Fathers on Matthew 13:52

The learned scribe brings forth both the new and the old. (see Matthew 13:52)

throne of st gregory
Sede of Gregory the Great

What does the Lord mean here?  What is “the new,” and what is “the old?”

Answering “the Old Covenant and the New Covenant!” or “the Old Testament and the New Testament,” puts you in good company.  St. Augustine interpreted the verse that way.

During St. Augustine’s time, and up to this very day, some Christians erroneously have dismissed the Old Testament as barbaric, flawed, and unnecessary.  So St. Augustine understood the Lord Jesus to be saying in this verse:  My disciples need to study and try to understand both the New and the Old Testaments.  We cannot grasp the divine mystery without both.

What about St. Gregory the Great?  He understood “new” and “old” differently.

The “old” truth, which is still true, is:  The human race deserves condemnation and punishment because of our sins.

The “new” truth is:  We can repent and be converted.  We can live in the sweetness of the kingdom of the Lamb.

Marcion Meets the Facts

I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17)

Who knows the name of the Christian heresy which rejected the Old Testament? This sect had great success for centuries. Indeed, we can say that this particular heresy is alive and well even now.

Also cut-and-pasted his own New Testament
Marcion taught that the Father of Christ is not the God of the Jews. The God of ancient Israel had too much traffic with actual human events, made too many unpredictable demands, and exacted too many bitter punishments.

Marcion produced a corrected and trimmed-down New Testament. It’s god reigns in pure, undisturbed serenity, separate from the affairs of this world—especially from the tumultuous, checkered history of the crazy kosher swarthies from the over-heated province of Palestine.

The Old Testament embarrassed Marcion. But one problem confronted him. The only thing more embarrassing than the Old Testament is the fact that the better part of the New Testament makes no sense without it. So Marcion became the first in a long line of good Christians who cut out a scrapbook of the Bible passages they like, and ignore the rest.

Contemporary Marcionism goes something like this: I believe in the nice God of the New Testament, not the mean god of the Old.

The “nice” God of the New Testament? “You knew I was a hard man. Why didn’t you put the money I gave you in the bank?” “No wedding garment? Out into the darkness with him!” “What will the master do to the faithless tenants? He will put them to a wretched death and burn their cities.” Seems that a certain “nice” Messiah used the word Gehenna at least twelve times in His recorded speeches. The whole Old Testament hardly contains twelve explicit references to hell.

If we want Christ, we are stuck with His being Jewish. If we want to believe in God’s mercy, we are stuck with believing in His exacting justice, too. If we want the God who became man, we can never forget that our ways are not His ways, and that the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.

Jesus Christ is not our idea. He is a fact. As with all facts, a lot of other facts come along with Him, in a jumbled tumble of actual reality. We cannot pick and choose. Our job is to do our best to be one of the facts that go along with the fact of Christ.