Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VI/Peter of Alexandria/Canonical Epistle/Canon XIII
Hence neither is it lawful to accuse those who have left all, and have retired for the safety of their life, as if others had been held back by them. For at Ephesus also they seized Gaius and Aristarchus instead of Paul, and rushed to the theatre, these being Paul’s companions in travel and he wishing himself to enter in unto the people, since it was by reason of his having persuaded them, and drawing away a great multitude to the worship of the true God, that the tumult arose. “The disciples suffered him not,” he says. “Nay, moreover, certain of the chief of Asia, who were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.” But if any persist in contending with them, let them apply their minds with sincerity to him who says, “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee.” Let them recall to their minds also how Peter, the chief of the apostles, “was thrown into prison, and delivered to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him;” of whom, when he had escaped by night, and had been preserved out of the hand of the Jews by the commandment of the angel of the Lord, it is said, “As soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death,” on account of whom no blame is attributed to Peter; for it was in their power, when they saw what was done, to escape, just as also all the infants in Bethlehem, and all the coast thereof, might have escaped, if their parents had known what was going to happen. These were put to death by the murderer Herod, in order to secure the death of one Infant whom he sought, which Infant itself also escaped at the commandment of the angel of the Lord, who now began quickly to spoil, and to hasten the prey, according to the name whereby he was called: as it is written, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz: for before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.” The Magi then as now having been despoiled and divided for a prey, humbly, and in the guise of suppliants, adore the Child, opening their treasures, and offering unto Him gifts most opportune and magnificent—gold, and frankincense, and myrrh—as to a king, to God, and to man; whence they were no longer willing to return to the Assyrian king, being forbidden to do so by Providence. For “being warned of God in a dream,” he says, “that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” Hence the bloodthirsty “Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth,” he says, “and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coast thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time that he had diligently inquired of the wise men.” Together with whom, having sought to kill another infant that had been previously born, and not being able to find him, he slew the child’s father Zacharias between the temple and the altar, the child having escaped with his mother Elisabeth. Whence these men that have withdrawn themselves are not at all to be blamed.
Balsamon. But if any, says he, have left their good and gone away, lest they should be detailed and brought into peril, as being those perhaps who might not be able to persist in their confession to the end, on account of the cruelty of their tormentors, they shall not be found fault with, even though others have been detained on their account. And he brings forward as an instance on this score Gaius and Aristarchus, who were detained instead of Paul; the soldiers who kept Peter; the infants who were massacred by Herod on account of Christ; and Zacharias, the father of the revered and blessed forerunner.
Zonaras. But if any, says he, have left their possessions, and have gone away, lest being detained they should be endangered, and because, perhaps, they would not be able to persist in their confession unto the end on account of the cruelty of the tormentors, they are not to be accused, even if others are detained and punished on their account. And, again, he brings forward an example from the Acts of the Apostles, saying that at Ephesus also Gaius and Aristarchus were apprehended in the stead of Paul, and that Paul was not blamed for this; nor was Peter, when he was brought forth out of prison by an angel, and escaped the danger, and the soldiers who guarded him were on his account punished. Then he cites another example from the Gospel, namely, the infants who were put to death by Herod; on account of which, says he, our Lord was not blamed. And when Elisabeth had taken to flight with John, and had preserved him, his father Zacharias was put to death, the child being demanded of him; nor was this imputed as a crime to John.
- Acts xix. 26–30.
- Gen. xix. 17.
- Acts xii. 4.
- Acts xii. 18, 19.
- Matt. ii. 13–16.
- Isa. viii. 3, 4. The literal meaning of the name Maher-shalal-hash-baz is, “In speed spoil, booty hastens.”
- Matt. ii. 11–13.
- Matt. ii. 16.
- [Matt. xxiii. 35.]