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

BOOK VI

44 YE are of your father the devil and the lusts of your father ye will do: he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth because there is no truth in him.

HAVING with reason led them off from their kindred with Abraham and convicted them of having unlikeness to him in their manners, and of being far removed from piety toward God Himself, and yet moreover having explained the reason of their not being able to be obedient to His speech, He again shews who will rather be more fittingly and properly termed their father. YE therefore, He says, are of your father the devil, whom He says was also a murderer in the beginning and that he abides not in the truth and is a liar; and that his father was a liar, whom in what follows He defined clearly who he is: for the mighty force itself in their brevity of the words before us has much obscurity and specially needs accurate scrutiny. For deep is the discourse about this, and not clear I ween to the many. For as to the meaning which can readily be got, it allots to the Jews no other father than Satan who fell from heaven. But that which is put next about the father allotted them, that he is a liar just as his father also, troubles us, yea rather compels us to fresh doubt not a little. For: whom (if we think reasonably) can we imagine to have been father to the devil, or what other before him fell to whom he that comes after can be compared in likeness and manner? for no one will shew us such a reading as this in the holy and Divine Scriptures; and in no wise is that to be received as truth which is not told in the Divinely-inspired Scriptures. For every spirit that is reckoned among devils as a child of the devil is called Satan according to what is said by our Saviour Christ, If then Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: yet have we heard of one surpassing the rest and above them, him to whom it is somewhere said by the Prophet Ezekiel, THOU art the seal of likeness and crown of beauty begotten in the delight of the Paradise of God, every precious stone hast thou put on. Whom else then shall we unblamed suppose existed, after whom this one was formed, in likeness I mean as to vice? for some of the elder expositors, citing what is now before us, say that that ancient Satan who is conceived of as being the chief of all the other devils was bound by the Might of God and cast into Tartarus itself there to pay the penalty of what he had done in outrage against God, and that some other appeared after him, coming nothing short of the abominations of his father, and they affirmed that of him it was that the Saviour says that he was a murderer from the beginning and that he is a liar, as his father.

But unless we had much considered it in our minds, we should with reason have readily accepted this, but now this one thing above all suffers us not to approve inconsiderately. For at the time of the Saviour’s Advent, the tyranny of the devil was receiving the beginning of its fall and the wicked and unclean spirits were being sent forth into the deep. And verily the devils would come I and openly beg Him, that He would not command them to go forth into the deep. And we remember that they made a great outcry about this, saying, Let its alone, what have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? we know Thee Who Thou art, The Holy One of God, art Thou come hither to torment us before the time? For that our Lord Jesus Christ having come among us would waste them away and manifoldly vex them, they themselves too knew full I well, finding much talk of Him among those in Israel, yet found fault as though He had come not in His season, in this too acting tyrannically and perversely accusing the time of the Advent. But they say before the time, as though in no wise tormented in any other time, but looking for one, the time of the Advent, in which they were unquestionably to undergo what they are expecting. And to this we say besides, If, he being bound according to their distinction, some other deceived Adam, and does not yet cease from the madness whereof he is accused, the first one will be wholly blameless as regards us, and this account will free him from all blame, and neither hath he slain any, nor deceived nor lied, nor yet will it be justly said to him by God, As raiment stained in blood shall not be clean, so neither shalt THOU be clean, because thou destroyedst My land and slewest My people. If therefore we grant that that he whom they say is the first is wholly without any share in the above enumerated evil deeds, whom shall we decide that the second after him imitated, or after whom was he formed who surpassed in wickedness his leader, and had the deeper impress of that one’s villainy?

And it were I suppose not unreasonable that we searching out this matter should go through fuller proofs, but we think it superfluous to put forth too much energy for what needs not: we will therefore go on to another thought and accurately search who it was that Christ allotted to the Jews as their father of like manner and disposition, so that for his father might reasonably be enrolled an evil spirit, that prince of evil, i. e. Satan. He brings them up therefore to Cain who first of all men loved not Him who chastised him by reproofs, but was set forth as the beginning of envy and murder and craft and lying and deceit, next to that Satan whose son he is rightly said to be, inasmuch as he receives in himself the whole impress of that one’s wickedness. For as God is the Father of every holy and righteous person, being Himself the beginning of the holiness and righteousness of all:—in the same way I deem will Satan be reasonably styled father of every wicked person, himself being the author of all wickedness, But since we have said that Cain was given to the Jews as their father, to Cain again Satan, come let us following out our own words clearly shew that Satan first of all reared his neck at God’s reproofs, then both deceived and lied and lastly through envy committed murder: and having shewn that Cain was of like manner and disposition with him, we in the third place bring down our argument to the Jews who possess complete the image of the wickedness that is in him.

Satan therefore despising his own principality and greatly longing after what was above his own nature, and not keeping the limit of his position, was borne down and fell, thereby convicted by God and taught the measure of his nature. But nothing profited thereby by reason of his ill counsel, he sickened of a worse disease, by no means looking to the duty of amending his own disposition, but minded to abide in steadfast perversity. But when the first man was formed by God, according to the book of Moses, and was in Paradise, yet keeping the commandment given him, that I mean about the Tree, Satan was first kindled to envy, and in that his transgression and disobedience were blamed by the first-created, while they were as yet keeping the commandment given them, he was eager by much-intriguing deceits to draw them away unto disobedience. And knowing that they would waste away if they made light of the commands of the Great King, he persuades them to do this, encompassing with the uttermost ills those who had nothing injured him. For that a deed of devilish deceit and envy was the transgression in Adam and the death that through it sprang upon him, the very nature of the thing will itself teach us, and the saying of the all-wise Solomon will make clear to us speaking on this wise, God made not death, but through envy of the devil came death into the world.

Herein then is his part, let now Cain come in to us and stand before us. For he was the first-born of Adam, an husbandman by occupation, and next after him came Abel, but he was a shepherd of sheep. But since the law of nature called them to offer sacrifice to God, implanting untaught the knowledge of the Creator (for all good things have been sown and infused in our nature by God): Cain offered of the fruit of the ground, as it is written, but Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof; and God had respect unto Abel and to his gifts but unto Cain and to his offerings He had not respect. And Gain was very vexed and his countenance fell. And the Lord God said unto Gain, Why wert thou vexed and why did thy countenance fall? If thou offeredst well but dividedst not aright, didst thou not sin? be still. Then to Abel, Unto thee shall be his resort and THOU shalt rule over him. Therefore Cain was blamed for dividing not aright his offering, Abel was rightly deemed worthy of praise and honour, which was to Cain food of envy. For he was exasperated at the correcting reproofs, just as Satan was, then swelling with unrighteous envy, as we said, he goes after his brother in guile, already devising the unholy murder. For, it says, Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go over unto another field better than this, and inviting as though to enjoyment and tender grass him who was utterly unconscious, he savagely murdered him, and first of all laid him dead on the ground, thinking (it seems) that he would surely win all wonder, having no longer any to surpass him. And having slain him, he told a lie; for when God says, Where is Abel thy brother? he says, I know not, and out of his exceeding folly added in heat, Am I my brother’s keeper? For it says that he well-nigh said thus, Thou who crownedst him unjustly what good didst Thou, his Keeper, do him? Thou seest then and that clearly that the whole likeness of the devil’s wickedness was accurately finished in him, and the conformation of his manners moulded after an equal and like fashion.

Let our discourse therefore go forward to the impiety of the Jews, and putting around them the likeness of Cain’s villainy, let us shew that they essayed those things against Christ, which he did against Abel, that rightly and fitly he may be termed their father. Therefore first-born was Cain, as we have said, first-born again among the children of God by adoption was Israel, as was said to Moses, Israel is My first-born. And he hath brought of the produce of the ground an offering unto God, but to his offerings He had not respect, as it is written. For more earthly was Israel’s worship of the law, as has been said, by bullocks and sheep and fruits of the earth, nor does God accept this. For to what purpose, He saith, cometh there to Me incense from Sheba and cinnamon from a far country? and by the voice of Isaiah too He openly crieth, Who required this at your hand? After Cain cometh the righteous Abel to sacrifice of the sheep. For after the service according to the law, and at the consummation of the Prophets came Christ the verily Righteous, bringing not fruits of the earth for a sacrifice to God the Father, but for the life and salvation of all offering to Him Himself as an immaculate Victim for an odour of a sweet smell. For God the Father dismissing as more earthly the worship after the Law, had respect to the sacrifice of our Saviour Christ. The word, had respect to means Delighted in. What followed? Cain was rebuked for not dividing aright, and when blamed was sick of envy, and hastens headstrong unto murder. And God was admonishing in His Son the people of the Jews, was asking of them better things for offering, bidding them transform the worship according to the Law unto spiritual fruit-bearing, and urging them to transfashion the Letter unto truth: but they reproved are angry, and are smitten with the paternal envy, and unrighteously plot murder against our Saviour Christ. Cain deceived Abel, and taking him into the field displayed him dead: the Jews likewise as far as in them lay deceived Christ, sending the traitor in the guise of a friend, who coming to Him to betray Him saluted Him deceitfully saying, Hail Master. And they too took Him into the plain, i. e., they destroyed Him without the gate. For without the gate did Christ suffer because of us and for us. Thou seest then how they are found to be in no way like Abraham or those who were really of him, but bear the image of their own fitly and really belonging father, and madly sick with wickedness conformed and akin to his, they rightly hear, YE are of your father the devil and the lusts of your father ye will do: he was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth because there is no truth in him; when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar just as was his father. And I, because I tell you the truth, ye believe Me not. The aim of the discourse looks to the father of the Jews who was brought forward and exhibited, I mean Cain, but it spreads out more generally. For not at that man’s life does He bound the force of what He says, but puts it round about every one who is like him, allotting what is said of one individually to every one who is like him. For when (He says) Cain or other liar like him utters a lie, he utters it as of his own kin. For learning what he has from his rulers and him who hath given him the beginning of wickedness, he making the lie his own as some natural acquisition imitates his own father, for he utters a lie. Wherefore (He saith) since he had for his father one who delighted in lies, he is led on as by natural laws to the ignobility of his grandfather and father and shews forth in himself their villainy, and making the depravity of his ancestors the very clearest image of his own manners and ways, surely brags of his own ill.

Since then this is even so and the wickedness of elders engraven on those of like manners with themselves, causes them to be styled their children, what is it that hinders you from believing Me even when I tell you the truth, that I of a surety am sprung of a True Father, and (as I said before) I proceeded forth from God and am come? For if a person tells lies because he has a liar for his father and utters them thence as from his own kindred, how is it not of necessity that I too speaking the truth must be conceived to have been surely begotten of a True Father and not (as YE blasphemously surmised) from one of the earth who was of fornication and unlawful union?

Such words then will the Lord have used to the Jews. But we must know that in respect of men or of rational spirits in manners and habits is seen the kinness which they may have one to another [and] to the father of all wickedness the devil: in regard of the Only-Begotten this is taken only as an image of this which is before us: for by Him it [i. e., the relationship] is full exactly limned, for His Connaturalness with the Father is Natural and Essential. For being of Him in truth, possessing all that is His with Natural Property and the acme of likeness in all things, He is seen the Form and Image and Impress of Him Who begat Him. Since therefore the Father is True, Truth of a surety is He too That is of Him, i. e., the Christ.

46 Which of you convinceth Me of sin?

The question is not that of one who looketh to be convicted, but rather of One Who takes away and utterly denies the possibility of Very God Who beamed forth of God, falling into sin: for Christ did no sin. For all sin takes its rise from the turning aside from the better unto that which is not so, and is produced in those whose nature it is to turn and who are recipient of change unto what they ought not. For how will he be conceived to even sin who knows no turning nor is recipient of change to ought that is not convenient, but rather is steadfast in His own innate Good, and that not from another but from Himself? The Lord then enquires of the Jews if they can at all convict Him of sin. And the word used for this will go through every transgression universally: but connecting it fitly with what is before us, we say that He does not at present ask it of every sin and do this as fearing to be convicted, but we consider it in this way, that since He was ever zealous to shame the sin of the Jews, He would not have endured by this question to incite them to again accuse Him of those things of which they before said, For a good work we stone Thee not but for blasphemy, and because Thou, being a Man, makest Thyself God: and besides that they should bring forward the breach of the sabbath in regard to which He was judged to have exceedingly transgressed. By sin therefore He at present means falsehood. For if (He says) I am never yet convicted of being untrue, why are ye minded to disbelieve Me who ever speak the truth, and tell you of a surety that I am sprung of the Very Father and know not falsehood? Give therefore give to faith unhesitatingly to hold that I am surely True when I say of Myself, I proceeded forth from God and am come, of you that your father is the devil, for ye lie and desire to kill just as he doth. But He convicts them profitably of desiring to kill Him, cutting short thereby their attempts. For sin exposed often blushes, and after a sort withdraws, finding no way of going forward and persisting: but if it think that it lies hid, it is ever the more lifted up and with unchecked impetus creeps on to basest consummation.

If I say the truth, why do YE not believe Me?

He goes often through the selfsame words, when He sees that they understand nought: for this too is a thing most befitting for teachers, not to shrink from manifoldly revolving the instruction which at the first was not taken in, in order that it may be fixed in the souls of the hearers. When therefore the liar (He says) speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar just as his father: why do ye reasoning and acting not conformably to what I say, not believe Me, albeit I say the truth, [imagining] that I am therefore speaking apart from the truth, seeing that I am even so True as is the Father also? It is (I suppose) likely that He is convicting the Jews of being therefore infirm in the power of containing the words of the truth, because they are not sons of the truth. To no purpose do they falsely call God their Father, saying, We have One Father, God. For God (He says) being wholly Truth, rejoices in the truth and wills them that worship Him to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. And the children of the truth receive willingly what is of kin to them, i. e., the Truth. But YE when I tell you the truth do therefore not believe, because ye are not children of the truth. Some such thing does the Lord seem to me to be saying to the Jews, as one will easily see if one adapt the speech to another person. For let one for example of sober character say to an unbridled son or servant or neighbour, If I seem to thee to be of sober character shunning fornication and putting the thought thereof as far from me as possible, why disbelievest thou and givest no credence when I say that it is a foul and polluted deed? One would not I suppose say that he said this, looking for an answer to his question, but whereby he shews him unbelieving clearly convicts him that he rejoicing in licentiousness does not admit the speech that would amend him.

Thus then shall we conceive as to the Jews likewise, when Christ says, If I say the truth, why do YE not believe Me? for the form of such questions has an affirmation alongside of them and ever annexed, from the very questions themselves; yea rather (may one say) the question largely convicts them. For we convict those who are asked of having the sickness of being without what ourselves possess. But note how He says, not absolutely nor generally, why believe ye Me not? but hath added YE, hinting at those who were wont more fiercely to disbelieve, and indicating that there were some there who had haply a nobler mind, and did not preserve in their ways the accurate impress of Cain’s stubbornness, but were even now going forward to being even enrolled among the children of God. For I say that we must not think that all the Jews were utterly immersed in untempered folly, but that some having a zeal of God, as Paul saith, yet not according to knowledge, did therefore delay a little as to the faith. But in those who were thus disposed we shall blame, as much looking unto wrath and intemperately kindled unto bloodthirstiness, the unholy scribes and Pharisees in particular, to whom will more fitly pertain the, Why do YE not believe Me, Christ as it were attributing to them as their own, boundless unbelief. For they were they who are the leaders and who persuade their subjects to go along with their profanenesses. Rightly therefore are they accused as having taken away the key of knowledge, and neither entering in themselves, and hindering others. The YE therefore has its more especial application to the rulers.

47 He that is of God heareth God’s words; YE therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

We must here understand that certain are of God, not as though begotten of His Essence (for that were foolish), nor yet according to what is said through Paul, All things are of God (for since He is Creator and Maker of all things who giveth being to all, the Divine Paul saith that all things are of Him): but it will not harmonize so to understand it here, for all are of God, both bad and good, in so far as He is Creator of all. He says therefore that he is of God who by virtue and a right conversation is related to God, and accounted worthy of kinness to Him, in that He deigns to enrol such among His children. He therefore, He says, that is of God will receive most readily and gladly the Divine words (for that which is of kin and own is always dear) but he that is not of God, i. e., he who in no wise prizes relationship with Him, will not most gladly hear the Divine words: for neither will good easily inexist the bad, nor will longing for virtue be to them a thing worth fighting for, since their mind has been filled with the extremest depravity and looks to only its own will.

But when Christ says. He that is of God heareth God’s words, let no one think that He is bidding us to give the Divine voice entry in merely our bodily ears. For who that is, even though he be a thoroughly bad man, will not surely hear the voice of him who speaketh, if he have not by some disease lost his hearing? But the word heareth, He here puts instead of Consents, believes and lays up in his mind, as it is said in the book of Proverbs, The wise will receive commandments in his heart. For that of the unwise or despisers the word borne about, like some meaningless sound and like some din that annoys to no purpose, forthwith departs from the recipients: but into the heart of the prudent like some generous soil it sinks in.

Full wisely does now the Lord, convicting the madness of the Jews and shewing that they blaspheme without restraint, say that His words are the words of God. For He reinstructs them (He says) to think more becomingly of Him and not to deem that of Joseph or any other of those on the earth did He of a truth spring, but to believe that of the Essence of God the Father He hath appeared God of God. Which they indeed understanding are annoyed and burn with hotter wrath, adding iniquity to their iniquity, as it is written, through those things whereby they insult Him yet more.

48 The Jews answered and said to Him, Say we not well that THOU art a Samaritan and hast a devil?

Meet is it again to bewail the madness of the Jews and the exceedingness of their folly. For they are taken by their own voice, like wild beasts when they spring upon the hand of them who are slaying them, themselves against themselves lending impetus to the steel. For when reproved of lying as their habit and custom which had grown up with them, they immediately shew that it is true, and they are cut at hearing from the Saviour that they are not of God, yet immediately without an interval do they shew in themselves most exact image of the devil’s wickedness. For a Samaritan and possessed do they dare to say that He is Who is sprung God of God, themselves rather having in themselves the bitter and God-opposing devil: for no man saith Anathema Jesus, save in Beelzebub, as Paul saith. Liars therefore and insulters and railers are they hereby too found, and used to fight against God, they shall pay fit penalty to the Judge That can do all.

We must enquire again here too the reason why they call the Lord both a Samaritan and possessed. For the prefacing, Do not WE well say, indicates that for some reason they vilify Him both as a Samaritan, and the other thing too which their utterance dared. They call Him therefore a Samaritan as being indifferent to the commands of the Law and recking nought of the breach of the Sabbath. For among the Samaritans there is no exact Judaism but their worship is mixed with foreign and Greek habits. Or in another way do they say that He is a Samaritan, seeing it was the habit of the Samaritans to falsely testify purity of themselves and to condemn the rest as defiled. On this pretext I suppose, the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans, as it is written, and refuse also to mingle with some others, loathing after a sort the defilement thence arising, since thus to prate seems to them right. And the Lord condemning the ill-disposition of the Jews, used to call them devil’s children, and to Himself He testifies entire blamelessness in regard to sin and utter purity saying, Who of you is convicting Me of sin? for this was the language of one who was plainly ascribing to Himself the uttermost purity, by reason that He could not fall into sin, and by calling the Jews Satan’s children was condemning them as defiled and having their mind filled with all uncleanness, as is also true. On these accounts therefore do they call Him a Samaritan, they say again that He is possessed, because it is the wont of devils to transfer to themselves the honour due to God and recklessly to seize on God’s glory. And this very thing they suppose that Christ does, when being man He puts Himself as it were into the place of God saying, He that is of God heareth God’s words: for He is intimating (they say) of His own words that they are such. Of their railing, their blasphemy rather, against Him such is the Jews’ plea and occasion for saying those things which pledged unto them the eternal fire.

And it comes to me to wonder at this also. They angered because they were often called devil’s children and liars, shew in act that the charge belongs to them, which they ought rather by inclining themselves to virtue to have rubbed off. For their love of railing and saying that things belong to any which do not belong to them, are most fit not for those who have been enrolled among God’s children but among the devil’s children. And the wretched ones not only rail, lying against their own head, not to say against Christ, but they also affirm that they are doing so well, not so much as condemning their wickedness: and this is the proof of the completest blindness.

49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil but I honour My Father and YE do dishonour Me.

Gentle is the word, but nevertheless very pointed. For most emphatically does He say, I have not a devil, and putting Himself in contradistinction to them, He shews that He is free from their railing and that it is true of them. For unless themselves had a devil, they would (it is likely) have shuddered at calling Him possessed Who was attested to them by His Deeds as God. Most excellently therefore does He say, I have not, transferring the speech to them and allotting it rather to them by reason that so it was in truth. I therefore have not (He says) but YE the devil, and I honour My Father, saying that I am God and have beamed forth of God and affirming that I knew not sin. For it needed, it needed that He Who is of God be God and that He Who is of Him Who knoweth not sin should be beheld such as He of Whom He is. But if (as is necessary the opposite should be) refusing to offend you, I had not used such splendid language (for God would not be honoured if conceived of as having a Son not God) the Father (He says) would not have been honoured if He had been called the Father of one who falls into sin. Hence in witnessing most excellent things to Myself, I in no wise (He says) blaspheme as ye suppose, but rather honour My Father. I honour Him in another way too (for I say with justice of you that ye are not of God, since neither is it right that they who have come to this pitch of wickedness and are drenched in all villainy should say that they are of God. For He honours and deems worthy of kin to Him not the liar and railer and blasphemer and haughty and insolent, nor yet one whose wont it is to seek to kill unjustly, but the gentle and meek and pious and godly and good. Hence in this way too do I honour the Father, putting forth from kinness with Him those who are condemned for utter wickedness; and YE again dishonour Me doing this, and attack the praise that belongs to the Father that ye may be caught, blaspheming not only against the Son, but now against Him too. For if I by witnessing of Myself things most excellent, honour My Father, he will surely (He says) dishonour Him, who clothes Him That is of Him with the deepest reproaches. On all sides therefore is Christ consistent with His own words, and clearly shews that He is God by Nature, and whereby He says that the Father is honoured when the kinness to Him of the multitude of the unholy is thrust off, by this doth He say that the Jews are in all respects alien to God: for what more unholy than they who say those things?

50 I seek not Mine own Glory, there is That seeketh and judgeth.

Herein is that seen to be clearly true which is said through Peter of the Saviour, Who when He was reviled reviled not again, suffering He threatened not but delivered Himself to Him That judgeth righteously. For see how He hearing things of all the worst and cruellest from those who are impiously raging against Him (and this full oft) He abides in His own gentleness, and in no wise departs from what beseems Him, for our ensample doing this too, that we zealous to follow His Footsteps might not be caught in rendering railing for railing, nor ought else of evil for evil, but might rather overcome evil with good.

I therefore seek not My glory (He says) and this not as though He were proffering to those who so willed the insulting of Him as a thing free from peril, nor yet as inciting any to go readily unto this impiety is He seen to say this, but He signifies rather thus: I am come (He says) not to make glory from you My business, nor desiring at all honour or fame: for being in the form of God the Father I have abased Myself and have for your sakes become Man as you. And He Who disdained not to take servant’s form, when He might have remained in equality with God the Father and had the full enjoyment of things above mind and speech, how will He be deemed to be seeking glory from any and not rather to be enduring voluntary disgrace for others’ good?

Our Lord here is either saying this, or in another way too we will suppose that He seeketh not His own glory. For it being in His Power to punish immediately those who insult Him and to demand satisfaction for their blasphemy as behaving ungodly against the Very Lord of all:—He bears calmly what is grievous and endures to that extent as not so much as to desire to grieve by a mere word the haughty ones, yet in order that blasphemy against God may not seem a beaten track to any, needs does He, forbidding them to advance thereto, straightway oppose as a barrier, the Father’s wrath. For though the Son be longsuffering and do not forthwith take vengeance for His own glory, the Father (He says) will not be forbearing, for He will be an Avenger and will rise up against the insulters, not as though taking the part of another nor as though He were pleased to grieve in behalf of one of the saints insulted and deemed it became Him thus to do, but as though the sin reached up unto Him (for there is nought at all intervening between the Father and the Son, as far I mean as identity of Essence, even though either be conceived of as existing separately). For therefore does our Lord Jesus Christ too elsewhere say, He that honoureth not the Son neither cloth he honour the Father. For the Son hath in Himself Naturally the Father Co-glorified and Co-existing, the Father again hath in Himself the Son partaker of His Essence, so too of His glory in every thing. The wretched Jews therefore will be punished for their blasphemy against the Lord and Son, impious against the whole Consubstantial and Holy Trinity and grieving in the Son the Nature that is King of all.

Every one therefore who at all practiseth piety must therefore shun in ought offending the good God. For not because He doth not immediately bring His Anger on those who offend against Him, must we therefore be supine. For He is Good, not bringing on His Anger every day, yet if we turn not, He will whet His sword, as it is written, and will bend against us His Bow, wherein are the instruments of death, that is to say, every form of shame and intolerable trouble.

51 Verily verily I say unto you, If a man keep My word, he shall not see death for ever.

He shews that it is superfluous to array long defences against those who are wont to delight in blaming; for He bends Himself to what was necessary, I mean the calling through faith unto eternal life, and all but bidding farewell to those who had through their unlearning grieved Him, He kneads up His own discourse with a sort of art. For having before said of God, He that is of God heareth God’s words, He immediately says, If a man keep My word, shewing that He is by Nature God and hence teaching that no further reach of impiety yet remains to the Jews when they have said that He hath a devil Who giveth eternal Life to those who will keep His word. For will He not be known by this too to be God by Nature? for to what other will pertain the being able to quicken for ever them who hear His words, save to Him Who is God by Nature?

The Divine word is kept, when a man does not transgress the Divine Commandment but is instant and does without delay that which is bidden and is in no wise accused of sloth in the Divine laws. But note again how great exactitude the words have, for He does not endure to say, If a man hear My Word, but, If a man keep My Word. For there receive into their ear the word of God, not men alone holden in sin, but also the unhallowed band itself of the devils: and verily Satan the chieftain of them all, when ho daring to tempt in the wilderness our Lord Jesus Christ, kicking against the pricks by reason of his much ferocity of character, did set before Him the Divine word also, saying, It has been written That He shall command His Angels respecting Thee to guard Thee in all Thy ways. Therefore not in mere hearing is the word of salvation, nor in only learning is life, but in keeping what was heard, and as a certain rule and guide of life was He setting before [them] the Divine word. He says that the sure keeper of His words shall not see death for ever, not surely as taking away death in the flesh, but as God not accounting that death is death, for to Him nought is dead, in that His it is both to bring to the birth that which is not and easily to quicken that which when so wrought has decayed. Or He says that the saints shall not see death in the age to come, which age will strictly and more truly be conceived of as not having an end like this of ours; and He says that they who have kept His Divine Word shall not see death during that age, not as though any should die after the Resurrection, for the death of all has been undone in the death of Christ and the might of decay brought to an end, but by death He means (as is like) being punished for ever. And you may learn this, viewing what Himself has said above: for Verily (He says) I say to you, he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, he that disobeyeth the Son shall not see life: albeit all shall rise again and shall hasten anew unto life, both faithful and faithless. For by no means is the Resurrection partial, but equally to all, so far at least that all must live again.

How then will he that believeth not the Son not see life, albeit all look to rise again? it is then manifest to every body that it is Christ’s wont to call life, a long living in gladness and glory which refuseth to draw to a close; and this is treasured up in hope for the saints. As therefore He says that he which disobeyeth the Son shall have no sight of life albeit all look to live again, meaning here not the life of the body, but calling by this name the hope prepared for the saints: in the same way He says that the brave and intrepid keeper of His Divine words shall not see death for ever, not surely signifying hereby the death of the body, but the punishment prepared for the sinners. For as in the former joy is indicated through the word life, so here too punishment through saying death.

52 The Jews said to Him, Now we know that Thou hast a devil.

They again accuse the Truth who when called liars take it ill as though they were insulted: yet do they bear witness even against their will to the Saviour’s words and whereby they dishonour Him, by these very same words they shew that He is unlying. But blind are these wretched ones and they have their heart replete with so great unlearning as not even to think that they ought to wipe off those charges about which they were accused, but even to fall into evils worse than the past ones and to be caught in their own toils. For see, see by what things they think to excuse themselves as though not in vain they had railed against Him, through these they are the more convicted of being liars and are the faster holden (so to say) in the bonds of their own sins. In most utter folly too do they here say, Now we know: for they who had full often bayed against Him and declared that He hath a devil, say that now they know it, condemning their preceding unbridledness of tongue. For if now they know it, formerly they did not know it: how then did they say that He had a devil who was not yet (as themselves deemed) condemned? A liar therefore long before too was the impious people of the Jews and with unbridled tongue did it use to belch out the devil’s malice against Christ. They seize hold for the confirmation of their own idle speech on what was spoken by our Saviour Christ, for their much madness thinking (it seems) that the truth would aid a lie. Next by what means it was in their power to learn that they are transgressing impiously, madly insulting the Giver of everlasting life: they see not that by these very means they are advancing unto intensity of the disease. For they count that it is fit not only not to repent of those things, but they even say that they are persuaded that such is the truth … And the Prophet is true in saying, That right are the ways of the Lord and the just shall walk in them, but the ungodly shall be impotent in them.

But one might be astonied at their unparallelled madness in this too. Beholding a not easily numbered multitude of devils and evil spirits crushed by one word of our Saviour and cast forth against their will from those in whom they are, they shudder not at saying that He has a devil, albeit assured by necessary arguments that Satan will not cast out Satan. For every kingdom (says Christ) divided against itself is desolated and every house and city divided against itself is desolated. And if Satan cast out Satan he is divided against himself; how therefore shall his kingdom stand? Lo therefore (may one say and with good reason) a people verily foolish and without an heart, they have eyes and see not, ears and hear not. For neither by word and teaching, nor viewing with the eyes of the understanding the Nature Supreme above all, are they changed so as to will to think better; they aim at It, yea rather each at his own soul, with excess of dishonour, like as with stones.

Abraham died and the prophets died and THOU sayest, If any keep My saying, he shall not taste death for ever.

When the all-daring folk of the Jews, lying against their own head, say to the Saviour, Thou hast a devil, they want to indicate nothing else than, Thou makest Thyself God, as having put about Him the honour and glory due to the Divine Nature: for such is the practice of devils as we have said before also. And they conceive of nothing beyond what is visible nor acknowledge God the Word in human form, nor yet remove their mind some little from corporeal things, but fastening the in only on those of earth, they are conversant only with the inferior part, as subject to touch. Hence the wretched ones are offended and suppose that the Truth, that is, Christ, speaks untruly, yea and imagine that He is lifting Himself up against the glory that befits God, not solely as admitting the being placed in equal rank with Him who rules all things but as even savouring something greater, and fancying He could do, or even promising to do, what God the Father did not. For why it is that they are vexed, saying that Abraham and the Prophets are dead, why they are putting forward the death of the Saints in order to overturn the Saviour’s words, it is meet to see.

They want therefore to express something of this sort, We have not spoken falsely in saying that Thou hast a devil, the proof of our words is not far off; for lo, Thou promisest to overpass God Himself in miracles and that Thou canst easily accomplish what He hath not wrought. For Abraham and the Prophets, albeit they kept God’s word, have not gainsaid the laws of nature, but swerved and have fallen into this common death of the body, and THOU sayest that he who keeps Thy words shall be utterly untasting of death: how then dost Thou not say that Thine acts are better than His? he who supposeth that he will surpass God, how will he not be clearly distraught? For they of their great unlearning are supposing that the Lord is here pointing to only the death of the body, and promising to those who obey Him that they shall be free from bodily death, even though it be the special business of those who are sober-minded to conceive that nothing dieth to God, being quickened though it die. For if it were brought from not being into being, how will not that which was already so brought, be more readily and easily called unto the future being, even though they conceive that it have been put to sleep some little space for economy’s sake? The Jews therefore not witting the glory of the Saviour behave themselves haughtily against His words, and call Him possessed, as promising to do greater things than God has wrought: and in proof of their accusation they put forward the death of Abraham and the holy Prophets, by means whereof they think to convict Christ of boasting with empty words, in promising that He will give endless Life to them that keep His word, and also of doing injury to the glory of God, in that He confesses that He will give them the greater things.

53 Art THOU greater than our father Abraham who died? and the Prophets died.

Overshadowed in this too is the speech of the Jews and clearly big with some deep meaning: for what again do they here say, conceiving after the manner of men, yet bitter things according to their inward scope? for lo albeit (say they) they kept the Divine word, both Abraham and the Prophets have died, yet we heard Thee just now promise to some greater things. For whereby Thou sayest that they shall not die at all, they are full surely greater and in better case than those mentioned, in this very fact of not dying. Therefore (for tell us, they say, and answer us who ask it) art thou thyself greater than Abraham and the Prophets, who dost promise to make others greater than they are? though they have died, wilt thou not die, but remain immortal, though a Man and having a body of earth? how then couldest Thou give to others what Thyself hast not? for Thou wilt surely die, being a Man. But if Thou art not greater than Abraham and the Prophets, being to undergo death in common with them, then Thou wilt not give to others a good which belongeth not even to Thyself: some such meaning hath what is indirectly said by them. And marvel not if they have no greater conception of Christ: for as we have ofttimes manifoldly said, they deem that He is a mere Man and one of those like us, wholly ignorant that the Only-Begotten God the Word was united to flesh. Whom makest Thou Thyself? Of their unmeasured madness they all but think to set right the Lord transgressing and as though He knew not what is becoming, they advise Him to think more lowly. For (say they) Thou hast not known, sir, Thine own nature Thou forgottest that Thou wert a Man, Thou wert not contented with the measure given by God: for whom dost Thou make Thyself, who dost promise to give better things than those of His bounty and hazardously sayest that Thou wilt accomplish things beyond His Might?

They condemn therefore as having blasphemed, they dart like scorpions upon Him, they suppose it right to blame (thinking it just) Christ as contemning the due measure of the manhood, and springing up and bounding forth to such a degree as to be borne beyond the glory inherent in the Lord of all, yea and trampling on the honour of the holy Patriarchs and Prophets: for now they look to hear Him openly cry out (in reply to those things whereby they think to incite Him, uttering of their perversity Whom makest Thou Thyself?) I am greater than Abraham and the Prophets: albeit the Lord in saying this would have been most true, inasmuch as there is no comparison between men and God Who is above all nature visible and spiritual.

54 Jesus answered, If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing,

The whole aim of the discourse looks in the direction of blessed Abraham and the Prophets, but the Saviour persuasively transforms to Himself what is expressed, not ignorant that prone to anger, even without any plea inviting thereto, is the Pharisee, and that he takes every one of the things uttered by Him, as an additional reason for more fiercely plotting His murder. For envy renders sin-loving those wherein it is, and persuades them more hotly to be vexed even at what they least ought. Something of this sort again does Christ will to signify. The Jews were springing upon and contradicting what was said by Him, perpetually speaking even to satiety of Abraham and the Prophets and openly crying out, Art THOU greater than our father Abraham who died? and the Prophets died: in addition, they were accusing Him of springing upon the glory of the Saints and lifting up Himself exceeding far above them, saying to Him, Whom dost Thou make Thyself? It would then have behoved the Lord to answer in plain terms to these things and say clearly, I am superior and greater than Abraham and the prophets. But the mighty-minded Jew would not have tolerated the word, for he would forthwith have been indignant thereat and feigning to be a lover of the Father, and making believe to be advocating the glory of the saints, he would have attacked Christ more hotly and in his vexation would have seemed to be now rightly blood-thirsty: hence the Lord transferring to Himself the word says, If I honour Myself Mine honour is nothing; for He is all but saying, Let no one of those upon the earth think great things of himself; for if we would consider with ourselves what the glory of man is, we shall find it nothing at all; for all flesh is grass and every glory of man as flower of grass. No marvel is it then (He says) if Abraham has died and after him the prophets; for what is man’s glory, when his nature tyrannized over by both death and decay is therefore likened to easily-fading grass?

It seems likely that by skilfully transforming to Himself the measure pertaining to Abraham or the Prophets and saying, My glory is nothing, He is calling the Jew to the memory of Abraham saying most clearly of himself, I am earth and ashes, and of the blessed prophets crying to God, Remember that we are earth. And we do not say that by this He is accusing the glory of the saints, Who glorifies them: but it was necessary and the word of profit was inviting Him to shew how great the difference between His Divine and Ineffable Nature and them which are subject to death and decay.

My Father is which glorifieth Me.

For exact elucidation and idea of the things signified I will use the same words and go through the same speech. The Jews ever putting forward as an invincible question and a problem not lightly to be set aside and saying. Art THOU greater than our father Abraham who died? and the prophets died, whom dost Thou make Thyself? and supposing in truth that He Himself too will both die and be subject to death and decay and will not herein be greater than Abraham and the holy Prophets, and having no great opinion at all of Him:—at length of necessity does our Lord Jesus Christ Who is of the Eternity of Him That begat Him shew that He is Eternal, therefore He saith, My Father which glorifieth Me IS, wishing the word IS to be here conceived of not simply nor without enquiry, but rather putting it as indicative of His Father’s Being: and the Son which is ineffably begotten of the Existing Father, full surely brings with Him the property of His Father, that is, Being. He is therefore superior to both Abraham and the Prophets, for the one have died as being earth-born of mortal fathers, the Other, incomprehensibly going forth from Him Who is, is ever glorified by His own Father, not as lacking glory (for He is the King of Glory) but as having His boast in being begotten of an Eternal Father, and being therefore Eternal Himself too, for He carries Essentially the Dignity of Him Who begat Him. Its being said that the Father glorified Him will therefore no ways injure the Son, in regard of God-befitting conception, seeing that the Father Himself too is glorified in like way by the Son, not as though He needed glory, but because the being known to be Father of such an Offspring, God, that is, as He, is esteemed to be and hath glory. Therefore the Son Himself too saith to the Father, Father, glorify Thy Son that the Son too may glorify Thee. Hence the glory of man is absolutely nothing, for that which is of earth falleth into death, so far as the body is concerned, even though it rise. The Only-Begotten is glorified by His Father, as having along with all the other goods that of His Essence as His very Own: to what extent He differs from the whole creation, the blessed Psalmist too briefly signifieth, crying aloud, The Heavens shall perish but THOU shalt abide, and they all shall wax old as a garment and as a cover shalt Thou change them and they shall be changed, but THOU art the same and Thy years shall not fail. For subject to decay is every thing that is made even though it have not yet decayed, holden by the Divine Counsel that it perish not; but Incorruptible and Eternal by Nature is God, not like the Creation gaining this by Another’s will, but ever existing in His own goods, in which is also His special Property.

55 Of Whom YE say that He is your God and ye have not known Him.

He refutes them again and that with might as practising the piety of bare words only, but exceeding far removed from truly knowing God: and all but utters against them that which was declared through the Prophet: for then He said, This people draweth nigh to Me, with their lips they do honour Me, but their heart is far from Me, and now profitably and in conformity with that olden [utterance] does He say, Ye have not known Him. And it is true, for not the mere knowing that He is God,—not this surely is having knowledge of God (for that God exists and IS, the devils too believe and tremble, as it is written) but in addition to knowing that He IS, it is meet to have fit and due thoughts of Him; thus—what God really is by Nature, I suppose that no sober minded person would enquire (for it were impossible to find out) but what things are His Attributes or not His Attributes, one may recognize and that with ease, if one is conversant with the sacred Scriptures. For we know and have believed that He is Mighty, we know that He is not infirm, we know that He is Good, we know that He is not bad, we know that He is Righteous, and again that He is not unjust. We know that He is Eternal, we are agreed and believe that He is not bounded by time, nor yet transitory, as WE are. The Jews therefore as far as in words and voice did say and clearly confess that God is their God, being none the less ignorant of Him, but as far as that He is Incorruptible and Eternal, we shall not find that they understood. For had they known, they would not (I suppose) have sunk down to that degree of distraction as to think that the Only-Begotten Son which cometh forth of His Essence would die; nor yet would they putting forward the death of Abraham and the Prophets have senselessly said, Whom dost Thou make Thyself? for would not a man with reason say outright that it was necessary that they who know Who the Father is by Nature should believe that such is the Son also who proceedeth forth of Him? for like as of a sweet source goeth forth full surely a sweet stream, and as of trees of a good sort of a good sort full surely is the offspring, so I ween must one needs believe that He who is of God by Nature is True God and He That is begotten of an Eternal Father, is Eternal as He who begat Him. Seasonable then is it to say here too to the Jews, Either make the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt or make the tree goodly and his fruit goodly, for a good tree cannot bear evil fruits nor a corrupt tree bear good fruits. How then is it possible yea, rather how is it not replete with all folly, to deem that He who was begotten of an Immortal Father is mortal and to make Him who knoweth not corruption connumerate with those who are subject to decay?

But I know Him and if I say that I know Him not I shall be like you a liar.

I spake not falsely (He says) in saying to the Jews, If any keep My word he shall not see death for ever; for I am able to render undying, seeing I know that He of whom I am is mighty to do this, seeing I know that My Father is by Nature Life. I too am therefore as He is, Life that is by Nature and Lifegiving. But if I denied My power of quickening, I should be ignorant of My Father, the Property of whose Essence I possessing, am able to quicken as He. Hence I confess that I have all things that are in the Father, and affirming that I am as He, and for this reason professing to do His works, I full surely know Him; and if I say that I have not the properties of the Father uncounterfeit in Myself, I shall be a liar, as you are, as though I knew not the Father. Yea and when I say that the glory of Abraham and the Prophets is nothing, seeing they were of earth and men by nature, to whom death is not foreign, and that My glory is the Eternity of the Father, it is as knowing the Father that I say so: and if I say that I shall fall into decay as they, and that I am not co-eternal with the Father, I shall speak falsely like you, not knowing the Father of whom I am: for it were impossible that He who is of Him That IS and ever abideth the same should not full surely both be and abide ever the same, for That which is begotten of Eternal is Eternal.

For one might taking the passage before us more simply, say that it was spoken in another way: I know (He says) My own Father; if I said I knew not, I shall be a liar like you who know not God, but say that you know Him.

And what is the mode of knowing and what the charges of not knowing, having already clearly said, we will add nothing superfluous.

But I know Him mid keep His Word.

As far as belongs to the first contact of the words before us, we say this, that Christ is speaking again as man and abasing Himself to our level, not rejecting at its proper time servant-befitting guise. He says therefore that He knows the Father and keeps His word. And we do not surely say that He of necessity witnesses these things to Himself nor yet that He is recounting ought of what pertains to Him, but there is much art mixed up herein. For through His saying that He knows the Father and keeps His word, He shews that the Jews mind the contrary to the things which He affirms that He has, in that they neither know God, nor yet think that they ought to keep His word: for then would they have received with all zeal Him that was foreheralded through Moses and the Prophets. And we shall find among ourselves too some such fashion of speech, goodly and most excellent, having the force of rebuke and gently intimating to some the evils wherein they are, but cutting off their anger at being reproved. For instance let there be a man religions and otherwise good, who reproaching the thief and the drunkard says, I am a religious person, I have not stolen what is another’s, nor yet have I ever been drunk. And such an one is not surely bearing witness to himself by this, nor shall we suppose that he is thus speaking, but he is putting the reverse of his own acquirements on those whom he is reproaching. Thus therefore our Lord Jesus Christ too says that He knows the Father and keeps His word, in reverse wise hereby putting about the unholy Jews, that they neither know God nor yet endure His word, or deem worthy of any observance at all the Law prescribed them from above.

But if we must in another way too apply to what is before us and look more subtilly at what is covertly intimated, we shall say this besides, The Son knows His own Father, not having knowledge of such kind as is in us, but Godbefitting and inexplicable. For as man that is begotten of man, not as though learning from any other but from whence himself is, is not ignorant of the nature of him who begat him; so the Son too from whence He is knows His own Father and preserves His word, i. e., has the definition of His Essence preserved whole in Himself, for λόγος means definition. For the λόγος of a man, i. e., the definition of his essence, is, a living creature rational, mortal, recipient of mind and knowledge: the λόγος for example of an angel will be the definition of his being. But of God by Nature we may not receive count or definition, for we know not what He is by Nature, but the Son knoweth His own Father and Begotten of His Essence knoweth what He is by Nature Who begat Him; and taking of our usage and serving Himself of human words, He says that He retains in Himself the Father’s word, as though the definition of His Essence: for He is the Image of Him That begat Him and the Impress in no wise charged with unlikeness but having in Himself all the God-befitting Excellencies of Him Who begat Him.

56 Abraham your father exulted to see My Day and saw and rejoiced.

He here calls day nought else save the time of His Advent wherein the Very Light beamed upon us and the Sun of Righteousness arose, the darkness relaxed that held us like a mist while the prince of this world yet tyrannized, darkening (so to speak) the whole world with his perversities, thrusting it down unto idolatrous error, diversely darkening the mind of each one. Therefore the Divine Psalmist too knowing as a day the thrice-longed-for time of His Advent, fore-uttered it in the Spirit, This is the Day which the Lord made, let us exult and rejoice in it. Otherwise, it is the custom of the holy Scripture to call the time for each work, day, as, For the day of the Lord of Hosts is upon every insulter and haughty one and they shall be abased, and again, What will ye do in the day of the assembly and in the day of the feast of the Lord? yea and the Psalmist says that in that day shall the thoughts of certain perish, defining again as day the time of the Divine and looked-for Tribunal, wherein will nought avail to the renowned of the world the deceit of their olden thoughts and the empty swelling of the brow at its wealth.

Your father Abraham therefore (He says) exulted to see My Day and saw and rejoiced. And how or when we shall suppose that blessed Abraham saw the Day of our Saviour Christ, i. e., the time of His Advent with flesh? Not open to view is the utterance (for one cannot take it and just speak and explain it) yet considering well what belongs hereto (as we are able) we will say that God revealed His own Mystery just as to one of the holy Prophets. Or we shall grant that he truly saw the day of the Lord’s slaughter (on account whereof all things have turned out auspiciously unto us and were made prosperous), when for a type of Him he was enjoined to offer up for a sacrifice his only-begotten and first-born, Isaac: for it is like that as he was executing the priest’s office at that time, the exact force of the Mystery was made clear as in a type in that which was wrought.

One may give other occasions also for this to those who are more zealous for learning. For he saw three men at the oak in Mamre, yea and received promise from God that he should be a father of many nations, which could in no other way be fulfilled, save that the Gentiles were called through the faith Christ-ward, inscribing Abraham their father and about to sit down with him in the kingdom of heaven and to co-partake with him in the munificence unto all good things of our Saviour. Blessed Abraham therefore (He says) saw and seeing rejoiced at My Day. And why Christ proceeds to say these things also, we must needs speak of.

The Jews beholding Him a Man by reason of the veil of flesh, were conceiving of nothing God-befitting about Him, but were supposing that He too is mortal like us, as being brought from not being into being, and they would not of their great ill-counsel believe that He was Eternal, as being of the Eternal Father. In order then that He might clearly shew, that He is not recent nor just-made as are we, but that He was known of their very oldest Fathers also as being Eternal, does He say these things. In the same does He (it seems) profitably reproach them, because acting ill-advisedly and foolishly minded they spurn what was a very gala to the beginner of their race. For he did but see and he rejoiced, they having Him and it being in their power to enjoy Him insult Him by their unbelief and set themselves in braggart wise against so glorious grace. Or perhaps He covertly intimates this that He is both greater and superior to Abraham seeing it was to him a festal assembly, to only know somewhat of Him: for He could not say it openly and apart from any veil, by reason of their being mighty to wrath, but He indicates it in another way.

And let no one suppose that Jesus in saying Abraham your father [died], contradicts Himself, in that He in one place removes them from relation with Abraham, saying, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham, but now again calls them Abraham’s sons: but we must know that well does He in either case direct His discourse unto the truth. For in the former, defining the quality of spiritual nobility, He depicts a relation in sameness of habits, here He allots them mere bare kindred of the flesh, that both in the former He may be true, and here not false.

57 The Jews said therefore to Him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?

Utterly without understanding is the Jews’ speech, and big with much absurdity, and one may wonder (and with much reason) at their proceeding to so great lack of understanding, as to be utterly unable to conceive as they ought. For though our Saviour Christ had devised full many turns of speech, over and over going through the same words and manifoldly indicating therein His own Eternity, they think no whit more than they see with the eyes of the body, but as though utterly distraught and the whole power of their mind deranged, they reach not forth their heart unto what beseems God, but as if He were some man like us, then barely beginning to be and be accounted among things that are, when he was born, they senselessly accuse Him of a lie, not even deeming aright of what they heard Him say. For He said that Abraham had seen His Day, they turn about to the contrary the force of His word, for (say they) Thou art not yet fifty years old and how hast Thou beheld Abraham? miserable therefore is the senseless Jew, ever comrade of much uninstructedness, and making madness his wild foster brother.

58 Jesus said to them, Verily verily I say to you, before Abraham was I am.

Again does Christ advance to His wonted and favourite contrivance, for He speaks at times exceeding obscurely and overshadowing His exposition with diverse veils suffers it not to be open to all. But when He sees that the hearers understand nothing at all, then having stripped His discourse of its obscurity, He sets it before them plain and clear. And this He studies to do on the present occasion. For since He found that they understood nought (albeit a long discourse had been gone through) nor yet were able to understand that He is both Eternal as being of an Eternal Father, and that He is incomparably greater than Abraham as being God, He now says openly, adding Amen in the rank of an oath for confirmation of the things said, Before Abraham was I am. And we shall in no wise think that the Only-Begotten is boasting of being before Abraham only, for He is before all time and hath His Generation most ancient, being without beginning in the Father. But since the comparison with Abraham was before Him at present, He says that He is elder than he; just as if the number 100, for instance, were to say, I am greater than 10: it would not surely be saying this, as having the next place above ten, but because it is exceeding much superior and above ten. He therefore is not rivalling Abraham’s times, nor does He affirm that He is some little precedent to his times: but since He is above all time, and o’erpasseth the number of every age, He says that He is before Abraham, uttering a truth.

And exceeding rightly and well does He of Abraham put, Was, of Himself, I am, shewing that to him that was made of things which are not, will full surely follow the necessity of decaying, to Him That ever is will never befall the passing into not being.

Greater therefore is He and Superior to Abraham: greater as Eternal, Superior for that He decays not as he does.

59 They took up therefore stones to cast at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went forth of the temple.

They see not the truth (in that they are verily both liars themselves, and have a liar for their father, as the Saviour saith) but are angry at no vexing thing. Supposing that they ought to contend for the glory of their forefather as though wronged, they were kindled thereby unto no seasonable anger, albeit they ought to have known the force of the things said and who it was Who thus speaks: but turning aside unto most unreasonable and beast-befitting madness, they endeavour to aim at Him with stones, as though they had not sufficiently offended Him by their already much railing, or were drawing upon themselves by their folly some small wrath. Hot therefore and most foolish is the attempt of the Jews, but it passes not into act out of season, for the time of His Passion was yet to come.

Christ hides Himself, not retreating beneath walls, not interposing ought else before His Body, but by the power of His Godhead rendering Himself invisible to them who seek Him. And it was not enough to escape their notice but He also goeth forth of the temple, limning to us a sort of type herein of things spiritual. For to them that love Him He is manifest always (as it is said, Blessed are the pure in heart, because they shall see God) but hastens away from those who are prone to fight against God, and is seen of none who behave impiously, nor yet loveth to be with after a sort and to dwell with them that persecute Him, but rather doth He depart from them and removeth, taking away with Him all joy, and leaving bare of graces from Him those by whom He is evil entreated, in regard (I mean) of their wishing to do Him wrong, and of the attempts of the impious ones, even though Christ shews all things to be vain, by His unspeakable might bringing to nought the unholy daring of those who transgress against Him.

Chap. 9 And passing by He saw a man blind from his birth.

While the Jews were raging against Him and now essaying to wound Him with stones, forthwith He goes forth of the temple that is among them, and takes Him away from the unholiness of His pursuers. And in passing by, straightway He seeth one blind from his birth, and setteth him as a token and that most clear that He will remove from the abominable behaviour of the Jews, and will leave the multitude of the God-opposers, and will rather visit the Gentiles, and to them transfer the abundance of His Clemency. And He likens them to the blind from his birth by reason of their having been made in error and that they are from their first age as it were bereft of the true knowledge of God, and that they have not the light from God, i. e., the illumination through the Spirit.

It is meet to observe again what Christ’s visiting the blind man as He was passing by, signifies. And it comes to me to think that Christ strictly speaking came not for the Gentiles but for Israel’s sake alone (as Himself too somewhere says, I was not sent save unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel), yet was the recovery of sight given to the Gentiles, Christ transferring His Mercy to them as by the way, because of the disobedience of Israel. And this it was again which was afore-sung through Moses, I will provoke them to jealousy with not a nation, with a foolish nation will I anger them. For a foolish nation was it which serveth the creature more than Creator and like irrational beasts feeds on just all unlearning, and giveth heed only to things of the earth. But since Israel which was wise by reason of the law and prudent from having Prophets angered [God], it in its turn was angered by God, they who aforetime were not prudent being taken into the place belonging to these, for to them through faith was Christ made wisdom and sanctification and redemption, as it is written, i. e., both light and recovery of sight.








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