The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for June 9th, 2011

Fathers Nolan’s and Brown’s Commentary on John 21:19-25

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 9, 2011

John 21:19b.  And this he (Jesus) said, signifying by what death he (Peter) should glorify God. And when he (Jesus) had said this, he saith to him (Peter): Follow me.

And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God. When St. John wrote this, St. Peter’s death had thrown light on Christ’s words, if, indeed, our Evangelist did not understand their meaning at the time they were spoken. That Peter understood it, we may rest assured. According to tradition, Peter, at his own request, was crucified with his head downwards, declining, in his humility, to be crucified like his Lord.

Follow me. Most of the fathers take these words to mean, not so much that Peter was now to walk after Jesus, as that he was to follow Him  the death of the cross to the glory of the Father. Compare John 13:36-37.

Joh 21:20  Peter turning about, saw that disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned on his breast at supper and said: Lord, who is he that shall betray thee?

Peter turning about, saw that disciple whom Jesus loved following. From these words it would appear that Christ had begun to move away and Peter to follow, as if to symbolize the higher sense in which Peter was one day to tread in His footsteps.

Who also leaned. Rather, who also leaned back (ανεπεσεν). The reference is to the incident recorded in Jn 13:25, not to the position John occupied from the commencement of the supper.

Joh 21:21  Him therefore when Peter had seen, he saith to Jesus: Lord, and what shall this man do?

Peter, having learnedwhat his own end was to be, was now anxious to know the
end that awaited our Evangelist, who was so dear to Jesus and to himself. He therefore, asked: “And what shall this man do? or rather as the
Greek has it; “And this man, what? that is to say, what end awaits him?

Joh 21:22  Jesus saith to him: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? Follow thou me.

So I will, &c. “So” translates the Vulgate sic, which is a misprint for si (εαν). Hence the true reading is: If I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? Follow thou Me. Our Lord here reproves Peter s curiosity and bids him see to himself, nor wish to know more than his Master was pleased to communicate.

Follow thou me. “Thou” is emphatic. Peter’s question regarding the end that awaited John; and our Lord’s reply, contrasting as it does the two Apostles “If I will have him” . . . Follow thou), justifies us in taking the words “Follow thou me” in reference to Peter’s death by crucifixion.

Joh 21:23  This saying therefore went abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. And Jesus did not say to him: He should not die; but: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee?

Our Evangelist tells us here what was not the meaning of the Lord’s words; what
their meaning was, he does not say. He merely wished to show that the words afforded no ground for the belief which prevailed among the faithful, and which his own very advanced age at the time when this Gospel was written tended to confirm, that he was not to die at all, or at least not until the day of judgment. Those who deny the authenticity of this last chapter appeal triumphantly to
this verse. It was written, they say, after St. John died, when it become necessary to explain away the meaning that had been put upon our Lord’s words But, from what we have said already, the reader will have seen that there is not the slightest reason why this verse may not have been written by St. John himself.

There is a difference of opinion as to what our Lord meant by the words: “If I
will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee?” Some have taken the meaning to be: If I will have him to remain till I come for him in a natural death, what is it to thee? But this is not probable; Christ comes for the martyr just as much as for him who dies a natural death.

Others thus: If I will have him to remain till My coming at the destruction of Jerusalem, what is it to thee?

But it is most likely that Christ’s coming when spoken of absolutely, as here, refers to His coming at the day of judgment. Hence the most probable view seems to be: If I were to will him to remain living even till the day of judgment, what were that to thee? Thus our Lord makes a purely hypothetical case, and conveys no information to Peter, thereby reproving still more his curiosity.

Joh 21:24  This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things and hath written these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
Joh 21:25  But there are also many other things which Jesus did which, if they were written every one, the world itself. I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written.

The authenticity of these verses has been questioned more than that of the rest of the chapter, both because it is not in St. John’s manner to speak of himself in the plural number (as here in verse 24: “we know”), and because of the hyperbole in verse 25. For these reasons, some Catholic writers have denied their authenticity, though no Catholic, as far as we are aware, has denied their inspiration. Those Catholics who deny their authenticity, hold that they were probably written by the bishops of Asia Minor, at whose request St. John wrote the Gospel. See Introd. p. xliii. This view is not without some probability. Still, we prefer the common opinion of Catholic commentators, that the verses were
written by St. John himself; for without them the conclusion of the Gospel would be extremely abrupt.

As to the reasons for the opposite view, though we admit that St. John does not
usually employ the first person plural, still it is not unnatural that in closing his Gospel he should wish to confirm his own testimony by an appeal to the consenting voice of his contemporaries. Besides, he does use the same form of
expression in Jn 1:14: “And we saw his glory.” See also 1 Jn 1:33. As to the argument drawn from the alleged extravagance of the hyperbole in verse 25, it has no weight. For, there is no reason why St. John may not have used this striking hyperbole to signify the inexhaustible treasury of instruction contained in our Divine Lord’s life and works, and to suggest the deep truth that a full account (“every one”) of Christ’s human life would be practically infinite. “Hunc loquendi modum,” says St. Aug. on this passage, “Graeco nomine hyperbolem
vocant; qui modus, sicut hoc loco, ita in nonnullis aliis divinis Literis invenitur . . . et multa hujusmodi, sicut alii tropi, Scripturis S. non desunt.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 21:18-25

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 9, 2011

Ver 18. Verily, verily, I say to you, When you were young, you girded yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall gird you, and carry you whither you would not.19a. This spoke he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.

CHRYS. Our Lord having made Peter declare his love, informs him of his future martyrdom; an intimation to us how we should love: Verily, verily, I say to you, When you were young, you girded yourself, and walked where you would. He reminds him of his former life, because, whereas in worldly matters a young man has powers, an old man none; in spiritual things, on the contrary, virtue is brighter, manliness stronger, in old age; age is no hindrance to grace. Peter had all along desired to share Christ’s dangers; so Christ tells him, Be of good cheer; I will fulfill your desire in such a way, that what you has not suffered when young, you shall suffer when old: But when you are old. Whence it appears, that he was then neither a young nor an old man, but in the prime of life.

ORIGEN. It is not easy to find any ready to pass at once from this life; and so he says to Peter, When you are old, you shall stretch forth your hand.

AUG. That is, shall be crucified. And to come to this end, Another shall gird you, and carry you where you would not. First He said what would come to pass, secondly, how it would come to pass. For it was not when crucified, but when about to be crucified, that he was led where he would not. He wished to be released from the body, and be with Christ; but, if it were possible, he wished to attain to eternal life without the pains of death; to which he went against his will, but conquered by the force of his will, and triumphing over the human feeling, so natural a one, that even old age could not deprive Peter of it. But whatever be the pain of death, it ought to be conquered by the strength of love for Him, Who being our life, voluntarily also underwent death for us. For if there is no pain in death, or very little, the glory of martyrdom would not be great.

CHRYS. He says, Where you would not, with reference to the natural reluctance of the soul to be separated from the body; an instinct implanted by God to prevent men putting an end to themselves.

Then raising the subject, the Evangelist says, This spoke He, signifying by what death he should glorify God: not, should die: he expresses himself so, to intimate that to suffer for Christ was the glory of the sufferer. But unless the mind is persuaded that He is very God, the sight of Him can in no way enable us to endure death. Wherefore the death of the saints is certainty of divine glory.

AUG. He who denied and loved, died in perfect love for Him, for Whom he had promised to die with wrong haste. It was necessary that Christ should first die for Peter’s salvation, and then Peter die for Christ’s Gospel.

Ver 19b. And when he had spoken this, he says to him, Follow me.20. Then Peter, turning about, sees the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrays you?21. Peter seeing him says to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?22. Jesus says to him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? follow you me.23. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not to him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you?

AUG. Our Lord having foretold to Peter by what hat death he should glorify God, bids him follow Him. And when He had spoken this, He says to him, Follow Me. Why does He say, Follow Me, to Peter, and not to the others who were present, who as disciples were following their Master? Or if we understand it of his martyrdom, was Peter the only one who died for the Christian truth? Was not James put to death by Herod? Some one will say that James was not crucified, and that this was fitly addressed to Peter, because he not only died, but suffered the death of the cross, as Christ did.

THEOPHYL. Peter hearing that he was to suffer death for Christ, asks whether John was to die: Then Peter, turning about, sees the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on His breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrays you?   Peter seeing him says to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

AUG. He calls himself the disciple whom Jesus loved, because Jesus had a greater and more familiar love for him, than for the rest; so that He made him lie on His breast at supper. In this way John the more commends the divine excellency of that Gospel which he preached.

Some think, and they no contemptible commentators upon Scripture, that the reason why John was loved more than the rest, was, because he had lived in perfect chastity from his youth up. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not to him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you?

THEOPHYL. i.e. Shall he not die?

AUG. Jesus says to him, What is that to you? and He then repeats, Follow you Me, as if John would not follow Him, because he wished to remain till He came; Then went this saying abroad among the disciples, that disciple should not die. Was it not a natural inference of the disciple’s? But John himself does awes With such a notion: Yet Jesus said not to him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? But if any so will, let him contradict, and say that what John says is true, viz. that our Lord did not say that that disciple should not die, but that nevertheless this was signified by using such words as John records.

THEOPHYL. Or let him say, Christ did not deny that John was to die, for whatever is born cries; but said, I will that he tarry till I come, i.e. to live to the end of the world, and then he shall suffer martyrdom for Me. And therefore they confess that he still lives, but will be killed by Antichrist, and will preach Christ’s name with Elias. But if his sepulcher be objected, then they say that he entered in alive, and went out of it afterwards.

AUG. Or perhaps he will allow that John still lies in his sepulcher at Ephesus, but asleep, not dead; and will give us a proof, that the soil over his grave is moist and watery, owing to his respiration. But why should our Lord grant it as a great privilege to the disciple whom He loved, that he should sleep this long time in the body, when he released Peter from the burden of the flesh by a glorious martyrdom, and gave him what Paul had longed for, when he said, I have a desire to depart and be with Christ? If there really takes place at John’s grave that which report says, it is either done to commend his precious death, since that had not martyrdom to commend it, or for some other cause not known to us. Yet the question remains, Why did our Lord say of one who was about to die, I will that he tarry till I come? It may be asked too why our Lord loved John the most, when Peter loved our Lord the most? I might easily reply, that the one who loved Christ the more, was the better man, and the one whom Christ loved the more, the more blessed; only this would not be a defense of our Lord’s justice. This important question then I will endeavor to answer. The Church acknowledges two modes of life, as divinely revealed, that by faith, and that by sight. The one is represented by the Apostle Peter, in respect of the primacy of his Apostleship; the other by John: wherefore to the one it is said, Follow Me, i.e. imitate Me in enduring temporal sufferings; of the other it is said, I will that he tarry till I come: as if to say, Do you follow Me, by the endurance of temporal sufferings, let him remain till I come to give everlasting bliss; or to open out the meaning more, Let action be perfected by following the example of My Passion, but let contemplation wait inchoate till at My coming it be completed: wait, not simply remain, continue, but wait for its completion at Christ’s coming. Now in this life of action it is true, the more we love Christ, the more we are freed from sin; but He does not love us as we are, He frees us from sin, that we may not always remain as we are, but He loves us heretofore rather, because hereafter we shall not have that which displeases Him, and which He frees us from. So then let Peter love Him, that we may be freed from this mortality; let John be loved by Him, that we may be preserved in that immortality. John loved less than Peter, because, as he represented that life in which we are much more loved, our Lord said, I will that he remain (i.e. wait) till I come; seeing that that greater love we have not yet, but wait till we have it at His coming. And this intermediate state is represented by Peter who loves, but is loved less, for Christ loves us in our misery less than in our blessedness: and we again love the contemplation of truth such as it will be then, less in our present state, because as yet we neither know nor have it. But let none separate those illustrious Apostles; that which Peter represented, and that which John represented, both were sometime to be.

GLOSS. I will that he tarry, i.e. I will not that he suffer martyrdom, but wait for the quiet dissolution of the flesh, when I shall come and receive him into eternal blessedness.

THEOPHYL. When our Lord says to Peter, Follow Me, He confers upon him the superintendence over all the faithful, and at the same time bids him imitate Him in every thing, word and work. He shows too His affection for Peter; for those who are most dear to us, we bid follow us.

CHRYS. But if it be asked, How then did James assume the see of Jerusalem? I answer, that our Lord enthroned Peter, not as Bishop of this see, but as Doctor of the whole world: Then Peter, turning about, sees the disciple whom Jesus loved following, which also leaned on his breast at supper. It is not without meaning that that circumstance of leaning on His breast is mentioned, but to show what confidence Peter had after his denial.

For he who at the supper dared not ask himself, but gave his question to John to put, has the superintendence over his brethren committed to him, and whereas before he gave a question which concerned himself to another to put, he now asks questions himself of his Master concerning others. Our Lord then having foretold such great things of him, and committed the world to him, and prophesied his martyrdom, and made known his greater love, Peter wishing to have John admitted to a share of this calling, says, And what shall this man do? as if to say, Will he not go the same way with us? For Peter had great love for John, as appears from the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, which give many proofs of their close friendship.

So Peter does John the same turn, that John had done him; thinking that he wanted to ask about himself, but was afraid, he puts the question for him. However, inasmuch as they were now going to have the care of the world committed to them, and could not remain together without injury to their charge, our Lord says, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? as if to say, Attend to the work committed to thee, and do it: if I will that he abide here, what is that to you?

THEOPHYL. Some have understood, Till I come, to mean, Till I come to punish the Jews who have crucified Me, and strike them with the Roman rod. For they say that this Apostle lived up to the time of Vespasian, who took Jerusalem, and dwelt near when it was taken. Or, Till I come, i.e. till I give him the commission to preach, for to you I commit now the pontificate of the world: and in this follow Me, but let him remain till I come and call him, as I do you now.

CHRYS. The Evangelist then corrects the opinion taken up by the disciples.

Ver  24. This is the disciple which testifies of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.25. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

CHRYS. John appeals to his own knowledge of these events, having been witness of them: This is the disciple which testifies of these things. When we assert any undoubted fact in common life, we do not withhold our testimony: much less would he, who wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. And thus the other Apostles, And we are witnesses of these things, and wrote these things. John is only one who appeals to his own testimony; and he does so, because he was the last who wrote. And for this reason he often mentions Christ’s love for him, i.e. to show the motive which led him to write, and to give weight to his history. And we know that his testimony is true. He was present at every event, even at the crucifixion, when our Lord committed His mother to him; circumstances which both show Christ’s love, and his own importance as a witness. But if any believe not, let him consider what follows:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did. If, when there were so many things to relate, I have not said so much as the other, and have selected often reproaches and contumelies in preference to other things, it is evident that I have not written partially. One who wants to show another off to advantage does the very contrary, omits the dishonorable parts.

AUG. The which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should, be written; meaning not the world had not space for them, but that the capacity of readers was not large enough to hold them: though sometimes words themselves may exceed the truth, and yet the thing they express be true; a mode of speech which is used not to explain an obscure and doubtful, but to magnify or estimate a plain, thing: nor does it involve any departure from the path of truth; inasmuch as the excess of the word over the truth is evidently only a figure of speech, and not a deception. This way of speaking the Greeks call hyperbole, and it is found in other parts of Scripture.

CHRYS. This is said to show the power of Him Who did the miracles; i. e that it was as easy for Him to do them, as it is for us to speak of them, seeing He is God over all, blessed for ever.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 11:21b-26, 12:1-3

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 9, 2011

21. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believing, were converted to the Lord.

Some of the Christians who were dispersed by the persecution  were Hellenists from Cyprus and Cyrene, i.e., Jews who had been bom and brought up among the pagans. As soon as these had heard of the happenings at Caesarea they began to preach the Gospel to the Greeks (ελληνιστας, according to the best MSS.) at Antioch. The persecution being referred to here is that which arose consequent upon the martyrdom of Stephen (see Acts 8:1-3, 11:19).

22. And the tidings came to the ears of the church that was at Jerusalem, touching these things: and they sent Barnabas as far as Antioch.
23. Who, when he was come, and had seen the grace of God, rejoiced: and he exhorted them all with purpose of heart to continue in the Lord.
24. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith. And a great multitude was added to the Lord.

Barnabas, who was a native of Cyprus and consequently a Hellenist. He knew better than a native-born Jew how to deal with Gentile converts.

25. And Barnabas went to Tarsus to seek Saul: whom, when he had found, he brought to Antioch.
26. And they conversed there in the church a whole year; and they taught a great multitude, so that at Antioch the disciples were first named Christians.

After encountering trouble at Jerusalem, Paul retired to Tarsus, his native city. Barnabas knew of Paul’s conversion and the mission which God had given him, and so he made a three days’ journey from Antioch to Tarsus, found Paul and brought him to Antioch. There Paul and Barnabas labored for a whole year, instructing and converting the pagans to Christianity. So great was the number of these pagan converts that they soon formed a society distinct from the Jews whose center was the Synagogue, and to this new society, professing the religion of Christ, was given for the first time the name Christians, i.e., followers of Christ and His doctrine.

1. And at the same time, Herod the king stretched forth his hands, to afflict some of the church.

Herod the king; i.e., Herod Agrippa the Elder, son of Aristobulus, grandson of Herod the Great, and nephew of Herod Antipas who mocked our Lord by clothing; Him in a white robe (see Lk 23:11). Herod Agrippa became very friendly at Rome with the Emperor Caligula, by whom he was first made tetrarch of Iturea and Abilene, and later of Galilee also, when Herod Antipas was banished by the Emperor to Lyons. It was at this time that he received the title of king. Judea, too, was afterwards added to his kingdom by the Emperor Claudius, and he was thus king of all these regions at the time here referred to by St. Luke.

To afflict some, etc., in order to gain favor with the Jews.

2. And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword.

James, the Greater, the son of Zebedee and Salome and brother of John the Evangelist. He was beheaded, the first of the Apostles to shed his blood for the faith. To put to death with the sword was not a Jewish, but a Roman form of execution.

3. And seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take up Peter also. Now it was in the days of the Azymes.

Peter, who was the recognized head of the Church. The days of the azymes; i.e., the days of unleavened bread, or of the Pasch and its octave. See on Matthew 26:17 ff.

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