Catholic Encyclopedia
Church Fathers
Classics Library
Church Documents
Prayer Requests
Ray of Hope
Social Doctrine

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

That the Son being God and of God by Nature, and the Exact Image of Him Who begat Him, hath equal honour and glory with Him.

23 That all should honour the Son even as they honour the Father: he that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father Which sent Him.

A CAUSE and reason of the things already enumerated, is now evident, viz., that the Son ought to be honoured in Equality and likeness with the Father. For recapitulating a little, and carried back to a recollection of the preceding, you will view accurately the force of the passage. He said then that God was His Father, making Himself Equal with God; then again He began shewing that He was of Equal strength and skill, saying, For what things soever He doeth, these doeth also the Son likewise. That He is both Life and Life-giving by Nature, as is He too Who begat Him, He shewed plainly, adding, For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, so the Son too quickeneth whom He will. But that He will be also Judge of all, the Father in all things co-approving and consenting, He declared, saying, For neither doth the Father judge any man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son. What then is the cause of these things? what induced the Only-Begotten to say all this? That all men (He saith) should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. For if He hath all things whatever the Father hath, as far as appertains to God-befitting Dignity, how is it not fitting that He to Whom nothing is lacking to Identity of essence should be crowned with equal honours with Him? What then do they say to this too who pervert all equity, as saith the Prophet Isaiah?

“If (he says) by reason of its being said, That all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father, ye suppose that one ought to magnify the Son with equal honours with the Father, ye know not that ye are stepping far away from the truth. For the word As does not altogether introduce equality of acts, in respect of those things it is affixed to, but often marks out a kind of likeness, just as (he says) the Saviour counsels, saying, Be ye therefore merciful as your Father also which is in Heaven is merciful. Shall we then be as merciful as the Father, on account of the as? And again Christ says to His Father of His disciples: Thou hast loved them, AS Thou hast loved Me. But we will not grant that the disciples are loved just as the Son, on account of the as. Why then dost thou multiply words, and distort what is said into blasphemy, though it introduces no obligation on the hearers to honour the Son in equal measure with the Father?”

What then is our answer to these things? With bitter words do the fighters against God bay at us, but without are dogs, as Paul saith, without are evil workers, without the right faith are the concision. For we are sons of the truth and children of the light. Therefore we will glorify the Only-Begotten together with God the Father, not with any difference, but in equality of honour and glory, as God of God, and Light of Light, and Life of Life. And overmuch enquiry into what is to be received as faith, is not without hazard: nevertheless we must test the force of the As, lest our opponents be overwise in their own conceits. When therefore As is applied to things unlike in their nature, it does not wholly introduce absolute equality, but rather likeness and resemblance, as ye yourselves acknowledged above; but when it is applied to things in all respects like to one another, it shews equality in all things and similitude and whatever else is found to have the same force with these. Just as if I say, Bright is the sun in Heaven, bright too is silver which is of the earth, yet is the nature of the things mentioned diverse. Let any of the rich of the earth be supposed to say to his household servants, Let the silver shine as the sun. In this case we very justly say that earthly matter attains not to equal brightness with the sun, but to a certain likeness and resemblance, although the word As be used of it. But let Peter and John (suppose) of the holy disciples be brought forward, who both in respect of nature and of piety towards God, fail not of an accurate likeness one to another, let the As be applied, some one saying of them, as here, Let John be honoured by all, even as Peter, will the As here be powerless, so that equal honour ought not to be paid to both? But I do not suppose that any one will say such a thing: for he will see that there is nothing to prevent it.

According to this analogy of idea, when the As is applied to the Father and the Son, why should we shrink from crowning Both with equal honours? For He having considered before, as God, things to come, and having carefully viewed the envious opposition of thine unlearning hath brought in the As, not bare and bereft of the aid befitting it, but having strengthened it beforehand with convenient proofs, and shewn afore that He is God by Nature (for He made God His Father): having again fore-shewn that He is both God the Creator and of a truth Life, and having before introduced Himself, altogether glorying (so to say) in the Attributes of God the Father,—He afterwards seasonably subjoins That all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father too. Then what objection still appears, what is there to hinder, that He, in Whom are Essentially the Properties and excellencies of the Father, should attain to an equal degree of honour? for we shall be found honouring the very Nature of God the Father, full well beaming forth in the Son. Wherefore He proceeds, He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which sent Him. For the charge of dishonouring the Son, and the force of blasphemy against Him, will mount up unto none other more truly than the Father Himself, Who put forth the Son as it were from the Fount of His Own Nature, even though He be seen throughout the whole Holy Scriptures as everlastingly with Him.

“Yea (saith the opponent) let the charge from dishonouring the Son go to whatsoever you please, or rather let it reach even unto God the Father Himself. For He will be angry, and that with reason, yet not wholly so, as though His Very Nature were insulted in the Son, according to our just now carefully finished argument, but since He is His Image and Impress, formed most excellently after His Divine and Ineffable Essence, He is with reason angry, and will wholly transfer the wrong to Himself. For it were indeed most absurd, that he who insulted the Divine Impresses, should not surely pay the penalty of his sin against the Archetype. Just as he who has insulted the images of earthly kings, is punished as having indeed transgressed against the ruler himself. And in like manner shall we find it decreed by God in respect of ourselves also: for Whoso (saith He) sheddeth man’s blood, for his blood shall he be poured forth: because in the Image of God He made man. Seest thou then hereby very clearly (saith he) that if the Image be wronged, and not altogether the Divine Nature, God the Father deems it right to be angry? In this way then let that which is said by Christ be conceived of and adapted, He that honoureth not the Son, neither doth he honour the Father.”

Shall then the Only Begotten be classed with us as external to the Essence of the Father? how then will He yet be God by Nature, if He altogether slip out of the bounds of the Godhead, situate in some nature of his own and of other sort than that wherein the Father is? and we do wrong, it seems, in bringing into one count of Godhead, the order of the Holy Trinity. We ought, we ought at length to worship the Father as God, to impart some glory of Their Own to the Son and the Spirit, severing them as it were into different natures, and defining severally to Each the mode of His Existence. Yet do the Divine Scriptures declare unto us One God, classing with the Father the Son and the Spirit, so that through Their Essential and exact sameness the Holy Trinity is brought unto one count of Godhead. The Only-Begotten is not then alien from the Nature of Him who begat Him, but neither will He be a whit conceived of as Son in truth, if He beamed not forth from the Essence of the Father (for this and no other is the definition and mode of true sonship in all) but if there be no Son, God’s being Father will be wholly taken away too. How then will Paul be true in saying of Him, Of Whom every family in Heaven and earth is named? For if He have not begotten of Himself in God-befitting manner the Son, how shall the beginning of Fatherhood be in Him, going through in imitation to those who are in Heaven and earth? But God is in truth Father: the Only-Begotten therefore is by Nature Son, and is of a surety within the bounds of the Divinity. For God will be begotten of God even as man (for example) of man, and the Nature of God the Father, Which transcends all things, will not err by bearing fruit not befitting It.

But since some blasphemously and foolishly say, that it is not the Nature of God the Father That is insulted in the Son, when He does not receive due honour from any, but that He is angry reasonably and rightly, at His Own Image being dishonoured in Him; we must ask them in what sense they would have the Son be and be called the Image of the Father. Yea rather let us forestalling their account, determine beforehand the Nature of the Image, according to legitimate reasoning: for so will the result of our enquiries be clear and more distinct. Therefore one and the first mode of image is that of sameness of nature in properties exactly alike, as Abel of Adam, or Isaac of Abraham: the second again is that consisting in likeness of impress, and accurate impression of form, as the King’s delineation in wood, or made in any other way, most excellently and skilfully, as respects him. Another image again is taken in respect of habits and manners, and conversation and inclination to either good or bad, as for instance it may be said that the well-doer is like Paul, him that is not so like Cain (for the being equally good or bad, works likeness with either, and with reason confers it) Another form of image is, that of dignity and honour and glory and excellence, as when one for instance succeeds another in a command, and does all things with the authority which belongs to and becomes him. An image in another sense, is in respect of any either quality or quantity of a thing, and its outline and proportion: for we must speak briefly.

Let then the most critical investigators of the Divine Image teach us, whether they think one ought to attribute to the Only-Begotten the Essential and Natural Likeness, and thus say that the Only-Begotten Word proceeding from the Father is an Image of Him in the same sense as Abel is of Adam, who retained in himself the whole nature of his parent, and bore the count of human nature all-complete? or will they be vexed at this, compelled to confess the Son truly God of God by Nature, and turning aside according to their custom to fight against the truth, advance to the second kind of image, which is conceived to exist in mere form, impress and outline? But I suppose they will shrink from saying this. For no one, even if he be a very prater, will suppose that the Godhead can be estimated in respect of size, or circumscribed by outline, or meted by impress, or that the Unembodied will wholly undergo what belongs to bodies. Do they say then that He is conformed to Him in respect of manners and habits and will, and are they not ashamed to dress Him in this image? for how is He yet to be conceived of as God by Nature, Who has Likeness to Him in will only, but has another Being separately of Himself? For they will surely acknowledge that He subsists. Then what is there in Him more than in the creature? For shall we not believe that the angels themselves hasten to perform the Divine Will, who are by nature other than God? But what, when this is conceived of as belonging to us too? for does not the Only-Begotten teach us foolishly to jump at things above our nature, and to aim at impossibilities, saying, Be ye merciful, as your Father also which is in Heaven is merciful? For this were undoubtedly to say that we ought to gain the likeness of the Father by identity of will. And Paul too was an imitator of Christ, of the (as they babbling say) Image of the Father in will only. But they will shift their ground (I suppose) from these miserable conceptions, and as though thinking something greater and better, will surely say this, “The Only-Begotten is the Image of God the Father, in respect of identity of will, in respect of God-befitting Dignity and Glory and Power, in respect of Operation in creation and working miracles, in respect of reigning and ruling over all, in respect of judging and being worshipped by angels and men and in short by all creation. By all these He shewing us the Father in Himself, says that He is not of His Person, but is the Impress of His Person.” Therefore as we said just now, the Son is none of these by nature, but is altogether separate from all of them according at least to your most foolish reasoning, and is neither Very God, nor Son, nor King, nor Lord, nor Creator, nor Mighty, nor in respect of His own Will is He by Nature Good: but in boasts solely and only of what is God-befitting is He seen. And as is the application of tints to paintings on tablets, beautifying them by the variety to the eye, but having nothing true: so as to the Son too, the beauty of the Excellencies of God the Father decks Him around with bare names only, but is as it were applied from without like certain tints: yea rather the Divine Nature is outlined in Him, and appears in bare type.

Next, how will ye not be shewn to be fighting outright with all the holy Scriptures, that ye may with justice hear, Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, YE are always resisting the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do YE too, for when do they not call the Son Very God, or when do they bear Him forth from the Essence of His Father? which of them has dared to say that He is by Nature neither Creator nor King nor Almighty nor to be worshipped? For the Divine Psalmist says as to the Only-Begotten Himself, Thy Throne, O God, is for ever and ever: Thomas again the most wise disciple in like wise calls Him God alike and Lord. He is called Almighty and Creator by every voice of saint, and as having not according to you the Dignity from without, but as being by Nature what He is said to be, and therefore is He worshipped both by the holy Angels and by us, albeit the Divine Scripture says that we ought to worship none other, save the Lord God Alone.

If then they hold that the God-befitting Dignity in Him is acquired and given, and think that they ought to worship such an one, let them know that they are worshipping the creature rather than the Creator, and making out to themselves a new and fresh God, rather than acknowledging Him Who is really so by Nature. But if while they say that the Son is external to the Essence of God the Father, they yet acknowledge Him to be Son and Very God and King and Lord and Creator, and to have Essentially in Himself the Properties and Excellencies of the Father, let them see whither there is risk that the end of those who thus think will be. For nothing at all will be found of sure faith in the Divine Nature, since the nature of things originate also is now capable of being whatever It is conceived to be. For it has been proved according to the most feeble reasoning of our opponents, that the Only-Begotten not being of the Divine Nature, hath yet truly in Himself Its Excellencies. Who will not shudder at the mere hearing the blasphemy of the doctrines? For all things are now overturned, when the Nature That is above all things descendeth so as to be classed with things originate, and the creation itself contrary to reason springs up to the measure above it, and not designed for it.

Therefore let us swimming away from the absurdity of such doctrines, as from a ship sinking in the sea, hasten to the Truth, as to a secure and unruffled haven, and let us ackowledge the Son to be the Image of God the Father, not plaistered over so to say with perishable honours, nor adorned merely with God-befitting titles, but Essentially Exact according to the likeness of His Father, and unalterably being by Nature That which He That begat Him is conceived to be, to wit Very God of God in truth, Almighty, Creator, Glorified, Good, to be worshipped, and whatever may be added to the things enumerated as befitting God. For then shewing Him to be Like in all things to God the Father, we shall also shew Him true, in saying that if any will not honour the Son, neither doth he honour the Father Which hath sent Him: for as to this our enquiry and the test of the things just now investigated had its origin.

24 Verily verily I say unto you, he that heareth My Word and believeth on Him That sent Me, hath everlasting Life, and cometh not into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.

Having now proved sufficiently by the foregoing, that the miserable Jews sin not against the Son only, by daring to find fault with the things which He says or does among them in His teaching, but do also ignorantly transgress, against the Father Himself, and having as far as pertains to the force of what has been said, wrapped about their over-confidence with fear, and persuaded them to live more religiously in hope of things to come, He at length snares them to obedience. And not unskilfully again did He frame His speech to this end. For since He knew that the Jews were still diseased, and yet offended concerning Him, He again brings back their faith to the Person of God the Father, not as excluding Himself, but as honoured in the Father too by reason of Identity of Essence. For He affirms that they who believe shall not only be partakers of eternal life, but also shall escape the peril of the condemnation, being justified, that is: holding forth fear mixed with hope. For thus could He make His discourse more efficacious and more demonstrative to the hearers.

25 Verily verily I say unto you, the hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.

Having said that believers shall pass from death to life, He introduces Himself as Performer of the promise, and Accomplisher of the whole thing, partly hinting to the Jews, that marvellous in truth is the Power shewn in the case of the paralytic, but that the Son will be revealed as a Worker of things yet more glorious, driving away from the bodies of men not only sickness and the infirmities of diseases, but also overthrowing death and the heavily-pressing corruption (for this was what was said a little before, The Father loveth the Son and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth and greater works than these will He shew Him, that YE may marvel; for the greater wonder is shewn in the raising of the dead), partly also preparing the way for that which would probably in no slight degree affright the hearers. For He plainly declares that He will raise the dead, and will bring the creature to judgment, that through the expectation of one day being brought before Him and giving account of everything, they might be found more backward in their daring to persecute Him, and might receive more zealously the word of teaching and guidance.

To these things then the aim of the chapter looks and tends: but we must now explain the words. The common account then is (as it seems) that the time will come, when the dead shall hear the Voice of Him That raiseth them: and they suppose that it is now too no less present, either as when Lazarus for instance is to hear the Voice of the Saviour, or as saying that the dead are those not yet called through faith unto eternal life, who will surely attain unto it, by having received the doctrine of the Saviour. And this method of considering it does indeed preserve a plausible appearance, but accuracy not at all. Wherefore ruminating again the force of the words, we will affix a more suitable sense, and thus open the reading:

Verily verily I say unto you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God; the hour again that is, when they that hear shall live. By the words then in the beginning, He means the time of the resurrection, wherein He teaches through the word of the Judge that they that sleep shall rise again to answer for their life in the world, that as I said before, devising the fear thence arising as a bridle, He might persuade them to live full excellently and wisely: by the closing words He shews that the due time of believing is now come, but also says that everlasting life will be the reward of obedience: all but declaring, Ye shall all come to judgement, sirs, that is at the time of the Resurrection, but if it seem bitter to you to be punished, and to undergo endless penalties at the hand of the offended Judge, suffer not the time of obedience to pass by, but laying hold of it while yet present, haste ye to attain to everlasting life.

26 For as the Father hath life in Himself, so gave He to the Son too to have life in Himself, 27 and gave Him authority to execute judgment also because He is the Son of Man.

Observe again the economy in these words, that thou mayest marvel at the form of expression and not, by falling into offence thereat from ignorance, bring upon thyself perdition. For the Only-Begotten, being Man in respect of the nature of His Body, and seen as one of us while yet upon the earth with flesh, manifoldly instructing the Jews in matters pertaining to salvation, clothed Himself with the glory of two God-befitting things. For He clearly affirmed, that He would both raise the dead, and set them at His Judgement-seat to be judged. But it was extremely likely that the hearers would be vexed at this, accusing Him with reason, because He said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Having mingled therefore with God-befitting Authority and Splendour language befitting the human nature, He beguiles the weight of their wrath, saying more modestly and lowlily than was necessary, For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son too to have life in Himself. Marvel not (saith He) if I, Who am now as you, and am seen as a Man, promise to raise the dead, and threaten to bring them to judgement: the Father hath given Me Power to quicken, He hath given Me to judge with authority. But when He had hereby healed the readily-slipping ear of the Jews, He bestows zealous care for the profit too of what follows, and immediately explaining why He says that He hath received it, He alleges that human nature hath nothing of itself, saying, Because He is the Son of Man.

For that the Only Begotten is also Life by Nature, and not a partaker of life from another, and so quickeneth as doth the Father, I think it superfluous to say now, since no small discourse was expended hereupon in the beginning of the book, upon the words, In Him was Life.

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His Voice 29 and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of doom.

He signifies by these words the time of the resurrection of all, when, as the Divine Paul wrote to us, The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a summons, with the voice of the Archangel, with the trump of God, to judge the world in righteousness, and render to every man according to his works. He leads therefore by repetition of the same things the most unlearned understanding of the Jews, to be able clearly to understand, that He will be a Worker of greater deeds than those in which the paralytic was concerned, and that He will be revealed as a Judge of the world: and by profitably contrasting the healing of one sick person with the resurrection of the dead, He shews that greater and more noteworthy is the operation that undoes death and destroys the corruption of all, and reasonably and of necessity says, in respect of the lesser miracle, Marvel not at this. And let us not at all suppose that by these words He means to find fault with the glory of His own works, or to enjoin the hearers that they ought not to hold worthy of wonder, those things whereat one may reasonably wonder, but He wishes those who were astonished at that to know and believe that the subject of wonder as yet was small. For He raiseth by a word and God-befitting Operation not only the sick from little diseases, but those also who have been already submerged by death and overcome by invincible corruption. And hence introducing the greater, He says, The hour is coming in which all that are in their graves shall hear His Voice. For He who by a Word brought into being things that were not, how should He not be able to win back into being that which was already created? For thus each will be the effect of the same Operation, and the glorious production of one Authority. And profitably does He subjoin that they shall come forth of their graves, they that were holden of base deeds and that lived in wickedness to undergo endless punishment, the illustrious in virtue to receive the reward of their religiousness, eternal life: at once (as we said above) introducing Himself as the Dispenser of what belongs to each, in these words of His; and persuading them, either from fear of suffering dreadful punishments, to forego evil and to hasten to elect to live more soberly, or pricked with desire after some sort for eternal life, make more zealous and eager haste after good.

Copyright ©1999-2016 e-Catholic2000.com