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I know thy tribulation and thy poverty, but thou art rich: and thou art blasphemed by them that say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
St. Victorinus
I know your tribulation and your poverty, but you are rich. For He knows that with such men there are riches hidden with Him, and that they deny the blasphemy of the Jews, who say that they are Jews and are not; but they are the synagogue of Satan, since they are gathered together by Antichrist;
Eusebius of Caesarea
In the city of Smyrna many Jews lived who encouraged the Gentiles to persecute the Christians. In this persecution many were not only robbed of their things but also crowned with martyrdom- among whom Polycarp was thrown into the fire, and when the fire did not harm him, he was struck with a sword and departed to God.
He speaks to every church that is poor in spirit yet possesses all things, as the Apostle says, “as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.(2Cor. 6:10)” And you are slandered by those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are “a synagogue of Satan.” Here certainly it is shown that He was not speaking only to a special church, for it was not only Smyrna where there were or are Jews who slander. However, it is possible that there is a double meaning of “Jews” here, either those who are openly Jews outside or those who are Jews within the Church, that is, false Christians. For religiosity is characteristic of the Jews, as the Apostle says, “He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal.(Rom. 2:29)” And again he says, “We are the circumcision who worship God in spirit, and put no confidence in the flesh.(Phil. 3:3)” Not ought we ourselves to abandon those in the Church when they are even called a synagogue of Satan. For we know that the Lord has presented us with an example of longsuffering by tolerating Judas even unto the end.
St. Andrew of Caesarea
"Affliction and poverty in the bodily things, which you suffer patiently for my sake, being afflicted by the unbelievers and deprived of your possessions, but in spiritual things you are rich, having the treasure hidden in the field ' of your heart." And the blasphemy of those who say they themselves are Jews and are not, but a synagogue of Satan. The "I know" used (previously is implied here as well.) And (as to) the blasphemy of the synagogue of Satan, he says, "I know that they are not that which they are called." For the Jew is not the one who is manifest, but is hidden. For "Judah" means confession.
Apringius of Beja
He praises the works of His Church, for through many tribulation She contends for the Kingdom. He indicates expressly the grace of poverty, because the Church despises very much the things of the present time, so that She might acquire future things. “But you are rich” in faith and are filled with an abundance of blessings. “And you are slandered by those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” For the church often sustains much insult from those who claim that they confess God, but do not confess Him. Rather, their congregation is bound to the Devil as its source. For that reason, He exhorts His Church not to fear those who kill the body, but afterward have nothing which they can do.
St. Bede
tribulation. Yea, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.(Mt 5:3)" Fortunatus has beautifully expressed this in a short verse, saying:
"In narrow realm the poor man reigns possessing God."

Jews. "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him.(Titus 1:16)" For Jew is a name of religion. And so also the Apostle says, "who is a Jew inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart," "not in the letter.(Rm 2:29)"

St. Beatus of Liébana

“I know thy tribulation and thy poverty, but thou art rich.” He extols the works of His Church, which contends for the Kingdom through many tribulations.

The Church displays an elegance in poverty which scorns present circumstances so it may buy what is to come. “But thou art rich.” Abounding in faith and fruitfulness of grace, it is completed — of course, the humble one who carries out the Lord’s pronouncement that says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” [Matt 5:3] He who is poor in his own spirit, is rich in the Spirit of God. Yet he who is rich in his own spirit, is inflated by some breath like a leather float-bag.

“Surely, it will be known, because they are more serious faults which are brought home in place of the kind of virtues they are imitating, because [to tell the bare facts] they knock the soul down into confusion until they get to penance. Surely these do not only humble [themselves] in penance, but also already elevate the mind of working, while they are thought virtues.”

He says of these parts of the Church, “and thou art blasphemed by them that say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” The Church often puts up with many insults by those who claim to confess God but do not. But the congregation of the same are harvested to the devil, their founder. Here it is also shown to speak not so much of a specific church, because it was not so much those of Smyrna that were blaspheming, but the Jews; what’s more, he shows these to be outsider Jews — that is, bad Christians, as above is said of the false apostles.

For one could speak of Christians as Jews, because the Name is a religious Jew. For ‘Judah’ is in Hebrew what is said ‘confession’ in Latin. “Who say they are Jews” — that is, confessors. That, if he may have affirmed them not Jews, he may have said “Who say they are Jews but are not.”

For we are of the circumcision, we are Jews, who hold Christ the Lion of the tribe of Judah. For it is not he who is plainly Jewish — that is, plainly religious — nor the circumcision plainly of the flesh — that is, such as may be seen by men — as what is done may be done for human praise; but he who is a Jew in secret — that is, who would please Christ alone, not men. As it is written: “All the glory of the king’s daughter is within.” [Ps. 44:14] But if he would have said only “who say they are Jews”, and not have added, “the synagogue of Satan”, we would in no way be able to assert them outsiders, however much he might have said they were blaspheming. In addition, he shows these to be outsider Jews, while he does not say ‘and thou hast tried them, who say they are Jews’, as He said above about the ‘Apostles’ “who say they are apostles, and are not.” So also, in this place, he was able to call Christians ‘Jews’ who are of ‘the synagogue of Satan’.

In the Prologue of the Seven Churches, this ‘synagogue’ you recognize most fully, if you have the strength to know what may be with the Church. Now truly, it is idle to derive them now, nor do we repeat when it is discussed; we will come later to what is not discussed.

For Our Lord, leaving His Body as an example in the middle of the Holy Synagogue of Israel, announced in the middle of Jerusalem that Jerusalem killed the Prophets. He announced also, to the synagogue of Satan that is in Sodom and Egypt, what the congregation and synagogue is. For if what we have among us is in one congregation — since the ‘synagogue’ has many, surely the Church has few. It accepts the Church under one name, and it is named one Church by the pious and the perverse teachers. But if it is one, why do we contend between us? Why are they called Antichrists by us, and us by them?

But John described them as Antichrists in his epistle, where he says, “Whoever is confessed that Jesus is not the Christ, this is the Antichrist.” [1 John 2:12 - Vetus Latina]

Therefore, already we may seek who would deny Him, and we should not attend to the tongue but to the deed. For if all be questioned, they all confess Jesus to be Christ, with a single mouth. A tongue may keep quiet a little; we may ask if we may have discovered this. If the same Scripture has said to us, that denial may be done not so much in tongue as in deed, surely we will discover many Christian Antichrists, who profess Christ with the mouth and dissent from Christ in behavior.

Where will we find this in Scripture? Listen to the Apostle Paul. He says when he would speak of them, “They profess that they know God: but in their works they deny him.” We find these Antichrists also. Whoever denies Christ in his deeds is the Antichrist. I do not hear how he would sing along with me, but I hear how he would live. Works talk; do we demand words? For what evil person doesn’t want to talk well?

But what does the Lord say of this? ‘Hypocrites, “….how can you speak good things, whereas you are evil?” You bring your voices to my ears, I inspect your thoughts; and I see there bad will, and you show me false fruit. I knew what I would harvest from there; I do not harvest figs from thorn trees; I do not harvest grapes from thornbushes. And anyone may know a tree by its fruit. The Antichrist is a better liar, who professes Jesus to be the Christ with his mouth, and denies Him in his deeds. Therefore the liar, since he says one thing, does something else.’

For Our Lord leaves His Body — that is, the Church — as an example in the middle of the Holy Synagogue of Israel — that is, He announces how things seem to God, in the middle of Holy Jerusalem; saying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee.” [Matt. 23:37] You should understand this to speak of the synagogue of Satan that is in Sodom and Egypt, where his witnesses — that is, those who serve God — are crucified every day.

For Sodom is turned into ashes after being satiated; Lot is delivered along with his daughters. [Gen. 19]

But who is it for which the Lord would find that the city would be saved? Fifty just men, or even ten? Of course, He put in fifty — for a sign of penance, if perhaps they would have converted and been saved. Fifty always refers to penance. From which David also wrote of penance, in this number of Psalms.

Hence when God looks on [your] delinquency of life, by no means do you wish to turn back to penance, as the number fifty prefigures; immediately you are hemmed in by immoderate ardor for luxury, from the fire of Gehenna.

But He said Sodom would not perish even for ten just men, because if He found even ten keeping the precepts of Christ in His Name, it would not perish. For the figure of the number of denarii is a perfect number, and points to the Cross of Christ. Yet also that there are five cities which are set on fire by showers of flame, what else is this but that all who will treat the five senses of their bodies lustfully, are burned up by divine conflagration?

But the same Lot, the brother of Abraham, the just and hospitable man in Sodom, who deserved to get out unharmed from that conflagration that was a likeness of divine justice, figured the type of the Body of Christ that is in all the saints, and now groans among the unjust and impious; to whose deeds the Body does not consent, and from whose admixture it will be free at the end of the ages, and their condemned pleading in eternal fire.

Truly, his wife may figure the kind of religious who look back after being called by God’s grace, and try to go back to what they have left behind. Of whom, the same Lord says, “No man, putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” [Luke 9:62] From which also this woman is forbidden to look back. By that, He may show us not to be going back to the old life, we who long to get out of the Last Judgement by being regenerated through grace. Truly, she stayed behind looking back and turned into salt; the example applies to the condiment of the faithful, by which others are saved.

Nor yet is Christ silent about the same woman, saying, “Remember Lot’s wife” [Luke 17:32] — of course, since He might have pickled us in brine salt just like her, so we should not ignore what was done then, but prudently beware. For He admonished her then too, before she was turned into a statue of salt.

Truly, this — that the same Lot, fleeing burning Sodom, came to Segor [Zoar] and in no way climbed up the mountain. (Naturally, to fly burning Sodom is to turn away from the conflagration of illicit flesh or the desire of the world; surely the mountain is highmindedness, gazing at what is perfect; and because many are the just who flee the world’s allure, but cannot climb up to the apex of contemplation in the action where they are placed.) Here it is that indeed Lot goes out of Sodom but yet does not reach the mountain; because his damnable life is left behind but he has not yet held the heights of gazing more finely [at what is perfect]. Hence, the same Lot says to the angel, “There is this city here at hand, to which I may flee, it is a little one, and I shall be saved in it: is it not a little one, and my soul shall live?” [Gen. 19:20] Therefore, it is said “close at hand”, and yet it is regarded as safe for salvation, because the active life is neither separate from all the world’s cares, nor yet alien to the joy of salvation.

But the same Lot, when his daughters lie together with him — this signifies that then the same Lot was seen to wear the persona of the Law still to come. Rather, one was begotten out of them by the Law; and in a certain way they made themselves drunk under the Law, offering a bad understanding of it; and their works bore unhappiness, not serving God legitimately. “For the law is good” [Rom. 7:12]; the Apostle says so, if anyone will keep it legitimately.

Truly, Egypt was struck with the Ten Plagues and was not corrected in the least. It was permitted them to be carried bodily into Egypt, yet the way one was carried spiritually was into the Church. And yet, Egypt is made of the world, as Sodom is too; but she is burned up by fire; these have been left behind. These three, they escaped from the conflagration; these two [daughters], they reached the land of promise. [Num. 14:30] So many go out, but it is said that only two got in. And this is what Truth has borne witness to, in the Gospel: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” [Matt. 20:16]

Two walk into the land of promise, and two are accepted into the celestial kingdom of promise — that is, the love of God and the love of neighbor. Three are delivered from the conflagration in Sodom, and three will be delivered when Christ comes in glory to judge the earth — that is, faith, hope, and charity.

In Egypt, first the water was turned into blood. Egypt’s waters were turned into blood — that is, the erratic and slippery dogmas of the Philosophers, which deserved to be turned into blood, because they thought carnally about the cause of things. But where the Cross of Christ shows the light of truth to this world, it argues for rebukes of their sort; so that from the character of the injuries during those Ten Plagues now in the Church, one may realize one’s own errors.

In the second, surely a plague of frogs was produced, of whom, having appraised it, we decided it is figuratively the songs of the poets, who have inflicted tales of deception in songs of this world, in a certain inane and inflated tone just like frog sounds, For a “frog” is the most loquacious vanity. For nothing is useful about this animal, except that he responds with the sound of a shameless voice and inconvenient cries.

After this, [a plague of] gnats was produced. Indeed, this animal’s wings suspend it [in a hover] when flying through the air, but so subtle and minute they are that the wings escape being seen even by the sharpest eyesight. But it pierces the body most bitterly with its barb when it settles on it, indeed, so that when one may wish to see it flying, at once it may think to fly. For this kind of animal is compared to heretical subtlety, which subtly drills biting words into souls, and swarms with such cleverness that whoever is deceived may neither see nor understand where they have been deceived.

That in the third sign, truly, the magicians [of Pharaoh] ceased, saying, “This is the finger of God.” [Exod. 8:19] These magicians held the type of heretics as long as they held animosity. This the Apostle declares, saying, “Now as Jannes and Mambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no farther; for their folly shall be manifest to all men, as theirs also was.” But these who are most unquiet through this same corruption of mind, failed in [doing] the third sign, admitting themselves to be facing the Holy Spirit who was in Moses. For the Holy Spirit, who is the Finger of God, is put in the third place. From which also these, failing in the third sign, said, “This is the finger of God.” But as the Holy Spirit, conciliated and pleased, grants rest to the meek and humble of heart, so to the unmeek He is contrary and adversarial, and He stirs up unrest in the proud. These shortest-lived of flies signified such inquietude, saying, “This is the finger of God.”

In the fourth [plague], Egypt was bit by flies. For the fly is a very inconvenient and unquiet animal. In which, what else does it signify but the cares of carnal desires? Therefore, Egypt was bit, because their hearts which loved this world were struck by the unquietness of their desires. Of old, the Septuagint translators wrote down “cynomyam” — that is, dog-fly — through which they signified behaving like a dog. By them a hailstorm was complained of – of the mind, and demanding pleasure, and lust of the flesh. This place can indeed also signify, by the dog-fly, the eloquence of a man of the courts, for just like dogs, they bark slander and bite at each other.

Yet truly, in the fifth [plague], Egypt was flogged by the death of animals or sheep. In this, the folly and deadly foolishness is shown of any who, like an irrational herd, set the worship and names of God on sculpted figures and unthinking animals. Not only is this pressed on men and cattle, but on wood and rocks. They venerate Ammon and Jove in a ram, and Anubis in a dog; Apis also is cherished in a bull; and the rest revere portents of the gods of Egypt and believe divine attentions to belong to them; pitiable supplications to them have been seen.

In the sixth [plague], ulcer sores and burning swellings beneath them were produced. In the ulcers are shown the deceitful and festering malice of this age; in the puffed up swellings, inflated pride; in the burning, wrath and insane furor.

And thus far, [the plagues], that are figures of the world through their errors, are tempered by such prayers; surely, after this, the words come from above — certainly the roaming voices of thunder and hail and fire. For in the thunder, rebukes and divine corrections are understood; because He does not flog in silence but gives voice; and sends heavenly teaching through which one may be able to know the fault of the castigated world. He also gives hail, through which He may lay waste the still tender sprouting of vices. He also gives fire, knowing there to be thorns and thorntrees which He must weed out by this fire. Of which the Lord says, “I come to send fire on the earth.” [Luke 12:49] For through this are consumed the lead of the will and lust.

But in the eighth [plague], mention is made of locusts; it is supposed by some that the inconstancy of mankind dissenting [against God] is refuted through this kind of plague. Also, “locusts” are taken in another sense for their fickle mobility, as wandering and jumpy souls in the delights of this age.

The ninth plague is made of darkness, whether so that the blindness of their mind be disclosed, or so that they may understand the hidden reasoning of divine account balancing and Providence. For God could make “darkness his covert” [Ps. 17:12], which these are boldly and rashly anxious to look through; and others assert to still others that they have fallen into the thick and palpable darkness of ignorance.

In the last [plague], the firstborn of the Egyptians were wiped out, whether the leaders and powers and rulers of the world who are of the dark, or the authors and inventors of the deceptive; who had made a religion in this world, the authors of which the truth of Christ had quenched and wiped out along with their [invention]. What follows further on, “against…the gods… I will execute judgments.” [Ex. 12:12] Those Hebrews affirm that on the night that the people left, all the temples in Egypt were ruined. Yet we say
spiritually that on our coming out of the Egypt of this world, the idols of error toppled, and shook all the twisted teachings from [its] training.

This is Egypt and Sodom — those now who fight against the Church. These are burned up in fire, fewer than ten just men are found; those are afflicted with ten plagues, too few are corrected. And where you find “Sodom” and “Egypt” in this book, you require this authority. And where the “synagogue” is named, recognize it to be in Sodom and Egypt. And yet the Lord has spoken through the Prophet’s mouth of His Body and His own: “For many dogs have encompassed me: the synagogue of the malignant hath besieged me.”

And again, “The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan: and covered the congregation of Abiron. And a fire was kindled in their synagogue….”, because they provoked Moses. and Aaron, the priest of the Lord’s sanctum, and paid them back with taking liberties, trying to sacrifice. And so, through these are signified those who try to make heresies and schisms now in the Church, and deceive many who are drawn along with them, looking down on the priests of Christ and separating many from fellowship with their clergy. They dare to set up churches and some make prayers at another altar with illicit voices, profaning the truth of the Lord’s Day victim by false sacrifice. These who work against the ordination of God from the courage of rashness, are broken from the ties of the earth, buried alive in the depths of a chasm. Not only those who are their leaders, but also those who were made consenting participants with them, perish in the eternal fire of suffering prepared as retribution. This “synagogue” that contradicted Moses now contradicts the Church. Before any were produced from this part, they waged war, called under the name of a single “synagogue”.

Jeremiah in the Assembly called to mind this ‘synagogue’, saying, ‘O Almighty Lord, “I sat not in the assembly of jesters… but I feared the presence of Thy hand; I sat alone.” [Jer. 15:17] Certainly in mind; yet he never withdrew from the midst of them. Where he would neither sit alone in another temple nor would show himself to be separated from another people.

Still, Nicodemus also was contrary to the assertion of the Law in the council of the wicked. [John 7:51] This is the ‘synagogue’ of which the Son of God says in the Church, “You are born of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do.” [John 8:44] This is the narrow way, and that the wide; this is the right hand, and that the left. But are both brought together in the way of the Lord, or are they mixed?

Bulus al-Bushi
synagogue of Satan: It means they have held to the way of error and have abandoned the truth. Satan triumphed over them when God abandoned His care of them because of their unbelief.
Nicholas of Lyra

I know thy tribulation I approve your patience in it. and thy poverty In temporalities. but thou art rich In spiritualities. and thou art blasphemed Against the truth. but are the synagogue of Satan Because they are obstinate in their infidelity against Christ, as it is said in the Church History, Bk. 4, Chapter 12: In the city of Smyrna many Jews lived who incited the Gentiles to persecute the Christians. In this persecution many were not only robbed of their things but also crowned with martyrdom- among whom St. Polycarp was thrown into the fire, and, when the fire did not harm him, he was struck with a sword and departed to God (Eusebius).

Hieronymus Lauretus 

By blasphemy, it is meant to speak evil, by attributing anything to any one injuriously, or by taking away that which belongs to him, and it is used especially in regard to God.


Giovanni Stefano Menochio

Who say they are Jews and are not; viz., not true Jews, since they do not confess Christ to be God, whom the ancient patriarchs of the Jews and the prophets worshipped and foretold.  The blasphemy of those who say that they are Jews and are not, is signified the rejection of the doctrine of the Lord's divinity, and also of his divine humanity, by the professed teachers of the truth. There is yet a further application of the words, blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not.

Haydock Bible
Poverty. He was poor in temporal things, but rich in grace and merits. --- Thou art blasphemed by those false teachers, who call themselves Jews and Israelites, and the chosen people of God, waiting for the coming of the Messias, but are not to be looked upon as such; having refused to own their true Messias, Jesus Christ, they are the Synagogue of Satan, the greatest enemies of the true faith.
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