Catena Aurea of The Gospel of Mark, 7:14-23

The Tradition of the Elders, part 2

And he called the people to him again, and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him." And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, "What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man."

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc. - The Jews regard and murmur about only the bodily purification of the law; our Lord wishes to bring in the contrary.

Wherefore it is said, "And when He had called all the people unto Him, He said unto them, Hearken unto Me every one, and understand: there is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him, but the things which come out of a man, those are they which defile a man;" that is, which make him unclean.

The things of Christ have relation to the inner man, but those which are of the law are visible and external, to which, as being bodily, the cross of Christ was shortly to put an end.

Theophylact - But the intention of the Lord in saying this was to teach men, that the observing of meats, which the law commands, should not be taken in a carnal sense, and from this He began to unfold to them the intent of the law.

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc. - Again He subjoins, "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear." For He had not clearly shewn them, what those things are which proceed out of a man, and defile a man; and on account of this saying, the Apostles thought that the foregoing discourse of the Lord implied some other deep thing.

Wherefore there follows: "And when He was entered into the house from the people, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable;" they called it parable, because it was not clear.

Theophylact - The Lord begins by chiding them, wherefore there follows, "Are ye so without understanding also?"

Bede - For that man is a faulty hearer who considers what is obscure to be a clear speech, or what is clear to be obscurely spoken.

Theophylact - Then the Lord shews them what was hidden, saying, "Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot make him common?"

Bede - For the Jews, boasting themselves to be the portion of God, call common those meals which all men use, as shellfish, hares, and animals of that sort. Not even however what is offered to idols is unclean, in as far as it is food and God's creature; it is the invocation of devils which makes it unclean; and He adds the cause of it, saying, "Because it entereth not into his heart."

The principal seat of the soul according to Plato is the brain, but according to Christ, it is in the heart.

Gloss - It says therefore into his heart, that is, into his mind, which is the principal part of his soul, on which his whole life depends; wherefore it is necessary, that according to the state of his heart a man should be called clean or unclean, and thus whatsoever does not reach the soul, cannot bring pollution to the man.

Meats therefore, since they do not reach the soul, cannot in their own nature defile a man; but an inordinate use of meats, which proceeds from a want of order in the mind, makes men unclean. But that meats cannot reach the mind, He shews by that which He adds, saying, "But into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats." This however He says, without referring to what remains from the food in the body, for that which is necessary for the nourishment and growth of the body remains. But that which is superfluous goes out, and thus as it were purges the nourishment, which remains.

Augustine - For some things are joined to others in such a way as both to change and be changed, just as food, losing its former appearance, is both itself turned into our body, and we too are changed, and our strength is refreshed by it.

Further, a most subtle liquid, after the food has been prepared and digested in our veins, and other arteries, by some hidden channels, called from a Greek word, pores, passes through us, and goes into the draught.

Bede - Thus then it is not meat that makes men unclean, but wickedness, which works in us the passions which come from within. Wherefore it goes on: "And He said, That which cometh out of a man, that defileth a man."

Gloss. - The meaning of which He points out, when He subjoins, "for from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts."

And thus it appears that evil thoughts belong to the mind, which is here called the heart, and according to which a man is called good or bad, clean or unclean.

Bede - From this passage are condemned those men who suppose that thoughts are put into them by the devil, and do not arise from their own evil will. The devil may excite and help on evil thoughts, he cannot be their author.

Gloss. - From evil thoughts, however, evil actions proceed to greater lengths, concerning which it is added, adulteries, that is, acts which consist in the violation of another man's bed; fornications, which are unlawful connexions between persons, not bound by marriage; murders, by which hurt is inflicted on the person of one's neighbour; thefts, by which his goods are taken from him; covetousness, by which things are unjustly kept; wickedness, which consists in calumniating others; deceit, in overreaching them; lasciviousness, to which belongs any corruption of mind or body.

Theophylact - An evil eye, that is, hatred and flattery, for he who hates turns an evil and envious eye on him whom he hates, and a flatterer, looking askance at his neighbour's goods, leads him into evil; blasphemies, that is, faults committed against God; pride, that is, contempt of God, when a man ascribes the good, which he does, not to God, but to his own virtue; foolishness, that is, an injury against one's neighbour.

Gloss. - Or, foolishness consists in wrong thoughts concerning God; for it is opposed to wisdom, which is the knowledge of divine things. It goes on: "All these evil things come from within, and defile the man." For whatsoever is in the power of a man, is imputed to him as a fault, because all such things proceed from the interior will, by which man is master of his own actions.

- text taken from Catena Aurea - Gospel of Mark by Saint Thomas Aquinas, translated by William Whiston, 1842