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The Great Commentary Of Cornelius À Lapide Volumes 1 To 8

1 He commendeth Gaius for his piety, 5 and hospitality 7 to true preachers: 9 complaining of the unkind dealing of ambitions Diotrephes on the contrary side, 11 whose evil example is not to be followed: 12 and giveth special testimony to the good report of Demetrius.

1. To Gaius, the Greek form of Caius. Who was this Caius? Lucius Dextor in his “Chronicle” thinks he was the son of Caius Oppius, the centurion. He thus writes concerning him:—“S. John the Theologian wrote from Ephesus to the Spaniard Caius, the son of Caius Malacitanus, the centurion, and brother of Demetrius, a hospitable man, whose father was afterwards Bishop of Milan. Now Diotrephes hindered the guests who were coming into the Spains for the sake of pilgrimage. This wicked bishop was afterwards deposed on account of his crimes and his pride. There was a pilgrimage from many other places to the holy places of Spain from the very times of the Apostles, when Caius Oppius the centurion supported the pilgrims. This Caius was domiciled at Corinth, but of Spanish descent. He also liberally entertained in his house the blessed Paul when he was returning from Spain, and he invited John when he was going redeuntim into Spain after his exile. He accompanied John, and was at Rome until the time of Hyginus. After that he went to Milan, and being made Bishop there died in the Lord.” So also Onuphrius in his “Chronicle” makes Caius the third Bishop of Milan. But he says he was a Roman, not a Spaniard.

2. Bede, the Gloss, Ambrosiaster, and many others think that this Caius was the Corinthian, of whom S. Paul, writing from Corinth to the Romans, says (14:23), “Gaius, mine host and of the whole church” (as Bede and the Greek read), “salutes you.” This was because of his hospitality in receiving any members of the Church into his house. In like manner, S. John here warmly commends this Caius for his hospitality. S. Paul also says of Caius (1 Cor. 1:14), “I baptized none of you save Crispus and Gaius.” Moreover, S. Athanasius, in his Synopis, testifies that this Caius was an intimate friend of S. John’s, and that he wrote his Gospel at S. John’s dictation.

Mariana and Serarius add that this Caius is the same as he to whom four Epistles of S. Dionysius the Areopagite are extant. They are inscribed to Caius the Therapeutes, i.e. the Essene, or monk. It is considered to favour this idea that S. John writes to his Caius in ver. 11, “He that doeth good is of God: he that doeth not good hath not seen God.” For the Therapeutæ, giving themselves up continually to pious contemplation, by this means saw God. From hence they were called Seers, like the Prophets of old.

Ver. 2.—Concerning all I make prayer that thou mayest prosper and be well, &c. The meaning is, I wish that thou in all things mayest be well and prosper, as now indeed thy soul, i.e. thou thyself, art well and dost prosper in all things. For God does prosper thee in all things both in mind and body. He blesses and enlarges thy family, thy servants, thy friends, thy riches, and all that thou hast, because thou expendest it in God’s service, and in providing for the ministers of the Church and the poor. Thus God blessed all good men, and made a hedge about His friends in the old time, as Abraham (Gen. 22:17), and many more.

Ver. 3.—I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came and bore witness to thy truth. Vulgate. Truth here in the first place means the faith. “They testify that thou dost constantly persevere in Christian faith and doctrine through all persecutions.” 2d. This truth means moral conduct. “They testify that thou livest according to the faith and truth of the Gospel, that thy character is conformable to the Gospel which thou professest.” 3d. Truth in this place may be taken to mean charity and beneficence. For this is especially taught and sanctioned by the truth of the Gospel. 4th. Truth may be put for sincerity and candour as opposed to hypocrisy and dissimulation. “They testify that thou art in all things candid and sincere.”

Ver. 4.—Greater grace than these I have none. (Vulgate.) That is, nothing can be more grateful or pleasing to me than that they so act that I may hear they are walking in the truth that I have spoken of. Instead of χάριν grace, some Greek MSS. Read χάρν joy. This is followed by the Syriac. S. Jerome on the 5th chapter to the Ephesians mentions that celebrated axiom of Christ, “Never be joyful except when ye shall see a brother in charity.”

Ver. 5.—Dearly beloved, one thou doest faithfully, &c. Faithfully, i.e. thou actest in a Christian manner, thou doest that which becometh a believer, by showing hospitality towards and nourishing the faithful, especially pilgrims and strangers. For hospitality was of old most highly esteemed by Christians. It was a sure mark and sign of Christian faith, as the heathen Lucian testifies (in Peregrino).

2d. Faithfully in this place not only signifies the faith, but also the fidelity of Caius. Thou art faithful to Christ. Thou fulfillest indeed that which thou hast promised to Christ in thy baptism. Listen to Tertullian recounting hospitality amongst the notes of the faithful (de Prœscrip. c. 20): “Amongst the many and notable marks of the Church there is one prime note handed down by the Apostles by which all the chief and Apostolic Churches prove their oneness and their unity. This mark is the communion of peace, the attestation of brotherhood, the mutual bond (contesserationem) of hospitality. And the one principle which governs these rules of hospitality is the one tradition of the same Sacrament.” He makes use of the word contesseratio because of the tessera, or sign, which Christians were wont to exhibit to Christians to show that they were Christians, that so they might be received to brotherly hospitality. The heathen had similar tesseræ, or mutual tokens and pledges of hospitality. It was because the heathen discovered, and used these Christian tokens for purposes of deceit, as Lucian tells us Peregrinus did, that the Council of Mie substituted commendatory letters instead of tesseræ. On which see Baronius.

And this to strangers, Greek καί εἰς τοὺς ξένους. The καὶ here means especially. Thus Christ says, “Tell the disciples, and, i.e. especially, Peter.” (Mark 16:17.)

Moreover, by peregrini here we may understand with Bede apostolic men who went about spreading the Gospel. Also Christian exiles proscribed by the Gentiles.

Ver. 6.—Who have borne testimony to thy charity in the face of the Church. For of old the bishops and presbyters used to invite guests who came to give a sermon or exhortation in the church. And when they did this they would praise the charity and hospitality of Caius, of which they had experienced elsewhere. This duty of showing hospitality to guests is spoken of by S. Clement (lib. 2 Constit. c. 62), and is sanctioned by the 4th Council of Carthage, cap. 4.

Whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort thou shalt do well. (E. V.) To whom doing good thou shall lead (deduces) worthily of God. The meaning is, To whom, if thou continuest to show kindness by receiving them to hospitality, thou wilt cause their journey to be easy, so that they will be able to reach the place whither they are going. This is a pious work and worthy of God. The word translated deduces in the Vulg. is προπέμψας in the Greek. It does not mean that S. John wished Caius personally to accompany his guests, but it refers to his affording them provisions for their journey, and other things, such as guides and letters of introduction.

Worthily of God. As it is worthy of God that His worshippers should treat worthily other worshippers of Him, honouring them as ministers of God, and honouring God in them, by treating them charitably and reverently as befits servants and members of Christ. As Christ saith, Matt. 10:40, “He that receiveth you receiveth Me. He that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.”

Moraliter: let every believer examine himself, and see whether his works be full, perfect, and of such excellence as to be worthy of God; whether his charity be like to the charity of God and Christ; whether he live and act worthily of Christ. The gift which thou presentest to a king must not be of some mean sort. It should be excellent and regal. What then does it become us to offer unto God, who is King of kings and Lord of lords? This is what S. Paul admonishes the Ephesians (4:1), “I, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.”

Ver. 7.—For they have gone forth on behalf of His name, viz., that they might preach the name of God and Christ, says Bede. Or else because for His name they have been driven into exile. The first of these is the more probable reason. And it is strengthened by what follows.

Taking nothing of the Gentiles. Because without price they preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, that they may not seem to gain any profit by the Gospel.

Ver. 8.—We therefore ought to receive such. The Greek for receive is κατα λάμβανείν. This means, not to wait until they come to us, but to prevent them, to invite them to our house, yea, to constrain them to come in. Œcumenius says, as the disciples constrained Christ at Emmaus (Luke 24:29). Moreover to receive and reception means in Scripture every sort of kindness and protection, care and assistance.

That we may be fellow-workers with the truth, by ministering necessary things to those who preach the truth or who suffer exile or tribulation for the truth’s sake.

Observe: S. John by many arguments stirs up Caius to persevere in his liberality to pilgrims. 1st. He praises his generosity because also his guests praised it before the whole Church. (Ver. 3.) 2d. Because it was a work befitting a Christian believer. (Ver. 5.) 3d. Because it was a work worthy of God. (Ver. 6.) 4th. Because it was done to those who made known the name of God. (Ver. 7.) 5th. Because it was done to those who were forsaken or despoiled by other Gentiles. (Ver. 7.) 6th. “Because by this means they became fellow-workers with the truth and the Gospel, and preached it them” selves through the preachers and confessors whom they received and nourished.

Moreover, when S. John exhorts Caius to persevere in hospitality he makes use of the first person, “we ought therefore,” that his exhortation may be sweeter and more powerful. Certain it is that S. John was very hospitable to pilgrims. For he was the Bishop of Ephesus, and in that capacity was wont to dispense the goods of the Ephesian Church to the poor and strangers. Moreover, Bede says that S. John, like S. Paul, lived by the labour of his hands.

9. I would have written, it may be, to the Church. The Greek is ἔγραψα i.e. I have written. So Erasmus, Cajetan, Vatablus, Clarius, who think the Vulg. of this passage is corrupt But Gagneius, Serarius, &c. think the translator’s reading was ἔγραψα ἄν, at, or at least that ἄν ought to be understood. They think this for three reasons: 1st. Because it gives the better meaning. “I would have written, but I have not written, because that proud Diotrephes receives neither us, nor our letters.” 2d. Because there is no extant letter of S. John to a church. 3d. Because the Syriac version entirely supports this reading. It is, I was seeking, or desiring to write to the Church, but he who loves to be first among you, Diotrephes, receives us not.

But he who loves to bear the primacy among them, i.e. in the Church. This Greek is φιλοπρωτέυων, ambitious of the primacy. Wherefore Diotrephes seems to have been either a bishop, or else some powerful and arrogant man, who was fond of domineering in the Church, and arrogated to himself episcopal rank. Bede adds that he was a heresiarch. But S. John intimates nothing of the kind; indeed rather the contrary. For had he been a heresiarch S. John would have dealt much more severely with him, and have excommunicated him, as S. Paul did Hymenæus and Alexander. (1 Tim. 20.) Diotrephes then hated S. John, not because he was heretic, but because he was ambitious. For he saw that S. John resisted the preeminence which he coveted.

Diotrephes: Vatablus thinks this was an appellative name, meaning full of boasting and arrogance. For of old those who were puffed up by the nobility of their extraction were accustomed to be called ἀιοτρεφεῖς, i.e. nourished by Jupiter. But L. Dexter, with more reason, thinks that it was a proper name, or rather one given him. For he, boasting of his riches and birth among the heathen, called himself by a heathen name, Diotrephes, or a son of love.

Moraliter: they imitate Diotrephes who covet benefices and prelacies, and assert that they are their due because of their nobility and their wealth, whereas Christ chose for His Apostles the ignoble and the poor. Again, those temporal princes and nobles imitate Diotrephes who having no rights of patronage in conferring benefices usurp and invade them, or abuse them by domineering over the clergy.

Receives us not: i.e. our apostleship and authority, our letters and our precepts. For it was part of the bishop’s office to receive the letters addressed to his Church, and to read them publicly to the faithful. For he was, as it were, the head and primate of the Church.

Ver. 10.—I will remember his works. Some read, though incorrectly, I will remove his works. Others read, I will mark his works; others, I will judge. Observe S. John’s gentleness in rebuking and correcting.

Prating against us with malicious words, i.e. raising calumnies against, detracting and maligning me. The Greek is φλυαρῶν, i.e. to trifle, babble, prate.

Neither doth he himself receive the brethren, i.e. orthodox Christians. He receives none but the pseudo-Christians of his own party.

And those who do receive them he casts out of the Church, both from the place and assembly of the Church, especially the agape and feast after the Eucharist, and also from the company of the faithful by excommunicating them.

Ver. 11.—Do not imitate the evil: do not imitate the proud, impious, and inhospitable Diotrephes, even though he does occupy the chief place in the Church, but rather imitate the humble, pious, and hospitable Demetrius, of whom in ver. 12.

He who does good is of God, &c. This is especially applicable to the good of kindness and beneficence. And this is the chief meaning of the Greek ἀγαθοποιεῖν, which is to benefit, or do a kindness to any one. For S. John is here treating of kindness and hospitality. For this he praises Caius, whilst he condemns the unkindness of Diotrephes. He is alluding to what he says in his first Epist. 3:6. The meaning is, He who does to them that need—as, for instance, by receiving guests and pilgrims, as thou doest, O Caius—is of God. He knows, loves, and worships Him. But he who does ill to his neighbour, as Diotrephes does, is not of God: he neither sees, nor hath seen Him: that is, practically, he does not know God, because he does not love, imitate, or worship Him. Although indeed every virtue is of God, the words especially apply to charity and beneficence. For it is an attribute of God that He communicates Himself and His good things, and doeth good.

The reason is because it is a property of God so to abound in all good that He overflows, and pours out his goodness by bestowing it upon others. He therefore that shows kindness is a child and an imitator of the good and kind God.

He that doeth evil hath not seen God. The direct antithesis would have been, is not of God, but S. John amplifies, saying, so much is he not of God, that he does not see, i.e. practically know God. He who is unkind, and does evil to his neighbour, does not truly see, i.e. know God practically, because he does not acknowledge God’s infinite and unceasing kindnesses to himself, so as to show himself grateful for them by showing kindness to others for God’s sake.

S. Dionysius, writing to the same Caius, the Therapeut, i.e. the Seer and Contemplative, which is the reason why the Apostle speaks of seeing God, alludes to these words of the Apostle. And he explains in what way good and perfect men, especially Therapeuts like Caius, see God: “If there be any one who when he has seen God has understood what he has seen, he hath not seen Him, but something of Him which is and is known. But He Himself being placed on high above all understanding and all being, far surpasses all understanding.” For God being in Himself invisible transcends all things, and inhabits the unapproachable light, which is to us impenetrable darkness, as the same Dionysius teaches elsewhere. He proves the same thing by the example of S. Paul, who, although he was rapt up to God, nevertheless declares that God surpasses all understanding and knowledge. Hence also our John the Evangelist says in his Gospel (1:18), “No man hath seen God at any time,” namely, by any clear vision. For men have seen Him imperfectly by faith, according to the words, “now we see through a mirror in an enigma.” (1 Cor. 13:12. Vulg.)

Ver. 12.—To Demetrius testimony is borne by all, concerning his hospitality, probity, and all other Christian virtues. He proposes him therefore to Caius for imitation and assistance. Our Serarius conjectures that this Demetrius was the same as the chief of the craftsmen of Diana, who raised a tumult against S. Paul at Ephesus (Acts 19:24), who afterwards repented, and changed his persecution for the propagation of the faith. But there is no mention of this in any ancient history.

And by the truth itself: the testimony of men may be erroneous but the testimony of the truth can never be deceptive. The truth bears testimony to Demetrius. That is, Demetrius leads a truly Christian life, and does Christian works. His life therefore is a true witness to his virtue.

We also bear witness, which is most weighty and certain, inasmuch as it is episcopal, apostolic, and canonical, as being that of one of the sacred writers.

Ver. 14.—Salute the friends by name. The Syriac renders this verse, The friends pray for your peace: pray for the peace of the friends, for every one by name.

THE END








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