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

Posts Tagged ‘Notes on John’s Gospel’

Father MacRory’s Commentary on John 1:1-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 5, 2019

Jn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word Was God.

in principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum.

In the beginning.  these words most probably mean here, as in Gen 1:1, at the beginning of all created things; in other words, when time began.  Their meaning must always be determined by the context.  Thus we know from the context in Acts 11:15, that St Peter there uses them in reference to the beginning of the Gospel.  Similarly, the context here determines the reference to be to the beginning of creation; for He who is here said to have been in the beginning, is declared in verse 3 to be the creator of all things, and must therefore have already been in existence at their beginning.

Others, however, have interpreted the words differently.  Many of the fathers understood them to mean: in the Father, and took this first clause of vs 1 as a declaration that the w=Word was in the Father.  But, though it is quite true to say that the Word was and is in the Father (10:38), both being consubstantial, still such does not seem to be the sense of the phrase before us.  Had St John meant to state this, surely he would have written: In God, or in the Father, was the Word.  He names God in the next two clauses: And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  Why then should he at the risk of being misunderstood, refer to Him in this first clause under another name?  Besides, if this first clause state the Word’s consubstantiality with the Father, the third clause: And the Word was God, would then be tautological.

Many of the commentators also urge against this view, that if the first clause meant in God (or, in the Father) was the Word, the second clause would be merely a repetition.  But we cannot assent to this, since we shall see, the second clause would add the important statement of the Word’s distinct personality.  However, the view seems to us improbable for the other reasons already stated.

Other take “beginning” here to mean eternity, so that we should have in this first clause a direct statement of the Word’s eternity.  But against this is the fact that arche (beginning) nowhere else bears this meaning, and can be satisfactorily explained in a different sense here.  Hence, as already explained, “in the beginning” means: when time began.

was.  (Greek: en) I.e., was already in existence.  Had St John meant to declare that at the dawn of creation the Word began to exist, he would have used engeneto as he does in verse 3 regarding the beginning of the world, and again in verse 6 regarding the coming of the Baptist.  This cannot fail to be clear to anyone who contrasts Jn 1:1, 2, 3, and Jn 1:9 of this chapter with verses Jn 1:3, 6, 14.  In the former en is used throughout in reference to the eternal existence of the Word; in the latter egeneto, when there is a question of the beginning of created things (Jn 1:3), or of the coming of the Baptist (Jn 1:6), or of the asumption by the Word of human nature at the incarnation (Jn 1:14).  At the beginning of creation, then, the Word was already in existence; and hence it follows that He must be uncreated, and therefore eternal.  St John’s statement here that the Word was already in existence in the beginning, is accordingly, equivalent to our Lord’s claim to have existed before the world was (Jn 1:17:5), and in both instances the Word’s eternity, though not directly stated, follows immediately.  Hence we find that the Council of Nice and the fathers generally inferred, against the Arians, the eternity of the Son of God from this first clause of verse 1.  “If He was in the beginning,” says St Basil, “when was He not?”

The Word.  (ho logos).  St John here, as well as in 1 Jn 1:1, and in the Apocalypse (Rev 19:13), designates by this term the Second Divine Person.  That he speaks of no mere abstraction, or attribute of God, but of a Being who is a distinct Divine Person, is clear.  For this “Word was with God, was God, was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us,” and in the person of Jesus Christ was witnessed to by the Baptist (Jn 1:1, 14, 15, 29, 30).  Outside the writings of St John there is no clear instance in either the Old or New Testaments of this use of the term logos.  Throughout the rest of the Scriptures its usual meaning is speech or word.

What, then, we may ask, led our Evangelist, in the beginning of his Gospel, to apply this term rather than Son, or Son of God, to the Second Divine Person?  Why did he not say: In the beginning was the Son?

Apart from inspiration, which, of course, may have extended to the suggestion of an important word like the present, apart also from the appropriateness of the term, of which we shall speak in a moment, it seems very probable that St John was impelled to use the term logos because it had been already used by the heretics of the time in the expression of their errors.  Endowed, too, as St John was, like the other Apostles, with a special understanding of the Sacred Scriptures (Lk 24:46), and privileged as he had been on many occasions to listen to the commentaries of Christ Himself on the Old Testament, he may have been able, where we are not, to see clearly in the Old Testament instances in which logos refers to the Son of God; e.g., Ps 32:6.

One thing, at all events, is quite plain, that, whatever may be said regarding his reason for the application of this term to the Son of God, St John did not borrow his doctrine regarding the logos from Plato or Philo or the Alexandrian School.  For though the term is frequently met with in the writings of both Plato and Philo, yet Plato never speaks of it as a person, but only as an attribute of God; and Philo, though in our opinion, he held the distinct personality of the Word, yet denied that he was God, or the creator of amtter, which latter Philo held to be eternal.  As to the Alexandrian School, to which Philo belonged, and of whose doctrines he is the earliest witness, there is not a shadow of foundation for saying that any of its doctors held the same doctrine as St John regarding the Divine Word.

From the teaching of Christ, then, or by inspiration, or in both ways, our Evangelist received the sublime doctrine regarding the logos with which his Gospel opens.

Having now inquired into the origin of the term logos as applied to the Son of God, and having learned the source whence St John derived his doctrine regarding this Divine Word, let us try to understand how it is that the Son of God could be appropriately referred to as the Word (ho logos).  Many answers have been given, but we will confine ourselves to the one that seems to us most satisfactory.

We believe, and profess in the Athanasian Creed (Filius a Patre solo est non factus, nec creatus, sed genitus), that the Son is begotten by the Father; and it is the common teaching that He is begotten through the Divine intellect.  Now, this mysterious procession of the Son from the Father through the intellect, is implied here in His being called the Word.  For, as our word follows, without passion or carnal feeling, from our thought, as it is the reflex of our thought, from which it detracts nothing, and which it faithfully represents; so, only in an infinitely more perfect way, the Son of God proceeded, without passion or any carnal imperfection, through the intellect of the Father, detracting nothing from Him who begot Him, being   the image of the Father, “the figure of His substance” (Heb 1:3). “‘Augustine says (De Trin. vi, 11): “By Word we understand the Son alone.’  Word,” said of God in its proper sense, is used personally, and is the proper name of the person of the Son. For it signifies an emanation of the intellect: and the person Who proceeds in God, by way of emanation of the intellect, is called the Son; and this procession is called generation, as we have shown above (Question 27, Article 2). Hence it follows that the Son alone is properly called Word in God. (ST 1.34, art. 2)

And the Word was with God (pros ton Theon).  pros here signifies not motion towards, but a living union with, God.  God refers not to the Divine Nature, but to the Divine Person of the Father (see 1 Jn 1:2); otherwise the Word would be unnecessarily and absurdly said here to be with Himself, since He is the Divine Nature terminated in the Second Person.  Many commentators are of the opinion that  the use of pros (with), and not en (in) proves that the Word is not a mere attribute of the Father, but s distinct Person.  So St John Chrysostom, St Cyril, Theophylact, Cornelius a Lapide, Patrizi, M’Evilly.

And the Word was God.  As our English version indicates, Word is the subject of this clause, God the predicate, for in the Greek logos has the article, Theos (God) wants it; and besides, as appears from the whole context, St John is declaring what the Word is, not what God is.  A desire to begin this clause with the last word of the preceding clause-a favorite construction with St John (see Jn 1:4-5)-may have led to the inversion of the original.  Or the inversion may have been intended  to throw the Divinity of the Word into greater prominence by placing the predicate before the verb.

Some, like Corluy, refer God, in this third clause, to the Divine Nature, which is common to the three Divine Persons; others, as Patrizi, to the Divine Nature as terminated in the Second Divine Person.  We prefer the latter view, but in either interpretation we have in this clause a declaration of the Divinity of the Word, a proof that cannot be gainsaid of His essential unity with the Father.  Nor does the absence of the Greek article before “God” in this third clause, when taken in conjunction with its presence in the second, imply, as the Arians held, that the Word is inferior to the Father.  For our Evangelist certainly refers sometimes to the Supreme Deity without the article (Jn 1:6, 12, 18); and the absence of the article is sufficiently accounted for in the present case by the fact that Theos (God) is a predicate standing before the copula.

Jn 1:2  The same was in the beginning with God.
Hoc erat in principio apud Deum.

To emphasize the three great truths contained in verse 1: namely, the Word’s eternity, His distinct personality, and essential unity with the Father, they are repeated in verse 2.  The same, that is, this Word who is God, was in the beginning, and was with God.

Various attempts have been made by the Unitarians to escape the invincible argument for a Second Divine Person which these opening verses of our Gospel contain.  Thus, they put a full stop after the last “erat” of verse 1; and taking the words in the order in which they occur in the Greek and Latin, make the sense of the third clause: And God was.  Then they join “verbum,” the last word of verse 1, with verse 2: This Word was in the beginning with God.  But even if we granted to the Unitarians this punctuation of the verses, the sense of the third clause would still be that the Word was God, and not that God existed.  For “Deus” (Greek: Theos=God, without the article), in the beginning of the third clause ought still to be regarded as the predicate, with “verbum” (Word) of the preceding clauses as the subject.  This follows not merely from the absence of the Greek article already alluded to, but also from the absurdity of the Unitarian view, which supposes that St John thought it necessary, after telling us that the Word was with God, to tell us that God exists!

Others have tried to explain away the text thus: At the beginning of the Christian dispensation the Word existed, and the Word was most intimately united to God by love.  But, (1) they have still to explain how this Word is declared Creator in Jn 1:3 and Jn 1:10; (2) The statement in verse 14: “And the Word was made flesh,” implies transition of the Word to a state different from that in which He existed “in the beginning;” but the time of the transition is just the commencement of the Christian dispensation, which cannot, therefore, be the time referred to in verse 1 as “the beginning.”

1:3  All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.

Omnia per ipsum facta sunt: et sine ipso factum est nihil, quod factum est,

St John passes on to the relations of the Word with creatures.  all things (παντα= τα παντα in 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16).  The passages indicated, as well as verse 10 of this chapter: the world was made by Him, make it clear that the Son of God created all things.  Nor could this doctrine be more plainly stated than in the words before us: All things were made by Him, &c. How absurd, then, is the Socinian view, according to which St John merely tells us here that all Christian virtues were introduced, and the whole moral world established by Christ!

Were made γίνομαι (ginomai), i.e., got their whole being from Him, and not merely were fashioned by Him from pre-existing matter.  The Cerinthian theory, that the world was made by an inferior being, is here rejected.  By Him δι αυτου (dia autos).  We are not to suppose that the Word was an instrument in the hands of the Father, or inferior to the Father, as the Arians held.  The preposition dia (Lat.: per; Eng.: by) is often used in reference to a principal efficient cause.  Thus, St Paul says of the Father: “God is faithful, by whom you are called unto the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord” (1 Cor 1:9.  See also 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 4:27; Heb 2:10).  And since our Evangelist has just declared in verse 1 the Word’s divinity, and knew Him to be one with the Father (10:30), it cannot be implied here that the Word is inferior to the Father.  Some commentators hold that there is no special significance in the use here of the preposition dia, while others see in ti an allusion to the fact that the Son proceeds from the Father, and derives from Him His creative power, together with His essence, from the Father, and is not, therefore, like the Father, “Principium sine principio.”

Others think that since all things were created according to the Divine idea, i.e., according to the Divine and eternal wisdom, and since the Word is that wisdom, therefore all things are rightly said to have been created through the Word.  So St Thomas on this verse:-“Sic ergo Deus nihil facit nisi per conceptum sui intellectus, qui est sapientia ab aeterno concepta, scilicet Dei Verbum, et Dei Filius; et ideo impossible est quod alquid faciat nisi per Filium.”  In this view, which seems to us the most probable, though like all the Divine works that are “ad extra,” i.e., do not terminate in God Himself, creation is common to the three Divine Persons, yet, for the reason indicated, it is rightly said to be through the Son.

And without him was made nothing (εν  ουδε = not anything.  Emphatic for ονδεν = nothing) that was made (Gr.: hath been made).  By a Hebrew parallelism the same truth is repeated negatively: all things were made by Him, and nothing was made without Him.  To this negative statement, however, there is added, according to the method of pointing the passage common at present, an additional clause which gives us the meaning: nothing was made without Him, of all the things that have been made.  This restrictive clause may then be understood to imply that, together with the Word, there was something else uncreated, that is to say (besides the Father, whose uncreated existence would be admitted by all) the Holy Ghost also.

In this way, after the Macedonian heresy arose in the middle of the fourth century, and blasphemously held that the Word had made the Holy Ghost, because without Him was made nothing, many of the Fathers replied : Nothing
was made without the Word, of the things that were made; but the Holy Ghost was not made at all, and is therefore not included among the things made by the Word. However, this restriction is not necessary to defend the Divinity of the Holy Ghost. Even though we understand it to be stated absolutely that nothing was made without the Son, no difficulty can follow; for the Holy Ghost was not made (egeneto), but was (en) from all eternity, as is clearly implied elsewhere. John xvi. 13, 14.

On dogmatic grounds, therefore, there is no necessity for connecting: Quod factum, est in the end of verse 3, with the preceding. And, as a matter of fact, all the writers of the first three centuries seem to have connected these words with Jn 1:4,* and it appears to us very likely, that it was because of the Macedonian heresy they began to be connected with verse 3. St. Chrysostom certainly is very strong in connecting them with verse 3, but the reason is because the heretics of the time were abusing the other connection to support their errors.  “neither will we,”; he says, “put a full stop after that nothing, as the heretics” (Chrysostom on John, Horn. v). We must not, however, conclude, from this remark of St. Chrysostom that it was the heretics alone who did so ; for, as we have said already, such was the ordinary way of connecting the clauses during the first three centuries ; and it is supported not only by the Fathers, but by the oldest Latin MSS., and by some of the oldest Greek MSS. And that the usage of his time was against him, and that it waseven after the Macedonian heretics had abused this passage to blaspheme the Holy Ghost, the old pointing, or to speak more correctly the old method of connecting the clauses, remained the more common.! Not only did Cyril of Alexandria, and Augustine, and Venerable Bede, and St. Thomas, and a host of others read in this way, but Maldonatus, who himself prefers the connection in our English version: “Without Him was made nothing that was made”, admits then the practice to put a full stop after “nothing”: “Without Him was made nothing.”

Nor can the Sixtine or Clementine edition of the Vulgate be appealed to in favour of our present pointing. As a matter of fact, the Sixtine edition rejected it, printing thus : “Et sine ipso factum est nihil: quod factum est in ipso vita erat;” while the Clementine Bible left the matter undecided by printing thus: “Et sine ipso factum est nihil, quod factum est, in ipso vita erat,” &c. We cannot, therefore, understand to what Roman Bibles A Lapide refers when he says that the Bibles corrected at Rome connect thus: “And without Him was made nothing that was made.”

We think it extremely probable, then, that the words: Quod factum est (that was made, or, as we shall render in our interpretation; what was made), standing at present in the end of verse 3, are to be connected with verse 4 Some may be inclined to blame us for departing from what is at present the received connection of the words in such a well-known passage as this. Let us therefore, sum up briefly the evidence that has forced us, we may say reluctantly, to connect the words with verse 4.  Verse 4 reads: In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

i. Though Maldonatus tries to throw doubt upon the fact, this is the connection adopted by practically all, if not all, the Fathers and other writers of the first three centuries, and by the majority of writers afterwards down to the sixteenth century.

ii. It is supported by the oldest MSS. of the Vulgate, and, what is more remarkable, by some of the oldest Greek MSS., notwithstanding the fact that St. Chrysostom was against it.

iii. The parallelism in the verse is better brought out: All things were made by Him, and without Him was made nothing.

iv. If Quod factum est were intended to be connected with the preceding, the clause would be certainlyunnecessary, and apparently useless, because it is plain without it that the Evangelist is speaking of what was made, and not including any uncreated Being, like the Father or the Holy Ghost.

We prefer, then, to connect: Quod factum est, with what follows. But it still remains for us to inquire in what way precisely the connection is to be made, for various views have been held upon the subject.

A. Some connect thus: What was made in (i.e. by) Him, was life, and the life was the light of men. B. Others thus : What was made was life in Him, and the life was the light of men. C. Others again, adopting the same punctuation as in the preceding-, but understanding differently: What was made , in it was the Life, and the Life was the Light of men.

The last seems to us the correct view. For A is improbable, inasmuch as it either declares all things to have life, or implies that though what was made by the Word had life, yet there were other things wanting life, which proceeded, as the Manichaeans held, from the evil principle.

Nor can we accept B, even as explained by St. Augustine in the sense that all created things are in the mind of God, as the house before building is in the mind of the architect; and that being in the mind of God they are God Himself,
and “life in Him.”  For though this is in a certain sense true, yet it seems to us unnatural to suppose that St. John here, in this sublime exordium, thinks it necessary or useful to tell us that the archetypes of created things lived in the Divine Mind.

C then appears to us to be the more probable view regarding the passage: “What was made, in it was the Life ;” or, more plainly: “In that which was made was the Life;” forhere,as elsewhere, St. John begins with the relative (see i. 45, i John i. i); so that, in this view, the Evangelist after telling us the relations of the Word to all things at their beginning: “All things were made by Him, and without Him was made nothing,” now goes on to point out His relations to them after their creation: first, His relations with things generally: “In that which was made was the Life,” then his relations with man in the supernatural order: “And the Life was the Light of men.”

1:4  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

in ipso vita erat, et vita erat lux hominum:

Adopting this view as to the connection between verses 3 and 4, St. Cyril of Alexandria thus explains: “The Life, that is to say, the Only-begotten Son of God, was in all things that were made. For He, being by nature life itself, imparts being, and life, and motion to the things that are … In all things that were made was the Life, that is, the Word which was in the beginning. The Word, being essential life, was mingling Himself by participation with all existing things.”

If it be objected to this interpretation that the first zoe (life) of verse 4, not having the article, cannot mean the Eternal Life, i.e. the Divine Word, we reply that St. Cyril, one of the greatest of the Greek Fathers, thought differently; and moreover, that very many of the commentators who are against us in the interpretation of this passage, are yet with us in referring zoe here to the uncreated life of the Divine Word.

But if we follow what is at present the common punctuation, and read: “In Him was life,” this is commonly interpreted to mean thatthe Word is the source of supernatural life  toman. (Thus S.Amb., S.Ath., Tol.,Maid., A Lap., Patr., Beel).

But this view is not without difficulty. For, first, if it be merely meant that life comes to man through the Word, we might rather expect that the preposition dia of the preceding verse would have been retained. Secondly, if there be question here of the Word as the life of man, how is it that it is only in the next clause that man is first mentioned? Surely, if the opinion we are considering were correct, we should rather expect St. John to have written: “In Him was the life of man, and the life was the light.” For these reasons, and because of what we have stated already in favour of connecting Quod factum est” with what follows, we prefer to understand this passage, with St. Cyril, as a statement that the Word, the Essential Life, was present in all things, conserving them in existence.

And the Life was the Light of men. In our view the meaning is that the Word, the Life, who conserved all things in existence, was, more over, in the case of men, their Light the source and author of their faith. Hence, we suppose St. John, after referring to the creation of all things, in verse 3, and the conservation of all things, in the beginning of verse 4, to pass on now in the end of verse 4 to speak of that new creation that is effected in man by means of a spiritual illumination: “All things were made by (or through) Him, and without Him was made nothing.  In that which was made was the Life, and the Life was the Light of men.”

Those who interpret the beginning of the verse to mean that the spiritual life of man comes through the Word, take the present clause as explaining how that was so, how the Word was the Life ; namely, inasmuch as He was the Light.  He was the source of our life of grace here and glory hereafter, inasmuch as He was the source of our light, that is to say, our faith.   And some of them, as Patrizi, hold that the order of the terms in this clause is inverted, and that we should read: “the light of men was the life,” “light of men” being the subject.

Maldonatus tells us that almost all writers before his time understood “light of men” in reference to the light of reason. However, this view is now generally abandoned, and rightly, for that man owed his reason to the Word has been already implied in verse 3: “All things were made by Him.”  Besides, the “light” of this fourth verse is doubtless the same as that of verse 5, which men did not receive, and of verse 7, to which the Baptist was to bear witness.  But in neither of the latter verses can there be question of the light of reason; hence, neither is there in verse 4. The meaning, then, is that He who was the preserver of all things was moreover the source of the spiritual light of men.

1:5. And the light shineth.  The meaning is, that the Word, as the source and author of faith, was always, as far as in Him lay, enlightening men. Shineth-the present tense is used, though the latter part of the verse shows that the past also is meant: “The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”  Probably the Evangelist avoids using the past tense, lest it might be inferred that the Word had ceased to shine.  Besides, the present is more appropriate, seeing that, in the sense explained, the Word shines throughout all time.  From the beginning the Word shone, as far as in Him lay.  If men generally were not enlightened, it was their own fault. But all who were saved from the beginning, were saved through faith, and no one ever received the gift of faith except in view of the merits of the Word Incarnate.  “Nulli unquam contigit vita nisi per lucem fidei, nulli lux fidei nisi intuitu Christi” (St. August.)
The darkness is man shrouded in unbelief. See Luke i. 79, Eph. v, 8.

And the darkness did not comprehend it.  As we have just said, the meaning is, that unbelieving men refused to be enlightened. Ordinarily, indeed, light cannot shine in darkness without dispelling it; but in this case the darkness was man, a free agent, capable of rejecting the light of faith through which the Eternal Word was shining. In telling us that men refused to be enlightened, the Evangelist is stating what was the general rule, to which at all times there were noble exceptions.

Jn 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
Fuit homo missus a Deo, cui nomen erat Johannes.

The correct reading is: There came () a man, sent by God, whose name was John.  This reference to the Baptist in the middle of this sublime exordium is surprisng, and has ben variously accounted for.  Some think that our Evangelist, after having treated of the Divinity of the Word, merely wishes, before going on to speak of the incarnation, to refer to the precursor.  But it seems most probable that the Evangelist wished to remove at once the error of those who, impressed by the austerity and sanctity of the Baptist’s life, had looked upon him as the Messiah.  If any of them still remained at the time when St John wrote, or should arise afterward, they are here told that the Baptist, though having his mission from Heaven, was only a man intended to bear witness to Christ.  Thus the superior excellence of Christ is thrown into relief from the fact that a great saint like the Baptist was specially sent by Heaven to be His herald.  The reference in this verse to the Baptist’s coming into the world, at his concenption, rather than to the beginning of his preaching, for at the moment of his conception, he came, sent by God to be the herald of Christ (see Lk 1:13-17).

John is the same as jochanan, which is itself a shortened form of Jehochanan = “God hath had mercy.”  This name was appointed for the Baptist, before his conception, by the Archangel Gabriel (Lk 1:13).

Jn 1:7  This man came fof a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him.
Hic venit in testimonium, ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine, ut omnes crederent per illum:

This man came for witness, namely, in order that he might bear witness of the light, that is to say, the Incarnate Word, to the end that through him all might believe in the Word.

Jn 1:8  He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light.
Non erat ille lux, sed ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine.

He was not the light (του φωτος = ho photos = the light), that is, he was not the great uncreated light which enlighteneth all men; though, in his own way, the Baptist too was a light, nay, as Christ Himself testified “the lamp that burneth and shineth” (5:35). ινα (hina) depends on (ἔρχομαι =erchmai=he came), which is to be understood from the preceding verse.

Jn 1:9  That was the true light, which enlightenes every man that cometh into this world.
Erat lux vera, quae illuminat omnem hominem venientem in hunc mundum.

“That was the true light” (or, there was the true light), “whhich enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world.”  The Greek of this verse may be construed and translated in three different ways:-1. By connecting εἰμί (ἦν = was) with ἔρχομαι (erchomai =coming): “The true light, which enlighteneth every man, was coming into the world.  2. By taking ἔρχομαι (erchomai =coming) as a nominative agreeing with φῶς  (phos=light): There was the true light which at its coming into the world enlighteneth every man (see Jn 3:19).  3. By connecting ἔρχομαι (erchomai =coming), as in the Vulgate and our English version.  This is far the most probable view.  In favor of it we have all the Latin Fathers, all the Greek Fathers except one, and all ancient versions.  Besides erchomai is thus connected with the nearest substantive with which it agrees in form.  Add to this that the second opinion, the more probable of the other two, would seem to signify that the Word was not a light to all men before His coming, but only at His coming; and this, as we have explained above on verse 5, is false.  The meaning then is that the Word was the true, i.e., the perfect light, and as far as in Him lies, enlighteneth at all times every man that cometh into this world, be he Jew or Gentile.

That cometh into this world, is in our view a Hebrew form of expression equivalent to: that is born.  It is used only here in the New Testament, but “to be born” was commonly expressed by the Jewis Rabbins ****(to come into the world).  Note: I am unable to reproduce the Hebrew letters, hence the ****.

Jn 1:10  he was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
In mundo erat et mundus per ipsum factus est, et mundus eum non cognovit.

The Word, not the light, is the subject here, as is proved by the masculine pronoun autos towards the end of the verse.  It is disputed to what presence of the Word in the world there is reference here.  Almost all the Fathers understood the reference to be to the presence of the Word in the world before the incarnation.  According to this view, which is held also by Lapide, the Word was in the world, in the universe, conserving what He had created, “sustaining all things by the word of His power” (Heb 1:3).  God is everywhere present by His essence, by His knowledge, and by His power; but it is of the latter presence, which could be known, that the view we are considering understands the clause.

Maldonatus, though he admits the Fathers are against him, holds that the reference is to the mortal life of the Word Incarnate.  He argues from the fact that the world is blamed, in the next clause, for not having known the Word; bu knowledge of the Word was impossible before the Incarnation.  It was possible indeed to know there was a God, but impossible to know the Second Divine Person, the Word.  Whatever may be thought of the probability of this second view, the arguments ordinarily adduced against it, from the use of the imperfect erat (Latin, en in Greek), and from the alleged fact that all the preceding verses refer to the Word before His Incarnation, have no weight.  For the imperfect may be used not in reference to Christ’s existence before His incarnation, but to show that He not merely appeared among men, but continued to dwell for a time among them; and the statement that everything before this verse refers to the Word before His incarnation, cannot be sustained.  For the “Light” to which the Baptist came to bear witness (vs 7) was not the Word before His incarnation, but the Word Incarnate, as is evident.  According to this second opinion, verse 11 “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not,” merely emphasizes the ingratitude of the world towards the incarnate Word by declaring that He was rejected even by His own chosen people.

And the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.  Those who interpret the first clause of this verse of the existence of the Word in the world before the incarnation, understand the world to be blamed, in the remainder of the verse, for its ignorance of its Creator.  The world is not blamed, they say, for not knowing the Word as the Second Divine Person, for such knowledge it could not have gathered from the works of creation, but for not knowing God (Rom 1:20), who is one in nature with the Word.

Those who interpret the first part of the verse of the presence of Christ on earth during His mortal life, hold that in the remainder the world is blamed for not recognizing the Word Incarnate as the Son of God, and the Second Divine Person.  The meaning of the whole verse then, in this view, is: That though the Son of God, who created the world, deigned to live among men, yet they refused to recognize Him as God.

Jn 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
In propria venit, et sui eum non receperunt.

It is clear from what we have said on the preceding verse, that some take this to be the first reference to the presence on earth of the Word Incarnate; while others regard it as merely repeating the idea of the preceding verse, with the additional circumstance that even His own refused to recognize Christ.  Some few have held that the reference here is to the transient coming of the Word in the apparitions of the Old Testament.  But all the Fathers understood the verse of the coming of the Word as man, and the verses that follow prove their view to be correct.  His own is understood by many of His own world, which He had created; but we prefer to take it as referring to His own chosen people, the Jews.

And his own received him not.  That is to say, believed not in Him, but rejected Him.  This was the general rule, to which, of course, there were exceptions, as the following verse shows.  These words together with the two following verses, we take to be a parenthetic reflexion on the reception of Christ met with, and the happy consequences to some.

Jn 1:12. But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name.
Quotquot autem receperunt eum, dedit eis potestatem filios Dei fieri, his qui credunt in nomine eius.

There were some, how ever, who believed in Him, or, according to the Hebraism, in His name, and to these, whether Jews or Gentiles, He gave power to become adopted children of God.  That is to say, after they had co-operated with His grace and believed, He mercifully gave them further grace whereby they could be justified, and thus be God s adopted children.  The last words of this verse: To them that believe in His name, explain what is meant in the beginning of the verse by receiving Him.

Jn 1:13. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri, sed ex Deo nati sunt.

Some commentators have found great difficulty in this verse, because they supposed that those who in the preceding verse are said to have got the power to become children of God are here said to have been already born of God.  But the difficulty vanishes, it seems to us, if verse 13 be taken as explaining not what those who believed were before they became sons of God, but the nature of the filiation, to which those who believed got power to raise themselves.  It is not faith that makes them sons of God, but through faith (not as a meritorious cause, but as a condition) they attained to charity, which made them children of God. This too is all that is meant in 1 Jn 5:1.  It is not meant that by believing they are eo ipso, through faith alone, sons of God.  Faith, as the Council of Trent lays down, is the root of justification, but it is not the formal nor even the meritorious cause of justification; it is a condition “sine qua non.”  And just as St. Paul attributes justification to faith without meaning that it is of itself sufficient, so St. John (1 Jn 5:1) attributes to faith Divine sonship without meaning that it comes from faith alone. See Decrees of the Council of Trent, Sess. VI. Chaps, VI. and VIII. The meaning of the two verses, according to this view, is, that as many as received Christ by believing in Him, got power to become children of God, children who were born, not of bloods nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  Thus verse 13 explains that these sons of God were born not in a carnal but in a spiritual manner.  Tria hie de generatione humana sic exponit St Thomas: ex sanguinibus, ut ex causa materiali; ex voluntate Garnish ut ex causa efficiente quantum ad concupiscentiam (in qua est voluntas sensitiva) ; ex voluntate viri, ut ex causa efHciente intellectuali (libere actum conjugalem perficiente).”
To be “born of God,” implies that we are transferred into a new life wherein we become in some sense partakers of the Divine nature (2 Pet. i. 4).  Some early authorities make Christ the subject of this verse; so commonly in the second
century.

Jn 1:14  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.
Et Verbum caro fctum est, et habitavit in nobis: et vidimus gloriam eius, gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre, plenum gratiae et veritatis.

After the reflexion in verses 12 and 13 on the way Christ was received by men, the Evangelist now states the manner in which He came; namely, by taking human nature. According to some, the first “and” is equivalent to “for.”  “After He had said that those who received Him are born of God and sons of God, He adds the cause of this unspeakable honour, namely, that the Word was made flesh” (St John Chrysostom).  Others, however, think that “and” has merely its ordinary conjunctive force.  Note that ho logos (the Word), not mentioned since verse 1, is again named, for emphasis, and to put it beyond doubt or cavil that it is the same Eternal God of verse 1 who is declared in verse 14 to have become man.  Flesh is a Hebraism for rnan. See also Gen 6:12; Isa 40:5; Ps 55:5; John 17:2. Probably it is used here specially against the Docetae, heretics who denied that Christ had really taken flesh, which they contended was essentially polluted and corrupt.

And dwelt. Many think, with St Chrysostom and St Cyril, that the Greek verb used is employed specially to indicate that the Word did not cease to be God when He became man, but dwelt in His humanity as in a tent among men.

And we saw. The Greek verb signifies to behold with attention.  St John here claims to have been an eyewitness of Christ s glory (doxa, the solemn scriptural term for the glorious majesty of God), to have beheld it, not in mental vision, but literally and historically. θεάομαι (Theoamai = beheld) is not used in the New Testament of mental vision.  It is used only of bodily vision.

The glory as it were
(Greek: ὡς; Latin: quasi =”as it were”) of the only begotten; i.e., glory such as was becoming the only-begotten, &c.  Beware of taking the meaning to be: a glory like that of the Son of God, but not His.  As St Chrys. points out, the ὡς here expresses not similitude, but the most real identity: “As if he said: We have seen His glory such as it was becoming and right that the only begotten and true Son of God should have.”  Of the Father should be from the Father, and may be joined either with “glory” or with “only begotten”.


Full of grace and truth
.  ( πλήρης = Latin: Plenum = “full”,  in the nominative, is the correct reading).   This is to be connected closely with the beginning of the verse: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth,” and the other clause, And we saw His glory, &c. , is parenthetic, thrown in to prove the preceding statement.

Christ is said to have been full of grace and truth, not merely in Himself, but also, as the following verses prove, in reference to men with whom He freely shared them.  Kuinoel, followed by Patrizi, understands by “grace and truth” true grace or true benefits. But it is more natural to take grace and truth as two distinct things, seeing that they are again mentioned separately (η χαρις και η αληθεια) in verse 17.  Grace may be understood in its widest sense; for not only had Christ the “gratia unionis,” as it is called, wherebynHis humanity was hypostatically united to the Divinity; but, moreover, His human soul was replenished to its utmost capacity with created grace, which not only sanctified Him, but was also through Him a source of sanctification to us.  See St Thomas, p. 2, sec. 7, 8.  Christ is said to be “full of truth,” not only because “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him” (Col 2:3), but also because, as verse 17 states, He gave us the knowledge of the true faith and true way of salvation.

Jn 1:15  John beareth witness of him, and crieth out, saying: This was he of whom I spoke: He that shall come after me, is preferred before me : because, he was before me.
loannes testimonium perhibet de ipso, et clamat, dicens: Hie erat quem dixi: Qui post me venturus est, ante me factus est:quia prior me erat.

John. The Baptist (for it is he who is meant:comp. with John 1:27; Mark 1:4, 7; Luke 3:2, 16) is now referred to parenthetically, as confirming what our Evangelist has said, namely, that the eternal Word dwelt among men.

Crieth out. (The Greek construction implies the giving of solemn, public testimony).

This was he of whom I spoke (rather, said). Some, like Patrizi, think that the testimony of the Baptist here referred to is a distinct testimony not mentioned elsewhere.  Others, and with more probability, hold that the Evangelist mentions here by anticipation the same testimony whose circumstances he describes in verses 29 and 30.

He that shall come after me, in His public ministry, is preferred before me, because he was before me. Some commentators, as Kuinoel and Patrizi, understand “before” in both cases of “time”: is before Me, because He is eternal; others, as St Chrysostom and Toletus, in both cases of dignity: is preferred before Me, because really preferable; and others, as our English version, with St Augustine, St Thomas, Beelen, Alford, in the former case of dignity in the latter of time is preferred before Me, because He is eternal. The last seems the correct interpretation, and in it the past tense “is preferred” (ante me factus est) is used prophetically for the future, or may be explained as a past: has been preferred in the designs of God.

Jn 1:16 And of his fulness we all have received, and grace for grace.
Et de plenitudine eius nos omnes accepimus, et gratiam pro gratia.

After the parenthetic clause contained in verse 15, the Evangelist, not the Baptist, continues regarding the Word.

And of his fulness (see verse 14) we have all received, and grace for grace. The second “and” is explanatory.

Grace for grace; i.e. (1) the grace of eternal life following on the grace of justification here; or (2) abundant grace, according as the grace given to Christ was abundant: gratia nobis pro gratia Christi (Rom 5:155); or (3) the more perfect grace of the New Law, instead of that given under the Old Law (Chrysostom, Cyril, Patrizi); or (4), and best, by a Hebraism, abundant grace.  “αντι dicitur de successione, gratiam unam post aliam (gratiam cumulatam).”(Beel., Gr. Gram., 5 1A.) So also Kuinoel.

Jn 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Quia lex per Moysen data est, gratia et veritas per lesum Christum facta est.

The Evangelist confirms what is stated in verse 16, and at the same time takes occasion to prefer Christ to Moses, as he has already preferred Him to the Baptist. Moses, was but the medium of communicating to the Jews the Mosaic Law, which only pointed out man s duty, without enabling him to fulfil it (Rom 7:7, 8); but Christ was the source and author of grace and truth to us; of all the graces whereby we are to merit heaven, and of the perfect knowledge of the true faith. This is, doubtless, directed against some of the Judaizers, who held that sanctification through the Mosaic Law was at all times possible, even after the Christian religion was established.

Jn 1:18  No man hath seen God at any time: the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Deum nemo vidit unquam : unigenitus Filius, qui est in sinu Patris, ipse enarravit.

There is considerable difference of opinion as to the drift or bearing of this verse. Some think that a reason is given why only Christ could give the truth, because only He saw God in His essence.  Others, that a reason is given why the gifts of Christ mentioned in the preceding verse, are superior to the Law given by Moses, namely, because Moses never saw God in His essence. Others, that the evangelist explains how he and his fellow Apostles received of Christ s fulness, not only through what Christ did (17), but through what He taught (18); and the necessity for such a Divine teacher is shown by the fact that no one but He ever saw God.   So St. Thomas.

Others as Maldonatus and Patrizi, hold that the Evangelist is here adding to his own testimony, and that of the Baptist, the testimony of our Lord Himself, in favor of all that he has said regarding our Lord in this sublime prologue; the meaning being: What I have said regarding the eternity, personality, and Divinity of the Word, regarding His power as creator and regenerator, and regarding His incarnation, I have neither seen with my own eyes, nor learned from anyone who saw, for “no man hath seen God at any time,” but Jesus Christ Himself explained these things to me.

No man hath seen God at any time. If understood of the vision of comprehension this is universally true of every creature, man or angel; if of seeing God in His essence without comprehending Him, it is true of all while they are here below.  The latter is the sense here, for the Evangelist wishes to signify that he could not have learned from any mere mortal the foregoing doctrine.  The saints in heaven see God in His essence, for as our Evangelist tells us in his First Epistle: “We shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2. See also John 17:3).


The only- begotten Son
.  Instead of: “The only-be gotten Son,” the reading: “God only-begotten” is found in very many ancient authorities, and is almost equally probable.  Were it certain, it would be an additional proof of Christ s Divinity.  Christ is the only-begotten Son of God, because while He is the natural Son of God, all others are but adopted sons.

Who is in the bosom of the Father (εις τον κολπον του πατρο). This means that the Son is consubstantial with the Father: “In illo ergo sinu, id est in occultissimo paternae naturae et essentiae, quae excedit omnem virtutem creaturae,est unigenitus Filius, et ideo consubstantialis est Patri” (St Thomas).

He hath declared him.  “Him” is not represented in the original; and if our view of the verse is the correct one, the object of the verb “hath declared” is not so much the Word as the doctrine contained in this prologue concerning Him.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 19:24b-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 31, 2018

Ver 24b. These things therefore the soldiers did.25. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.26. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he says to his mother, Woman, behold your son!27. Then says he to the disciple, Behold your mother! And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.

THEOPHYL. While the soldiers were doing their cruel work, He was thinking anxiously of His mother: These things therefore the soldiers did.  Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

AMBROSE. Mary the mother of our Lord stood before the cross of her Son. None of the Evangelists hath told me this except John. The others have related how that at our Lord’s Passion the earth quaked, the heaven was overspread with darkness, the sun fled, the thief was taken into paradise after confession. John hath told us, what the others have not, how that from the cross whereon He hung, He called to His mother. He thought it a greater thing to show Him victorious over punishment, fulfilling the offices of piety to His mother, than giving the kingdom of heaven and eternal life to the thief. For if it was religious to give life to the thief, a much richer work of piety it is for a son to honor his mother with such affection. Behold, He says, your son; behold your mother. Christ made His Testament from the cross, and divided the offices of piety between the Mother and the disciples. Our Lord made not only a public, but also a domestic Testament. And this His Testament John sealed a witness worthy of such a Testator. A good testament it was, not of money, but of eternal life, which was not written with ink, but with tile spirit of the living God: My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Mary, as became the mother of our Lord, stood before the cross, when the Apostles fled and With pitiful eyes beheld the wounds of her Son. For she looked not on the death of the Hostage, but on the salvation of the world; end perhaps knowing that her Son’s death would bring this salvation, she who had been the habitation of the King, thought that by her death she might add to that universal gift.

But Jesus did not need any help for saving the v world, as you read in the Psalm, I have been even as a man with no help, free among the dead. He received indeed the affection of a parent, but He did not seek another’s help. Imitate her, you holy matrons, who, as towards here only most beloved Son, has set you an example of such virtue: for you have not sweeter sons, nor did the Virgin seek consolation in again becoming a mother.

JEROME. The Mary which in Mark and Matthew is called the mother of James and Joses was the wife of Alpheus, and sister of Mary the mother of our Lord: which Mary John here designates of Cleophas, either from her father, or family, or for some other reason. She need not be thought a different person, because she is called in one place Mary the mother of James the less, and here Mary of Cleophas, for it is customary in Scripture to give different names to the same person.

CHRYS. Observe how the weaker sex is the stronger; standing by the cross when the disciples fly.

AUG. If Matthew and Mark had not mentioned by name Mary Magdalene, we should have thought that there were two parties, one of which stood far off, and the other near. But how must we account for the same Mary Magdalene and the other women standing afar off, as Matthew and Mark say, and being near the cross, as John says? By supposing that they were within such a distance as to be within sight of our Lord, and yet sufficiently far off to be out of the way of the crowd and Centurion, and soldiers who were immediately about Him. Or, we e may suppose that after our Lord had commended His mother to the disciple, they retired to be out of the way of the crowd, and saw what took place afterwards at a distance: so that those Evangelists who do not mention them till after our Lord’s death, describe them as standing afar off. That some women are mentioned by all alike, others not, makes no matter.

CHRYS. Though there were other women by, He makes no mention of any of them, but only of His mother, to show us that v, e should specially honor our mothers. Our parents indeed, if they actually oppose the truth, are not even to be known: but otherwise we should pay them all attention, and honor them above all the world beside: When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, He says to His mother, Woman, behold your son!

BEDE. By the disciple whom Jesus loved, the Evangelist means himself; not that the others were not loved, but he was loved more intimately on account of his estate of chastity; for a Virgin our Lord called him, and a Virgin he ever remained.

CHRYS. Heavens! what honor does He pay to the disciple; who however conceals his name from modesty. For had he wished to boast, he would have added the reason why he was loved, for there must have been something great and wonderful to have caused that love. This is all He says to John; He does not console his grief, for this was a time for giving consolation. Yet was it no small one to be honored with such a charge, to have the mother of our Lord, in her affliction, committed to his care by Himself on His departure: Then says He to the disciple, Behold your mother!

AUG. This truly is that hour of the which Jesus, when about to change the water into wine, said, Mother, what have I to do with you? Mine hour is not yet come. Then, about to act divinely, He repelled the mother of His humanity, of His infirmity, as if He knew her not: now, suffering humanly, He commends with human affection her of whom He was made man. Here is a moral lesson. The good Teacher shows us by His example how that pious sons should take care of their parents. The cross of the sufferer, is the chair of the Master.

CHRYS. The shameless doctrine of Marcion is refuted here. For if our Lord were not born according to the flesh, and had not a mother, why did He make such provision for her? Observe how imperturbable He is during His crucifixion, talking to the disciple of His mother, fulfilling prophecies, airing good hope to the thief; whereas before His crucifixion, He seemed in fear. The weakness of His nature was strewn there, the exceeding greatness of His power here. He teaches us too herein, not to turn back, because we may feel disturbed at the difficulties before us for when we are once actually under the trial, all will be; light and easy for us.

AUG. He does this to provide as it were another son for His mother in his place; And from that hour that disciple took her to his own. To his own what? Was not John one of those who said, Lo, we have left all, and followed You? He took her then to his own, i. e not to his farm, for he had none, but to his care, for of this he was master.

BEDE. Another reading is, Accepy eam disciplus in suam, his own mother some understand, but to his own care seems better.

Ver 28. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst.29. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.30. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

AUG. He who appeared man, suffered all these things, He who was God, ordered them: After this Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished; i.e. knowing the prophecy in the Psalms, And when I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar to drink, said, I thirst: As if to say, you have not done all give me yourselves: for the Jews were themselves vinegar having degenerated from the wine of the Patriarchs and the Prophets.

Now there was a vessel full of vinegar: they had drunk from the wickedness of the world, as from a full vessel, and their heart was deceitful, as it were a sponge full of caves and crooked hiding places: And they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

CHRYS. They were not softened at all by what they saw, but were the more enraged, and gave Him the cup to drink, as they did to criminals, i.e. with a hyssop.

AUG. The hyssop around which they put the sponge full of vinegar, being a mean herb, taken to purge the breast, represents the humility of Christ, which they hemmed in and thought they had circumvented. For we are made clean by Christ s humility. Nor let it perplex you that they were able to reach His mouth when He was such a height above the ground: for we read in the other Evangelists, what John omits to mention, that the sponge was put upon a reed.

THEOPHYL. Some say that the hyssop is put here for reed, its leaves being like a reed.  When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished.

AUG. viz. what prophecy had foretold so long before.

BEDE. It may be asked here, why it is said, When Jesus had received the vinegar, when another Evangelists says, He would not drink. But this is easily settled. He did not receive the vinegar, to drink it, but fulfill the prophecy.

AUG. Then as there was nothing left Him to do before He died, it follows, And He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost, only dying when He had nothing more to do, like Him who had to lay down His life, and to take it up again.

GREG. Ghost is put here for soul: for had the Evangelist meant any thing else by it, though the ghost departed, in the soul might still have remained.

CHRYS. He did not bow His head because He gave up the ghost, but He gave up the ghost because at that moment He bowed His head. Whereby the Evangelist intimates that He was Lord of all.

AUG. For whoever had such power to sleep when he wished, as our Lord had to die when He wished? What power must He have, for our good or evil, Who had such power dying?

THEOPHYL. Our Lord gave up His ghost to God the Father, showing that the souls of the saints do not remain in the tomb, but go into the hand of the Father of all while sinners are reserved – for the place of punishment, i.e. hell.

Ver  31. The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath clay, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.32. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him,33. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs:34. But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water.35. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knows that he says true, that you might believe.36. For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.37. And again another Scripture says, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

CHRYS. The Jews who strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel after their audacious wickedness, reason scrupulously about the day: The Jews therefore because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath.

BEDE. Parasceue, i. e. preparation: the sixth day was so called because the children of Israel prepared twice the number of loaves on that day. For that Sabbath day was an high day, i. e. on account of the feast of the passover.  Besought Pilate that their legs might be broken.

AUG. Not in order to take away the legs, but to cause death, that they might be taken down from the cross, and the feast day not be defiled by the sight of such horrid torments.

THEOPHYL. For it was commanded in the Law that the sun should not set on the punishment of anyone; or they were unwilling to appear tormentors and homicides on a feast day.

CHRYS. How forcible is truth: their own devices it is that accomplish the fulfillment of prophecy: Then came the soldiers and broke the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him.

But when they came to Jesus, an saw that He was dead already, they broke not His legs:  but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side.

THEOPHYL. To please the Jews, they pierce Christ, thus insulting even His lifeless body. But the insult issues in a miracle: for a miracle it is that blood should flow from a dead body.

AUG. The Evangelist has expressed himself cautiously; not struck, or wounded, but opened His side: whereby was opened the gate of life, from whence the sacraments of the Church flowed, without which we cannot enter into that life which is the true life: And forthwith came thereout blood and water. That blood was shed for the remission of sins, that water tempers the cup of salvation. This it was which was prefigured when Noah was commanded to make a door in the side of the ark, by which the animals that were not to perish by the deluge entered; which animals prefigured the Church. To shadow forth this, the woman was made out of the side of the sleeping man; for this second Adam bowed His head, and slept on the cross, that out of that which came therefrom, there might be formed a wife for Him. O death, by which the dead are quickened, what can be purer than that blood, what more salutary than that wound!

CHRYS. This being the source whence the holy mysteries are derived, when you approach the awful cup, approach it as if you were about to drink out of Christ’s side.

THEOPHYL. Shame then upon them who mix not water with the wine in the holy mysteries: they seem as if they believed not that the water flowed from the side. Had blood flowed only, a man might have said that there was some life left in the body, and that that was as why the blood flowed. But the water flowing is an irresistible miracle, and therefore the Evangelist adds, And he that saw it bare record.

CHRYS. As if to say, I did not hear it from others, but saw it with mine own eyes. And his record is true, he adds, not as if he had mentioned something so wonderful that his account would be suspected, but to stop the mouths of heretics, and in contemplation of the deep value of those mysteries which he announces.  And he knows that he says true, the you might believe.

AUG. He that saw it knows; let him that saw not believe his testimony. He gives testimonies from the Scriptures to each of these two things he relates. After, they brake not His legs, He adds, For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken, a commandment which applied to the sacrifice of the paschal lamb under the old law, which sacrifice foreshadowed our Lord’s. Also after, One of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, then follows another Scripture testimony; And again another Scripture said, They shall look on Him whom they pierced, a prophecy which implies that Christ will come in the very flesh in which He was crucified.

JEROME. This testimony is taken from Zacharias.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 17:11-19

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 24, 2018

ANALYSIS OF JOHN CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

In this chapter, we have the solemn prayer addressed to His heavenly Father, by our Lord when about to enter on His Sacred Passion. 1st. For Himself, to receive due glory in compensation for His humiliations, and in return for the glory He had given His Father (1–5). 2ndly. For His disciples, to obtain for them perseverance in faith, preservation from evil, and sanctification in truth (6–19). 3rdly. For the faithful, who are to receive the faith through the preaching of the Apostles (20). Finally, He prays for all together; He asks for the entire Church, the gift of perfect union among themselves, similar to the union existing among the Persons of the Adorable Trinity, and the ineffable blessings of eternal happiness (21–26).

COMMENTARY ON JOHN 17:11-19

11 And now I am not in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou hast given me: that they may be one, as we also are.

He gives a reason for praying fervently now, especially for His disciples. “Now I am not in the world.” I am shortly to leave this earth and withdraw My visible presence, “and these are in the world.” These remain after Me, exposed to all the dangers, temptations, and persecutions, cast in their way by a perverse world, without the aid of My personal advice and protection. “because I come to Thee.” I return to Thee by My death and Resurrection. I, therefore, specially commend them to Thee.

Holy Father.” He calls Him “holy,” as He was the fountain of holiness and sanctity, which He prayed for on behalf of His disciples.

Keep them in Thy name,” which some interpret, by Thy gract and power, preserve them in My love and service. Others, keep them in the confession of Thy name and truth. Others, keep them in Thy grace, for the honour of Thy name.

Whom Thou hast given Me.” There is a diversity of reading in the Greek. For, “whom” (ὅυς) some read (ω) (which). The reading adopted by the Vulgate is considered preferable. It is the reading employed next verse (12).

That they may be one,” united in love and affection, in some measure, similar to the union that essentially and inseparably exists between the Persons of the Godhead. The essential unity of the Godhead is incommunicable. What He prays for here is the most perfect supernatural union that can exist among men, modelled, in a finite and limited degree on the unity of the Divine nature, unity of intellect, or faith, unity of will, or supernatural charity, unity of subordination in the entire Church between pastors and people. This is a comparison and no more, since the unity of the Godhead is incommunicable. It is a similarity of union, in a limited degree. Man can never attain the Divine unity.

12 While I was with them, I kept them in thy name. Those whom thou gavest me have I kept: and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition: that the scripture may be fulfilled.

While I was with them,” visibly and corporally conversing with them. In the Greek, is added “in the world.” “I kept them in Thy name,” by Thy power and authority, attached to Me as Thy Legate. I kept them in Thy service and in the confession of Thy name.

Those whom Thou gavest Me,” as My disciples and chose followers, “have I kept” firm in Thy love and service, and preserved them from all harm, either in regard to soul or body.

And none of them is lost” eternally, or has sustained bodily harm, “but” (except) traitorous Judas, “the son of perdition,” who is irrecoverably doomed, through his own perversity, to eternal perdition; so “that” as a consequence of his previous obstinacy and ingratitude, “the Scripture,” or Divine prediction regarding him, “may be fulfilled” (Psa. 108:8). “Dum judicatur exeat condemnatus, Episcopatum ejus accipiat alter.” This passage, St. Peter (Acts, 1:20), applies literally to Judas.

13 And now I come to thee: and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy filled in themselves.

 “And now,” leaving them, “I come to Thee.” I return to Thee, after My death and Resurrection. Deprived of My presence, instruction and personal protection, I earnestly commend them to Thee, to watch over them and specially guard them.

And these things I speak in the world.” These words I address to Thee in their behalf, while I am yet “in the world.”

So that they may have My joy,” which the knowledge of their union and charity causes Me, “filled in themselves.” Fully shared in by themselves, by witnessing My Resurrection, Ascension, and sending down the Holy Ghost—a subject of great joy—and also by the firm hope of hereafter following Me and participating in My joys, in My heavenly kingdom.

14 I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them: because they are not of the world, as I also am not of the world.

. “I have given them Thy word,” preached to them Thy doctrines, meant by Thee for the world. They have faithfully attended to them (verse 8).

And the world hath hated them, because they are not of this world,” their affections, pursuits, aims and morals are quite dissimilar. “As I am not of this world,” and hence, for a like reason, hated by them (20:18, 19).

15 I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil.

 “I pray not, that Thou wouldst take them out of the world,” by a holy death, and transfer them at once, to Thy kingdom. This would not be expedient, or, in accordance with Thy Providence, by which it is arranged, that they would battle with the world, suffer persecution, and thus spread the Gospel, and by the exhibition of Christian virtues, and by bravely enduring death for Thy sake, promote the glory of Thy name.

But that “Thou wouldst keep them,” whilst conversing in the world, “from evil,” by which some understand the evil one, the devil, the prince of this world. Others, understand it of evil in general, especially sin, and departure from the true faith.

16 They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world.

He repeats what He said in verse 14, as a motive for obtaining the following request, as neither He nor they are of the world.

17 Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth.

 Therefore, “sanctify them in truth.” “Sanctify” may mean, to confirm them in sanctity and increase the sanctity they already possess; infuse into them by the Holy Ghost, perfect evangelical truth, so that, replete with sanctity and wisdom, they may become teachers of the world, breathing sanctity in every word and act.

Others, by “sanctify,” understand, to set them apart for the ministry of preaching Thy Gospel, “in truth,” in the doctrine of truth, which I delivered to them in Thy name, and which they are to teach others. “In truth,” as preachers of Thy word. For, “Thy word is truth,” without the least admixture of error. It is the true, real fulfilment of the types and empty figures of the old law. Likely, both meanings are intended, viz., that God would bestow on them an increase of interior sanctity and set them apart for His ministry.

18 As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.

 As Thou hast sent Me into the world,” to save souls by dispensing doctrine and grace; to repair and sanctify a world lost in sin.

I also have sent them.” etc., for the same object, to be achieved by the same means. Therefore, prepare them for it, lest they fall away either on account of blandishments or the force of persecution.

19 And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

And for them,” in order to sanctify and consecrate them irrevocably for Thy service.

I sanctify Myself,” consecrating and offering Myself up to God, in a few hours, as a victim of atonement on the altar of the cross, holy, pleasing in all things.

That they also may be sanctified in truth,” that through the merits of My death, of My immolation in sacrifice, they also may be consecrated and set apart, and by advancing still more in real, internal sanctity, may be rendered fit to preach the Gospel of truth, throughout the earth, and by their evangelical labours and final sufferings, be themselves victims agreeable in Thy sight.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 12:20-33

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 10, 2018

20 Now there were certain Gentiles among them, who came up to adore on the festival day.

Certain Gentiles.” In Greek, “certain Hellenists, or Greeks.” The Greek language was the most extensively used among the Gentiles. Hence, the word “Greeks,” was commonly used by the Jews to designate all the Pagan nations; as most of the Pagans, whom they knew, spoke the Greek language. The Apostle (St. Paul), commonly uses the word, when speaking of the Gentile or Pagan world, as contra-distinguished from the Jews. (Rom. 1:16; 11:9), etc. The Evangelist appropriately introduces this, when describing the rage and envy of the Pharisees, to signify, that both Jews and Gentiles were to join in receiving and believing in our Lord.

Who these Gentiles were, cannot be easily determined. Some say, they were Jews who spoke the Greek language, and dwelt in some of the Greek cities of Asia Minor, Greece, Egypt, where they had their Synagogues. Others say, they were Proselytes, from among the Gentiles. Others, Gentiles and idolaters, who came to bring offerings to the God of Israel and worship Him. These holding, that there was one God, and seeing Him adored, with such majesty, by the Jews in the glorious Temple of Jerusalem, came to join in his worship, and present their gifts. The Temple was greatly venerated by Pagan Monarchs, who bestowed on it the richest gifts. Cyrus (1 Esdras; Darius Hystaspes, c. 6), and other Kings of Asia. (2 Machabees 3.) The neighbouring Pagans frequently attended the great feasts of the Jews. Hence, the outer Court of the Temple was called, the Court of the Gentiles.

21 These therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying: Sir, we would see Jesus.

They came to Philip, either because he was the first of our Lord’s disciples they met: or, because they knew him before. Some say, the mention of his native place, “Bethsaida of Galilee,” would show that these dwelt in the neighbourhood of Galilee; and hence, knew Philip, who was a Galilean. This is not likely; as among the disciples, there were other Galileans also.

Besides, knowing that the Jews would not wish to hold converse with Gentiles, the Gentiles in question had the deepest feelings of reverence for our Lord, and would not presume to approach Him in person. Hence, they employ Philip as an intermediary. “We wish to see,” that is, converse with “Jesus,” For, as regards “seeing,” all could see Him, as He was preaching. It means, therefore, to converse with Him.

22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew. Again Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

Philip declined the task of introducing them, and had recourse to Andrew, his countryman, for the purpose. Andrew, it seems, enjoyed greater influence with our Lord, being His oldest disciple. It was he introduced Peter, his brother (1:40). Likely, Philip’s hesitation may have resulted from our Lord’s command, “in viam Gentium, ne abieritis.” Before exposing themselves to transgress, in any way, our Lord’s wish in this matter, they both lay the matter before our Lord.

23 But Jesus answered them, saying: The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.

Jesus answered them.” Likely, the Gentiles, too, were near, and within hearing, as we find no other answer made to Philip’s appeal, which would seem not to be unacceptable to our Lord. Whether He admitted them to conversation with Him is not stated. He, however, granted them more than was asked (v. 23–28).

The hour is come,” the appointed time for His death, which was to be followed by His Resurrection, Ascension, “is come,” so near at hand, that it may be said to have come, “that the Son of Man,” whose name the Pharisees would fain blot out from the minds of mankind and utterly obliterate.

Should be glorified,” made known to the Gentile world, of whom these are the first fruits; and after His Glorious Resurrection, Ascension, and sending down of the Holy Ghost, joined with the preaching of the Gospel, throughout the world, he would be acknowledged, adored and proclaimed by the entire earth, Jew and Gentile, as the Eternal Son of God. Our Lord frequently employs this epithet, “the Son of Man,” rather than the “Son of God,” as denoting His union with human nature, which He so honoured, denoting also His humble lowliness, in which through His humiliation, He was to receive the honours due to the Messiah; glory being exchanged, as its reward, for humiliation. (Philip. 2.)

Some Expositors (among whom Patrizzi), say, the “hour,” refers to the present day, on which He was so honoured, by the multitude, and on which a glorious testimony was soon to be borne to Him by His Father (v. 28), in the hearing of so many; the day whereon He was approaching Jerusalem, to enter on that course of suffering so often predicted by Him (Matthew 20:17–19; Mark 10:32; Luke 18:31–34), as the prelude to His glory.

Most likely, it refers to the testimony rendered to Him by His Father, in His Resurrection, Ascension, preaching of the Gospel, which would make known to all, the economy of Redemption, founded chiefly on His humiliation and death.

24 Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die,

As His glorification was the fruit and reward of His humiliation and death (Philip. 2), which was now at hand, He illustrates the subject by a familiar similitude, and thus removes any grounds of offence or scandal which it might create in their minds. This being an important and solemn utterance, He prefaces it, with “Amen, amen,” usual with Him in such cases. His death would purchase a vast harvest of worshippers from all nations and peoples and tongues, etc. (Apoc. 7). For this, His death was necessary, just as it was necessary, in order that from a grain of corn, a crop or harvest would proceed, that the grain should first die and be dissolved, after being committed to the bosom of the earth. Unless it dies, it produces no fruit. It remains sterile and alone. But, if it dies, it produces much fruit When, after I die, I am committed to the earth, an uncommon harvest of faithful followers shall rise up, who are, in some limited sense, to partake of My nature, by a communication of My choicest graces, as the harvest is of the same nature with the seed. These shall proclaim My glory throughout the world.

25 Itself remaineth alone. But if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it and he that hateth his life in this world keepeth it unto life eternal.

He wishes to fortify them against the sufferings and persecutions in store for His followers who are destined to tread the same path that He has trodden. Sufferings and trials and mortification are the only means of securing eternal happiness.

He that loveth his life,” with an inordinate, sensual love, at the expense of the law of God, which he hesitates not to violate in order to save His life, “shall lose it,” shall lose his soul in the world to come. It is clear from the following clause, that to this clause, “he that loveth his life” should be added (in this world) shall lose it in the world to come.

And he that hateth,” etc. (See Matthew 10:39; 16:25, Commentary on.) This was a favourite principle or kind of axiom with our Lord. It is the compendium of a Christian life.

26 If any man minister to me, let him follow me: and where I am, there also shall my minister be. If any man minister to me, him will my Father honour.

Our Lord insinuates, that He Himself would lose His life in this world; that the triumphs He was now enjoying would not last; that sufferings and death were near; and, then, He exhorts His followers to follow His example and walk in His footsteps.

If any man minister to Me,” etc., or, would wish to show himself My minister and true disciple, “let him follow Me,” imitate Me, in My disregard for temporal life, in order to secure life eternal (Matthew 10:38). By following Me, he shall not lose His life in the world to come. He shall be sharer with Me in everlasting happiness. “Where I am,” being now, as to My Divinity, in heaven; and sure to ascend there shortly, in My human nature, “there also shall My minister be,” sharing with Me, the ineffable joys of heaven.

This true minister and faithful persevering follower in humiliation, sorrows and death, here, shall be exalted and honoured hereafter by My Father in heaven, before the angels and the blessed, by rendering him a partaker of the glory, which shall be the reward of My humiliation, sufferings and death.

I am,” clearly shows our Lord was then in heaven. This, of course, refers to His Divine nature; at a future day, He will ascend there, in His glorified humanity.

27 Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause I came unto this hour.

Now is My soul troubled,” etc. The reference to the grain, which dies in the earth, to which He compared Himself, brought before our Lord’s mind, the horrors of His approaching death, its tortures and gloomy accompaniments. Thus, in order to show that He Himself endured what He encouraged others to endure after Him; and also, to prove His human nature, and point out what we are to do, when terrified by death, impending evils, viz., to have recourse to God; He voluntarily permits His human nature and inferior faculties to be disturbed; to shrink from the contemplation of His impending Passion, and to endure in some measure beforehand, the agony He endured in the garden. (See Matthew 26:38; Luke 22:42–44, Commentary on.)

Likely this “man of sorrows,” often during life, voluntarily permitted the inferior faculties of His human nature to be troubled at the foresight and anticipation of His Passion and final suffering on earth

And what shall I say?” Expresses His doubts, fears and perplexity, as if deliberating within Himself, if He could endure this torture; or, if the work of Redemption should be given up, and He should call on God to rescue Him (Luke 22:42).

Father, save Me from this hour.” These words, in this Indicative form, contain a petition to save Him (Matthew 26:39), in which He at once checks Himself. Some read them, as the Greek admits, interrogatively, “Shall I say, Father, save Me?” Shall I ask of God to rescue Me? Or, shall I submit to these tortures? The former reading is preferable, as it better expresses the parallelism between these words and His prayer in the garden.

From this hour,” from this agony which awaits Me, at the time fixed in the Divine decrees.

But, for this cause,” as if correcting His inferior appetite, which naturally shrank from death, He, at once, absolutely wishes, in His superior faculties, will and intellect, that the desires of His inferior appetite should not be complied with; and that He would go forward to certain death. Similar are His words and feelings (Matthew 26.)—“Non mea, sed tua voluntas fiat.” “Transeat a me calix iste.” Here it is, “Nunc turbata est anima mea.” In the garden, He prayed, “transfer calicem istum.” Here, “Pater, Salvifica me ex hac hora.” In the garden, He subjected His natural desire of life to His Father’s will, “Non sicut ego volo, sed sicut tu.” Here, “clarifica nomen tuum.”

But for this cause,” for the purpose of dying to save mankind, have I reached this hour of agony and suffering.

28 Father, glorify thy name. A voice therefore came from heaven: I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.

. “Father, glorify Thy name,” by My death, which is to be cheerfully undergone in obedience to Thy will. By it, Thy name shall be celebrated all over the earth. The words convey the same signification as, “Nevertheless, not My will; but, Thine be done.”

Then came a voice from heaven: I have both glorified it,” by My testimony at your Baptism. “This is My beloved Son,” etc., by the stupendous miracles wrought through you, by your preaching, doctrines, etc.

And I shall glorify it again,” by Thy death and the wonders that shall take place thereat; by thy subsequent glory and exaltation, in thy Resurrection and Ascension. By our Lord’s death and exaltation, the faith and worship of God was propagated among Jews and Gentiles, and His name thus glorified. As an angel from heaven was sent by the Heavenly Father to strengthen our Lord in His agony in the garden; so here too, was a voice sent from above to sustain Him, in His troubles.

29 The multitude therefore that stood and heard said that it thundered. Others said: An angel spoke to him.

Very likely this trumpet voice from heaven was distinctly heard by all, uttering an articulate sound. For, “it was for their sakes it came” (v. 30). Some of them, on account of its loudness, pronounced it to be thunder; and possibly, said so out of envy, not wishing to attend to the testimony it bore. Hence, they would wish to regard it, as a natural phenomenon. Others, better disposed, regarded it as uttered by the trumpet voice of an angel. The Evangelist conveys, that all heard it, as it sounded so loud and clear.

30 Jesus answered and said: This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

Not for Me,” as if I needed to be assured that My Father hears Me. For, I know that He always hears me (11:42).

But for your sakes,” that you may learn from it and believe, that I am sent from God the Father, and that the same glory is common to us both.

31 Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

He points out the mode in which His Father is to glorify Him.

Now is the judgment of the world.” “Now,” at My approaching death, a judgment of condemnation shall be passed on those obstinate unbelievers, who reject Me, and after so many splendid proofs, refuse to believe in Me; nay, go so far as to put Me unjustly to death. The signal vengeance of God, shall, therefore, be justly visited on them.

Now shall the Prince of this world,” that is, Satan, who exercised unbounded sway over mankind, by holding them captive in the chains of sin, shall now be dislodged, by the powerful grace merited by My death, from the hearts of men, as from a citadel in which he ruled. Others, understand it of a judgment or sentence of remission or absolution, thus: now shall a sentence of remission be pronounced in favour of men who hitherto were kept bound in the chains of sin. This remission shall be obtained by My death; whereby, I ransom them, pay their debt, and set them free from the tyranny of sin and Satan, who shall himself be dethroned and dislodged from the citadel and stronghold he possessed in the souls of men. Thus shall the name of God be glorified; His Attributes, Mercy, Power, etc., proclaimed throughout the world. The devil is often called in SS. Scripture, “the Prince of the Power of this air,” etc., on account of the dominion he exercises over the children of unbelief. His dominion was destroyed by the death of Christ, on whom, though innocent, the punishment of sin was inflicted (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14), and although Satan still exercises power over men; still, it is owing to their own fault. So far as the liberation through Christ is concerned, it embraces all, who do not obstinately resist the influences of Divine grace. Now, that the Liberator and Saviour of the human race has appeared, the effusion of grace is universal.

Formerly, in regard to the just of old, it was only partial; and that, in virtue of the future merits of Christ now purchased by the blood of the cross.

And,” the same as, for, “if,” (whereas),—“I be lifted up from the earth,” raised aloft on the tree of the cross (John 3:14; 8:28), which is clearly referred to, next verse. He shows how the devil is to be cast out and stripped of his power, viz., by His death.

I shall draw all things to Myself.” “All things,” all men, of every description, from every clime and country, Jews and Gentiles. The neuter form, “all things,” “omnia,” is a more emphatic way of expressing universal subjection to Christ. “Shall draw,” voluntarily, as regards man; forcibly, as regards the demon snatching forcibly his prey from His hands. “Draw,” expresses the resistance of the devil and the superior power of the grace of Christ, forcibly wresting men from the tyrannical grasp and dominion of Satan.

33 (Now this he said, signifying what death he should die.)

The word of this verse are not the words of our Lord; but, of the Evangelist, and should be enclosed in a parenthesis, and interpreted as such

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

There was,” etc. The object of the Evangelist here may be to correct an error which seemed to prevail, that the Baptist was the Messiah (Luke 3:15; John 1:19). While correcting this error, the Evangelist adduces John, who was commonly supposed to be a Prophet (Matthew 21:26), as an important witness to prove that Jesus was the Christ, “the Son of God,” which was the chief design of this gospel (John 20:31).

The Evangelist may also have in view to show that, while obstinate unbelievers rejected our Lord, God had employed, on His part, the most effectual means to dispose men to receive Him; among the rest, He employed the ministry and testimony of the Baptist, so much prized and valued by the Jews. The Evangelist commends his ministry and testimony by saying he “was sent from God” divinely commissioned.

7 This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him.

He came for a witness,” etc. In preceding verse, he points out John’s Divine mission; in this, the object of that Divine mission, which was to give testimony regarding our Lord (“of the light”) as the long expected Messiah, thus to prepare the people to receive Him (Matthew 3). He also pointed Him out after He had come. “Ecce agnus Dei,” etc. (John 1:31). He extols John’s character and Divine mission, beyond others who were not selected by God for so high an office.

Light” refers to the person of our Lord, “through Him,” through John’s testimony and preaching.

While extolling John in the preceding verse, he here lowers him in comparison with the Word, whose herald he was.

8 He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light.

He was not the light.” Although, in some finite respect, a light, the Baptist was not the immense, increated light of which we speak, but the herald and witness of the light, not the sun, but the precursor of the Sun of Justice, “a burning and shining light,” enkindled by the great increated light and true lamp of creation. The Evangelist thus removes any false opinions which the people or the disciples might entertain regarding John as the long expected promised Messiah.

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to him, to ask him: Who art thou?

And this is the testimony,” etc. Some Commentators hold that the testimony spoken of Him was given after the Baptism of our Lord by the Baptist. The testimony given before His Baptism, is, according to them, recorded by the other Evangelists: and hence, not referred to by St. John, in this Gospel.

The words of this verse are connected by some Expositors with vv. 7 and 15, where there is made a general allusion to John’s testimony regarding our Lord’s Divinity. These say, we have here a more definite and specific description of John’s testimony borne by him on the occasion of the deputation referred to.

Others connect the words with the foregoing verse, thus: He alone who was in the bosom of the Father, could disclose all regarding Him. For, as regards John, He disclaimed all pretensions to superior excellence on this occasion.

Others say, there is question of a new testimony borne by John.

The Jews … from Jerusalem”—the most distinguished men of the nation—“sent Priests and Levites.” The highest ecclesiastical representatives. The object of this embassy was “to ask Him who art thou?” “Who,” what quality or character dost thou bear or assume? This deputation, no doubt, represented, or were sent by, the Sanhedrim, the Supreme Jewish Council, to whom it belonged to judge of true or false prophets, and in general, of all things appertaining to religion. Some say, they were influenced by jealousy towards John, whose sanctity of life and preaching seemed to lower them in public estimation. Others say, the jealousy was towards our Redeemer, to whose superiority John had so openly testified. It was a subject of doubt, all things considered, if John were not the Messiah, at least, in the minds of the people (Luke 3:15), whether reasonably or not, whether in accordance with the ancient prophecies or not, is another question. But, the fact is recorded by St. Luke, as above; and in this state of doubt, they send forward this solemn embassy to inquire into John’s claims to be considered their long-expected Messiah, the term of whose coming was now accomplished. John’s manner of life and preaching created this doubt, and, likely, it was to clear it up—all feelings of jealousy apart—they deputed these men to make inquiry. This was a very solemn embassy considering all its circumstances. The persons sent, Priests and Levites. The authority by whom sent, the Sanhedrim, from Jerusalem. The grave subject of inquiry, John’s office and authority.

John’s evidence was given publicly and openly to this embassy, of select ecclesiastical personages, who were well able to judge, and not before the crowd, who might misunderstand it. Hence, the Evangelist minutely details every circumstance of it.

The Priests and Levites were taken from the Tribe of Juda. The Priests, from the family of Aaron alone.

These latter were consecrated by a more solemn rite, and exercised more exalted functions in connexion with the service of the Temple and the offering of sacrifice. The Levites were taken from the other families of the Tribe of Juda, consecrated in a less solemn manner, and told off for the inferior functions in the Temple.

20 And he confessed and did not deny: and he confessed: I am not the Christ.

The question which they were deputed to ask him was, “Who art thou?” From the first reply which he gave them, “I am not the Christ,” it seemsclear, that after asking him, in a general way who he was, they at once ask him, “Art thou the Christ?” For, otherwise, the Baptist could not, with any sense of propriety say, unasked, “I am not the Christ,” as if the people could have so exalted an idea of him, or he could himself have imagined it.

And he confessed and denied not,” a Hebrew form of conveying most empathically, as well positively as negatively, a full explicit reply to a question, and of conveying a full, open declaration. “He confessed” the truth, “and denied not,” that he was not the Christ.

21 And they asked him: What then? Art thou Elias? And he said: I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered: No.

Art thou Elias?” In the Prophecy of Malachias (c. 4:5, 6), it is stated that Elias, who had been taken up into heaven, is to precede the coming of our Redeemer. In this passage of Malachias, there is question of his coming at the end of time in glory and majesty. But, he was also to come before this last coming in meekness and humility (Malachias 3:1; Zacharias 9:9). The Jews made no distinction between his first and second coming. They ignored this first coming; and hence, they supposed, that Elias, who was taken up into heaven (4 Kings 2:11), would precede our Redeemer whenever He came. This gave rise to the question, “Art thou Elias?”

I am not.” True, he was not Elias, the Thesbite, in person, to whom their question had reference, although, he came in the spirit and power of Elias (Luke 1:17), to discharge the same office of precursor at our Lord’s first coming, that Elias is to discharge at His second (see Matthew 17:2; Mark 10:9, Commentary on).

The Prophet (ὅ προφητης) whom the Jews, from an erroneous interpretation of Deuteronomy (18:15), supposed to precede as well as Elias, the coming of our Lord, or rather accompany Him. The passage in Deuteronomy referred, no doubt, to our Lord Himself (Acts 3:23; 7:37). But, the Jews understood it otherwise; and hence, John though a Prophet, and more than a Prophet, denies that he was “the Prophet” they referred to, or the Prophet in the sense of their question (see Matthew 11:9, Commentary on).

22 They said therefore unto him: Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself?

Their opinion of the Baptist was so exalted as to make them fancy that if he were not the Messiah, he must be one of the two great Prophets who were expected about the time of the Messiah’s coming. Finding he was neither, they content themselves with a general question, as to who he was. With what authority or power was he invested? What mission did he receive, to be exercised? This they want to know, in order to bring back word or return a satisfactory answer to the Sanhedrim, by whom they were deputed to wait on the Baptist.

23 He said: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias.

See Matthew 3:3, Commentary on. Having already declared what he was not, he now declares in very distinct terms, what he was, thus meaning to show the nothingness of his origin, compared with the Messiah.

24 And they that were sent were of the Pharisees.

Those sent were of the sect of the Pharisees, while in dignity Priests and Levites. Who the Pharisees were (see Matthew 3:7). The reason why the Evangelist makes special mention of them here was, that besides being the most powerful party in the Sanhedrim, they were overbearing and haughty; glorying in their knowledge of the law and affected sanctity of life, which will account for their captious questioning, recorded in next verse. Likely, they were not commissioned by those who sent them to question the Baptist further than was necessary to know who he was, by what authority he acted; or if he was the Christ, as the people generally thought in their hearts regarding him (Luke 3:15).

25 And they asked him and said to him: Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet?

Why therefore,” etc.? By what authority, then, dost thou baptize publicly and with a show of authority, the people flocking to you in crowds, whom you wish to subject to the Baptism of Penance? This they regard as audacious on the part of John, after the declarations elicited from him. The Prophets foretold that at the coming of Christ, Baptism was to be administered to the people (Ezech. 36:25; Zach. 13:1). The Pharisees learned in the law knew this. They thought, however, that it was only by the Messiah or His accompanying Prophet this could lawfully be done.

26 John answered them, saying: I baptize with water: but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not.

I baptize in water.” I am commissioned and sent by God—the Jews themselves would not deny that John’s Baptism was from heaven—to “baptize in water” only, as a preparation for the Baptism of the Messiah. Hence, I don’t assume the office which He is to discharge. For, His Baptism will be quite different both in itself and in its effects. Most likely, the Baptist added, “He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and in fire.” The Evangelist omits this part as it was fully given by the other Evangelists. The effects and the end of both Baptisms are quite different.

He is not far off from you, whose precursor I am, whose Baptism will perfect mine, He is “in your midst, whom you know not,” whose exalted dignity you are ignorant of. Hence, their culpability in not finding Him and not believing in Him.

27 The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose.

(See v. 15, also Matthew 3:2). “He shall come after me” in his public manifestation, when I shall have discharged the office of precursor. But, “He is preferred before Me” in dignity, a dignity so great, that “I,”—whom you seem to esteem so much—“am not worthy to loose the latchet of His shoe,” unworthy to discharge in His regard the most menial and servile offices, the distance between us being infinite. He, true God; I, a creature.

28 These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

For “Bethania,” several writers, Origen, Chrysostom, etc., read “Bethabara.” But “Bethania” is the more common reading of MSS. Both words, probably, refer to the same place. Bethabara signifying the house or place of passage, as it was there, the Hebrews first crossed the Jordan on coming up from Egypt, and it was a place for crossing the Jordan from Perea into Judea. “Bethania” signifies a ferry passage, or house of boats, which were always kept in readiness there, for ferrying passengers across the Jordan. If the words do not denote the same place, the places were quite close to one another on the banks of the Jordan. This “Bethania” is by no means to be confounded with the dwelling-place of Mary and Martha, near Jerusalem. John selected this place for his Baptism, as crowds used to resort to it, when crossing the Jordan. The Evangelist refers to this place of public resort to show, that the testimony of John was publicly given so as to leave no room for afterwards questioning it.

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Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

There was a man sent from God, &c. He was sent, as Luke says, (3:1), “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar: and the Word of God came to him in the wilderness.” “Thou, then,” says Chrysostom, “when thou understandest that he was sent from God, do not think that anything merely human is being announced, but that all is Divine. He does not declare anything of his own, but the secrets of Him who sends him. Therefore he, John, is called an angel, that is, a messenger. It is the office of a messenger to know nothing of himself.”

7 This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him.

The man came for a witness, &c. Namely, that he might bear witness that Jesus is the true Light of the world, and that we must look for, and ask of Him all the light of faith, and all the knowledge of salvation.

Observe that in Greek the article is prefixed to light, as it were that light meaning the spiritual and Divine light, that which shineth of itself, and is essentially light, and the source of all enlightenment, which is as it were a Divine Sun, in respect of which John the Baptist was but as the moon, or the day-star. For as the morning star goes before the sun, so did John precede Christ the Sun of righteousness. The meaning is as follows—Inasmuch as the light of the Godhead was hidden in the humanity of Christ, as in a lantern dark and shaded, so that men discerned it not, therefore did God send John, that he might uncover and make this light manifest, and testify that Jesus was the very Son of God, the Teacher and Redeemer of the world. For, as Paul saith (1 Tim. 6:16), God “inhabiteth the unapproachable light, whom no man hath seen, nor can see.” And again, the Son “is the splendour of His glory, and the form of the substance” of God the Father (Heb. 1:3, Vulg.)

And again, the same is “the brightness of eternal light, and the spotless mirror of the majesty of God, and the image of His goodness” (Wisd. 7:26).

That all men might believe through him: that is, believe in the Light, and so be justified and saved. Through him, namely, John, who as it were with his finger pointed out Christ, saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.”

8 He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light.

He was not the Light, &c. The Jews and the Scribes thought, because of the preaching and heavenly life of John in the wilderness, that he was himself the Light, i.e., Christ. John the Evangelist by these words destroys such an idea. He was not the Light. That is, he was not the Saviour of the world, but only His witness, who received all his own light of knowledge and prophecy and grace from Christ. Wherefore in Jn 5:35, he is called “a burning and a shining lamp.” “But,” says Origen. “he did not burn by his own fire, nor shine by his own light.”

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to him, to ask him: Who art thou?

Ver. 19.—And this is the witness of John, &c. John the Baptist often bare witness to Jesus, that He was the Messias, or the Christ, both before and after His baptism. John the Evangelist therefore, omitting in this place the testimony which the Baptist bore to Jesus before His baptism, which had been related by the three other Evangelists, gives his testimony concerning Him after he had baptized Him. For this testimony was public, judicial, and most celebrated. It had been judicially demanded by the chief priests and magistrates, and had been received by them through the ambassadors whom they sent to John. The reason of this embassy was because the chief priests saw John leading in the desert an angelic life, preaching with great power, baptizing, and moving men to repentance, as none of the other prophets had done. The chief priests thought therefore that it was their duty to ask him who he was, especially because they knew that the sceptre had passed from Judah to Herod, and the seventy weeks of Daniel being completed, the coming of Messias must be nigh at hand. Wherefore, suspecting that John was the Messias, they ask him, Who art thou?

S. Chrysostom gives another reason—that they asked out of envy and hatred of Jesus, in order that they might show that Jesus was not the Messiah. They would have preferred to bestow the title upon John. They disliked John’s preferring Jesus to himself, and calling Him the Messias or Christ. But although there might be some envy mingled with it, the true reason was, as I have said, that it was the counsel of God so to exalt John, that the chief priests might be driven to ask him whether he were the Christ or not, that being asked he might authoritatively answer that which was the truth, namely, that not he, but Jesus, was the Messias, and that, being convicted by this testimony of John, they might be compelled either to receive Jesus as the Messias or to be without excuse.

Who art thou? The chief priests appear tacitly at least to have inquired of John, whether he were the Christ or not; for John replies, I am not the Christ.

Moreover, they were aware that John was the son of the priest Zacharias, and therefore a priest himself. When therefore they say, Who art thou? they ask virtually. What office hast thou received from God? With what object has God sent thee to preach and baptize? For God was wont to commit greater offices to priests.

Tropologically, let every one often ask himself, Who art thou? Firstly, as regards our substance. Listen to thy conscience making answer to thyself—the name of God my Creator is, I Am that I Am (Exod. 3). My name therefore as a creature is “I am that am not,” because I am nothing of myself, but out of my nothingness have been brought forth by God, and made a man. Wherefore my body and soul are not my own, but God’s, who has given them, or rather lent them, to me. As S. Francis was wont to say, “Who art Thou, Lord? Who am I? Thou art an abyss of wisdom and long-suffering, and all goodness. I am an abyss of ignorance, weakness, of all evil and wretchedness. Thou art an abyss of being, I of nothingness.” So when Christ appeared to S. Catherine of Sienna, He said, “Blessed art thou if thou knowest who I am, and who thou art. I am He who is, thou art she who is not.”

Secondly, as to quality. Who? that is, of what sort art thou? Answer, As regards my body, I am weak, miserable, and wretched. As to my soul, as regards my reason, I am like unto the angels. As regards my sensual appetite, and concupiscence, I am like the brutes. Therefore I will follow my reason, and so become assimilated to the angels.

Thirdly, as regards relation. Who? that is, whose son art thou? Reply, I am the son of Adam, the first sinner, and therefore being born in sin, I am living in sin, and must die in sin, unless the grace of Christ rescue me from my sins, and sanctify and save me.

Fourthly, as regards employment. Who art thou? what trade or profession art thou? I am a carpenter, a baker, a governor, a shepherd, a lawyer. See then that thou exercise thyself in thy calling, whatsoever it be, as the law of God requires, namely, in such wise that thou live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the coming of the glory of the great God, that thou mayest so pass through things temporal, that thou lose not, but gain the things eternal. Work, study, live for eternity. As S. Bernard was wont often to say to himself, “Bernard, tell me, wherefore art thou here?” And with this goad, as it were, he stirred himself up to zeal for all virtues.

Fifthly, as regards suffering. Who art thou? that is to say, what dost thou suffer? Reply, In the body I suffer hunger, thirst, disease, continual afflictions, so that there is scarcely the smallest space of time in which I have not many things to bear. As regards my soul, I have far greater and more bitter afflictions, griefs, and anguish, anxieties, sorrows, angers, indignation, darkness, fear, &c., so that I seem to be, as it were, a mark at which all afflictions hurl their darts, and thrust me through with their arrows. Be thou therefore a very adamant of patience, that thou mayest patiently and generously endure all things, and win the everlasting crown of patience in heaven.

Sixthly, as regards place. Who? that is, where art thou? Answer, I am on earth, placed between heaven and hell, in such wise, that if I live holily, I may pass to heaven, if wickedly, to hell. Live therefore carefully, warily, and holily, that not hell, but heaven may receive thee, when this short mortal life is over.

Seventhly, as regards time. Who art thou? When wast thou born? How long hast thou lived? When shalt thou die? Answer, Born yesterday, to-day I live, to-morrow I die. “For we are of yesterday, and know nothing; all our days upon the earth are but a shadow” (Job 8:9). Therefore despise all things temporal, which fly past as a bird doth. Love and covet heavenly things, which endure for ever with God and the angels. So shalt thou, being eternal, be happy eternally, and abide in everlasting delights. For as S. Gregory says, “That we may be eternal, and happy eternally, let us imitate eternity. And this is to us a great eternity, even the imitation of eternity.”

Lastly, as regards posture and clothing. Who art thou? that is, what posture, or clothing hast thou? Reply, I stand, I sit, I lie, I wear the habit of a Christian, a priest, a bishop, a religious. Take heed then that thou live conformably to thy habit. For it is not the habit which makes the Christian, or the monk, but purity of life, humility, charity.

20 And he confessed and did not deny: and he confessed: I am not the Christ.

And he confessed, &c. That is, publicly, plainly, and fully that he was not the Christ. For when the Hebrews wished very strongly to assert anything, they doubled the affirmative, and trebled the negative. Observe the great humility of S. John: how firmly he refused the name of Christ when it was offered to him. For he loved the truth, and Jesus, to whom this name belonged. Men of the world love to boast, and say, I am a nobleman, a governor, a canon, a bishop. But John teaches us to say, “I am nothing,” because if I am anything, I have it from God.

21 And they asked him: What then? Art thou Elias? And he said: I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered: No.

And they asked him, &c. When John denied that he was the Christ, the messengers asked him if he were Elias. For him God took away, that he might be the forerunner of Christ. And of him they were then in expectation, according to the words of Malachi (4:5), “Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord come,” meaning the day of judgment, when Christ shall return to be the Judge of all. But the Scribes did not understand this. They thought that there would be but one advent of Christ, and that a glorious one, the precursor of which would be Elias. Thus the Jews think even now that Christ has not yet come, but is about to come with Elias. And yet they ought to have known from the same Malachi (3:1) that there would be another precursor of Christ’s first coming in the flesh, even John the Baptist. “For I,” saith the Lord, “do send My messenger, and he shall prepare My way before My face.”

Art thou the prophet? Greek, ὁ προφήτης, the prophet par excellence. “Art thou a new and great prophet, such an one as we think will come with Messiah, to be His herald?” So SS. Chrysostom and Cyril. But they (the Jews) were in error. For Christ needed not a prophet, as Moses, who was not eloquent, needed Aaron. But Christ was His own prophet, herald, priest, and lawgiver. Moreover John was not a prophet in the sense that he foretold things to come. But he pointed out with his finger, as it were, Christ present. Therefore was he more than a prophet, as Christ says in the 11th of Matthew.

22 They said therefore unto him: Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself?
23 He said: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias.

I am the Voice, &c. (Isa. 40:3), where I have expounded the meaning. Listen to what the Fathers say about it. “I am a servant, and prepare paths, your hearts, for the Lord,” says Theophylact. “I come, he says, to say that He is at the doors who is expected, that you may be prepared to go whithersoever He may bid you,” says Cyril.

24 And they that were sent were of the Pharisees.

And they that were sent, &c. John adds this, to suggest the occasion why they examined John the Baptist concerning baptism. These messengers who were sent to John were Pharisees, and therefore were well versed in the Scriptures. Consequently they knew that Messiah would baptize for the remission of sins, because Ezekiel (36:25) and Zechariah (13:1) had predicted that He would do so. But concerning other prophets and saints they had not read in Scripture that they would baptize. They ask John therefore to tell them by what authority he baptized, especially since he not only asserted that he was not Christ, but not even a prophet.

25 And they asked him and said to him: Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet?

And they asked him, &c. “These Pharisees,” says S. Cyril, “in their arrogancy insult John, as though they said, Neither Elias, nor Eliseus, nor any of the other prophets dared to take upon themselves the office of baptizing. With what face then, or boldness, dost thou, who art not a prophet, arrogate this office to thyself?”

26 John answered them, saying: I baptize with water: but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not.

John answered them, &c. As though he had said, “God hath sent me to baptize with water, that I might stir you up to repentance and tears, so as to fit you for Christ’s baptism. For He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, for the remission of sins,” as the remaining three Evangelists declare. Therefore John is silent about this.

There hath stood one, &c. That is, Christ is living in the midst of you, and yet ye know Him not. That is, you do not recognise Him as Messiah, but look upon Him as a mere man, as vile and abject.

27 The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose.

The same is he that shall come after me, &c. After me Christ shall come to baptize you, that by His baptism He may perfect mine, and may wash and justify them that are penitent. As S. Cyril paraphrases, “I in preparation wash with water those who are polluted with sins as a beginning of repentance, and by this means leading you from what is lower I prepare you for more lofty things. For He who is the giver of greater things, and of the highest perfection, is about to come after me.” Or, as S. Chrysostom says, “My baptism is only a disposition and preparation for the baptism of Christ. Mine is of water and corporeal, Christ’s is of fire and spiritual.”

The latchet of whose shoe, &c. As though he said, “I am not worthy to be reckoned amongst the last of the servants of Christ, on account of the greatness of the Deity which is in Him.”

28 These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

These things were done in, &c. Bethany is the reading of the Latin, Syriac, Arabic versions, of many codices, including the Vatican, of Bede, Alcuin, the Gloss, &c. But instead of Bethany, Origen, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, S. Epiphanius, and S. Jerome (in loc. Heb.) read Bethabara, where Gideon slew the Midianites. I observe with Toletus that Bethany and Bethabara were one and the same place, or at least that one was nigh the other, or on opposite banks of the Jordan. This was the place in which the Hebrews, when they came out of Egypt, first crossed the Jordan under the leadership of Joshua, to enter the promised land. For Bethabara means in Hebrew a house of passage; Bethany, a house of ships. For vessels were waiting here to carry passengers over Jordan. This Bethany is derived from Beth, a house, and any, spelt with alpha, a ship. The Bethany of Martha and Lazarus was a different place, and spelt differently in Hebrew. That Bethany means the house of humility, from Beth, a house, and any, spelt with ain, humility.

John, then, chose this place wherein to baptize for several reasons, because of the abundance of water, also in memory of the ancient passage of the Israelites. S. Jerome says (loc. Hebrœis), “Even at this present time many of our brethren who believe, desiring there to be born again, are baptized in the life-giving flood.” They did this in memory of Christ, who was there baptized by John. This place is distant about four leagues from the Dead Sea.

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St Augustine’s Tractates on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

TRACTATE TWO
Jn 1:6-8

It is fitting, brethren, that as far as possible we should treat of the text of Holy Scripture, and especially of the Holy Gospel, without omitting any portion, that both we ourselves may derive nourishment according to our capacity, and may minister to you from that source from which we have been nourished. Last Lord’s day, we remember, we treated of the first section; that is, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was nothing made. That which was made, in Him is life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” So far, I believe, had I advanced in the treatment of the passage: let all who were present recall what was then said; and those of you who were not present, believe me and those who chose to be present. Now therefore,—because we cannot always be repeating everything, out of justice to those who desire to hear what follows, and because repetition of the former thought is a burden to them and deprives them of what succeeds,—let those who were absent on the former occasion refrain from demanding repetition, but, together with those who were here, listen to the present exposition.

2. It goes on, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” Truly, brethren beloved, those things which were said before, were said regarding the ineffable divinity of Christ, and almost ineffably. For who shall comprehend “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God”? And do not allow the name word to appear mean to you, through the habit of daily words, for it is added, “and the Word was God.” This Word is He of whom yesterday we spoke much; and I trust that God was present, and that even from only thus much speaking something reached your hearts. “In the beginning was the Word.” He is the same, and is in the same manner; as He is, so He is always; He cannot be changed; that is, He is. This His name He spoke to His servant Moses: “I am that I am; and He that is hath sent me.”1 Who then shall comprehend this when you see that all mortal things are variable; when you see that not only do bodies vary as to their qualities, by being born, by increasing, by becoming less, by dying, but that even souls themselves through the effect of divers volitions are distended and divided; when you see that men can obtain wisdom if they apply themselves to its light and heat, and also lose wisdom if they remove themselves from it through some evil influence? When, therefore, you see that all those things are variable, what is that which is, unless that which transcends all things which are so that they are not? Who then can receive this? Or who, in what manner soever he may have applied the strength of his mind to touch that which is, is, can reach to that which he may in any way have touched with his mind? It is as if one were to see his native land at a distance, and the sea intervening; he sees whither he would go, but he has not the means of going. So we desire to arrive at that our stability where that which is, because this alone always is as it is: the sea of this world interrupts our course, even although already we see whither we go; for many do not even see whither they go. That there might be a way by which we could go, He has come from Him to whom we wished to go. And what has He done? He has appointed a tree by which we may cross the sea. For no one is able to cross the sea of this world, unless borne by the cross of Christ. Even he who is of weak eyesight sometimes embraces this cross; and he who does not see from afar whither he goes, let him not depart from it, and it will carry him over.

3. Therefore, my brethren, I would desire to have impressed this upon your hearts: if you wish to live in a pious and Christian manner, cling to Christ according to that which He became for us, that you may arrive at Him according to that which is, and according to that which was. He approached, that for us He might become this; because He became that for us, on which the weak may be borne, and cross the sea of this world and reach their native country; where there will be no need of a ship, for no sea is crossed. It is better then not to see with the mind that which is, and yet not to depart from the cross of Christ, than to see it with the mind, and despise the cross of Christ. It is good beyond this, and best of all, if it be possible, that we both see whither we ought to go, and hold fast that which carries us as we go. This they were able to do, the great minds of the mountains, who have been called mountains, whom the light of divine justice pre-eminently illuminates; they were able to do this, and saw that which is. For John seeing said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” They saw this, and in order that they might arrive at that which they saw from afar, they did not depart from the cross of Christ, and did not despise Christ’s lowliness. But little ones who cannot understand this, who do not depart from the cross and passion and resurrection of Christ, are conducted in that same ship to that which they do not see, in which they also arrive who do see.

4. But truly there have been some philosophers of this world who have sought for the Creator by means of the creature; for He can be found by means of the creature, as the apostle plainly says, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and glory; so they are without excuse.” And it follows, “Because that, when they knew God;” he did not say, Because they did not know, but “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” How darkened? It follows, when he says more plainly: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”2 They saw whither they must come; but ungrateful to Him who afforded them what they saw, they wished to ascribe to themselves what they saw; and having become proud, they lost what they saw, and were turned from it to idols and images, and to the worship of demons, to adore the creature and to despise the Creator. But these having been blinded did those things, and became proud, that they might be blinded: when they were proud they said that they were wise. Those, therefore, concerning whom he said, “Who, when they had known God,” saw this which John says, that by the Word of God all things were made. For these things are also found in the books of the philosophers: and that God has an only-begotten Son, by whom are all things. They were able to see that which is, but they saw it from afar: they were unwilling to hold the lowliness of Christ, in which ship they might have arrived in safety at that which they were able to see from afar; and the cross of Christ appeared vile to them. The sea has to be crossed, and dost thou despise the wood? Oh, proud wisdom! thou laughest to scorn the crucified Christ; it is He whom thou dost see from afar: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” But wherefore was He crucified? Because the wood of His humiliation was needful to thee. For thou hadst become swollen with pride, and hadst been cast out far from that fatherland; and by the waves of this world has the way been intercepted, and there is no means of passing to the fatherland unless borne by the wood. Ungrateful one! thou laughest Him to scorn who has come to thee that thou mayest return: He has become the way, and that through the sea:1 thence He walked in the sea to show that there is a way in the sea. But thou who art not able in any way thyself to walk in the sea, be carried in a ship, be carried by the wood: believe in the crucified One, and thou shalt arrive thither. On account of thee He was crucified, to teach thee humility; and because if He should come as God, He would not be recognized. For if He should come as God, He would not come to those who were not able to see God. For not according to His Godhead does He either come or depart; since He is everywhere present, and is contained in no place. But, according to what did He come? He appeared as a man.

5. Therefore, because He was so man, that the God lay hid in Him, there was sent before Him a great man, by whose testimony He might be found to be more than man. And who is this? “He was a man.” And how could that man speak the truth concerning God? “He was sent by God.” What was he called? “Whose name was John.” Wherefore did he come? “He came for a witness, that he might bear witness concerning the light, that all might believe through him.” What sort of man was he who was to bear witness concerning the light? Something great was that John, vast merit, great grace, great loftiness! Admire, by all means, admire; but as it were a mountain. But a mountain is in darkness unless it be clothed with light. Therefore only admire John that you may hear what follows, “He was not that light;” lest if, when thou thinkest the mountain to be the light, thou make shipwreck on the mountain, and find not consolation. But what oughtest thou to admire? The mountain as a mountain. But lift thyself up to Him who illuminates the mountain, which for this end was elevated that it might be the first to receive the rays, and make them known to your eyes. Therefore, “he was not that light.”

6. Wherefore then did he come? “But that he might bear witness concerning the light.” Why so? “That all might believe through him.” And concerning what light was he to bear witness? “That was the true light.” Wherefore is it added true? Because an enlightened man is also called a light; but the true light is that which enlightens. For even our eyes are called lights; and nevertheless, unless either during the night a lamp is lighted, or during the day the sun goes forth, these lights are open in vain. Thus, therefore, John was a light, but not the true light; because, if not enlightened, he would have been darkness; but, by enlightenment, he became a light. For unless he had been enlightened he would have been darkness, as all those once impious men, to whom, as believers, the apostle said, “Ye were sometimes darkness.” But now, because they had believed, what?—“but now are ye light,” he says, “in the Lord.”2 Unless he had added “in the Lord,” we should not have understood. “Light,” he says, “in the Lord:” darkness you were not in the Lord. “For ye were sometimes darkness,” where he did not add in the Lord. Therefore, darkness in you, light in the Lord. And thus “he was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of the light.”

TRACTATE FOUR
Jn 1:19-28

You have very often heard, holy brethren, and you know well, that John the Baptist, in proportion as he was greater than those born of women, and was more humble in his acknowledgment of the Lord, obtained the grace of being the friend of the Bridegroom; zealous for the Bridegroom, not for himself; not seeking his own honor, but that of his Judge, whom as a herald he preceded. Therefore, to the prophets who went before, it was granted to predict concerning Christ; but to this man, to point Him out with the finger. For as Christ was unknown by those who did not believe the prophets before He came, He remained unknown to them even when present. For He had come humbly and concealed from the first; the more concealed in proportion as He was more humble: but the people, despising in their pride the humility of God, crucified their Saviour, and made Him their condemner.

2. But will not He who at first came concealed, because humble, come again manifested, because exalted? You have just listened to the Psalm: “God shall come manifestly, and our God shall not keep silence.”1 He was silent that He might be judged, He will not be silent when He begins to judge.2 It would not have been said, “He will come manifestly,” unless at first He had come concealed; nor would it have been said, “He shall not keep silence,” unless He had first kept silence. How was He silent? Interrogate Isaiah: “He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before his shearer was dumb, so He opened not His mouth.” “But He shall come manifestly, and shall not keep silence.” In what manner “manifestly”? “A fire shall go before Him, and round about Him a strong tempest.”3 That tempest has to carry away all the chaff from the floor, which is now being threshed; and the fire has to burn what the tempest carries away. But now He is silent; silent in judgment, but not silent in precept. For if Christ is silent, what is the purpose of these Gospels? what the purpose of the voices of the apostles, what of the canticles of the Psalms, what of the declarations of the prophets? In all these Christ is not silent. But now He is silent in not taking vengeance: He is not silent in not giving warning. But He will come in glory to take vengeance, and will manifest Himself even to all who do not believe on Him. But now, because when present He was concealed, it behoved that He should be despised. For unless He had been despised, He would not have been crucified; if He had not been crucified, He would not have shed His blood—the price by which He redeemed us. But that He might give a price for us, He was crucified; that He might be crucified, He was despised; that He might be despised, He appeared in humility.

3. Yet because He appeared as it were in the night, in a mortal body, He lighted for Himself a lamp by which He might be seen. That lamp was John,4 concerning whom you lately heard many things: and the present passage of the evangelist contains the words of John; in the first place, and it is the chief point, his confession that he was not the Christ. But so great was the excellence of John, that men might have believed him to be the Christ: and in this he gave a proof of his humility, that he said he was not when he might have been believed to have been the Christ; therefore, “This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to him from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?” But they would not have sent unless they had been moved by the excellence of his authority who ventured to baptize. “And he confessed, and denied not.” What did he confess? “And he confessed, I am not the Christ.”

4. ‘And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias?” For they knew that Elias was to precede Christ. For to no Jew was the name of Christ unknown. They did not think that he was the Christ; but they did not think that Christ would not come at all. When they were hoping that He would come, they were offended at Him when He was present, and stumbled at Him as on a low stone. For He was as yet a small stone, already indeed cut out of the mountain without hands; as saith Daniel the prophet, that he saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. But what follows? “And that stone,” saith he “grew and became a great mountain, and filled the whole face of the earth.”5 Mark then, my beloved brethren, what I say: Christ, before the Jews, was already cut out from the mountain. The prophet wishes that by the mountain should be understood the Jewish kingdom. But the kingdom of the Jews had not filled the whole face of the earth. The stone was cut out from thence, because from thence was the Lord born on His advent among men. And wherefore without hands? Because without the cooperation of man did the Virgin bear Christ. Now then was that stone cut out without hands before the eyes of the Jews; but it was humble. Not without reason; because not yet had that stone increased and filled the whole earth: that He showed in His kingdom, which is the Church, with which He has filled the whole face of the earth. Because then it had not yet increased, they stumbled at Him as at a stone: and that happened in them which is written, “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever that stone shall fall, it will grind them to powder.”6 At first they fell upon Him lowly: as the lofty One He shall come upon them; but that He may grind them to powder when He comes in His exaltation, He first broke them in His lowliness. They stumbled at Him, and were broken; they were not ground, but broken: He will come exalted and will grind them. But the Jews were to be pardoned because they stumbled at a stone which had not yet increased. What sort of persons are those who stumble at the mountain itself? Already you know who they are of whom I speak. Those who deny the Church diffused through the whole world, do not stumble at the lowly stone, but at the mountain itself: because this the stone became as it grew. The blind Jews did not see the lowly stone: but how great blindness not to see the mountain!

5. They saw Him then lowly, and did not know Him. He was pointed out to them by a lamp. For in the first place he, than whom no greater had arisen of those born of women, said, “I am not the Christ.” It was said to him, “Art thou Elias? He answered, I am not.” For Christ sends Elias before Him: and he said, “I am not,” and occasioned a question for us. For it is to be feared lest men, insufficiently understanding, think that John contradicted what Christ said. For in a certain place, when the Lord Jesus Christ said certain things in the Gospel regarding Himself, His disciples answered Him: “How then say the scribes,” that is, those skilled in the law, “that Elias must first come?” And the Lord said, “Elias is already come, and they have done unto him what they listed;” and, if you wish to know, John the Baptist is he.1 The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Elias is already come, and John the Baptist” is he; but John, being interrogated, confessed that he was not Elias, in the same manner that he confessed that he was not Christ. And as his confession that he was not Christ was true, so was his confession that he was not Elias. How then shall we compare the words of the herald with the words of the Judge? Away with the thought that the herald speaks falsehood; for that which he speaks he hears from the Judge. Wherefore then did he say, “I am not Elias;” and the Lord, “He is Elias”? Because the Lord Jesus Christ wished in him to prefigure His own advent, and to say that John was in the spirit of Elias. And what John was to the first advent, that will Elias be to the second advent. As there are two advents of the Judge, so are there two heralds. The Judge indeed was the same, but the heralds two, but not two judges. It was needful that in the first instance the Judge should come to be judged. He sent before Him His first herald; He called him Elias, because Elias will be in the second advent what John was in the first.

6. For mark, beloved brethren, how true it is what I say. When John was conceived, or rather when he was born, the Holy Spirit prophesied that this would be fulfilled in him: “And he shall be,” he said, “the forerunner of the Highest, in the spirit and power of Elias.”2 What signifieth “in the spirit and power of Elias”? In the same Holy Spirit in the room of Elias. Wherefore in room of Elias? Because what Elias will be to the second, that John was to the first advent. Rightly therefore, speaking literally, did John reply. For the Lord spoke figuratively, “Elias, the same is John:” but he, as I have said, spoke literally when he said, “I am not Elias.” Neither did John speak falsely, nor did the Lord speak falsely; neither was the word of the herald nor of the Judge false, if only thou understand. But who shall understand? He who shall have imitated the lowliness of the herald, and shall have acknowledged the loftiness of the Judge. For nothing was more lowly than the herald. My brethren, in nothing had John greater merit than in this humility, inasmuch as when he was able to deceive men, and to be thought Christ, and to have been received in the place of Christ (for so great were his grace and his excellency), nevertheless he openly confessed and said, “I am not the Christ.” “Art thou Elias?” If he had said I am Elias, it would have been as if Christ were already coming in His second advent to judge, not in His first to be judged. As if saying. Elias is yet to come, “I am not,” said he, “Elias.” But give heed to the lowly One before whom John came, that you may not feel the lofty One before whom Elias came. For thus also did the Lord complete the saying: “John the Baptist is he which is to come.” He came as a figure of that in which Elias is to come in his own person. Then Elias will in his own proper person be Elias, now in similitude he was John. Now John in his own proper person is John, in similitude Elias. The two heralds gave to each other their similitudes, and kept their own proper persons; but the Judge is one Lord, whether preceded by this herald or by that.

7. “And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he said, No. And they said unto him, Art thou a prophet? and he answered, No! They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He saith, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”3 That said Isaiah. This prophecy was fulfilled in John, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Crying what? “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God.” Would it not have seemed to you that a herald would have cried, “Go away, make room.” Instead of the herald’s cry “Go away,” John says “Come.” The herald makes men stand back from the judge; to the Judge John calls. Yes, indeed, John calls men to the lowly One, that they may not experience what He will be as the exalted Judge. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah.” He did not say, I am John, I am Elias, I am a prophet. But what did he say? This I am called, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way for the Lord: I am the prophecy itself.”

8. “And they which were sent were of the Pharisees,” that is, of the chief men among the Jews; “and they asked him and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet?” As if it seemed to them audacity to baptize, as if they meant to inquire, in what character baptizest thou? We ask whether thou art the Christ; thou sayest that thou art not. We ask whether thou perchance art His precursor, for we know that before the advent of Christ, Elias will come; thou answerest that thou art not. We ask, if perchance thou art some herald come long before, that is, a prophet, and hast received that power, and thou sayest that thou art not a prophet. And John was not a prophet; he was greater than a prophet. The Lord gave such testimony concerning him: “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” Of course implying that he was not shaken by the wind; because John was not such an one as is moved by the wind; for he who is moved by the wind is blown upon by every seductive blast. “But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?” For John was clothed in rough garments; that is, his tunic was of camel’s hair. “Behold, they who are clothed in soft raiment are in kings’ houses.” You did not then go out to see a man clothed in soft raiment. “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, one greater than a prophet is here;”1 for the prophets prophesied of Christ a long time before, John pointed Him out as present.

9. “Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water; but there standeth One among you whom ye know not.” For, very truly, He was not seen, being humble, and therefore was the lamp lighted. Observe how John gives place, who might have been accounted other than he was. “He it is who cometh after me, who is made before me” (that is, as we have already said, is “preferred before me”), whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” How greatly did he humble himself! And therefore he was greatly lifted up; for he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.2 Hence, holy brethren, you ought to note that if John so humbled himself as to say, “I am not worthy to unloose His shoe-latchet,” what need they have to be humbled who say, “We baptize; what we give is ours, and what is ours is holy.” He said, Not I, but He; they say, We. John is not worthy to unloose His shoe’s latchet; and if he had said he was worthy, how humble would he still have been! And if he had said he was worthy, and had spoken thus, “He came after me who is made before me, the latchet of whose shoe I am only worthy to unloose,” he would have greatly humbled himself. But when he says that he is not worthy even to do this, truly was he full of the Holy Spirit, who in such fashion as a servant acknowledged his Lord, and merited to be made a friend instead of a servant.

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28.

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

6, 7 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light.

Having before Explained about God the Word, and most accurately gone through the things whereby He is shewn to be by Nature Son of God the Father, he fortifies their faith in what they had already heard by his words. And since (according to what was said by God through Moses), At |70 the mouth of two and three witnesses shall every word be established, wisely does he bring in addition to himself the blessed Baptist, and introduces him along with himself a most noteworthy witness. For he did not suppose that he ought, even if of gravest weight, to demand of the readers in his book concerning our Saviour credence above that of the law, and that they should believe him by himself when declaring things above our understanding and sense.

Therefore the blessed Evangelist himself testifies that The Word was in the beginning and the Word was God and was in the beginning with God and that all things were made by Him, and He was in the things made as Life, and that the Life was the Light of men, that by all these he might shew that the Son is by Nature God. And the Divine Baptist too testifies in addition to him, crying aloud, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. For soothly one will say that He is Very God, in Whom is by Nature inherent the dignity of lordship and it accrues not to any other rightly and truly, since to us there is one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul saith; and though there be many called gods by grace and lords both in heaven and earth, yet the Son is One with the Father Very God.

Therefore, most noteworthy is the pair of holy witnesses, and credence no longer capable of blame is due to the things said, both as having received the fulness of the law, and supported by the notability of the persons. For the blessed Evangelist then to say ought concerning himself, and to take hold of his own praises, were in truth burdensome and moreover ill-instructed. For he would rightly have heard, Thou bearest record of thyself, thy record is not true. Therefore he commits to those who know him to form their opinion of him, and goes to his namesake, doing well in this too, and says that he was sent by God. For it behoved him to shew that not of his own accord nor with self-invited zeal does the holy Baptist come to his testimony respecting our Saviour, but yielding to the commands from above, and ministering to the Divine Will of the Father. Wherefore he |71 says, There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

But we must notice how unerringly and fitly he expressed himself as to each, and correspondently to the nature of the things indicated. For in the case of God the Word, was is fitly introduced indicating every way His Eternity, and His being more ancient than all beginning that is in time, and removing the idea of His having been created. For that which always is, how can it be conceived of as originate? But of the blessed Baptist, befittingly does he say, There was a man sent from God, as of a man having an originate nature. And very unerringly does the Evangelist herein seem to me not merely to say that There was, but by adding the word a man, to overthrow the most unadvised surmise of some.

For already was there a report bruited of many, commonly saying that the holy Baptist was not really a man by nature but one of the holy angels in heaven, making use of human body and sent by God to preach. And the plea for this surmise they found in its being said by God, Behold I send, My messenger before Thy Face, which shall prepare Thy way; before Thee. But they err from the truth who imagine thus, not considering that the name of Angel is indicative of ministry rather than of essence, even as in the history of the blessed Job messengers 6 one after the other run to announce . his manifold sufferings and ministering to those incurable afflictions. Something like this does the most wise Paul himself define respecting the holy angels, writing thus: Are l they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

John the blessed Baptist then is called an angel by the mouth of the Lord, not as being actually by nature an angel, but as sent to announce and crying aloud, Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Very profitably does he declare moreover that the angel was sent by God, shewing that his witness is most sure. For he that was sent by God to preach, would not |72 utter anything in his teaching that was not wholly according to the will of Him Who put the mission on him. True therefore is the witness as being God-taught. For the most wise Paul also telling us that he was sent by Jesus Christ, affirmed that he learned the power of the mystery not of any other, but by revelation of Him Who sent him, signifying the revelation in sum so to say and briefly, in saying that he was sent by Jesus Christ. Hence the being God-taught wholly follows on being sent by God. And that freedom from lying is wholly the aim of the ministers of the truth is undoubted.

The man’s name he says was John. It needed that he who was sent should be recognized by the mark of the name, which introduces, as I suppose, great authenticity to what is said. For an angel (namely Gabriel that stand in the presence of God, as himself says) when he declared to Zacharias the good tidings of his birth of Elizabeth, added this to what he said, namely that his name shall be John. It is I suppose clear and confessed by all that he was so named of the angel according to the Divine purpose and appointment. How then will not he who was crowned by God with so great honour be conceived of as above all praise? Wherefore the mention of his name is profitably and necessarily brought in.

But since the Evangelist has added that the holy Baptist was sent by God for a witness that all men through him might believe, we will further say when our opponents fall foul and say, “Why did not all believe the God-sent? how came he who was fore-appointed by the decree from above to be powerless to persuade any?”—-It is meet, sirs, that we should not blame John for want of zeal herein, but should exclaim against the obstinacy of those who disbelieved. For so far as pertains to the aim of the herald, and the mode of his apostolate from above, none would have been found imparticipate in the teaching, nor would have remained in unbelief: but since there was diversity of disposition in the hearers and each has power over his own free-choice, some receiving not the faith missed what was profitable. Wherefore we must say to them (as it is in the prophet), He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear. |73

This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light.

The word This is full of declaration of virtue and praise of person. For he that was sent, he says, from God, he that with reason struck with astonishment the whole of Judaea, by the gravity of his life and its marvellous exercise in virtue, he that is fore-announced by the voice of the holy Prophets: called by Isaiah, The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, and by the blessed David, a lamp fore-ordained for Christ 7; This man came for a witness to hear witness of the Light. He here calls God the Word Light, and shews that He is One and strictly the very actual Light, with Whom there is by nature nought else that has the property of illumining, and that is not lacking light. Therefore foreign and, so to say, of other nature than the creature is the Word of God, since verily and truly is He strictly Light, the creature participate of light. He then that is unclassed with things made, and conceived of therefore as being of other nature than they, how will He be originate, rather how will He not be within the limits of Deity and replete with the Good Nature of Him who begat Him?

8 He was not the Light, but was sent to bear witness of the Light.

The Baptist having esteemed desert-abodes above the haunts of the cities, and having shewn forth an unwonted persistence in exercise of virtue, and having mounted to the very summit of the righteousness attainable by man, was most rightly wondered at, and even by some imagined to be Christ Himself. And indeed the rulers of the Jews led by his achievements in virtue to some such notion, send some to him bidding them to inquire if he be the Christ. The blessed Evangelist then not ignorant of the things that were by many bruited of him, of necessity puts, He was not the Light, that he might both uproot the error as to this, and again build up some weight of credence to him who was sent from God for a witness. For how is he not eminent exceedingly, how is he not every way worthy of marvel, who is so clad with great virtue and so illustrious in righteousness as to imitate |74 Christ Himself, and by the choice beauty of his piety, to be even imagined to be the Light Itself?

He was not then, says he, the Light, but sent to bear witness of the Light. In saying the Light, with the addition of the article, he shews that it is really one: for so it is in truth. For that both the blessed Baptist and each of the other saints, may be rightly called light we will not deny, seeing that it is said of them by our Saviour, Ye are the light of the world. And again it is said of the holy Baptist, I have ordained a lamp for My Christ, and, He was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But even though the saints be light, and the Baptist a lamp, we are not ignorant of the grace that was given them and of their supply from the Light. For neither is the light in the lamp its own, nor the illumination in the saints, but they are rendered bright and lightsome by the enlightening of the Truth and are lights in the world, holding forth the word of life. And what is the Life, whose word they holding forth are called light, save surely the Only-Begotten, Who saith, I am the Life? Therefore, One of a truth is That Which is verily Light, lighting, not enlightened: and by participation of the One, whatever is called light, will be so deemed of by imitation of It. |75

19, 20  And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

The Evangelist recalls his own words and endeavours to explain to us more fully (doing exceeding well) what he had already told us told us briefly as in summary. For having said There was a man sent from God, whose name was John: the same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, needs does he bring in the mode also of the witness given by him. For when, he says, the chiefs of the Jewish divisions after the Law, sent priests and Levites to him, bidding them ask him, what he would say of himself, then very clearly did he confess, spurning all shame for the truth’s sake. For he said, I am not the Christ. Therefore neither do I, says he, the compiler of this Book, lie saying of him, He was not the Light but to bear witness of the Light.

21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? and he saith, I am not. Art thou that Prophet? And he answered, No.

Having said by way of explanation, he confessed, I am not the Christ; he tries to shew how or in what manner the confession was made; and he appears to me to wish thereby to lay bare the ill-instructedness of the Jews. For professing themselves to be wise they became fools, and puffed up at their knowledge of the Law, and ever putting forward the commandments of Moses and asserting that they were perfectly instructed in the words of the holy Prophets, by their foolish questions they are convicted of being wholly uninstructed. For the hierophant Moses saying that the Lord should be revealed as a Prophet foretold to the children of Israel, The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me, unto Him shall ye hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb. The blessed Isaiah, introducing to us the forerunner and fore-messenger, says, The voice of one crying in the wilderness Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight: and in addition to these the Prophet Joel 13 says of |127 the Tishbite (he was Elias) Behold, I send you Elijah the Tishbite 14 who shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

There being then three, who were promised should come, Christ and John and Elias, the Jews expect that more will come, that they may rightly hear, Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures. For when they enquired of the blessed Baptist and learned that he was not the Christ, they answer, What then? art thou Elias? and on his saying I am not, when they ought to have asked respecting the fore-runner (for he it was that remained) they ignorantly return to Christ Himself, Who was revealed through the Law as a Prophet. For see what they say, not knowing what was told them through Moses, Art thou the Prophet? and he answered, No. For he was not the Christ, as he had already before declared.

22, 23 What sayest thou of thyself? I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

He accuses them sharply as knowing nothing, and accredits the design or purpose entrusted to him by Prophetic testimony. For I come, he says, to say nothing else than that He, The Looked for, is at length at the doors, yea rather the Lord within the doors. Be ye ready to go whatsoever way He bids you, ye have gone the way given you through Moses, take up that by Christ: for this the choir of the holy Prophets foretold you.

A setting forth of sayings concerning the way that is after Christ.

Isaiah. Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.

The same. And an highway shall be there and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; no lion shall be there nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, but the redeemed shall walk there. |128

The same. I will give beginning 15 to Sign, and will exhort Jerusalem unto the way.

The same. And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not: I will lead them in paths that they have not known.

Jeremiah. Stand ye in the ways and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for you souls.

What then is the good way and that purifies those who walk in it, let Christ Himself say: I am the Way.

24 And they had been sent from the Pharisees. 16 

They who were sent from the Jews (they were Levites and certain of those who belonged to the priesthood) were convicted of asking foolish questions. For supposing that Christ was one person, the Prophet declared by the Law another, they said, after the holy Baptist had said, I am not the Christ, Art thou the Prophet? But lo, the multitude of the Pharisees also is caught in conceit of wisdom rather than having really an accurate knowledge of the Divine oracles. For why, it says, baptizest thou at all, if thou be not the Christ nor Elias neither the Prophet? and they are shewn again to be full of no small senselessness against the Baptist. For they do not, it seems, vouchsafe to put him in the number of those expected, but sick with the haughtiness that was their foster-sister 17, they deem that he is nought, albeit he be fore-announced by the Prophet’s voice. For though they heard, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness Prepare ye the way of the Lord: receiving not his word, they rebuke him without restraint saying after this sort: There is nought in thee, Sir, worthy of credit, nor wondrous nor great: why baptizest thou even at all? why dost thou, who art absolutely nothing, take in hand so great a thing? It was the habit of the ungodly Pharisees to act thus, to disparage one who was already |129 come, to pretend to honour one who was to come. For in order that they might always procure for themselves honours at the hand of the Jews, and might procure to themselves incomes of money, they desire that none save themselves should appear illustrious. For thus slew they the heir Himself also, saying Come let us kill Him and let us seize on His inheritance.

26 I baptize with water.

Much enduringly does the blessed Baptist bear with the fault finders: and very seasonably does he make the declaration regarding himself a basis of saving preaching: and teaches those who were sent from the Pharisees now even against their will that Christ was within the doors. For I, he says, am bringing in an introductory Baptism, washing those defiled by sin with water for a beginning of penitence and teaching them to go up from the lower unto the more perfect. For this were to accomplish in act, what I was sent to preach, Prepare ye, I mean, the way of the Lord. For the Giver of the greater and most notable gifts and Supplier of all perfection of good things, standeth among you, unknown as yet by reason of the veil of flesh, but so much surpassing me the Baptist, that I must deem myself not to have the measure even of a servant’s place in His Presence. For this I deem is the meaning of, I am not worthy to unloose His shoe-latchet.

And in saying what is true, he works something else that is useful, for he persuades the haughty Pharisee to think lowlily, and brings himself in as an example of this.

But he says that these things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, putting this too as a sign of accurate and careful narration. For we are all accustomed, so to speak, in our accounts of things that require it to mention also the places where they happened. (source)

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Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 8:46-59

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 12, 2017

Ver. 46.—Which of you, &c. This is to anticipate an objection of the Jews. For they might say, “We do not believe thee, because thou art a violater of our law, in healing the sick on the Sabbath-day.” Produce any other charge against Me, and I will submit to your disbelieving Me. My healing on the Sabbath was not a violation, but a sanctification of the Sabbath. I leave any further charge to be decided by you who are my sworn enemies. So confident was Christ in His innocence that no one could lay anything to His charge which bore the slightest resemblance to sin. For He was Himself sinless, both on account of the Beatific Vision which He enjoyed, as the Blessed in heaven are incapable of sin for the same reason (for seeing God to be the Supreme Good, they necessarily love Him with all their strength, and hate whatever displeases Him) and likewise from the hypostatical union with the Word. For because His humanity existed in the Person of the Word, the Word kept His humanity free from all sin, and in perfect holiness. For if the humanity of Christ had sinned, the Person of the Word would have sinned; which is impossible. For virtuous or vicious actions relate to persons, and are attributed to them. Hence S. Ambrose (on Ps. 40:13) brings in God the Father thus addressing Christ, “Thou wert conversant with sinners, Thou didst take on Thee the sins of all, Thou wast made sin for all, but yet no practice of sin could reach Thee. Thou didst dwell among men, as if among angels, Thou madest earth to be like heaven, that even there also Thou mightest take away sin.”

If I say the truth, &c. He here shuts out another objection of the Jews. For they could have said, We believe Thee not, not for any sin which Thou hast committed, but because the things Thou sayest and teachest are not true.” Christ meets the objection by saying, “I have proved to you My doctrine by so many arguments and miracles, that no prudent person who is not blinded by hatred could question its perfect truth. If then My life is most innocent, and My doctrine most true, why do ye not believe Me?” Receive then the truth not as a bare assertion, but as demonstrated by reason.

Ver. 47.—He that is of God, &c. He here assigns the true reason for the unbelief of the Jews, because they were born not of God, but of the devil; that is, ye do not listen to the spirit and instinct of God, but of the devil. For the devil has blinded your hearts with covetousness, hatred, and envy of Me. And ye therefore listen not to the words of God which I, who am sent from Him, announce to you, because ye will not hear and understand them. Because then ye are not the children of God who is true, but of the devil who is a liar, ye listen to his lying suggestions, but will not give a hearing to the true words of God which are uttered by Me.

Moreover S. Augustine and S. Gregory (Hom. xviii.) understand these words of the elect and reprobate. He who is predestinated and elected hears the words of God, ye hear them not because ye are reprobate. But this is not the literal and genuine sense of the word, but merely an adapted one. For as Toletus and Maldonatus observe, many of those who at that time did not believe in Christ afterwards believed at the preaching of S. Peter and the Apostles; and on the other hand, some who then believed in Christ afterwards fell away from the faith, and became reprobates (see John 6:67).

Lastly, the Manichees inferred wrongly from the passage (as S. Augustine asserts) that some men are good by their own nature, as created by the good God, but others are naturally evil, as created by the evil principle.

Morally:—S. Gregory infers thus from this saying of Christ: “Let each one ask himself if he takes in the word of God with the ear of his heart, and he will understand whence it is. The truth bids us long for the heavenly country, to crush the desires of the flesh, to shun the glory of the world, not to covet others’ goods, to be liberal with one’s own. Let each one of you consider with himself if this voice of God has prevailed in the ear of his heart, and he will acknowledge that it is from God.” And just below, “There are some who willingly listen to the words of God so as to be moved by compunction even to tears, but who after their tears go back again to their sin. And these assuredly hear not the words of God, because they scorn to carry them out in deed.” Hence S. Gregory infers that it is a mark of divine predestination if a man obeys the holy inspirations of God, and of reprobation if he rejects them (see Prov. 1:24). And John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice.” They who hear the voice of Christ their Shepherd are saved, they who hear not are devoured by the devil. So too Christ says plainly, “Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:25). And S. Bernard (Serm. I, in Septuag.) tells his monks that the greatest proof of predestination is the profitable hearing of the word of God. For it was their constant food, by reading and meditation and prayer, to examine whatever proceeds from the mouth of God, and to fulfil it in their lives.

Ver. 48.—The Jews answered and said, &c. They used to say it, though it is written nowhere else. But why did they call Him a Samaritan? (1.) Because He associated with the Samaritans. (2.) Because He came from Galilee, which was near Samaria. (3.) Because the Samaritans were partly Jews and partly Gentiles, and Christ seemed to them to be the same, as bringing in a new faith and religion; and He thus seemed to be mixing up the traditions of the elders with the Gospel. (4.) And lastly, because He seemed to be making a schism, like the Samaritans. A Samaritan was, more over, a term of reproach.

And hast a devil. (1.) Because they said He cast out devils through Beelzebub, the chief of the devils. (2.) Because He made Himself God, transferring to Himself the glory due to God, as Lucifer strove to do. So Leontius. Our Lord so understood it, and answered, “I seek not My own glory.” (3.) Thou art mad, like lunatics, and those possessed with devils (see 10:20, and 7:20). This was an atrocious blasphemy. How wondrous, then, the patience of Christ! For He answered,

Ver. 49.—I have not a devil, &c. As loving truth He denies the false charge, but though all-powerful He returns not their reproach. “God, though receiving an injury, replies not with words of contumely; and thou, when insulted by thy neighbours, shouldest abstain from their evil words, lest the exercise of just reproof should be turned into weapons of anger.” And Chrysostom, “When it was necessary to teach, and to inveigh against their pride, He was severe. But in bearing with those who reproached Him, He exercised great gentleness, to teach us to resent any wrongs done to God, to overlook the wrongs done to ourselves.” And S. Augustine, “Let us imitate His patience, that we may attain to His powers.”

Christ took no notice of the term Samaritan, because it was a reproach directed only against Himself, and not against God. He refused therefore to avenge His own wrongs, but would defend the honour of God. All knew He was a Galilean, and not a Samaritan, and by saying that He had not a devil, He refuted at the same time the charge of being a Samaritan. For the Samaritans, as schismatics, were the bond slaves of the devil. S. Gregory (Hom. xviii.) gives a mystical reason for His silence. “A Samaritan,” he says, “means a guardian, and He is truly our guardian, of whom the Psalmist speaks, ‘Except the Lord keep the city, they watch in vain who guard it’ (Ps. 127:2); to whom moreover it is said by Isaiah, ‘Watchman, what of the night?’ He would not therefore say, ‘I am not a Samaritan,’ lest he should deny also that He was our guardian.”

I have not a devil. But ye have one. So far from detracting from the glory of God, or claiming it for Myself, as Lucifer did, I continually honour the Father and say that I derive everything from Him, that I am sent from Him, that I obey Him in all things, that I refer everything I have to Him, and direct everything to His honour and glory. But ye rather dishonour God the Father, because ye dishonour Me, and assail Me with most bitter reproaches, through I am His Son, and His ambassador in the world. So Leontius. Others explain it more generally of sin—I honour My Father by good works, ye dishonour Him by your sins. So S. Augustine.

Ver. 50.—I seek not, &c. It is God the Father who will most sharply punish those who seek not My glory, but in every way dishonour and discredit Me. S. Chrysostom.

It may be said, “This is contrary to what Christ says (v. 22), The Father judgeth no man.” But there Christ speaks of the public and general judgment, here He speaks of the private and daily judgment with which He avenges the wrongs done to His Son and His saints, as by the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus for the death of Christ; as He here seems to hint. So Maldonatus and others. But the Gloss says, “There is one that judgeth who distinguishes My glory from yours; as David says, ‘Judge Me, O God, and distinguish My cause from that of the ungodly people’ ” (Ps. 43:1, Vulg.)

Ver. 51.—Verily, verily, I say. He says this not from indignation but from pity of the Jews, showing that He is seeking not His own glory, but their salvation. “I say in very truth,” and as S. Augustine thinks, he means I swear, “that if ye keep My commandments ye shall never die the death of the soul; ye shall never sin, for sin is the death of the soul. But ye shall ever live, here in the grace of God, and in heaven is His glory. Ye shall die indeed in the body, but I will raise you up in the day of judgment, and ye shall live in happiness of body and spirit for all eternity.” So S. Augustine.

Ver. 52.—Now we know, &c. “The devil suggests to Thee such proud and absurd boasting, that Thy word will drive away death from those who believe in Thee, when we see that Prophets and holy men, as Abraham, all died. But as says S. Gregory (Hom. xviii.), looking only to the death of the body, they were dark to the word of truth. For as Bede saith, “Abraham, though dead in the body, was alive in his soul.” Learn from this, thou Religious, thou Preacher, thou Christian, from thy Master to receive calumnies for thy good deeds, curses and ill-will for thy kindnesses. Learn also to be good to the ungrateful. For Christ, though unweariedly teaching the Jews, healing them, delivering them from evil spirits, yet patiently endured these contumelies and reproaches, ingratitude in return for kindnesses, blasphemies for miracles, and for His teaching derision and reprehension, and yet did not cease to benefit those who were ungrateful, the very highest point of patience and charity.

Abraham is dead, &c. Thou blasphemest then, in making thyself greater than Abraham and the Prophets, yea, even greater than God Himself, since the word of God could not deliver Abraham and the Prophets from the death. But yet the word of God, promulged by the lips of Christ, was more powerful than the word of God which was uttered to Abraham and the Prophets. And, moreover, Abraham and the Prophets were not dead in their souls, and though dead in the body were to be raised up by Christ to eternal life.

Ver. 53.—Art thou greater? &c. They considered it most absurd, and even blasphemous, for Christ to prefer Himself to Abraham, as He really did; for He was both God and man, though the Jews knew it not, or rather refused to believe it.

Ver. 54.—Jesus answered, &c. This was in answer to their question, Whom makest thou Thyself? He refers all His glory to His Father from whom He is, and who is God. What I say of Myself is of no value or weight, and that not only with you, as S. Chrysostom says, but with others. For in every court no one is believed on his own word but on the testimony of others, who witness for him (see chap. 5:31). Solomon also says, “Let another praise thee, and not thine own lips” (Prov. 27:2). The Arians objected that the Father glorifies the Son. He is therefore greater than the Son. S. Augustine replies, “Thou heretic, readest thou not that the Son Himself said that He glorifies His Father? But He also glorifies the Son, and the Son glorifies the Father. Put aside thy pernicious teaching, acknowledge their equality, correct thy perversity.”

Ver. 55.—Yet ye have not known Him, &c. (1.) Ye know not the true God whom ye worship; ye know Him not to be one in essence and threefold in person, for ye think Him to be one in Person, as He is one in essence. Ye know not that God is a Father, and that He begat Me His Son, and that we two by our Breath produced the Holy Ghost. For had ye known it, ye would certainly have known and believed Me to be the Messiah, the Son of God; and conversely, “if ye had known Me, ye would assuredly have known My Father,” says S. Chrysostom.

(2.) S. Augustine says, Ye believe that there is one God, though ye neither see nor hear Him (see chap. 5:37). Ye ought therefore equally to believe in Me His Son, on account of the many signs and wonders which I work, though ye see not the Godhead which is hid within. (3.) Ye have not known Him, ye have not believed His testimony, This is My beloved Son; for ye know not, or rather would not know, that this was the true voice of God. (4.) Euthymius explains, “Ye have not shown that ye know Him, because ye live wickedly, not as worshippers of God, but like idolatrous Gentiles, professing, as S. Paul says, to know Him (Tit. 1:16), but in works denying Him.”

And if I say, &c. Maldonatus thinks that Christ called the Jews “liars,” because they said to Him, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.” For these were two most gross falsehoods, nay even blasphemies. But S. Chrysostom, Ammonius, and Theophylact are more to the point in asserting that they were called “liars,” because they lied in saying that they knew God. For they believed not that He had a Son, and was threefold in His personality.

But I know Him, &c. Theophylact explains it thus, “I show by my life and conduct that I know, reverence, and worship God, because I reverently observe and constantly fulfil His word. Or it may be explained, even better, in this way. Because I acknowledge God the Father, and clearly perceive His Majesty, Power, and Holiness; I therefore, as man, greatly reverence Him, and clearly and fully observe His precept, which ye Jews do not observe, because ye know not nor comprehend His Majesty, and therefore do not reverence it.” So Theophylact. Moreover, S. Augustine says, “He spake as the Son, the Word of the Father, and was the very Word of the Father Who spake to men.” And He fitly said the “word,” not the “precept,” because He Himself was the Word of the Father, and the Father had ordered Him to announce to men that very truth, that they should acknowledge, believe, and worship God the Father and God the Son.

Ver. 56.—Your father Abraham, &c. He longed for it with exulting mind; “He feared not, but exulted,” says S. Augustine. “Believing he exulted with hope, that he might see by understanding.” It is a catachresis. But what day? S. Augustine understands by it, that day of all eternity, wherein from all eternity the Son was begotten of the Father. “He wished to know My eternal generation and My Godhead, that he might believe in it, and be thereby saved.” “He saw,” says S. Augustine, “My day, because he acknowledged the mystery of the Trinity.” (Bede follows him, as usual.) S. Jerome (on Dan. 8.) and S. Gregory (in loc.) say that it was the day when, by the three angels that appeared to him, only one of whom spoke to him, the mystery of the Trinity was by symbols revealed to him; he saw three but adored one (Gen. 18:2).

(1.) But others generally refer it to the day of His Humanity, and thus understand it of the day of His Passion, Crucifixion, and death. See S. Chrysostom, &c. (2.) It is more simple to understand it of the day of His Incarnation. For all the Prophets and Patriarchs earnestly longed for the coming of Christ, to free them from their sins and from their imperfect state (limbo). “To see” (says John Alba) “is to enjoy the happiness and blessings brought by Christ.” The word has often that meaning, as in the Psalm “to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” i.e., to enjoy it.

He saw it. By faith, and again in a figure when he was commanded by God to offer up his son Isaac, which was a type of Christ’s offering on the Cross. So S. Chrysostom and S. Augustine, and S. Bernard (Serm. vi. de. Vigil Natalis) adds that by smiting on his thigh he signified that Christ was to come from his race.

(2.) He knew by prophetical revelation. But this would not be “seeing.”

(3.) The genuine meaning is, he saw from his own place (in limbo). He knew the day when Christ was incarnate and was born, not only from what Simeon told him, when he met him in the place below (in limbo), but also from what Anna the Prophetess, Zacharias, Anna the Virgin’s Mother, and S. John the Baptist told him, but he saw it by intuitive perception. He saw all, just as the Blessed in heaven behold all things on earth and under the earth, and as S. Anselm saw with his eyes lifted up by God what was doing behind a wall. Abraham longingly desired to see this, as if present. For the promise that Christ should be born of him had been frequently made him by God. And it was due to him, in consequence of his faith, obedience, and many merits, that as the father of the faithful, who for so long a time, without any fault of his own, was so long detained in prison (limbo), most eagerly looking for Christ to deliver him, might for his own consolation, and that of his fellow-patriarchs, and in solace of their long and anxious expectation, know the very day when Christ was Incarnate and born. For two thousand years had he eagerly waited for Christ and sighed for His birth. And therefore God revealed it to him by His Spirit, and then Abraham and all the Saints in prison rejoiced and were glad. So Jansen, Maldonatus, and others. Lastly, the angels who comfort souls in Purgatory, much more consoled the souls of Abraham and the Patriarchs (in limbo), even as the same angels announced that much longed-for birth to the shepherds. Christ said this, (1.) To show that He was greater than Abraham, and that He was God, (2.) to show how highly He was valued, though absent, by Abraham, though the Jews despised Him when present among them. (3.) And also to prick their consciences indirectly in this way: “Abraham had so great a longing for Me, but ye have rejected Me. Ye are therefore not true children of Abraham, but spurious and degenerate.” He says “Abraham your father,” whose children ye glory in being, though I do not glory in him, but he rather glories and exults in Me.

Ver. 57.—Thou art not yet, &c. So that Abraham on his part could have seen Thee, and rejoiced at the sight. Irenæus hence infers that Christ lived fifty years on earth (adv. Hœr. ii. 39, 40). But it is the common opinion that He was on earth for only thirty-four (and those not complete) years. S. Chrysostom and Euthymius read forty years, but the common reading is fifty. The Jews seem to have been thinking of the Jubilee. “Thou hast not reached one Jubilee, how then canst Thou say that Thou hast seen Abraham, who lived forty Jubilees before?” (So Severus of Antioch in Catena.) But Euthymius thinks that Christ seemed to the Jews, by reason of the maturity of His judgment and the gravity of His bearing, and also from the labours He had undergone in journeying and preaching, to be fifty years old. But you may easily say that the Jews, in order to avoid exception or mistake, put His age much higher than they knew He had attained to.

Ver. 58.—Jesus said, &c. That is, I am God. The word am denotes eternity, which is ever present, and has no past or future. I am eternal, immutable, and ever the same. So S. Augustine, Bede, S. Gregory. I as God exceed the age of Abraham not by fifty years, but by infinite durations of years. For as Tertullian (de Trinit.) says, unless He had been God, He could not, as being descended from Abraham, have been before him. Hear S. Augustine on this passage, “Before Abraham was made, that refers to human nature, but I am pertains to the Divine Substance; was made (Vulg.), because Abraham was a creature. He said not, ‘Before Abraham was, I am,’ but Before Abraham was made, I am. Nor did He say, ‘Before Abraham was made, I was made.’ For in the beginning God made heaven and earth; for in the beginning was the Word. Before Abraham was made, I am. Acknowledge the Creator, distinguish the creature. He who spake was made of the seed of Abraham; and in order that Abraham might be made, He was (existed) before Abraham.”

Ver. 59.—Then they took up, &c., as a blasphemer, who placed Himself above Abraham, and made Himself equal to God. Blasphemers were ordered to be stoned (Lev. 26:16). It is clear that these Jews were not those who were said to have believed in Him (as Theophylact supposes), but the others who were opposed to Christ. “And to what should such hardness betake itself but to stones?” says. S. Augustine (in loc.) “They sought to crush Him, whom, they could not understand,” says S. Gregory (Hom. xviii.)

But Jesus hid Himself, &c. He made Himself invisible, and thus passed unharmed through the midst of them. So Leontius and others. S. Gregory says, “Had He willed to exercise His power, He would have bound them in their sins, or would have plunged them into the pains of eternal death. But He who came to suffer, would not exercise judgment.” And S. Augustine, “He would rather commend to us His patience, than exercise His power. He forsakes them, since they would not accept His correction. He hides not Himself in a corner of the temple, as if afraid, or running into a cottage, or turning aside behind a wall or column: but by His Divine Power making Himself invisible, He passed through their midst. As man He fled from the stones, but woe to them from whose stony hearts God flies away.

Morally, we are taught by this example (says S. Gregory) humbly to avoid the anger of the proud, even when we have the power to resist them.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 11:1-46

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 18, 2017

11:1–5

1. Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.

2. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)

3. Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.

4. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

5. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

Bede. (non occ.) After our Lord had departed to the other side of Jordan, it happened that Lazarus fell sick: A certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany. In some copies the copulative conjunction precedes, to mark the connection with the words preceding. (ἢν δέ τις, now a certain man.) Lazarus signifies helped. Of all the dead which our Lord raised, he was most helped, for he had lain dead four days, when our Lord raised him to life.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 1.) The resurrection of Lazarus is more spoken of than any of our Lord’s miracles. But if we bear in mind who He was who wrought this miracle, we shall feel not so much of wonder, as of delight. He who made the man, raised the man; and it is a greater thing to create a man, than to revive him. Lazarus was sick at Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. The place was near Jerusalem.

Alcuin. And as there were many women of this name, He distinguishes her by her well-known act: It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.

Chrysostom. (Greg. Hom. lxii. 1.) First we are to observe that this was not the harlot mentioned in Luke, but an honest woman, who treated our Lord with marked reverence.

Augustine. (de Con. Ev. ii. lxxix.) John here confirms the passage in Luke (Luke 7:38), where this is said to have taken place in the house of one Simon a Pharisee: Mary had done this act therefore on a former occasion. That she did it again at Bethany is not mentioned in the narrative of Luke, but is in the other three Gospels.

Augustine. (de Verb. Dom. s. lii) A cruel sickness had seized Lazarus; a wasting fever was eating away the body of the wretched man day by day: his two sisters sat sorrowful at his bedside, grieving for the sick youth continually. They sent to Jesus: Therefore his sisters sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold he whom Thou lovest is sick.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 5.) They did not say, Come and heal; they dared not say, Speak the word there, and it shall be done here; but only, Behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick. As if to say, It is enough that Thou know it, Thou art not one to love and then to desert whom Thou lovest.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) They hope to excite Christ’s pity by these words, Whom as yet they thought to be a man only. Like the centurion and nobleman, they sent, not went, to Christ; partly from their great faith in Him, for they knew Him intimately, partly because their sorrow kept them at home.

Theophylact. And because they were women, and it did not become them to leave their home if they could help it. Great devotion and faith is expressed in these words, Behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick. Such was their idea of our Lord’s power, that they were surprised, that one, whom He loved, could be seized with sickness.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 6.) When Jesus heard that, He said, This sickness is not unto death. For this death itself was not unto death, but to give occasion for a miracle; whereby men might be brought to believe in Christ, and so escape real death. It was for the glory of God, wherein observe that our Lord calls Himself God by implication, thus confounding those heretics who say that the Son of God is not God. For the glory of what God? Hear what follows, That the Son of God might be glorified thereby, i. e. by that sickness.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) That here signifies not the cause, but the event. The sickness sprang from natural causes, but He turned it to the glory of God.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 7.) He is sick, they sorrowful, all beloved. Wherefore they had hope, for they were beloved by Him Who is the Comforter of the sorrowful, and the Healer of the sick.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii non occ. v. lxii. 3.) Wherein the Evangelist instructs us not to be sad, if sickness ever falls upon good men, and friends of God.

11:6–10

6. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.

7. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judæa again.

8. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?

9. Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.

10. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.

Alcuin. Our Lord heard of the sickness of Lazarus, but suffered four days to pass before He cured it; that the recovery might be a more wonderful one. When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the place where He was.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) To give time for his death and burial, that they might say, he stinketh, and none doubt that it was death, and not a trance, from which he was raised.

Then after that saith He to His disciples, Let us go into Judæa again.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 7.) Where He had just escaped being stoned; for this was the cause of His leaving. He left indeed as man: He left in weakness, but He returns in power.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) He had not as yet told His disciples where He was going; but now He tells them, in order to prepare them beforehand, for they are in great alarm, when they hear of it: His disciples say unto Him, Master, the Jews sought to stone Thee, and goest Thou thither again? They feared both for Him, and for themselves; for they were not yet confirmed in faith.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 8.) When men presumed to give advice to God, disciples to their Master, our Lord rebuked them: Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? He shewed Himself to be the day, by appointing twelve disciples: i. e. reckoning Matthias in the place of Judas, and passing over the latter altogether. The hours are lightened by the day; that by the preaching of the hours, the world may believe on the day. Follow Me then, saith our Lord, if ye wish not to stumble: If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world: But if a man walk in the night he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) As if to say, The upright need fear no evil: the wicked only have cause to fear. We have done nothing worthy of death, and therefore are in no danger. Or, If any one seeth this world’s light, he is safe; much more he who is with Me.

Theophylact. Some understand the day to be the time preceding the Passion, the night to be the Passion. In this sense, while it is day, would mean, before My Passion; Ye will not stumble before My Passion, because the Jews will not persecute you; but when the night, i. e. My Passion, cometh, then shall ye be beset with darkness and difficulties.

11:11–16

11. These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.

12. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.

13. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.

14. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

15. And I am glad for your sakes I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

16. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) After He has comforted His disciples in one way, He comforts them in another, by telling them that they were not going to Jerusalem, but to Bethany: These things saith He: and after that He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep: as if to say, I am not going to dispute again with the Jews, but to awaken our friend. Our friend, He says, to shew how strongly they were bound to go.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. c. 9.) It was really true that He was sleeping. To our Lord, he was sleeping; to men who could not raise him again, he was dead. Our Lord awoke him with as much ease from his grave, as thou awakest a sleeper from his bed. He calls him then asleep, with reference to His own power, as the Apostle saith, But I would not have you to be ignorant, concerning them which are asleep. (1 Thess. 4:13) Asleep, He says, because He is speaking of their resurrection which was to be. But as it matters to those who sleep and wake again daily, what they see in their sleep, some having pleasant dreams, others painful ones, so it is in death; every one sleeps and rises again with his own account.a

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) The disciples however wished to prevent Him going to Judæa: Then said His disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Sleep is a good sign in sickness. And therefore if he sleep, say they, what need to go and awake him.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 11.) The disciples replied, as they understood Him: Howbeit Jesus spake of his death; but they thought that He had spoken of taking rest in sleep.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) But if any one say, that the disciples could not but have known that our Lord meant Lazarus’s death, when He said, that I may awake him; because it would have been absurd to have gone such a distance merely to awake Lazarus out of sleep; we answer, that our Lord’s words were a kind of enigma to the disciples, here as elsewhere often.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 11.) He then declares His meaning openly: Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) But He does not add here, I go that I may awake him. He did not wish to anticipate the miracle by talking of it; a hint to us to shun vain glory, and abstain from empty promises.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 11.) He had been sent for to restore Lazarus from sickness, not from death. But how could the death be hid from Him, into whose hands the soul of the dead had flown?

And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that ye might believe; i. e. seeing My marvellous power of knowing a thing I have neither seen nor heard. The disciples already believed in Him in consequence of His miracles; so that their faith had not now to begin, but only to increase. That ye might believe, means, believe more deeply, more firmly.

Theophylact. Some have understood this place thus. I rejoice, He says, for your sakes; for if I had been there, I should have only cured a sick man; which is but an inferior sign of power. But since in My absence he has died, ye will now see that I can raise even the dead putrefying body; and your faith will be strengthened.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) The disciples all dreaded the Jews; and especially Thomas; Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. But he who was now the most weak and unbelieving of all the disciples, afterwards became stronger than any. And he who dared not go to Bethany, afterwards went over the whole earth, in the midst of those who wished his death, with a spirit indomitable.

Bede. The disciples, checked by our Lord’s answer to them, dared no longer oppose; and Thomas, more forward than the rest, says, Let us also go that we may die with him. What an appearance of firmness! He speaks as if he could really do what he said; unmindful, like Peter, of his frailty.

11:17–27

17. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.

18. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:

19. And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

20. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.

21. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

22. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

23. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.

24. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

25. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

26. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

27. She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Alcuin. Our Lord delayed His coming for four days, that the resurrection of Lazarus might be the more glorious: Then when Jesus came, He found that He had lain in the grave four days already.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) Our Lord had stayed two days, and the messenger had come the day before; the very day on which Lazarus died. This brings us to the fourth day.

Augustine. (Tract. xlix. 12.) Of the four days many things may be said. They refer to one thing, but one thing viewed in different ways. There is one day of death which the law of our birth brings upon us. Men transgress the natural law, and this is another day of death. The written law is given to men by the hands of Moses, and that is despised—a third day of death. The Gospel comes, and men transgress it—a fourth day of death. But Christ doth not disdain to awaken even these.

Alcuin. The first sin was elation of heart, the second assent, the third act, the fourth habit.

Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) Two miles. This is mentioned to account for so many coming from Jerusalem: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. But how could the Jews be consoling the beloved of Christ, when they had resolved that whoever confessed Christ should be put out of the synagogue? Perhaps the extreme affliction of the sisters excited their sympathy; or they wished to shew respect for their rank. Or perhaps they who came were of the better sort; as we find many of them believed. Their presence is mentioned to do away with all doubt of the real death of Lazarus.

Bede. Our Lord had not yet entered the town, when Martha met Him: Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) Martha does not take her sister with her, because she wants to speak with Christ alone, and tell Him what has happened. When her hopes had been raised by Him, then she went her way, and called Mary.

Theophylact. At first she does not tell her sister, for fear, if she came, the Jews present might accompany her. And she did not wish them to know of our Lord’s coming.

Then saith Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) She believed in Christ, but she believed not as she ought. She did not speak as if He were God: If Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Theophylact. She did not know that He could have restored her brother as well absent as present.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) Nor did she know that He wrought His miracles by His own independent power: But I know that even now, whatsoever Thou will ask of God, God will give it Thee. She only thinks Him some very gifted man.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 13.) She does not say to Him, Bring my brother to life again; for how could she know that it would be good for him to come to life again; she says, I know that Thou canst do so, if Thou wilt; but what Thou wilt do is for Thy judgment, not for my presumption to determine.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) But our Lord taught her the truths which she did not know: Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Observe, He does not say, I will ask God, that he may rise again, nor on the other hand does He say, I want no help, I do all things of Myself; a declaration which would have been too much for the woman; but something between the two, He shall rise again.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 14.) Shall rise again, is ambiguous: for He does not say, now. And therefore it follows: Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day: of that resurrection I am certain; of this I am doubtful.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii.) She had often heard Christ speak of the resurrection. Jesus now declares His power more plainly: Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life. He needed therefore none to help Him; for if He did, how could He be the resurrection. And if He is the life, He is not confined by place, but is every where, and can heal every where.

Alcuin. I am the resurrection, because I am the life; as through Me he will rise at the general resurrection, through Me he may rise now.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii.) To Martha’s, Whatsoever Thou shall ask, He replies, He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: shewing her that He is the Giver of all good, and that we must ask of Him. Thus He leads her to the knowledge of high truths; and whereas she had been enquiring only about the resurrection of Lazarus, tells her of a resurrection in which both she and all present would share.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 15.) He that believeth in Me, though he were dead: i. e. though his flesh die, his soul shall live till the flesh rise again, never to die more. For faith is the life of the soul.

And whosoever liveth, in the flesh, and believeth in Me, though he die for a time in the flesh, shall not die eternally.

Alcuin. Because He hath attained to the life of the Spirit, and to an immortal resurrection. Our Lord, from Whom nothing was hid, knew that she believed, but sought from her a confession unto salvation: Believest thou this? She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) She seems not to have understood His words; i. e. she saw that He meant something great, but did not see what that was. She is asked one thing, and answers another.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 15.) When I believed that Thou wert the Son of God, I believed that Thou wert the resurrection, that Thou wert lifeb; and that he that believeth in Thee, though he were dead, shall live.

11:28–32

28. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.

29. And as soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.

30. Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.

31. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.

32. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) Christ’s words had the effect of stopping Martha’s grief. In her devotion to her Master she had no time to think of her afflictions: And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 16.) Silently1, i. e. speaking in a low voice. For she did speak, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii.) She calls her sister secretly, in order not to let the Jews know that Christ was coming. (non occ.). For had they known, they would have gone, and not been witnesses of the miracle.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 16.) We may observe that the Evangelist has not said, where, or when, or how, the Lord called Mary, but for brevity’s sake has left it to be gathered from Martha’s words.

Theophylact. Perhaps she thought the presence of Christ in itself a call, as if it were inexcusable, when Christ came, that she should not go out to meet Him.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) While the rest sat around her in her sorrow, she did not wait for the Master to come to her, but, not letting her grief detain her, rose immediately to meet Him; As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto Him.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. non occ.) So we see, if she had known of His arrival before, she would not have let Martha go without her.

Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met Him.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) He went slowly, that He might not seem to catch at an occasion of working a miracle, but to have it forced upon Him by others asking. Mary, it is said, arose quickly, and thus anticipated His coming. The Jews accompanied her: The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary that she arose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 16.) The Evangelist mentions this to shew how it was that so many were present at Lazarus’ resurrection, and witness of that great miracle.

Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) She is more fervent than her sister. Forgetful of the crowd around her, and of the Jews, some of whom were enemies to Christ, she threw herself at her Master’s feet. In His presence all earthly things were nought to her; she thought of nothing but giving Him honour.

Theophylact. But her faith seems as yet imperfect: Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Alcuin. As if to say, Lord, while Thou wert with us, no disease, no sickness dared to shew itself, amongst those with whom the Life deigned to take up His abode.

Augustine. (de Verb. Dom. s. lii) O faithless assembly! Whilst Thou art yet in the world, Lazarus Thy friend dieth! If the friend dies, what will the enemy suppose? Is it a small thing that they will not serve Thee upon earth? lo, hell hath taken Thy beloved.

Bede. Mary did not say so much as Martha, she could not bring out what she wanted for weeping, as is usual with persons overwhelmed with sorrow.

11:33–41

33. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,

34. And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.

35. Jesus wept.

36. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!

37. And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?

38. Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.

39. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

40. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

41. Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) Christ did not answer Mary, as He had her sister, on account of the people present. In condescension to them He humbled Himself, and let His human nature be seen, in order to gain them as witnesses to the miracle: When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in His spirit, and was troubled.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix.) For who but Himself could trouble Him? Christ was troubled, because it pleased Him to be troubled; He hungered, because it pleased Him to hunger. It was in His own power to be affected in this or that way, or not. The Word took up soul and flesh, and whole man, and fitted it to Himself in unity of person. And thus according to the nod and will of that higher nature in Him, in which the sovereign power resides, He becomes weak and troubled.

Theophylact. To prove His human nature He sometimes gives it free vent, while at other times He commands, and restrains it by the power of the Holy Ghost. Our Lord allows His nature to be affected in these ways, both to prove that He is very Man, not Man in appearance only; and also to teach us by His own example the due measures of joy and grief. For the absence altogether of sympathy and sorrow is brutal, the excess of them is womanly.

Augustine. (de Ver. Dom. s. lii) And said, Where have ye laid him? He knew where, but He asked to try the faith of the people.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) He did not wish to thrust the miracle upon them, but to make them ask for it, and thus do away with all suspicions.

Augustine. (lib. 83. Quæst. qu. lxv.) The question has an allusion too to our hidden calling. That predestination by which we are called, is hidden; and the sign of its being so is our Lord asking the question: He being as it were in ignorance, so long as we are ignorant ourselves. Or because our Lord elsewhere shews that He knows not sinners, saying, I know you not, (Matt. 7:23) because in keeping His commandments there is no sin.

They said unto Him, Lord, come and see.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) He had not yet raised any one from the dead; and seemed as if He came to weep, not to raise to life. Wherefore they say to Him, Come and see.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 20.) The Lord sees when He pities, as we read, Look upon my adversity and misery, and forgive me all my sin. (Ps. 25:18.)

Jesus wept.

Alcuin. Because He was the fountain of pity. He wept in His human nature for him whom He was able to raise again by His divine.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. non occ.) Wherefore did Christ weep, but to teach men to weep?

Bede. It is customary to mourn over the death of friends; and thus the Jews explained our Lord’s weeping: Then said the Jews, Behold how He loved him.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 21.) Loved him. Our Lord came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. And some of them said, Could not this Man which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? He was about to do more than this, to raise him from death.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) It was His enemies who said this. The very works, which should have evidenced His power, they turn against Him, as if He had not really done them. This is the way that they speak of the miracle of opening the eyes of the man that was born blind. They even prejudge Christ before He has come to the grave, and have not the patience to wait for the issue of the matter. Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself, cometh to the grave. That He wept, and He groaned, are mentioned to shew us the reality of His human nature. John who enters into higher statements as to His nature than any of the other Evangelists, also descends lower than any in describing His bodily affections.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix.) And do thou too groan in thyself, if thou wouldest rise to new life. To every man is this said, who is weighed down by any vicious habit. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. The dead under the stone is the guilty under the Law. For the Law, which was given to the Jews, was graven on stone. And all the guilty are under the Law, for the Law was not made for a righteous man.

Bede. A cave is a hollow in a rock. It is called a monument, because it reminds us of the dead.

Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 2.) But why did He not raise him without taking away the stone? Could not He who moved a dead body by His voice, much more have moved a stone? He purposely did not do so, in order that the miracle might take place in the sight of all; to give no room for saying, as they had said in the case of the blind man, This is not he. Now they might go into the grave, and feel and see that this was the man.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. c. 22.) Take ye away the stone; mystically, Take away the burden of the law, proclaim grace.

Augustine. (lib. 83. Quæst. qu. 61.) Perhaps those are signified who wished to impose the rite of circumcision on the Gentile converts; or men in the Church of corrupt life, who offend believers.

Augustine. (de Ver. Dom. serm. lii) Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, though they had often seen Christ raise the dead, did not fully believe that He could raise their brother; Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days.

Theophylact. Martha said this from weakness of faith, thinking it impossible that Christ could raise her brother, so long after death.

Bede. (non occ. [Nic.]) Or, these are not words of despair, but of wonder.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 2.) Thus every thing tends to stop the mouths of the unbelieving. Their hands take away the stone, their ears hear Christ’s voice, their eyes see Lazarus come forth, they perceive the smell of the dead body.

Theophylact. Christ reminds Martha of what He had told her before, which she had forgotten: Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii.) She did not remember what He said above, He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. To the disciples He had said, That the Son of God might be glorified thereby; here it is the glory of the Father He speaks of. The difference is made to suit the different hearers. Our Lord could not rebuke her before such a number, but only says, Thou shalt see the glory of God.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix.) Herein is the glory of God, that he that stinketh and hath been dead four days, is brought to life again.

Then they took away the stone.

Origen. (tom. in Joan. xxviii.) The delay in taking away the stone was caused by the sister of the dead, who said, By this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days. If she had not said this, it would not be said, Jesus said, Take away the stone. Some delay had arisen; it is best to let nothing come between the commands of Jesus and doing them.

11:41–46

41. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.

42. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

43. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

44. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

45. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.

46. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.

Alcuin. Christ, as man, being inferior to the Father, prays to Him for Lazarus’s resurrection; and declares that He is heard: And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me.

Origen. (tom. xxviii.) He lifted up His eyes; mystically, He lifted up the human mind by prayer to the Father above. We should pray after Christ’s pattern, Lift up the eyes of our heart, and raise them above present things in memory, in thought, in intention. If to them who pray worthily after this fashion is given the promise in Isaiah, Thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am; (Isa. 58:9) what answer, think we, our Lord and Saviour would receive? He was about to pray for the resurrection of Lazarus. He was heard by the Father before He prayed; His request was granted before made. And therefore He begins with giving thanks; I thank Thee, Father, that Thou hast heard Me.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiv. 2.) i. e. There is no difference of will between Me and Thee. Thou hast heard Me, does not shew any lack of power in Him, or that He is inferior to the Father. It is a phrase that is used between friends and equals. That the prayer is not really necessary for Him, appears from the words that follow, And I knew that Thou heardest Me always: as if He said, I need not prayer to persuade Thee; for Ours is one will. He hides His meaning on account of the weak faith of His hearers. For God regards not so much His own dignity, as our salvation; and therefore seldom speaks loftily of Himself, and, even when He does, speaks in an obscure way; whereas humble expressions abound in His discourses.

Hilary. (lib. x. de Trin.) He did not therefore need to pray: He prayed for our sakes, that we might know Him to be the Son: But because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me. His prayer did not benefit Himself, but benefited our faith. He did not want help, but we want instruction.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiv. 2.) He did not say, That they may believe that I am inferior to Thee, in that I cannot do this without prayer, but, that Thou hast sent Me. He saith not, hast sent Me weak, acknowledging subjection, doing nothing of Myself, but hast sent Me in such sense, as that man may see that I am from God, not contrary to God; and that I do this miracle in accordance with His will.

Augustine. (de Verb. Dom. Serm. lii) Christ went to the grave in which Lazarus slept, as if He were not dead, but alive and able to hear, for He forthwith called him out of his grave: And when He had thus spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. He calls him by name, that He may not bring out all the dead.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiv. 2.) He does not say, Arise, but, Come forth, speaking to the dead as if he were alive. For which reason also He does not say, Come forth in My Father’s name, or, Father, raise him, but throwing off the whole appearance of one praying, proceeds to shew His power by acts. This is His general way. His words shew humility, His acts power.

Theophylact. The voice which roused Lazarus, is the symbol of that trumpet which will sound at the general resurrection. (He spoke loud, to contradict the Gentile fable, that the soul remained in the tomb. The soul of Lazarus is called to as if it were absent, and a loud voice were necessary to summon it.) And as the general resurrection is to take place in the twinkling of an eye, so did this single one: And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was bound about with a napkin. Now is accomplished what was said above, The hour is coming, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. (5:25)

Origen. (t. xxviii.) His cry and loud voice it was which awoke him, as Christ had said, I go to awake him. The resurrection of Lazarus is the work of the Father also, in that He heard the prayer of the Son. It is the joint work of Father and Son, one praying, the other hearing; for as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. (5:21)

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiv.) He came forth bound, that none might suspect that he was a mere phantom. Besides, that this very fact, viz. of coming forth bound, was itself a miracle, as great as the resurrection. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, that by going near and touching him they might be certain he was the very person. And let him go. His humility is shewn here; He does not take Lazarus about with Him for the sake of display.

Origen. (t. xxviii. 10.) Our Lord had said above, Because of the people that stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me. It would have been ignorance of the future, if He had said this, and none believed, after all. Therefore it follows: Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him. But some of them went their way to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. It is doubtful from these words, whether those who went to the Pharisees, were of those many who believed, and meant to conciliate the opponents of Christ; or whether they were of the unbelieving party, and wished to inflame the envy of the Pharisees against Him. The latter seems to me the true supposition; especially as the Evangelist describes those who believed as the larger party. Many believed; whereas it is only a few who go to the Pharisees: Some of them went to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.

Augustine. (lib. lxxxiii. Quæst. q. 65.) Although according to the Gospel history, we hold that Lazarus was really raised to life, yet I doubt not that his resurrection is an allegory as well. We do not, because we allegorize facts, lose our belief in them as facts.

Augustine. (Tr. super Joan. xlix. 3.) Every one that sinneth, dies; but God, of His great mercy, raises the soul to life again, and does not suffer it to die eternally. The three miraculous resurrections in the Gospels, I understand to testify the resurrection of the soul.

Gregory. (iv. Moral. c. xxix.) The maiden is restored to life in the house, the young man outside the gate, Lazarus in his grave. She that lies dead in the house, is the sinner lying in sin: he that is carried out by the gate is the openly and notoriously wicked.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 3.) Or, it is death within; when the evil thought has not come out into action. But if thou actually do the evil thing, thou hast as it were carried the dead outside the gate.

Gregory. (v. Moral.) And one there is who lies dead in his grave, with a load of earth upon him; i. e. who is weighed down by habits of sin. But the Divine grace has regard even unto such, and enlightens them.

Augustine. (lib. lxxxii. Quæst. q. lxv.) Or we may take Lazarus in the grave as the soul laden with earthly sins.

Augustine. (in Joan. Tr. xlix.) And yet our Lord loved Lazarus. For had He not loved sinners, He would never have come down from heaven to save them. Well is it said of one of sinful habits, that He stinketh. He hath a bad report1 already, as it were the foulest odour.

Augustine. (lib. lxxxiii. Quæst. q. 65.) Well may she say, He hath been dead four days. For the earth is the last of the elements. It signifies the pit of earthly sins, i. e. carnal lusts.

Augustine. (Tract. in Joan. xlix. 19.) The Lord groaned, wept, cried with a loud voice. It is hard for Him to arise, who is bowed down with the weight of evil habits. Christ troubleth Himself, to signify to thee that thou shouldest be troubled, when thou art pressed and weighed down with such a mass of sin. Faith groaneth, he that is displeased with himself groaneth, and accuseth his own evil deeds; that so the habit of sin may yield to the violence of repentance. When thou sayest, I have done such a thing, and God has spared me; I have heard the Gospel, and despised it; what shall I do? then Christ groaneth, because faith groaneth; and in the voice of thy groaning appeareth the hope of thy rising again.

Gregory. (xxii. Moral.) Lazarus is bid to come forth, i. e. to come forth and condemn himself with his own mouth, without excuse or reservation: that so he that lies buried in a guilty conscience, may come forth out of himself by confession.

Augustine. (lib. lxxxiii. Quæst. q. 65.) That Lazarus came forth from the grave, signifies the soul’s deliverance from carnal sins. That he came bound up in grave clothes means, that even we who are delivered from carnal things, and serve with the mind the law of God, yet cannot, so long as we are in the body, be free from the besetments of the flesh. That his face was bound about with a napkin means, that we do not attain to full knowledge in this life. And when our Lord says, Loose him, and let him go, we learn that in another world all veils will be removed, and that we shall see face to face.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix.) Or thus: When thou despisest, thou liest dead; when thou confessest, thou comest forth. For what is to come forth, but to go out, as it were, of thy hiding place, and shew thyself? But thou canst not make this confession, except God move thee to it, by crying with a loud voice, i. e. calling thee with great grace. But even after the dead man has come forth, he remains bound for some time, i. e. is as yet only a penitent. Then our Lord says to His ministers, Loose him, and let him go, i. e. remit his sins: Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt. 18:18)

Alcuin. Christ awakes, because His power it is which quickens us inwardly: the disciples loose, because by the ministry of the priesthood, they who are quickened are absolved.

Bede. By those who went and told the Pharisees, are meant those who seeing the good works of God’s servants, hate them on that very account, persecute, and calumniate them.

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