Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IX/Origen on Matthew/Origen's Commentary on Matthew/Book X/Chapter 17

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IX, Origen on Matthew, Origen's Commentary on Matthew, Book X
by Origen, translated by John Patrick
Chapter 17
161479Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IX, Origen on Matthew, Origen's Commentary on Matthew, Book X — Chapter 17John PatrickOrigen

17.  The Brethren of Jesus.

And the saying, “Whence hath this man this wisdom,[1] indicates clearly that there was a great and surpassing wisdom in the words of Jesus worthy of the saying, “lo, a greater than Solomon is here.”[2]  And He was wont to do greater miracles than those wrought through Elijah and Elisha, and at a still earlier date through Moses and Joshua the son of Nun.  And they spoke, wondering, (not knowing that He was the son of a virgin, or not believing it even if it was told to them, but supposing that He was the son of Joseph the carpenter,) “is not this the carpenter’s son?”[3]  And depreciating the whole of what appeared to be His nearest kindred, they said, “Is not His mother called Mary?  And His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?  And His sisters, are they not all with us?”[4]  They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary.  But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter,[5] as it is entitled, or “The Book of James,”[6] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary.  Now those who say so wish to preserve the honour of Mary in virginity to the end, so that that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word which said, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee,”[7] might not know intercourse with a man after that the Holy Ghost came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her.  And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the first-fruit among men of the purity which consists in chastity, and Mary among women; for it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first-fruit of virginity.  And James is he whom Paul says in the Epistle to the Galatians that he saw, “But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.”[8]  And to so great a reputation among the people for righteousness did this James rise, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the “Antiquities of the Jews” in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ.[9]  And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James.  And Jude, who wrote a letter of few lines, it is true, but filled with the healthful words of heavenly grace, said in the preface, “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James.”[10]  With regard to Joseph and Simon we have nothing to tell; but the saying, “And His sisters are they not all with us,”[11] seems to me to signify something of this nature—they mind our things, not those of Jesus, and have no unusual portion of surpassing wisdom as Jesus has.  And perhaps by these things is indicated a new doubt concerning Him, that Jesus was not a man but something diviner, inasmuch as He was, as they supposed, the son of Joseph and Mary, and the brother of four, and of the others—the women—as well, and yet had nothing like to any one of His kindred, and had not from education and teaching come to such a height of wisdom and power.  For they also say elsewhere, “How knoweth this man letters having never learned?”[12] which is similar to what is here said.  Only, though they say these things and are so perplexed and astonished, they did not believe, but were offended in Him; as if they had been mastered in the eyes of their mind by the powers which, in the time of the passion, He was about to lead in triumph on the cross.


  1. Matt. xiii. 54.
  2. Matt. xii. 42.
  3. Matt. xiii. 55.
  4. Matt. xiii. 55, 56.
  5. The Gospel of Peter, of which a fragment was recovered in 1886 and published in 1892.
  6. Protevangelium Jacobi, c. 9.
  7. Luke i. 35.
  8. Gal. i. 19.
  9. Jos. Ant. xviii. 4.
  10. Jude 1.
  11. Matt. xiii. 56.
  12. John vii. 15.