Origens Commentary On The Gospel Of Matthew by Origen
18. Prophets in Their Country.
|But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country.| We must inquire whether the expression has the same force when applied universally to every prophet (as if each one of the prophets was dishonoured in his own country only, but not as if every one who was dishonoured was dishonoured in his country); or, because of the expression being singular, these things were said about one. If, then, these words are spoken about one, these things which have been said suffice, if we refer that which is written to the Saviour. But if it is general, it is not historically true; for Elijah did not suffer dishonour in Tishbeth of Gilead, nor Elisha in Abelmeholah, nor Samuel in Ramathaim, nor Jeremiah in Anathoth. But, figuratively interpreted, it is absolutely true; for we must think of Judæa as their country, and that famous Israel as their kindred, and perhaps of the body as the house. For all suffered dishonour in Judæa from the Israel which is according to the flesh, while they were yet in the body, as it is written in the Acts of the Apostles, as having been spoken in censure to the people, |Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute, who showed before of the coming of the Righteous one?| And by Paul in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians like things are said: |For ye brethren became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judæa in Christ Jesus, for ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen even as they did of the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drave out us, and please not God, and are contrary to all men.| A prophet, then, is not without honour among the Gentiles; for either they do not know him at all, or, having learned and received him as a prophet, they honour him. And such are those who are of the Church. Prophets suffer dishonour, first, when they are persecuted, according to historical fact, by the people, and, secondly, when their prophecy is not believed by the people. For if they had believed Moses and the prophets they would have believed Christ, who showed that when men believed Moses and the prophets, belief in Christ logically followed, and that when men did not believe Christ they did not believe Moses. Moreover, as by the transgression of the law he who sins is said to dishonour God, so by not believing in that which is prophesied the prophet is dishonoured by the man who disbelieves the prophecies. And so far as the literal truth is concerned, it is useful to recount what things Jeremiah suffered among the people in relation to which he said, |And I said, I will not speak, nor will I call upon the name of the Lord.| And again, elsewhere, |I was continually being mocked.| And how great sufferings he endured from the then king of Israel are written in his prophecy. And it is also written that some of the people often came to stone Moses to death; for his fatherland was not the stones of any place, but the people who followed him, among whom also he was dishonoured. And Isaiah is reported to have been sawn asunder by the people; and if any one does not accept the statement because of its being found in the Apocryphal Isaiah, let him believe what is written thus in the Epistle to the Hebrews, |They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted;| for the expression, |They were sawn asunder,| refers to Isaiah, just as the words, |They were slain with the sword,| refer to Zacharias, who was slain |between the sanctuary and the altar,| as the Saviour taught, bearing testimony, as I think, to a Scripture, though not extant in the common and widely circulated books, but perhaps in apocryphal books. And they, too, were dishonoured in their own country among the Jews who went about |in sheep-skins, in goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted,| and so on; |For all that will to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.| And probably because Paul knew this, |That a prophet has no honour in his own country,| though he preached the Word in many places he did not preach it in Tarsus. And the Apostles on this account left Israel and did that which had been enjoined on them by the Saviour, |Make disciples of all the nations,| and, |Ye shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judæa and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.| For they did that which had been commanded them in Judæa and Jerusalem; but, since a prophet has no honour in his own country, when the Jews did not receive the Word, they went away to the Gentiles. Consider, too, if, because of the fact that the saying, |I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all flesh, and they shall prophesy,| has been fulfilled in the churches from the Gentiles, you can say that those formerly of the world and who by believing became no longer of the world, having received the Holy Spirit in their own country -- that is, the world -- and prophesying, have not honour, but are dishonoured. Wherefore blessed are they who suffer the same things as the prophets, according to what was said by the Saviour, |For in the same manner did their fathers unto the prophets.| Now if any one who attends carefully to these things be hated and attacked, because of his living with rigorous austerity, and his reproof of sinners, as a man who is persecuted and reproached for the sake of righteousness, he will not only not be grieved, but will rejoice and be exceeding glad, being assured that, because of these things, he has great reward in heaven from Him who likened him to the prophets on the ground of his having suffered the same things. Therefore, he who zealously imitates the prophetic life, and attains to the spirit which was in them, must be dishonoured in the world, and in the eyes of sinners, to whom the life of the righteous man is a burden.