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Matthew 12:33

Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by its fruit.
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Augustine of Hippo

AD 430
When he says, “Make the tree good and its fruit good,” this is not a friendly admonition but a clear command to be obeyed. And when Jesus says, “Make the tree bad and its fruit bad,” he does not command you to do so, but he warns you to guard against it. He is referring to those who think they are able, though they are bad, to speak good things or to do good works. This the Lord Jesus says they cannot do. For a person must first be changed in order for his works to be changed. But if a person remains in an evil state, that one cannot do good works. If he abides in what is good, he will not be found producing evil works. . ...

George Leo Haydock

AD 1849
Either make the tree good This is connected with what had been said of their attributing his works to Beelzebub. He condemns them for blaspheming him on all occasions, when at the same time they were not able to find fault with his life and doctrine. Christ therefore tells them, that the tree is known by its fruit; and that if they cannot blame his actions, and his doctrine, they ought to allow him to be good, to be like the good tree; and that if they continue to blame him, they ought consequently to condemn his doctrine, yet this they were not able to do. (Witham) ...

Hilary of Poitiers

AD 368
Though spoken in the present, Jesus’ words would be borne out in the future. For in the present he refutes the Jews. They could see that the works of Christ were beyond human power, but they were unwilling to declare them as works of God. In saying this Jesus anticipates the future of numerous perversions of faith, especially of those who would divest the Lord of the dignity and union with the Father’s nature and so plunge into heresy. They then wander aimlessly in the arena between those who act with the excuse of ignorance and those who live in the knowledge of truth. … Through a tree’s inherent vitality, fruitfulness abounds. Therefore either the tree must be made good with good fruit or made bad with bad fruit, because by its fruit the tree is known. The meaning is not that a bad tree, according to the nature of trees, can constitute what is good or be good in its branches if it is bad. Rather, it is that Christ must either be left behind as useless or held onto as good because of ...

John Chrysostom

AD 407
Again in another way He shames them, and is not content with His former refutations. But this He does, not freeing Himself from accusations, (for what went before was quite enough), but as wishing to amend them. Now His meaning is like this: none of you has either found fault about the persons healed, as not being healed; nor has said, that it is an evil thing to deliver one from a devil. For though they had been ever so shameless, they could not have said this. Since therefore they brought no charge against the works, but were defaming the Doer of them, He signifies that this accusation is against both the common modes of reasoning, and the congruity of the circumstances. A thing of aggravated shamelessness, not only to interpret maliciously, but also to make up such charges as are contrary to men's common notions. And see how free He is from contentiousness. For He said not, Make the tree good, forasmuch as the fruit also is good; but, most entirely stopping their mouths, an...

John Chrysostom

AD 407
This accusation is against common reason, straining against all the other congruities in these circumstances. They brought no direct charge against his deeds but only against the one who did them. It is shameless to interpret maliciously. Even more so it is shameless to make up charges contrary to what everyone could see was happening. Yet note how free Jesus is from contentiousness. For he did not simply say “Make the tree good and its fruit good.” Rather, he silenced them completely, demonstrating his own considerateness and their insolence, by saying in effect: So you are determined to find fault with my deeds. I do not quarrel with this. But I want you to be aware of how inconsistent and contradictory are your charges. For in this way your motives are transparent. You persist against what is all too clear to everyone else. In this way your malice is disclosed. Truly the distinction between trees is shown by their fruit. It is not that the fruit is known by the tree, for one need on...

Theophylact of Ochrid

AD 1107
Since the Jews were not able to slander the miracles as bad, they blasphemed as demonic the One Who did them, Christ. So He says: either say that I am a good tree, and then all My miracles, which are the fruit, are good as well; or if you say that I am a corrupt tree, then it is clear that the fruit, that is, the miracles, are corrupt as well. But you say that the miracles, the fruit, are good; therefore, I, the tree, am also good. For indeed, just as the tree is known by its fruit, so I am known by the miracles which I do. ...

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. - 2 Peter 1:20

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