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Commentary On The Gospel According To Saint John Volumes 1&2

BOOK I

EXACT of a truth, and God-taught is the mind of the holy Evangelists, from the splendour of their power to behold, as from some lofty mountain-spur and watch-peak, on all sides observing what is of profit to the hearers, and tracking with intent zeal whatever may seem to be of profit to those who thirst after the truth of the Divine dogmas and with good purpose search after the mind that is hidden in the Divine Scriptures. For not in those who search too curiously, and take pleasure in the many-tangled wiles of reasonings, rather than rejoice in the truth, does the Spirit make His revelation, since neither does He enter into a malicious soul, nor otherwise does He suffer His precious pearls to be rolled at the feet of swine. But with exceeding pleasure does He have fellowship with simpler minds, as having a more guileless motion, and shunning superfluous subtleties, whereto specially pertains the meeting with sudden fear, and from too great turning aside unto the right hand to err from the straight and royal road. For he that walketh simply walketh surely, as saith Solomon.

But while the holy Evangelists have a marvellous exactness in writing (for it is not they that speak, as the Saviour saith, but the Spirit of the Father which is in them): reasonably may one grant that the Book of John has been composed beyond all marvel, looking both to the supereminence of his thoughts, the keenness of his intellect, and the constant and close-succeeding cumulation of conceptions. For course-fellows are they one with another in the exposition of the Divine dogmas, and loosing as it were from the starting line they course charioteers to one goal. But a diverse fashion of speech is wrought out by them, and they appear to me to resemble persons, who are ordered to come together unto one city, but care not to approach it by one and the same beaten road. Thus one may see the other Evangelists with great exactness giving the account of our Saviour’s genealogy in the Flesh, and bringing down step by step those from Abraham unto Joseph, or again carrying up those from Joseph to Adam. But we find the blessed John not earing to be over-studious about these, but with a most fervent and fire-full motion of intellect endeavouring to lay hold of those very things that are above human mind, and daring to explain the unspeakable and unutterable Generation of God the Word. For he knew that the glory of God hideth speech, and greater than our idea and utterance is the God-befitting dignity, and hard to utter and most difficult of unfolding are the properties of the Divine Nature.

But since it was necessary in some sort to mete out heaven with the span, and to suffer the scant measures of human nature to approach to what is by all unattainable and hard to be explained, that the approach might not be opened out for who teach otherwise to come against the more simple, in that no voice of the saints who have been eyewitnesses and ministers of the word held in check their ill-surmisings, keen comes he to the very essence of the Divine dogmas, crying aloud, 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.

But I think that those who are engaged on the Holy Scriptures ought to admit all writings that are honest and good and free from harm. For thus collecting together the varied thoughts of many and bringing them together into one scope and understanding, they will mount up to a good measure of knowledge, and imitating the bee, wise workwoman, will compact the sweet honeycomb of the Spirit.

Some then of those of most research, say that after our Saviour’s Cross and Ascension into Heaven, certain false shepherds and false teachers falling like wild beasts on the Saviour’s flocks terrified them not a little, speaking out of their own heart, it is written, and not out of the mouth of the Lord; yea rather, not merely out of their own heart, but out of the teachings of their own father, I mean the devil. For if no one can call Jesus Anathema, save in Beelzebub, how is not what we say of them clearly true? What things then are they which these men belched forth against their own head? They ignorantly and impiously affirmed that the Only-Begotten Word of God, the Eternal Light, in Whom we both move and are, was then first called into being, when He was born Man of the Holy Virgin, and taking this our common fashion, shewed Himself upon earth, as it is written, and conversed with men. On those then who are thus disposed, and who dare to slander the ineffable and eternal Generation of the Son, the word of the Prophet comes heavily, saying thus: But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulteress and the whore, against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth and draw out the tongue? not bringing forth good things out of a good heart, but spueing forth the venom of the blood-defiled dragon, of whom saith the Psalmist unto the one God That is over all: Thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.

But since there was no slight disturbance in regard to these things amongst them that had believed, and the ill of the scandal thereof was consuming like a plague the souls of the simpler (for some drawn away from the true doctrines by their prattle imagined that the Word was then barely called to the beginning of Being, when He became Man), those of the believers who were wiser being assembled and met together, came to the Disciple of the Saviour (I mean this John) and declared the disease that was pressing upon the brethren, and unfolded to him the prattle of them that teach otherwise, and besought that he would both strenuously assist themselves with the illumination through the Spirit, and stretch forth a saving hand to those who were already within the devil’s meshes.

The disciple grieving then over them that were lost and corrupted in mind, and at the same time thinking it most unnatural to take no forethought for those that should succeed and come after, betakes himself to making the book: and the more human side, the genealogy of the legal and natural Birth according to the flesh, he left to the other Evangelists to tell at fuller length; himself with extreme ardour and courage of soul springs upon the prattle of those who are introducing such things, saying, IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD.








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