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

That Everlasting and before the ages is the Only-Begotten.

WHAT do they say to this [namely, In the beginning was the Word] who introduce to us the Son, as one new and of late, that so He may no longer be believed to be even God at all. For, says the Divine Scripture, there shall no new God be in thee. How then is He not new, if He were begotten in the last times? How did He not speak falsely when He said to the Jews, Verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am? For plain is it and confessed by all, that many ages after the blessed Abraham was Christ born of the Holy Virgin. How at all will the words was in the beginning remain and come to anything, if the Only-Begotten came into being at the close of the ages? See I pray by the following arguments too how great absurdity, this cutting short the Eternal Being of the Son, and imagining that He came into being in the last times, yields.

But this same word of the Evangelist shall be proposed again for a finer test:

In the Beginning was the Word.

Than the beginning is there nothing older, if it have, retained to itself, the definition of the beginning (for a beginning of beginning there cannot be); or it will wholly depart from being in truth a beginning, if something else be imagined before it and arise before it. Otherwise, if anything can precede what is truly beginning, our language respecting it will go off to infinity, another beginning ever cropping up before, and making second the one under investigation.

There will then be no beginning of beginning, according to exact and true reasoning, but the account of it will recede unto the long-extended and incomprehensive. And since its ever-backward flight has no terminus, and reaches up to the limit of the ages, the Son will be found to have been not made in time, but rather invisibly existing with the Father: for in the beginning was He. But if He was in the beginning, what mind, tell me, can over-leap the force of the was? when will the was stay as at its terminus, seeing that it ever runs before the pursuing reasoning, and springs forward before the conception that follows it?

Astonishment-stricken whereat the Prophet Isaiah says, Who shall declare His generation? for His Life is lifted from the earth. For verily lifted from the earth is the tale of the generation of the Only-Begotten, that is, it is above all understanding of those who are on the earth and above all reason, so as to be in short inexplicable. But if it is above our mind and speech, how will He be originate, seeing that our understanding is not powerless to clearly define both as to time and manner things originate?

To look in another way at the same, In the Beginning was the Word.

It is not possible to take beginning, understood in any way of time, of the Only-Begotten, seeing that He is before all time and hath His Being before the ages, and, yet more, the Divine Nature shuns the limit of a terminus. For It will be ever the same, according to what is sung in the Psalms, But Thou art the Same and Thy years shall have no end. From what beginning then measured in respect of time and dimension will the Son proceed, Who endureth not to hasten to any terminus, in that He is God by Nature, and therefore crieth, I am the Life? For no beginning will ever be conceived of by itself that does not look to its own end, since beginning is so called in reference to end, end again in reference to beginning. But the beginning we are pointing to in this instance is that relating to time and dimension. Hence, since the Son is elder than the ages themselves, He will be free of any generation in time; and He ever was in the Father as in a Source, according to that which He Himself said, I came forth from the Father and am come. The Father then being considered as the Source, the Word was in Him, being His Wisdom and Power and Express Image and Radiance and Likeness. And if there was no time when the Father was without Word and Wisdom and Express Image and Radiance, needs is it to confess too that the Son Who is all these to the Everlasting Father, is Everlasting. For how at all is He Express Image, how Exact Likeness, except He be plainly formed after that Beauty, Whose Likeness He also is?

Nor is it any objection to conceive of the Son being in the Father as in a Source: for the word source here only means the “whence.” But the Son is in the Father, and of the Father, not as made externally, nor in time, but being in the Essence of the Father and flashing forth from Him, as from the sun its radiance, or as from fire its innate heat. For in such examples, one may see one thing generated of another, but yet ever co-existing and inseparable, so that one cannot exist of itself apart from the other, and yet preserve the true condition of its own nature. For how can there be sun which has not radiance, or how radiance without sun being within to irradiate it? how fire, if it have not heat? whence heat, save from fire, or from some other thing not removed from the essential quality of fire? As then in these, the in-existence of the things that are of them does not take away their co-existence, but indicates the things generated ever keeping pace with their generators and possessed of one nature so to speak with them, so too is it with the Son. For even if He be conceived and said to be in the Father and of the Father, He will not come before us as alien and strange and a Being second to Him, but as in Him and co-existing ever, and shining forth from Him, according to the ineffable mode of the Divine generation.

But that God the Father is spoken of by the saints too as the Beginning of the Son in the sense only of “whence,” hear the Psalmist through the Holy Ghost foretelling the second Appearance of our Saviour and saying as to the Son: With Thee the Beginning in the Day of Thy Power in the beauty of Thy Saints. For the day of the Son’s Power is that whereon He shall judge the world and render to every one according to his works. Verily shall He then come, Himself in the Father, and having in Himself the Father, the so to say unbeginning Beginning of His Nature in regard only to the “whence,” by reason of His Being of the Father.

In the Beginning was the Word.

Unto many and various ideas does our discourse respecting the here signified beginning diversify itself, on all sides zealous to capture things that tend to profit, and after the manner of a hound, tracking the true apprehension of the Divine dogmas, and exactitude in the mysteries. For search, saith the Saviour, the Holy Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Me. The Blessed Evangelist, then, seems here to name the Father Ἀρχὴ, that is the Power over all, that the Divine Nature Which is over all may be shewn, having under Its feet every thing which is originate, and borne above those things which are by It called into being.

In this Ἀρχὴ then that is above all and over all was the Word, not, with all things, under Its feet, but apart from all things, in It by Nature as Its Co-Eternal Fruit, having the Nature of Him Who begat Him as it were a place the most ancient of all. Wherefore He Begotten Free of Free Father, will with Him possess the Sovereignty over all. What then now too will be the nature of the argument in this, it is meet to see.

Hazardful have certain, as we said above, asserted that the Word of God was then first called into being, when taking the Temple that is of the Holy Virgin He became Man for us. What then will be the consequence, if the Son’s Nature be thus, or originate and made and of like nature with all things else, to which birth out of not being, and the name and fact of servitude, are rightfully and truly predicated? For what of things that are made can with impunity escape servitude under the God That is Lord of all? what does not stoop under the sovereignty and power and lordship that is over all, which Solomon himself too signifies to us when he says, For the throne of Sovereignty is established with righteousness? For ready and exceeding prepared unto righteousness is the Throne of the Sovereignty, that I mean which is over all. And what throne that is of which we are now speaking, hear God saying by one of the Saints, The Heaven is My Throne. Ready therefore unto righteousness is the Heaven, that is, the holy spirits in the heavens.

Since then one must needs confess that the Son is with the rest of the creatures subject to God the Father, as having the position of a servant, and together with the rest falling under the authority of the Ἀρχὴ, if He be according to them late in Birth and one of those who have been made in time:—of necessity does the Blessed Evangelist spring with energy on those who teach otherwise, and withdraw the Son from all bondage. And he shews that He is of the Essence that is Free and Sovereign over all, and declares that He is in Him by Nature saying, In the beginning was the Word.

But to the word Ἀρχὴ he fitly annexes the was, that He may be thought of as not only of renown, but also before the ages. For the word was is here put, carrying on the idea of the thinker to some deep and incomprehensible Generation, the Ineffable Generation that is outside of time. For that was, spoken indefinitely, at what point will it rest, its nature being ever to push forward before the pursuing mind, and whatever point of rest any might suppose that it has, that it makes the starting point of its further course? The Word was then in the’ Ἀρχὴ, that is in Sovereignty over all things, and possessing the dignity of Lord, as being by Nature from It. But if this be true, how is He any longer originate or made? And where the was wholly is, how will the “was not” come in, or what place will it have at all as regards the Son?








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