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The Great Commentary Of Cornelius À Lapide Volumes 1 To 8

1. JOHN has a style peculiar to himself, entirely different from that of the other Evangelists and sacred writers. For as an eagle at one time he raises himself above all, at another time he stoops down to the earth, as it were for his prey, that with the rusticity of his style he may capture the simple. At one time he is as wise as the cherubim, at another time he burns as do the seraphim. The reason is because John was most like Christ, and most dear to Him; and he in turn loved Christ supremely. Therefore at His Last Supper he reclined upon His breast. From this source, therefore, he sucked in, as it were, the mind, the wisdom, and the burning love of Christ. Wherefore, when thou readest and hearest John, think that thou readest and hearest Christ. For Christ hath transfused His own spirit and His own love into S. John.

2. Although John by the consent of all wrote his Gospel in Greek for Greeks, yet because he himself was a Hebrew, and from love of this primeval language, which was his native tongue, he abounds above the rest in Hebrew phrases and idioms. Hence to understand him we require a knowledge of two, or indeed of three languages—Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Thus he Hebraizes in his frequent use of and for like as (sicut), as Solomon does in Proverbs, where he compares like with like by means of the conjunction and. And in such instances is a mark of similitude, and has the same meaning as like as (sicut). On the other hand, he Grecizes in his use of perchance (forsitan) for surely. In John 8:19 the Greek particle ἄν expresses affirmation, not uncertainty. So also in 8:43 οὐ δύνασθε, ye are not able, is put for ye are not willing. He likewise constantly duplicates the Hebrew Amen, when the other Evangelists only express it once. The reasons for this diversity are examined in chap. 3:2.

3. John abounds more in the discourses and disputations of Christ with the Jews than in the things that were done by Him. Not that he relates all the discourses and disputations of Christ, but such as were of greater importance. Especially he gives a compendious account of those in which Christ proved that He was God as well as man.

4. In S. John Christ speaks sometimes as God, and sometimes as man. There is need therefore of a careful examination of contexts to distinguish one from the other.

5. When Christ says, as He often does in S. John, that He “does, or says nothing of Himself,” or that “not He, but the Father, does, or says this, or that,” there must be understood “originally” and “alone.” As thus, “neither alone, nor as man perform I these things: nor yet as God am I the first originator of them; but it is God the Father, who together with His Divine essence communicates to Me omniscience and omnipotence, even the power of doing all things.”

6. Although the Apostles and other saints wrought miracles, yet Christ in S. John’s Gospel often proves that He is the Messiah and God by the miracles which were done by Him. This proof is a true and effectual one; first, because He Himself made direct use of it. For a miracle as the work of God, and the true Voice of the prime Verity, is an infallible proof of that which it is brought forward to confirm. Second, because Christ wrought them by His own power and authority, which He could not have done unless He had been God of God. Thus then He did them that they might appear to proceed from Him as from God, the original source of miracles. For the saints do not work miracles by their own authority, but by the invocation of the name of God, or Christ. Let us add that the miracles which were done by Christ had been foretold by Isaiah and the other prophets, that they might be indices and marks of the Messiah, as will appear in chap. 11:4.

7. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record for the most part the acts of the last year, and the last year but one of Christ’s ministry, that is to say, what He did after the imprisonment of S. John the Baptist. But S. John’s Gospel for the most part gives an account of the two preceding years. This consideration will solve many seeming discrepancies between S. John and the other Evangelists. So S. Augustine in his preface.

8. There is frequently in S. John both great force as well as obscurity in the adverbs and conjunction of causation, inference, connection, and so on, in such a manner that a single particle will often include and point out the entire meaning of a passage. Hence these particles must be most carefully examined and weighed, as I shall show in each place.

9. The particles that, wherefore, on account of which, and the like, do not always signify the cause, or the end intended, but often only a consequence or result. This is especially the case if an event has been certainly foreseen, and therefore could not happen otherwise. This is plain from chap. 12:38, 39, where it is said, They believed not on Him, that the saying of Isaias might be fulfilled: and shortly afterwards, Wherefore they could not believe, because Isaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes. For the reason why the Jews would not believe in Christ was not the prediction of Isaiah foretelling that they would not believe (non credituros), but the hardness of heart and malice of the Jews, which as a sort of objective cause preceded Isaiah’s prophecy. For Isaiah foretold that the Jews were not about to believe, because in truth they themselves through their own malice and obstinacy were not going to do so. So S. Chrysostom and others.

10. By the Jews S. John sometimes means the rulers only, sometimes the people only. Thus he represents the Jews at one time as opposing, at another time as favouring Christ. For the people were His friends, the rulers were His adversaries.

11. By a Hebraism the present tense often signifies not an action issuing in a result, but a force, or power of nature, or the act (in the sense of will or intention, Trans.) of the agent, even in cases where the effect is opposed by the subject, or in some other way. Thus in 1:9 it is said that Christ by His advent gave light to the world. That means, so far as He was concerned. For many, like the Jews, refused to receive this light, as he immediately adds, and continued in the darkness of their unbelief.

12. The particles as if, so as, and the like, because they correspond to the Hebrew caph, do not always signify likeness, but the truth of a fact, or assertion. Thus in 1:14, we have seen His glory, as of the Only Begotten, means, “we have seen the glory of the Only Begotten to be truly such, and so great as became Him who was indeed the Only Begotten Son of God the Father.” So S. Chrysostom and others.

13. John, following the Hebrew idiom, sometimes takes words of inceptive action to signify the beginning of something that is done; but sometimes to signify continuation, that a work is in progress; and sometimes, that a work has been perfected and accomplished. Thus we must not be surprised, if sometimes that which increases, or is being perfected, is spoken of as if it were just commencing, and vice versâ. An example of inceptive action is to be found in 16:6, where Peter, resisting Christ desiring to wash his feet, says, Lord, dost Thou wash my feet? Dost Thou wash? that is, “Dost Thou wish, prepare, begin to wash?” There is an example of continued action in 2:11, where, after the miracle of the conversion of water into wine, it is added, And His disciples believed in Him: that is, they went on believing, they increased, and were confirmed in faith. For they had already before this believed in Christ, for if they had not believed in Him, they would not have followed Him as His disciples. There is an example of a perfected action in 11:15, where Christ, when about, at the close of His life, to raise up Lazarus, said, I am glad for your sakes, that ye may believe. That is, “that by means of this My last and greatest miracle ye may be altogether made perfect in your belief in Me.” Again, in 20:17, Jesus appearing after His resurrection to Mary Magdalene, who had fallen at His feet, said, Touch Me not. That is, “Do not delay, and waste time in touching My feet, but go quickly, and tell the Apostles, who are very sorrowful because of My death, that I have risen again.”

14. John, after the Hebrew idiom, asserts and confirms over again what he had already asserted, by a denial of the contrary. This is especially the case when the subject matter is of importance, and is doubted about by many, so that it requires strong confirmation. Thus in 1:20, when John the Baptist is asked by the Jews if he were the Christ, he confessed, and denied not, but confessed, I am not the Christ. And in 1:3, All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.

15. John delights in calling Christ the Life, and the Light, for reasons which I will give hereafter. He has several other similar and peculiar expressions. For instance, he often uses the word judgment for condemnation which takes place in judgment. In other places he uses judgment for the secret judgments and decrees of God, because they are just. Sins he calls darkness. The saints he calls sons of light. That which is true and just he calls the truth. In 6:27, for procure food, or labour for food he has ἐργάζεσθα βρῶσιν. In the 9th chap., when Jesus is asked by the Jews, Who art Thou? He answers, The Beginning, who also am speaking unto you.

16. S. John relates that Christ said previously certain things, the when and the where of His saying which He had not previously mentioned. For studying brevity, he considered it sufficient to relate them once. Thus in the 11th chap. he says that Martha said to her sister Mary, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. Yet he had not previously related that Christ bade Martha to call Magdalene; for his mentioning that Martha, by Christ’s command, called her sister was sufficient to show that Christ had so commanded. In the same chapter Christ saith to Martha, Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Yet there is no previous account of Christ saying this. Also in 6:36, Christ says, But I said unto you, that ye also have seen Me and believe not. Yet we nowhere recall that Christ previously so said.

17. The miracles of Christ which John alone records are as follows:—The conversion of water into wine, chap. 2. The first expulsion of the sellers from the Temple, in the same chapter. The healing of the sick child of the nobleman, 4:47. The healing of the paralytic at the pool in the sheep-market, chap. 5. Giving sight to the man born blind, chap. 9. The raising Lazarus from the dead, chap. 11. The falling of Judas and the servants to the earth, when they came to take Jesus, 18:6. The flow of blood and water from the side of Christ after He was dead, 19:34. The multiplication of the fishes, 21:6.








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