2. Why the Pharisees Asked a Sign from Heaven.
Now, to this point we have come in our discourse, because of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming together unto Jesus, who disagreed in matters relating to the resurrection, but came, as it were, to an agreement for the sake of tempting our Saviour, and asking Him to show them a sign from heaven. For, not satisfied with the wonderful signs shown among the people in the healing of all forms of disease and sickness, and with the rest of the miracles which our Saviour had done in the knowledge of many, they wished Him to show to them also a sign from heaven. And I conjecture that they suspected that the signs upon earth might possibly not be of God; for they did not hesitate indeed to say, “Jesus casts out demons by Beelzebub the prince of the demons;” 5559 and it seemed to them that a sign from heaven could not spring from Beelzebub or any other wicked power. But they erred in regard to both, in regard to signs upon earth as well as to signs from heaven, not being “approved money-changers,” 5560 nor knowing how to distinguish between the spirits that are working, which kind are from God, and which have revolted from Him. And they ought to have known that even many of the portents wrought against Egypt in the time of Moses, though they were not from heaven, were clearly from God, and that the fire which fell from heaven upon the sheep of Job was not from God; 5561 for that fire belonged to the same one as he to whom belonged those who carried off, and made three bands of horsemen against, the cattle of Job. I think, moreover, that in Isaiah—as if signs could be shown both from the earth and from heaven, the true being from God, but “with all power and signs and lying wonders” 5562 those from the evil one—it was said to Ahaz, “Ask for thyself a sign from the Lord thy God in the depth or in the height.” 5563 For, unless there had been some signs in the depth or in the height which were not from the Lord God, this would not have been said, “Ask for thyself a sign from the Lord thy God in the depth or in the height.” But I know well that such an interpretation of the passage, “Ask for thyself a sign from the Lord thy God,” will seem to some one rather forced; but give heed to that which is said by the Apostle about the man of sin, the son of perdition, that, “with all power and signs and lying wonders and with all deceit of unrighteousness,” 5564 he shall be manifested to them that are perishing, imitating all kinds of wonders, to-wit, those of truth. And as the enchanters and magicians of the Egyptians, as being inferior to the man of sin and the son of perdition, imitated certain powers, both the signs and wonders of truth, doing lying wonders so that the true might not be believed; so I think the man of sin will imitate signs and powers. And perhaps, also, the Pharisees suspected these things because of the prophecies concerning Him; but I inquire whether also the Sadducees tempting Him asked Jesus to show them a sign from heaven. For unless we say that they suspected this, how shall we describe their relation to the portents which Jesus wrought, who continued hard-hearted and were not put to shame by the miraculous things that were done? But if any one supposes that we have given an occasion of defence to the Pharisees and Sadducees, both when they say that the demons were cast out by Jesus through Beelzebub, and when tempting Him, they ask Jesus about a heavenly sign, let him know that we plausibly say that they were drawn away to the end that they might not believe in the miracles of Jesus; but not as to deserve p. 451 forgiveness; for they did not look to the words of the prophets which were being fulfilled in the acts of Jesus, which an evil power was not at all capable of imitating. But to bring back a soul which had gone out, so that it came out of the grave when already stinking and passing the fourth day, 5565 was the work of no other than Him who heard the word of the Father, “Let us make man after our image and likeness.” 5566 But also to command the winds and to make the violence of the sea cease at a word, was the work of no other than Him through whom all things, both the sea itself and the winds, have come into being. Moreover also as to the teaching which stimulates men to the love of the Creator, in harmony with the law and the prophets, and which checks passions and moulds morals according to piety, what else did it indicate to such as were able to see, than that He was truly the Son of God who wrought works so mighty? In respect of which things He said also to the disciples of John, “Go your way and tell John what great things ye see and hear; the blind receive their sight,” etc. 5567
Matt. 9:24, Matt. 12:24.450:5560
The familiar saying so frequently quoted as Scripture in the Fathers, sometimes ascribed to Jesus by them, sometimes to Paul. See Suicer.450:5561
Job i. 16.450:5562
2 Thess. ii. 9.450:5563
Isa. vii. 11.450:5564
2 Thess. 2:9, 10.451:5565
John xi. 39.451:5566
Gen. i. 26.451:5567
Matt. 11:4, 5.