear and doubts of the disciples, joined to the idle story of the soldiers, is an evident demonstration, that the account of the body being stolen away, is a gross calumny. S. Chrys. hom. xc.
--- But let us again see how beautifully Sedulius paints the same in verse.
Fare improbe Custos,
Responde scelerata cohors, si Christus, ut audes
Dicere, concluso furtim prductus ab antro
Sopitos latuit, cujus jacet intus amictus?
Cujus ad exuvias sedet angelus? Anne beati
Corporis ablator velociùs esse putavit
Solvere contectum, quam devectare ligatum?
Cum mora sit furtis contraria. Cautiùs ergo
Cum Domino potuere magis sua lintea tolli.
Ver. 16. The eleven disciples went into Galilee, yet not till above eight days after. As to the order of Christ's apparitions, in the gospels: He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, and to other devout women; then to S. Peter; next to two disciples going to Emmaus; after that to the apostles that were all together, except only S. Thomas. These apparitions were all on the very day he rose from the dead. We find also (Jo. xx,) that eight days after he appeared to all the eleven apostles, Thomas being then present, to whom he said, put in thy finger hither, &c. This is generally thought to have happened at Jerusalem. When the apostles and disciples were gone into Galilee, he shewed himself to seven of them, as they were fishing on the lake of Tiberias. Jo. xxi. 4. We read also in this chap. (v. 16,) that he appeared to them on a mountain in Galilee: what mountain is was we know not. It may be of this apparition that S. Paul says, (1 Cor. xv. 6,) Then was he seen by more than five hundred brethren at once. He also tells us he appeared to S. James. See v. 7. But when or where this was, is not mentioned. In fine, Christ till his ascension frequently appeared to them, and conversed with them. He taught them to understand the holy Scriptures, and all that belonged to their ministry: he gave them power to forgive sins: He sent his apostles as his heavenly Father had sent him. He gave in particular to S. Peter the charge over his whole flock: He promised to send down upon them the Holy Ghost; and to remain with them himself to the end of the world, i.e. with his Church. Wi.
--- It is supposed that then and there took place what S. Paul mentions, that Jesus Christ shewed himself to more than 500 of the brethren together. V.
Ver. 17. They adored: but some doubted. This, says Theophylactus, need not be understood of the apostles, but of others, who had not seen Christ after his resurrection. It may also be expounded of those disciples who had doubted at the first, and particularly of S. Thomas the apostle. Wi.
--- These doubted not of the resurrection or divinity of Christ, but whether the person that appeared to them was really their Master, Jesus Christ. V.
Ver. 18. All power is given to me. The Arians object that the power which Christ had, is said to be given him by another. The Catholics answer, that Christ, as man, received this power from God. 2dly. It may also be said, that the eternal Son, though he be equal, and be the same God with the Father, yet he proceeds and receives all from the Father. Wi.
--- See here the warrant and commission of the apostles and their successors, the bishops and pastors of Christ's Church. He received from his Father, all power in heaven and in earth: and in virtue of this power he sends them (even as his Father sent him, S. John xx. 21.) to teach and disciple, maqhteuein, not one, but all nations, and instruct them in all truths: and that he may assist them effectually in the execution of this commission, he promises to be with them, (not for three or four hundred years only) but all days, even to the consummation of the world. How then could the Catholic Church go astray? having always with her pastors, as is here promised, Christ himself, who is the way, the truth, and the life. S. John xiv. 6. Ch.
--- Some hence infer that Jesus Christ, according to his human nature, was sovereign Lord of the whole world; but more properly this may be taken of his spiritual power, such as regards the salvation of souls. For Jesus Christ says to Pilate, my kingdom is not of this world. This spiritual power, Jesus Christ communicated in part to his apostles and their successors in the ministry, as to his vicars: As my Father hath sent me, so I send you. Whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven: behold here the power both in heaven and earth. E.
Ver. 19. Teach all nations. In S. Mark we read, going into the whole world, preach to every creature, that is capable of it; not only to the Jews, but to all nations throughout the whole world, baptizing them, &c. The Anabaptists pretend to shew from this place, that none are to be baptized, unless they be first taught and instructed. This is true, as to persons who are already come to an age, in which they are capable of being instructed before their baptism. But according to the tradition and constant doctrine of the Catholic Church, received also by the pretended Reformed Churches, new born children are to be baptized before they are capable of instruction: nor can they enter into the kingdom of heaven without baptism.
--- In the name of the Father, &c. We are made Christians in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: we profess to believe, and hope for our salvation, by believing, hoping, serving, and adoring the same three divine Persons, from whence the Fathers prove the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost to be one God, and equal in all perfections. Wi.
--- Had Christ only said, Lo! I am with you all days; it might, in that case, be limited to the natural lives of the apostles; but as He moreover adds, even to the consummation of the world, it must necessarily be extended to their successors in the ministry, till the end of time. E.
--- By these words Go, teach, he gives them the power of teaching not only what relates to faith, but also what is necessarily connected with piety and a holy conversation. For we see added a further explanation, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; which words, beyond all doubt, must be referred to the precepts of a holy life. How egregiously then must those men be deceived, who infer from the words teach all nations, that faith alone will suffice. What follows, baptizing them, shews another part of the pastoral functions, which consists in the administration of the sacraments. Hence also all heretics are refuted, who pretend to affirm that all ecclesiastical ministry consists in barely delivering the word. Estius, in dif. loca.
Ver. 20. Behold I am with you all days, even to the end of the world, embraces two points necessary for the Church; viz. integrity of doctrine, and sanctity of life; for, if either of these should be wanting to the Church, it might then be justly said, that she had been left and abandoned by Christ, her Spouse. E.
--- Jesus Christ will make good his promise: 1. by always dwelling in the hearts of the faithful; 2. by his sacramental presence in the holy Eucharist; 3. by his providential care, and constant protection to his holy Catholic Church. These last six lines of S. Matthew's gospel, says the bright luminary of France, Bossuet, most clearly demonstrate the infallibility and indefectibility of the one, holy, Catholic Church, which all are commanded to hear and obey.