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

BOOK V

25 Some therefore of them of Jerusalem said Is not This He whom they seek to kill?

SINCE it was now the feast of the Law called the feast of tabernacles, and the Jews were thronging, so to say, from all the region round about unto Jerusalem (for so had the Lawgiver decreed), Christ was making His teaching to all. For not surely to the townspeople alone was He speaking. He then that is a thorough searcher after learning, and a diligent hearer, must investigate what induced the Divine Evangelist, to introduce all the other multitude of the Jews as saying nothing, but to attribute the speech hereupon to them of Jerusalem only; and what they were considering and reasoning among themselves when they said these things: for a deep plan lies about this word. What then shall we say to this? Since Christ the Saviour of us all had wrought signs scarce-counted in the city, and had often taken up His abode in Jerusalem: certain of the city are (I suppose) persuaded, they are advancing by degrees to a desire of at length believing on Him, but not openly nor freely are they bold to love Him, terrified by the daring of their rulers and constrained not of their own motion unto harmful fear. For this was the blessed Evangelist clearly shewing, when he said in the foregoing that no man spake openly of Him for fear of the Jews. He here calls the rulers Jews, shrinking, it seems to me, from giving the appellation of rulers to such desperate men. When then our Saviour Jesus Christ speaks openly and mightily attacks the madness of the rulers, and convicts them (and that most clearly) of taking no account of the Law-giver, but that turning aside without stint every man to his own way, they were falling heedlessly into the desire to kill Him as though it were no crime, while He yet was enduring no hurt from those, at whose hands it was likely He would undergo dreadful things;—they of Jerusalem take this very circumstance as a proof and assurance of the God-befitting Authority inherent in Him, and receiving this too as an addition to His previous miracles, and heaping it up upon what had preceded, are being driven at length with more fervent motions to the duty of believing on Him. Wherefore they acquiring knowledge by right reasoning say, Is not This He Whom they seek to kill? For consider that they all but holding their right hand on high, and reaching it hither and thither, point out Him Who convicts them, and laugh seeing the untamed rage of these people allayed not by subtle reasoning (how should it?) but rather by God-befitting Power and Authority.

But we must note that they of Jerusalem alone speak contrary to all the rest of the Jewish multitudes, and how, I will tell. When our Saviour Christ was once giving instruction in things most excellent, the Pharisees stood by cut to the heart thereat, and already unveiled as to their bold daring and pressing on to commit murder; to this He said, convicting them as transgressors, who had made up their minds that they ought to slay Him, Hath not Moses given you the law, and none of you keepeth the Law? why are ye seeking to kill Me? And the whole aim of His discourse is shot forth against the hearts of the rulers: nevertheless the multitude of the people are scared and, intolerant at the words, answered more violently, saying, Thou hast a devil, who is seeking to kill Thee? But I suppose it is manifest to every one, that Christ says these things, because He saw the Pharisees desiring to kill Him. How is it then that while certain here deny it and cry out, Who is seeking to kill Thee, they of Jerusalem alone giving a contrary vote to all the rest say, Is not this He Whom they are seeking to kill? and well this too They are seeking, that to the rulers alone the daring deeds may be ascribed. Probability then induces us to believe that the rest of the Jewish people were ignorant of the design of their rulers, but that they of Jerusalem living for the most part with them and inhabiting one city with them, and constantly meeting them, knew the unholy design which close-filled them against the Saviour Christ. And it fell out that not merely through the Voice of our Saviour was the polluted band of the Jews accused, but also by the very flock that was under them, which by their senselessness was destroyed and borne down the precipices. For haply one may (I deem) by what has been said see the flock thirsting even now and enkindled as it were unto the faith in Christ, but lacking just a little leading by the hand, which had they obtained, they would easily have received Him Who came to us from Heaven. Responsible then are they to whom was allotted the presidency, for the loss of the sheep. And the prophet Jeremiah is our witness, who crieth, For the pastors became brutish, and sought not out the LORD; therefore the whole flock understood not and were scattered.

26 Lo, He speaketh boldly to them, and they say nothing unto Him.

They multiply expressions of assurance among themselves, and advance as it were to more manifest proof, beholding the unperilled boldness of Christ. For they are astonished and that with the greatest reason at finding those that were of old ungodly brought to an unpractised and unwonted patience and, beholding those who had been violent practising a gentleness that was new to them, they thence go forth into reasonable surmises: and in that they wonder at their forbearance in those matters in which they ought never to have been angry, in these very things they are found to be blaming them, as though it were their habit without discrimination to press hard upon the teachers of the most excellent doctrines, and to proceed hotly against any one whatever, if he did but say things dissentient from them, though he should agree with the Divine Law. For dreadful was the conceit of the Pharirisees, and the daring of their senselessness knew not bounds. Who then (say they) is He who tames them for the present, and Who is it who puts on sober reasoning as a bridle of their of old intolerable wrath? who He that has so charmed them and like serpents ever rearing themselves lulls them to gentle sleep? Lo, He speaketh boldly and they say nothing unto Him. Not merely does He speak, they say, but He speaketh boldly. And I do not suppose that any one would justly accuse the wrath of those men of being still, if He that was sought for had spoken against them in secret. For if it chanced not to have been known, neither would their wrath have been excited, but though He spake boldly and advanced through the keen reproof of them (for this the word boldly proves), they not only refuse to be angry, though very prone to this disease, but even shrink from words. For they say nothing to Him.

Do the rulers know indeed that He is the Christ?

Seest thou how by reasonable inductions and probable arguments they collecting the duty of believing, are well nigh ashamed because their rulers do indeed now know Him, but while they shrink from openly fighting against God, and endure not to shamelessly entreat Him that came from above, they do yet bury in envious silence the open acknowledgement of Him? For if they knew not (say they) of a truth that He is the Christ, what induces them to tolerate His boldly reproving them and innovating even the things of old ordained, in that He was found healing even on the sabbath day, and distressing them in no slight degree by saying outright, Hath not Moses given you the Law, and none of you keepeth the Law? All this they bear, although affected beyond endurance thereby, and accustomed hotly to attack even those who do them no wrong. Going therefore through every argument they collect by degrees faith in Christ, but attribute knowledge of a truth to their rulers, inasmuch as they were brought up even before themselves in the holy writings, and are better able than themselves to understand the mysteries of the Divine Scriptures. Observe throughout that the people of the Jews are prepared unhesitatingly to follow their rulers, and they would have been surely preserved if led aright by those over them. Wherefore these shall undergo bitter punishment, since the Saviour Himself also accuses them saying, Woe unto you, lawyers, for ye took away the key of knowledge, ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye forbad. For a door as it were and gate to the knowledge of God, and a way that easily leadeth to all virtue is the word of them that teach aright, and the skill of the shepherd knoweth how to save the flock of sheep: even as the contrary destroyeth them easily, and will bear away the flock down precipices even against their will.

27 Howbeit we know This Man whence He is, but Christ, when He cometh, we know not whence He is.

Not from external considerations only, nor because their rulers had made the pain of their reproof a thing to be borne, does the mind of them of Jerusalem admit the faith; but it after having with great profit produced arguments from what was likely and being brought to true conceptions of Christ through the God-befitting Authority that is in Him, led at length not unskilfully to the apprehension of piety, falls again without knowing it into the unlearning which was foster-brother to the Jews. For they who had well considered those things seem as if they would hunt out the truth from all quarters, and advance to the due faith not merely because of the silence of their rulers and their unwonted gentleness, but would also search the Holy Scripture itself, invited thereto by a right motive, but making their test of the Mystery wholly without instruction or understanding. For merely because they know whence He is who is speaking boldly, that is, from what village He sprang, of what parent He was born, they say that He is not He Who was foretold by the Law. Then they add, but Christ when He cometh no man knoweth whence He is. And it is clear (I suppose) to every one, that their mistake in this too arose from unlearning. But I suppose one ought to search out whence their thoughts got to this; and what induced those who were well examining all about Him, to for this reason suppose that He was not Christ, because they were not ignorant whence He was: and why they subjoin, Christ when He cometh, no man knoweth whence He is: for by this they lose the apprehension of the truth. There is therefore some saying of Isaiah concerning Christ quoted, His generation who shall declare? for His Life is taken away from the earth. And the blessed Prophet applying the expression to the Word of God, puts generation for Being. For who at all can tell the mode of the Being of the Only-Begotten? what tongue shall declare the unspeakable Birth of the Son from the Father? or what mind will not be powerless for this? For that He was begotten of God the Father we know and have believed: but the how, we say is unattainable by every mind, and the enquiry thereinto most perilous. For we ought not to search into what is too deep, nor to scrutinize what is too hard, but rather to hold fast what we are commanded, and have an unshaken belief concerning God, that He is in truth, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. But we must not search into, as it is written, the things which surpass understanding and thought, not merely our own, but also that of the whole creation, or even every reasonable creature. Who then shall declare the generation of the Only-Begotten? for His Life is taken away from the earth, that is, the tale of His Essence is higher than all that are in the earth. For here again he calls His Being Life.

This then led astray the uninstructed mind of the Jews, and made them wander from the true discernment of Christ. For they considered not (it seems) that the words of the holy prophets respecting Him are two-fold. For sometimes they signify that He will come with Flesh into the world, and manifest to us His Birth of a Virgin according to the Flesh. For behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son: yea and they clearly proclaim where He shall be born: And thou, Bethlehem house of Ephratah, little art thou to be among the thousands of Judah; out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel, and His goings forth from the beginning from the days of eternity. But when they are expounding (as far as is possible) His Ineffable Generation from God the Father, they either say what we said above, His generation who shall declare? for His Life is taken from the earth, or what is joined to the passage cited, And His goings forth from the beginning from the days of eternity. For here he means the goings forth of the Only-Begotten as Brightness from Light, and a certain forthcome from the Essence of Him Who Begot Him into His Own Being before all age and day and moment. Since then the Holy Scripture sets both before us, and the sacred writings both tell us whence Christ shall be after the Flesh, and honour by silence His Unsearchable Being from the Father, how will one not, finding the Jews in no slight degree unlearned, with reason laugh aloud and say, Not merely from the Generation of Christ being unknown, must one make enquiries respecting Him, but also from its being known Who and whence He springs according to the Flesh?

28 Jesus therefore cried teaching in the temple and saying, Ye both know Me and know whence I am.

As the men of Jerusalem were gently whispering those things one to another (for they durst not speak openly for fear of the Jews, as it is written) Christ again in God-befitting way receives knowledge of the things spoken. But since He was considering that it were fit to profit those men, He immediately shews the God-befitting Energy that is in Him, and clearly reveals to them that He has knowledge of all things. For He lifts up His cry on high, albeit before time not used to do so, and convicts them again of not having any certain understanding of the Divinely-inspired Scripture, and makes what is secret and has scarcely passed the mouth the basis of His Discourse. Next from those very things from which they foolishly supposed that they ought not to believe Him does He persuade them outright that they ought to believe: such is the pregnant meaning of what He says. Ye marvel (He says) and that most justly, that Power truly God-befitting is in Me, easily taming the purpose of the Jews, murderous though it be: for they seek to kill Me, as ye have truly and accurately remarked, and are putting forth all their diligence to that end. But (He says) when I should be fleeing, and getting Me as far off as possible from those who think it right to kill Me, I caring not a whit for their mad folly, on the contrary speak boldly and convict those who break the Law by not choosing to judge just judgment, and I suffer nothing at all. For they who of old were fierce forbear against their will, and this not the fruit of their own free choice, but the effect of My Authority. For I do not suffer them, although madly raging, and whetted unto inhuman wrath, to dare before the time their murderous purpose towards Me. At these things then (He saith) ye have been most reasonably astonished, and say that the rulers know of a truth that I am the Christ. And ye, following out suitable reasoning herein, turning away to the oracles of Divine Scripture, when ye ought rather to have been benefited therefrom, confirmed in your conception of Me, on the contrary ye were offended. For from your merely knowing whence I am, and of whom I am born, ye have decided (He saith) that I am not the Christ. Know therefore, that ye both know Me and know whence I am, that is the Divinely-inspired Scripture has given you both to know Me and whence I am. And not because ye know (may be) that I am of Nazareth or Bethlehem, and that I am born of a woman, ought ye therefore to admit the disease of unbelief; but from those things that are spoken of Me, and because of My Birth after the Flesh, ought ye the rather to advance to the apprehension of the Mysteries respecting Me, and not to turn aside merely at a single voice of a Prophet, who is telling My Ineffable Generation from God the Father.

And of Myself I am not come, but He is true That sent Me.

Under the guise of defence He finds fault with the Jews who were insulting through long unbelief. With no slight skill then He composing His Discourse, by every means contrives not to seem to excite His hearers by any occasion to reasonable displeasure, but veiling His words in obscurity, He beguiles their excess of anger and draws off the edge of their passion. Why then (He says) do they, when I have often explained and openly cried out that I am sent by God the Father, still disbelieve, and because they know His Birth after the Flesh, say that He is not He Who was fore-heralded by the Law and fore-declared by the holy Prophets, and well nigh meet Him with the words: Thou utterest lies O Sir, coming to us, according to Thine Own Will, and dost Thou not blush feigning the Name of the Father? Repelling therefore this accusation of theirs as to this too, He mingles reproof with His defence, and most excellently says, Of Myself I am not come, but He is True That sent Me. For it is your custom (He saith) O ye who dare all things with ease, and advance heedlessly to all, even the most heinous actions, sometimes to prophesy falsely, and though God hath not sent you, to say that ye are sent by God. But I am not like you, nor yet will I imitate your well-practised villany. I am not come of Myself, nor Mine Own messenger, like you, but I am come from Heaven: True is He That sent Me, not like your lie-loving sender, the devil, whose spirit ye receiving are bold too to prophesy falsely. True then is He That sent Me, but he that stirred you up to invent words from God, is not true. For he is a liar, and the father of liars. But that we shall find the Jews accustomed to prophesy lies, we shall see without any trouble from the words of the Prophets. For most plainly doth the Lord of all say of them, I sent not the prophets, yet they ran, I spake not to them, and they prophesied. And again in Jeremiah, The prophets prophesy lies in My Name, I sent them not and spake not to them and commanded them not; for visions and divinations and prophecies of their own heart do they prophesy unto you. The arrogant Jew then is reproved for this that he fastened upon Christ his own boldness against God, i. e., false prophecy. For the utter disbelief in Him Who cries that He is sent from God, even the Father, what else is it save openly to cry out, Thou prophesiest falsely, imitating our practices against ourselves?

29 Whom YE know not, but I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.

Ye have just said (He saith) When Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence He is. But since ye insist that ye hold this your opinion rightly, as being the truth, I agree to your words herein. For True is He of Whom I am, the Father, but He is not known of you. Since then (He says) ye search into the Mystery respecting Me in a manner most unadvised, but as is pleasing to yourselves, and from knowing Who and whence I am after the Flesh, dismiss from yourselves the duty of believing, do ye for this sole cause receive the faith, when ye find that ye understand not whence I am: for I am of the Father, Whom YE know not, since ye know not Him That is of Him, in Whom Alone the Father is to be seen. For he that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father, and he that knoweth the Son is not ignorant of Him that begat. All their quibbling therefore being by this taken from them, they are again taken in their malice, finding no longer any excuse for their unbelief, who have thrust away the knowledge through their own stubbornness, that that may be found true which is written, Ye see often and ye kept not, your ears opened and ye heard not. But since He was occupied upon the words of the Jews, that when Christ cometh no man knoweth whence He is, withdrawing Himself of necessity, as God, from the company of things originate, and from all else to whom the title no man may reasonably be applied, shewing that He is Other by Nature, He says that He is not as they are, ignorant of His Own Father, but affirmed that He knows in all exactness both Himself and Him. For He is God of God the Father, possessed of a certain wondrous and strange knowledge of these things, as befitteth Himself Alone. For not in like manner as WE know, in the same doth the Son know the Father. For the nature of things originate attaineth to the sight of God by conception only, and not overpassing the bounds which befit it, doth even against its will yield to the Divine Nature, the being veiled in ineffable words. But the Only Begotten of God the Father, vieweth Whole in Himself Him That begat Him, and pourtraying the Essence of the Father in His Own Nature, knoweth Him, in a way impossible to tell: for unutterable are the things of God.








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