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

Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on 1 John 5:4-10 for Low Sunday (Extraordinary Form)

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 9, 2012

I hope to add the Bishop’s summary analysis of chapter 5 to the beginning of this post in the near future. I’ve deleted a rather lengthy passage on a technical issue involving the authenticity of parts of verses 7 & 8 and may include the passage as an appendix to the post. A few brief notations in red are my additions.

1Jn 5:4  For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. And this is the victory which overcameth the world: Our faith.

For whatsoever is born of God. “Whatsoever,” that is, every description of persons born of God—and this favours the interpretation of the preceding verse, which understands it of all the sons of God—”overcometh the world,” with all its temptations, seductive maxims, and ruling principles, “the concupiscence of the flesh,” &c. (1 John 2:16). To such, therefore, the commandments of God are not heavy. He next points out the source of victory, viz., “our faith,” since faith alone is the foundation of all those graces which enable us to overcome the world; it alone obtains for us those necessary grace; without it no one can ever have the means necessary for overcoming the world.

1Jn 5:5  Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

Who is he that overcometh the world, &c.—In other words, no one can have the faith wherebv the world is overcome except he who believes “that Jesus is the Son of God.” The Apostle shows, in this verse, what the faith is, to which he refers, it is the faith of which the belief in Christ’s Divinity is the foundation. Of course, he supposes this Christian, victorious faith, to be an operative faith, a faith enlivened by charity, and he refers to the article regarding the Divinity of Christ in a special manner, both here and in other parts of this Epistle, in consequence of the leading errors of the day being specially levelled against this—the foundation of the Christian religion.

1Jn 5:6  This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ: not by water only but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit which testifieth that Christ is the truth.

The Apostle here proves, that Christ is the long expected Messiah, the Son of God. “Jesus Christ,” God and man, the Saviour of the world, who, as the prophets predicted, was about to redeem mankind by his blood, and expiate their sins in the waters of Baptism (Ezekiel 36:25, &c., Ezekiel 47; Zechariah 12:13). “This is he that came ” (or, as the Greek,  ο ελθων implies, this is the man long expected to come), “by water and blood,” to redeem the world, and spiritually regenerate mankind “by water” of baptism “and blood” of his passion, of which the baptism in water, and purifications by the shedding of blood, among the Jews, were so many significant types and figures. “Not by water only,” in which allusion is evidently made to the Baptist, of whom it is everywhere pointedly asserted by the Evangelist—and the same is repeatedly asserted by himself—that he came to baptize in water only, and that he was sent by God for this purpose, and his baptism did not of itself remit sin, as it most probably, was a mere preparation for penance, and for the true baptism instituted by Christ.  “But by water and blood.” He came “by water,” because he instituted baptism of water, whereof that which issued from his side while hanging on the cross was a sign; and “by blood,” poured forth on the cross, from which baptism, and all the other channels of divine grace, derive their efficicacy. “And it is the Spirit that testifies, that Christ is the truth”; to the testimony of the water and blood, the Apostle adds that of the Holy Ghost, who testified to the Divinity of Christ, during His sacred life, working wonders in proof thereof; and after his death and resurrection, when descending on the Apostles, in the form of fiery tongues, he filled them with his graces, he also bore testimony to the same, in the many gifts which he bestowed on the faithful. In the Greek reading the words run thus:  και το πνευμα εστιν το μαρτυρουν οτι το πνευμα εστιν  η αληθεια: “and it is the Spirit that testifieth, because the Spirit is truth,” according to which the meaning is: the Holy Ghost also bears testimony, that Christ is the expected Messiah and Saviour of the world, and this testimony is of the greatest weight, because the Holy Ghost is essential truth. The Vulgate reading is, however, preferable, since the question regards the truth of Christ’s Divinity and Humanity; both of which are necessary to constitute him the true Saviour of the world.

1Jn 5:7  And there are Three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one.

The Apostle now adduces the most incontrovertible evidence of the truth of his
assertion made in the foregoing verse, viz., that Jesus Christ was the long- expected Messiah, true God and true man, who was to come and redeem mankind. The witnesses here adduced are divine witnesses. (Such is the meaning of ” in heaven,” as contra-distinguished from “on earth,” next verse), viz., the three Adorable Persons of the Trinity, “the Father,” who bore testimony to Christ (Matt 1:21; Matt 3:17; Matt 17:5; John 12:28):— “the Word,” that is, the Son. He bore testiinony that he was himself the Mesiah promised by the Father, and proved it by repeated miracles (John 5:17, John 5:36; John 8:14, John 8:25; John 10:25);—and finally, he testified that he was the Son of God in the presence of the High Priest, during his sacred Passion. “And the
Holy Ghost.” The’ Holy Ghost testified, that Christ was the only begotten Son of God, and in his assumed nature, the Saviour of the world, viz., at his baptism by John, on the day of Pentecost; and in the abundant effusion of his heavenly gifts, on many occasions.

And these three are one. These three witnesses, who “in heaven,” and from heaven, give a testimony certain beyond all doubt, regarding Christ’s Divinity and Humanity, His Mediatorial and Redemptory qualities, as man-God, although distinct in Person, are one and indivisible in the same divine nature and essence. The word “one” is taken in the same sense in which it is taken in chapter 10 of John, where our Redeemer says, “I and the Father are one,” that is, we possess the same power and the same divine essence. Hence, the evidence which St. John here adduces is that of the Godhead, three in Person and one in nature.

1Jn 5:8  And there are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit and the water and the blood. And these three are one.

And there are three earthly and created witnesses (such is the meaning of “on
earth,” as contrasted with “in heaven,” in the preceding verse), viz., “the Spirit,” that is, the created soul of Christ, which he breathed forth with a loud cry upon the cross; from the mode in which this happened, the Centurion cried out,”truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:39), “and the water and the blood.”  The “water”—the first and chiefest of material elements—which flowed from his side extended on the cross, and the “blood “—the first of the four humours whereby animated creatures live—which likewise flowed therefrom, and which he abundantly shed during his entire Passion, proved him to have a true body. He had, then, a true body and a soul (“spirit.”) These three witnesses, therefore, prove him to be a real man. They also prove him to be truly God also; since the very mode in which he expired convinced the Centurion at the foot of the cross of this; and his laying down his life freely, and reuniting, by an astonishing effort of his own power, his soul and body in his Resurrection, the circumstances, and mode, and time of which he predicted before hand, also proves the same. “And these three are one,” that is (as is more clearly expressed in the Greek, εις το εν εισιν, unto one); they conspire together and concur in one and the same testimony, viz., that Jesus Christ is both God and man.

At this point the Bishop breaks off into a long excursus regarding the authenticity of this passage, from the words of verse 7, “in heaven,” to the words of verse 8, “on earth,” inclusively. The question was disputed in his day but I’ve taken the liberty of excising it from this post as being of little interest to the modern reader. I plan to include it as an appendix to this post (which I’ll added sometime later in the week if I can find the time).

1Jn 5:9  If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. For this is the testimony of God, which is greater, because he hath testified of his Son.

By an argument, a minori ad magus (from the minor to the major), he sets forth, in a still clearer light the weight of the Divine testimony, which he adduces in verse 7. If the testimony of two or three witnesses, taken from among men, be regarded as final and decisive on any subject, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand,'” (Deut 19:15), how much more authoritative must not the testimony of God the Father be, when joined to the concordant testimony of the two other Persons of the Adorable Trinity. Now, “this is the testimony of God, which is greater,” viz., that which “he has borne concerning his Son,” (which is greater, is not in the Greek). The ordinary Greek copies, in place of, “because he hath testified,” have, οτι μεμαρτυρηκε, which he hath testified, as if he said the testimony of the Father, to which I refer, is that which regards the Son. When it was, that the Father had borne this testimony, has been already shown (verse 7). The Alexandrian and Vatican MSS. support the Vulgate, and have οτι μεμαρτυρηκεν. Note the Greek letter ν is lacking at the end of “the ordinary Greek copies.” 

1Jn 5:10  He that believeth in the Son of God hath the testimony of God in himself. He that believeth not the Son maketh him a liar: because he believeth not in the testimony which God hath testified of his Son.

In this verse is contained a tacit exhortation to embrace and retain the faith regarding Jesus Christ, which the Apostle has been proposing throughout this chapter, in refutation of the errors of the day, viz., that he is true God and true man, the Saviour and Mediator given by God to mankind—” he that believeth in the Son of God,” in the sense now explained, “hath the testimony of God in himself,” that is, firmly assents to what God testified, and thereby honours him by doing homage to his veracity. The words “of God,” are omitted in the Greek, they are, however, found in the Alexandrian MS. On the other hand, “he that believeth not the Son,” (,in Greek, “he that believeth not God,” ο μη πιστευων τω θεω the Alexanarian MS. favours the Vulgate); he that refuses to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, “maketh him a liar,” proclaims by this unbelief that God is a liar, having borne testimony to what is false, “because he believeth not in the testimony which God had testified.” He believes not what God has testified “of his Son,” viz., that Jesus is his Son, and the Saviour of the world; but rejects it as false, as if God were a liar.

4 Responses to “Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on 1 John 5:4-10 for Low Sunday (Extraordinary Form)”

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