Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you build the tombs of the prophets, and adorn the sepulchers of the righteous,
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Cornelius a Lapide
Woe unto you . . . because ye build; Vulg. who build, the combs, &c. For although this was in itself a holy and religious thing, yet in the Scribes it was vicious and wicked. S. Chrysostom gives three reasons—1st. He says Christ does not blame the work, but the intention. They did it for pomp. But as regards pomp, what does it profit them to be praised when they are not, and to be tormented when they are in hell? 2d. Because, without reason, he honours the just, who despises justice; and the Saints cannot be the friends of those to whom God is an enemy3d. Because the martyrs take no pleasure in being honoured with money which has caused the poor to weep. For the Scribes exacted money from the poor, that they might build with it magnificent monuments to the Prophets, or rather for their own glory. And4th, and principally, Christ here blames the Scribes for building monuments to the Prophets, because at the very time they did it, they were thinking how they might kill other and greater p...
Build the sepulchres This is not blamed, as if it were in itself evil to build or adorn the monuments of the prophets; but the hypocrisy of the Pharisees is here taxed; who, whilst they pretended to honour the memory of the prophets, were persecuting even unto death the Lord of the prophets. (Challoner)
Jesus Christ foresaw that they would shortly accomplish the wickedness of their fathers in shedding his blood, as their fathers did the blood of the prophets. (St. Hilary)
And although they seemed to honour the prophets, and to abhor the murder of the just, it was merely that in their persecution of Jesus Christ he might appear to the people neither a prophet, nor just. (Menochius)
Not because they build, nor because they blame the others, does He say, woe, but because, while both thus, and by what they say, they are pretending to condemn their fathers, they do worse. For in proof that the condemnation was a pretense, Luke says, you do allow because ye build; for, Woe unto you, says He, for you build the sepulchers of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness, and you allow the deeds of your fathers, for they indeed killed them, and you build their sepulchers. Luke 11:47-48 For here He reproves their purpose, wherewith they built, that it was not for the honoring of them that were slain, but as making a show of the murders, and afraid, lest, when the tombs had perished by time, the proof and memory of such daring should fade away, setting up these glorious buildings, as a kind of trophy, and priding themselves in the daring deeds of those men, and displaying them.
Jesus did not pronounce woe upon them because they blamed others or because they build monuments. Rather, he pronounces woe because while pretending to condemn those who killed the prophets, they do worse. They witness against themselves. As for evidence that their adorning of monuments is a pretense, Luke says, “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and consent to the deeds of your fathers; for they killed them, and you build their tombs.” Their purpose was not to honor those that were slain but to make a show of the murders. They are afraid lest, when the tombs had perished by time, the proof of their daring should fade away. They set up these buildings as a kind of trophy, priding themselves in the daring deeds of those men and displaying them. This is what is reproved by the Lord. The Gospel of Matthew, Homily