Isaiah 35:1-6a,10 — James 5:7-10 — Matthew 11:2-11
December 12, 2010
Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea
on Matthew 11:11
11. “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Chrysostom: Having first delivered the Prophet’s testimony in praise of John, He rested not there, but added His own decision respecting him, saying, “Among them that are born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist.”
Rabanus: As much as to say; What need to recount one by one the praises of John the Baptist; “I say verily unto you, Among them that are born of women, &c.” He says women, not virgins. If the same word, mulier, which denotes a married person, is any where in the Gospels applied to Mary, it should be known that the translator has there used ‘ mulier’ for ‘femina;” as in that, “Woman, behold thy son!” [John 19:26]
Jerome: He is then set before all those that are born in wedlock, and not before Him who was born of the Virgin and the Holy Spirit; yet these words, “there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist,” do not imply that John is to be set above the Prophets and Patriarchs and all others, but only makes him equal to the rest; for it does not follow that because others are not greater than him, that therefore he is greater than others.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: But seeing that righteousness has so great deepness that none can be perfect therein but God only, I suppose that all the saints tried by the keenness of the divine judgment, rank in a fixed order, some lower, some before other. Whence we understand that He that hath none greater than Himself, is greater than all.
Chrysostom: That the abundance of this praise might not beget a wrong inclination in the Jews to set John above Christ, he corrects this, saying, “He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Augustine, Cont. Adv. Leg. et Proph., ii, 5: The heretic [margin note: Manichee or Marcionite] argues from this verse to prove that since John did not belong to the kingdom of heaven, therefore much less did the other Prophets of that people, than whom John is greater. But these words of the Lord may be understood in two ways. Either the kingdom of heaven is something which we have not yet received, that, namely, of which He speaks, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom,” [Matt 25:34] because they in it are Angels, therefore the least among them is greater than a righteous man who has a corruptible body. Or if we must understand the kingdom of heaven of the Church, whose children are all the righteous men from the beginning of the world until now, then the Lord speaks this of Himself, who was after John in the time of His birth, but greater in respect of His divine nature and supreme power. According then to the first interpretation it will be pointed, “He who is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than he;” according to the second, “He who is less than he, is in the kingdom of heaven greater than he.”
Chrysostom: The kingdom of heaven, that is, in the spiritual world, and all relating thereto. But some say that Christ spoke this of the Apostles.
Jerome: We understand it simply, that every saint who is already with the Lord is greater than he who yet stands in the battle; for it is one thing to have gained the crown of victory, another to be yet fighting in the field.