Woe unto you, you blind guides, who say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is bound!
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Cornelius a Lapide
Woe unto you, ( Matthew 23:16)&c. . . . but if he shall swear by the gold of the temple, &c, the gold, that Isaiah , which he has vowed to pay. Instead of he is a debtor, the Arabic translates he has sinned, that Isaiah , he does not pay what he has sworn.
Observe (from the words in Matthew 5:34), that the Scribes thought from what God had commanded, that they should swear by Him alone,—an oath by any creature was not an oath, nor obligatory; but being blinded by avarice, they excepted such things as, being offered to God, filled their own coffers, as if these alone were to be accounted most sacred. Wherefore they are rightly called by Christ blind guides. Moreover, the Scribes were wont to say that the oblations were more holy than the Temple itself, "that they might make men more ready for offerings than for prayers," says the Gloss. He calls the gold which was cast into the treasury of the Temple for maintaining its ministers the gold of the Temple. Truly says the Gloss, "He that swears by a creature, swears by the Deity which presides over the creature."
Ye fools and blind, &c. This reasoning of Christ is clear, and convicts the Scribes of folly. Holiness is properly interior virtue, and the grace which sanctifies the soul. But the Temple is here called holy by metonymy, because it is set apart for holy things, such as the offering in it of prayers and sacrifices to God. This, therefore, was only an external holiness which the temple communicated to the other things offered in it to God. Wherefore the Temple was more holy than anything offered in the Temple, and therefore an oath made by the Temple was more binding than an oath made by the gold offered in the Temple.
And whose shall swear by the altar, &c. The same reasoning applies to the altar which Christ has already applied to the Temple.
The altar which sanctifieth, Syr. consecrates, the gift. A gift offered to God is not properly sanctified, so that it should be in itself righteous or holy, but it is said to be sanctified extrinsically, because it is offered to God, and thus sanctified.
Mystically: S. Augustine says (1Qust. Evang34), "The Temple and the Altar is Christ. The gold and the gifts are the praises and sacrifices which are offered in Him and by Him." Origen says, the altar is the heart; the gifts are prayer and fasting, which the heart makes holy.
Whoso shall swear by the temple, &c. That Isaiah , he swears by God, who has His throne in the Temple, that He may be worshipped there. For the sacred majesty and holiness of God are supposed by men to abide in the Temple. Whence, S. Nilus says, "Come to the church as to Heaven."
And he that sweareth by heaven, &c. For by the common usage and belief of men, he who swears by God, who only is infallible, and the uncreated Truth itself, calls Him to attest what he says or promises. Wherefore, he who swears by Heaven, swears by God, the King and Lord of Heaven, and calls Him to witness.