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120. Matthew continues giving his narrative in the following manner:
And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, He departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judæa beyond Jordan; and great multitudes followed Him; and He healed them there. The Pharisees also came unto Him, tempting Him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And so on, down to the words,
He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. Mark also records this, and observes the same order. At the same time, we must certainly see to it that no appearance of contradiction be supposed to arise from the circumstance that the same Mark tells us how the Pharisees were asked by the Lord as to what Moses commanded them, and that on His questioning them to that effect they returned the answer regarding the bill of divorcement which Moses suffered them to write; whereas, according to Matthew's version, it was after the Lord had spoken those words in which He had shown them, out of the law, how God made male and female to be one flesh, and how, therefore, those [thus joined together of Him] ought not to be put asunder by man, that they gave the reply,
Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? To this interrogation, also [as Matthew puts it], He says again in reply,
Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. There is no difficulty, I repeat, in this; for it is not the case that Mark makes no kind of mention of the reply which was thus given by the Lord, but he brings it in after the answer which was returned by them to His question relating to the bill of divorcement.
121. As far as the order or method of statement here adopted is concerned, we ought to understand that it in no way affects the truth of the subject itself, whether the question regarding the permission to write a bill of divorcement given by the said Moses, by whom also it is recorded that God made male and female to be one flesh, was addressed by these Pharisees to the Lord at the time when He was forbidding the separation of husband and wife, and confirming His declaration on that subject by the authority of the law; or whether the said question was conveyed in the reply which the same persons returned to the Lord, at the time when He asked them about what Moses had commanded them. For His intention was not to offer them any reason for the permission which Moses thus granted them until they had first mentioned the matter themselves; which intention on His part is what is indicated by the inquiry which Mark has introduced. On the other hand, their desire was to use the authority of Moses in commanding the giving of a bill of divorcement, for the purpose of stopping His mouth, so to speak, in the matter of forbidding, as they believed He undoubtedly would do, a man to put away his wife. For they had approached Him with the view of saying what would tempt Him. And this desire of theirs is what is indicated by Matthew, when, instead of stating how they were interrogated first themselves, he represents them as having of their own accord put the question about the precept of Moses, in order that they might thereby, as it were, convict the Lord of doing what was wrong in prohibiting the putting away of wives. Wherefore, since the mind of the speakers, in the service of which the words ought to stand, has been exhibited by both evangelists, it is no matter how the modes of narration adopted by the two may differ, provided neither of them fails to give a correct representation of the subject itself.
122. Another view of the matter may also be taken, namely, that, in accordance with Mark's statement, when these persons began by questioning the Lord on the subject of the putting away of a wife, He questioned them in turn as to what Moses commanded them; and that, on their replying that Moses suffered them to write a bill of divorcement and put the wife away, He made His answer to them regarding the said law which was given by Moses, reminding them how God instituted the union of male and female, and addressing them in the words which are inserted by Matthew, namely,
Have ye not read that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female? and so on. On hearing these words, they repeated in the form of an inquiry what they had already given utterance to when replying to His first interrogation, namely the expression,
Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? Then Jesus showed that the reason was the hardness of their heart; which explanation Mark brings in, with a view to brevity, at an earlier point, as if it had been given in reply to that former response of theirs, which Matthew has passed over. And this he does as judging that no injury could be done to the truth at whichever point the explanation might be introduced, seeing that the words, with a view to which it was returned, had been uttered twice in the same form; and seeing also that the Lord, in any case, had offered the said explanation in reply to such words.
Source. Translated by S.D.F. Salmond. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1602262.htm>.
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