Matt. 5:27-30 (Part 1)

5:27ff IRENAEUS: Moreover, this impious opinion of theirs [the heretics] with respect to actions—namely, that it is incumbent on them to have experience of all kinds of deeds, even the most abominable—is refuted by the teaching of the Lord, with whom not only is the adulterer rejected, but also the man who desires to commit adultery. Against Heresies, 1.408.

IRENAEUS: The Lord, instead of that commandment, “Do not commit adultery,” forbids even lust. Against Heresies, 1.477.

TATIAN: You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery:” but I now say to you, that everyone that looks at a woman lusting after her has forthwith already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye injure you, put it out and cast it from you; for it is preferable for you that one of your members should perish, and not your whole body go into the fire of hell. And if your right hand injure you, cut it off and cast it from you; and it is better for you that one of your members should perish, and not your whole body fall into Gehenna. The Diatessaron, 9.57.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: The man of understanding will find out the particular Scripture which deals with each individual heresy, and at the right time will quote it to refute those who teach doctrines contrary to the commandments. Right from the beginning the law, as we have already said, lays down the command, “You shall not covet your neighbor's wife,” long before the Lord's closely similar utterance in the New Testament,–where the same idea is expressed in his own mouth: “You have heard that the law commanded, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say, you shall not lust.” That the law intended husbands to cohabit with their wives with self-control and only for the purpose of begetting children is evident from the prohibition which forbids the unmarried man from having immediate sexual relations with a captive woman. If the man has conceived a desire for her, he is directed to mourn for thirty days while she is to have her hair cut; if after this the desire has not passed off, then they may proceed to beget children, because the appointed period enables the overwhelming impulse to be tested and to become a rational act of will. On Marriage.

5:28ff EDITOR'S NOTE: A textual variant “everyone looking at a woman with lust” has early testimony, also in TERTULLIAN and CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA. But the majority of the writers below do not provide witness to the variant reading, neither does the variation detract from the meaning.

THE DIDACHE: Do not be lustful; for lust leads the way to fornication; neither a filthy talker, nor of lofty eye; for out of all these adulteries are caused. 7.378.

JUSTIN MARTYR: Concerning chastity, He uttered such sentiments as these: “Whosoever looks upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart before God.” And, “If your right eye offends you, cut it out; for it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of heaven with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into everlasting fire.” The First Apology, 1.167.

IRENAEUS: “He who has looked upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart;” . . . All this is declared, that we may know that we shall give account to God not of deeds only, as slaves, but even of words and thoughts, as those who have truly received the power of liberty, in which condition a man is more severely tested, whether he will reverence, and fear, and love the Lord. Against Heresies, 1.482.

THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH: And concerning chastity, the holy word teaches us not only not to sin in act, but not even in thought, not even in the heart to think of any evil, nor look on another man’s wife with our eyes to lust after her. Solomon, accordingly, who was a king and a prophet, said: “Let your eyes look right on, and let your eyelids look straight before you: make straight paths for your feet.” And the voice of the Gospel teaches still more urgently concerning chastity, saying: “Whosoever looks on a woman who is not his own wife, to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” To Autolycus, 2.115.

ATHENAGORAS: We are so far from practicing promiscuous intercourse, that it is not lawful among us to indulge even a lustful look. “For,” He says, “he that looks on a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery already in his heart.” Those, then, who are forbidden to look at anything more than that for which God formed the eyes, which were intended to be a light to us, and to whom a wanton look is adultery, the eyes being made for other purposes, and who are to be called to account for their very thoughts, how can any one doubt that such persons practice self-control? For our account lies not with human laws, which a bad man can evade, . . . but we have a law which makes the measure of rectitude to consist in dealing with our neighbor as ourselves. A Plea for the Christians, 2.146.

ATHENAGORAS: On behalf of those, then, to whom we apply the names of brothers and sisters, and other designations of relationship, we exercise the greatest care that their bodies should remain undefiled and uncorrupted; for the Logos again says to us, “If any one kiss a second time because it has given him pleasure, he sins;” adding, “Therefore the kiss, or rather the salutation, should be given with the greatest care, since, if there be mixed with it the least defilement of thought, it excludes us from eternal life.” A Plea for the Christians, 2.146.

HERMAS: He who had brought me up, sold me to one Rhode in Rome. Many years after this I recognized her, and I began to love her as a sister. Some time after, I saw her bathe in the river Tiber; and I gave her my hand, and drew her out of the river. The sight of her beauty made me think with myself, “I should be a happy man if I could but get a wife as attractive and good as she is.” This was the only thought that passed through me: this and nothing more. A short time after this, as I was walking on my road to the villages, and magnifying the creatures of God, and thinking how magnificent, and beautiful, and powerful they are, I fell asleep. And the Spirit carried me away, and took me through a pathless place, through which a man could not travel, for it was situated in the midst of rocks; it was rugged and impassible on account of water. Having passed over this river, I came to a plain. I then bent down on my knees, and began to pray to the Lord, and to confess my sins.

And as I prayed, the heavens were opened, and I see the woman whom I had desired saluting me from the sky, and saying, “Hail, Hermas!”

And looking up to her, I said, “Lady, what are you doing here?”

And she answered me, “I have been taken up here to accuse you of your sins before the Lord.”

“Lady,” I said, “are you to be the subject of my accusation?”

“No,” she said, “but hear the words which I am going to speak to you. God, who dwells in the heavens, and made out of nothing the things that exist, and multiplied and increased them on account of His holy Church, is angry with you for having sinned against me.”

I answered her, “Lady, have I sinned against you? How? Or when did I speak an unseemly word to you? Did I not always think of you as a lady? Did I not always respect you as a sister? Why do you falsely accuse me of this wickedness and impurity?”

With a smile she replied to me, “The desire of wickedness arose within

your heart. Is it not your opinion that a righteous man commits sin when an evil desire arises in his heart? There is sin in such a case, and the sin is great,” she said, “for the thoughts of a righteous man should be righteous. For by thinking righteously his character is established in the heavens, and he has the Lord merciful to him in every business. But such as entertain wicked thoughts in their minds are bringing upon themselves death and captivity; and especially is this the case with those who set their affections on this world, and glory in their riches, and don't look forward to the blessings of the life to come. For many will their regrets be; for they have no hope, but have despaired of themselves and their life. But do pray to God, and He will heal your sins, and the sins of your whole house, and of all the saints.” The Shepherd of Hermas, 2.9-10.

HERMAS: “I charge you,” said he, “to guard your chastity, and let no thought enter your heart of another man’s wife, or of fornication, or of similar iniquities; for by doing this you commit a great sin. But if you always remember your own wife, you will never sin. For if this thought enter your heart, then you will sin; and if, in like manner, you think other wicked thoughts, you commit sin. For this thought is great sin in a servant of God. But if any one commit this wicked deed, he works death for himself. Attend, therefore, and refrain from this thought; for where purity dwells, there iniquity ought not to enter the heart of a righteous man.” The Shepherd of Hermas, 2.21.

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