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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

THE chief object the Evangelist had in view, as he himself expressly assures us, in writing this Gospel was to prove our Lord’s Divinity and beget faith in this fundamental article of Christian truth, as a necessary means for securing eternal life (c. 20., v. 31). He, therefore, enters on his sublime Preface to his Gospel by proclaiming our Lord’s Divinity, His distinct, Divine Personality, His consubstantiality with the Father together with His Omnipotence shown in His having educed out of nothing every thing created (vv. 1–3). Whether, in doing this, the Evangelist had also in view to confound the false notions of the Pagan Philosophers and the blasphemous errors regarding our Lord’s Divinity broached by Heretics, of whom some, such as Ebion and Cerinthus, etc., appeared in his own day to trouble the peace of the Church, others, in the near future, bearing the imposing title of Gnostics, of whose errors he may possibly have been divinely gifted with a clear foresight, is a subject of dispute among the learned. One thing, however, is quite certain, that all these errors, past, present, or future on the subject of our Lord’s Divinity and Attributes are completely refuted in the sublime Preface of this Gospel (v. 1–18). How unfathomable, how far transcending all human understanding is this fundamental truth of our Lord’s eternal existence. It is hard to see, with what consistency some men, glorying in the name of Christian, reject mysteries, while they admit our Lord’s Divinity and Eternity, the foundation of all Christian belief. Will they explain how God existed from Eternity?

In the sublime Preface of this Gospel (v. 1–18), St. John declares the Eternity, Personality, and Divinity of the Son of God (1–2). His Omnipotence, as Creator of all things, visible and invisible, material and spiritual (3–5). He adduces in confirmation the testimony of the Baptist (6–7). He removes the erroneous opinions entertained of the Baptist himself (8). The advent of the WORD among men—the cause and success of His advent, His incarnation (9–14). He adduces as witnesses, those, who like himself, beheld His glory (14), the Baptist. (15). He points out the blessings we derived from the Word (16). How far superior to those of preceding dispensations (v. 17). He corroborates all, by the testimony of the Word Himself, the Source of all truth (v. 18).

19—In this and the following verses is fully described in detail the splendid testimony rendered by the Baptist to our Lord’s Divinity, when in reply to the solemn embassy sent from Jerusalem to question him on the subject, he proclaims his own nothingness and our Lord’s infinite superiority over himself (19–29). Further testimony of the Baptist addressed to his own disciples in favour of our Lord’s Divinity (29–35). Repetition, for greater emphasis sake, of the same testimony by John (35–38). The call by our Lord of His first disciples, Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael (38–48). Our Lord proves Himself to be the searcher of hearts, and displays a knowledge of future events (48–51).

Commentary

1. “In the beginning was the Word.” St. Cyril, by, beginning, understands, the Principle of the Word, God the Father, of whom the Son was begotten by an eternal generation. The meaning, according to him, would be; the Word abode in the Father, as the Principle, of whom He was begotten, just as it is said of Him “he is in the bosom of the Father” (v. 18). This, although quite orthodox is, however, a very improbable interpretation. For, the term, “BEGINNING,” has here the same signification as in v. 2, which is but a summary of the three clauses of this v. 1, and in v. 2 it could not designate any of the Divine Persons without a manifest absurdity.

The term, then, denotes duration thus; In the beginning of every thing else that had a beginning—thus are excluded the Father and Holy Ghost, who had no beginning; or, when everything else began to be; before any time, actual or imaginary “the Word WAS.” He must, therefore, have no beginning; since, He was, when everything else began; and, consequently, must be Eternal. The existence of the Word before all creation is here directly proved. His Eternity, indirectly, in accordance with Scriptural usage (Isai. 42:13; John 18:5; Ephes. 1:4; Col. 1:7). Jansenius and others found the proof of the Eternity of the Son of God in this passage on the two words taken conjointly, v. 2 (“erat,” “he was”) and, (in principio, “in the beginning”). The Word WAS already in existence in the beginning of all things created, before everything else began; and so, if He had a beginning or began to exist, He would have been before Himself—a manifest absurdity. Unlike the commencement of the Genesis of creation (Genesis 1) to which this is allusive, described by Moses, who denotes the first dawn of creation thus, “In the beginning, God created the heavens,” etc.; here, in the eternal Genesis of the Word described by St. John, there is no allusion whatever to the act or process of creation. He was before the beginning—“before the world was” (John 17:5). continued up to the beginning; and continues to the present and all future periods.

The imperfect erat (was) is used preferably to fuit, as this latter might be taken to denote a cessation of existence; while, erat, denotes, unceasing, endless continuity.

Some commentators say the “beginning” directly denotes eternity, which was a beginning without a beginning. Hence, St. John (1 Ep. 1:1) says, “that which was from the beginning,” or eternity, termed “beginning,” to suit the weak conceptions of our limited understandings.

“Tlu Word” (ὅ λογος). The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. The term clearly refers not to any Attribute or Attributes of God; but, to a person, personal actions being ascribed to Him, throughout the entire chapter. Moreover, He is here called “God.” He is distinguished from God, “with God,” and in v. 14, he is identified with the Person of our Lord Himself, assuming human nature here on earth.

WHY called λογος? The reason generally given by theologians, apart from the revelation of the term by the Holy Ghost to St. John, who alone of all the sacred writers of the New Testament employs it in a personal sense, if we except St. Paul to the Hebrews (c. 4:12, 13), is, that as our thought or the internal word of our mind generated in our intellect remains in the mind, even after it is externally expressed by the voice; so, as far as human and Divine things admit of comparison, the Son of God begotten of the Father by an eternal generation through the Divine intellect, the substantial expression of the Divine mind, is one, consubstantial with Him, yet still existing in Him, as a distinct Divine Person. This and other comparisons whereby it is attempted to illustrate the eternal generation of the Son of God, His identity of nature and distinction of Person with the Father, His birth in the flesh, are so imperfect and obscure, that it is for us to believe and adore, rather than too curiously investigate, lest we be “overwhelmed by the Majesty of Glory” (Proverbs 25:27).

It is rendered in the Vulgate, verbum, which implies unity and identity with the mind that produces it, preferably to Sermo, which would seem to imply composition, multiplicity and distinction.

WHENCE, did St. John derive this term, as expressive of his doctrine regarding the Personality and Divine attributes of the Son of God?

Not from Plato, who never ascribes to the λογος θεοῦ either in his Timeus or de Republica (c. 7.), where he treats of this subject, distinct personality or supreme creative power, or the other attributes predicated of him here by the Evangelist.

Not from Philo, whose notions concerning the “Word of God,” to which he frequently refers, are so contradictory, confused and unintelligible; and, as far as they are intelligible, clearly erroneous on the Attributes of the Word. For, among other points, Philo maintained the Eternity of matter.

Nor, from the Alexandrian schools, whose notions on these subjects are clearly conjectural.

Patrizzi observes, that one could hold, without censure of any kind, that St. John might have derived the term λογος, abstracting from false doctrines, from the Oriental Philosophy, in which it denotes some Divine reason or Emanation, just as the word, θεος, whereby the Pagans denoted a false Divinity, was employed by the Apostles and the Jews before them, to designate the only true God. Nay, the same author observes that the Evangelist may have been divinely inspired to use the word in opposition to the ETERNAL SILENCE propounded by the Gnostics.

It is most likely, the Apostle derived the term itself and the full doctrinal truths it conveys from the Old Testament, as well as from Jewish tradition; from the teachings of our Lord and the full insight into the meaning of the SS. Scripture, which He was pleased to impart to him (Luke 24:45).

In the Old Testament, we have clear and frequent allusions to the Creative Power of the “Word of God” (Psa. 32:6). “By THE WORD of God the heavens were established” (v. 9). “For He spoke and they were made” (Wisdom 18:15), etc. In these and several other passages of SS. Scripture, a creative power is attributed to the Word of God. The same idea is expressed here by St. John (v. 3), “Omnia per ipsum facta sunt.”

“And the Word was with God.” This is a reply to the latent question suggested in the first clause, viz.:—If the Word was before everything created, before time, place, heaven, earth, from Eternity, where was He? He “was with God” the Father. ΙΙρος (apud) conveys, that the “Word” was not a mere accident subsisting in God; that He had a peculiar, individual subsistence, a Personality of His own, distinct from the Father, with whom He always was, never divided or separated from Him. No one could be said to be with himself.

“And the Word was God,” και θεος ην ὁ λογος.—The term “Word,” having the definite article prefixed is the subject of this, as of the two preceding propositions. The sense is, that Word, already spoken of, is God. The preceding propositions, while declaring the Eternity of the Word, His Personality, distinct from the Father, do not enunciate the nature or essence of the Word itself. In this clause is declared His essence, viz., identity of nature with the Father. This was necessary to prevent men from fancying that because God was one, and the Word distinct from Him, the Word could not, therefore, be God. Here, is declared His identity of Divine Nature with the Father.

The article is prefixed to “God” in the words “with God,” προς τον θεον—and denotes a Person, the Person of God the Father. Here, it is omitted before “God,” και θεος ην ὅ λογος—“and the Word was God,” because having, in the preceding clause, denoted the Person of God the Father, if repeated here, it would refer to the same Person and denote that the “Word” was the Person of God the Father, as if to say, “and the Word was God,” ὁ θεος, or the Person above referred to, which St. John could not mean.

The word, θεος, without the article, far from denoting a Divine Person inferior to God, as the Arians would have it, denotes one possessing the nature of the Supreme Being, as in vv. 6–12, 13–18 of this chapter. Whenever in SS. Scriptures, it is employed to denote creatures; then, there is always some qualifying epithet or circumstance to determine this latter meaning, as in Exodus 7. “Te constitui Deum Pharaonis.” Psa. “Ego dixi, dii estis,” etc.

The Socinians, by placing a comma after erat, in the sentence, “Deus erat verbum,” and joining “verbum” with the following, thus: “Verbum hoc erat in principio,” etc., v. 2, employ an arbitrary and erroneous punctuation, opposed to all MSS. and copies of the Gospel, and fall into a manifest absurdity, as if St. John only meant to tell us, Deus erat. God existed.

2. The words of this verse are a mere emphatic summary of the three clauses of the preceding.

“This” Word who was God, was all that has been stated regarding Him, viz.: “He was in the beginning” from Eternity, enjoying Co-eternity “with God” the Father; distinct from Him, while possessing the same Divine nature with Him.

“This” is almost universally understood of the Word or λογος, who is manifestly the subject, having the definite article prefixed, of whom all that is said in the preceding clauses is predicated.

Whether St. John had in view, besides directly affirming our Lord’s Divinity (c. 21:25), to refute the blasphemous teachings of Ebion and Cerinthus, as is asserted by many ancient writers, and to guard against the errors of the Gnostics, which he may have foreseen in the near future; one thing is quite certain, viz., that his teachings regarding our Lord’s Eternity, His distinct, Divine Personality, identity with the Father, as in vv. 1, 2; His omnipotence, as displayed in the educing out of nothing every thing created, as in v. 3, completely refutes all the errors of the Pagan philosophers before his time, and, by anticipation, all the blasphemous doctrines regarding our Blessed Lord, that were to spring forth afterwards. He refutes the absurd notions or systems of the Gnostics relative to their Æons or inferior Divinities, to whom, according to their absurd notions, the Supreme Deity confided the work of creation. The system regarding these fabulous Æons was chiefly formulated by Valentinus, who gives a long and imaginary history of their number, their genealogy, and other frivolous unmeaning accounts of them.

3. Having described the eternal relations of the Word with the other Persons of the Godhead, the Evangelist now proceeds to point out the works of the Word, his external relations in time with creatures. He describes, in the briefest form, the great work of creation, the different parts of which embracing times, days and seasons, are so circumstantially described by Moses (Genesis 1).

These he divides into the Natural, as in this verse, and the Supernatural, as in the following verse:—

The truth regarding creation is announced affirmatively in the clause, “All things were made by Him,” time among the rest; therefore, He preceded all times and was eternal. If the Word Himself were made, He should have been made by Himself and preceded Himself; and negatively, in the clause, “and without Him,” etc. Hence, if the Word were made, He could not have been made without His own active agency, in His own creation—a manifest absurdity The negative clause is very emphatic in the Greek, “without him was made not ONE THING (ουδε ἕν) that was made” The creative power of the Word being confined to things that were created, could not extend to the Father or the Holy Ghost, who were not created.

The words of this verse, combined with the following verse, are differently punctuated in different versions.

(a)              As in our Vulgate and most Greek copies, “et sine ipso factum est nihil quod factum est.”

(b)              The Vulgate of Sixtus V. (A.D. 1590), runs thus, “et sine ipso factum est nihil; quod factum est, in ipso vita crat,” signifying either, that all things had their principle of life in Him; or, that they LIVED and existed, from Eternity, in the Divine mind.

(c)              The Bibles of Clement VIII. (1592–1598), place no full stop at all, and we are free to connect the words, “quod factum est,” with either the preceding words, factum est nihil quod factum est; or with the following, thus “quod factum est, in ipso vita erat.” The first reading, as in our Vulgate, is the one commonly followed.

4. “In Him was life,” etc. Having referred in the preceding verse to the Natural order, and affirmed that all created beings, whether in heaven or on earth, visible or invisible (Col. 1:16, 17), whether merely existing, sentient, or rational were brought into existence by the power of the Word,—for, by Him, God created all things, and their very providential conservation in existence (Col. 1:17), is implied here—the Evangelist in this verse proceeds to the Supernatural order, and refers, in a special way, to the work of Redemption, the second creation, whereby He gave back to man, dead in his sins, the spiritual life of grace (Ephes. 2:1). In this sense, St. John often refers to our Lord as life (5:21; 6:33; 11:25, etc.).

“In Him,” essentially, of Himself, as effect in its cause, and not by mere external delegation.

“Was life,” of which He was the EXEMPLARY cause; also the EFFICIENT cause, being the source of life which He gave to all, “In Te est fons vitœ” (Ps. 35:10); the MERITORIOUS cause. From Eternity He might be said to be the MERITORIOUS cause, since, the fall and reparation of man were foreseen from Eternity (Ephes. 1:4, 5), and the word to be incarnated in time was, from Eternity, the meritorious cause of spiritual and eternal life, “Agnus occisus ab origine Mundi” (Apoc. 13:8).

“And the life was the light of men” It was, inasmuch as He enlightens men through revelation with the supernatural light of faith enlivened by charity, here, and by His Divine essence with the life of glory, hereafter, that He is the source of life to them. “Light” means the illumination communicated by God to man.

At all times, even before His Incarnation, He “was the light,” etc. For, it was in view of the future merits of Christ, that men from the beginning of time, enjoyed the light of faith, the supernatural life, by which the just man lives (Rom. 1).

In the preceding clause, “in Him was life,” the term “life” denotes the effect produced in us by the “WORD.” In the latter, “ana the life was the light of men,” “life,” having the definite article prefixed, ἡ ξωη, means the Word Himself, or cause of light in men. Hence, in several passages of SS. Scriptures, especially in the writings of St. John, it is said, “He is life,” “the way of life,” etc. If many, after His coming, remain in darkness; this, is owing to their own perversity, as in v. 5.

5. “And the light shineth in darkness.” “Light” refers to the Word, which was the light of men unto life.

“Shineth,” without intermission, both through the light of faith and the light of reason. This same light, which heretofore was invisible, has now, in the flesh, become visible to our corporal senses by His words and the external works of His power enlightening mankind with the supernatural light of faith (1 John, 1:2), “quæ erat apud Patrem et apparuit nobis.”

“Darkness” is taken in a metaphorical and moral sense, to denote men sunk in spiritual misery, shut up in the prison of infidelity and sunk in depravity. To this, the Apostle refers (Ephes. 5:8), “but you were heretofore darkness.” He uses “shineth” in the present tense, to convey, that even now after His Ascension, our Lord does not cease through His Church to enlighten the world.

As our Lord, “the light,” existed from Eternity, and, at all times from creation, shone through the light of reason to men, it is not unlikely, that “shineth” denotes also the light of reason through which man from the beginning received the knowledge of God and of His leading attributes. “Because, that which is known of God is manifest in them. For, God manifested it to them … His eternal power also and divinity” (Rom. 1:19, 20). This is “the light shining” to them. This knowledge they abused, having transferred the worship of God to senseless idols (Rom. 1:23).

“And the darkness,” that is to say, most of those whom He found in unbelief and sin. For, that there were exceptions is clear from v. 12, “but as many as received Him.”

“Comprehended it not,” believed not in Him. There is question here of faith in the light (v. 7). They received it not, admitted it not. They continued voluntarily in a state of incredulity. The light shone. They obstinately refused to open their eyes, and would not admit it (Rom. 9).

When the sun shines on the earth, those who close their eyes cannot perceive it. The shades of darkness in which they voluntarily shut themselves up, are so thick, that the light could not penetrate them. So ignorant, so debased were men, that far from valuing His teachings, they, as a body, rejected them.

Some Commentators not taking into account, that here, there is question of moral darkness, or rather men enclosed in darkness, seem perplexed as to how the light could shine in darkness without enlightening and dissipating it, understand the word “shineth” to mean, is capable of producing the effect of enlightening, even when through the fault of others, that effect, as here, may not follow.

It is to be borne in mind, that “darkness” here denotes men, free agents, who are at liberty to receive or reject the light of reason or faith offered to them.

6 “There was,” etc. The object of the Evangelist here may be to correct an error which seemed to prevail, that the Baptist was the Messiah (Luke 3:15; John 1:19). While correcting this error, the Evangelist adduces John, who was commonly supposed to be a Prophet (Matthew 21:26), as an important witness to prove that Jesus was the Christ, “the Son of God,” which was the chief design of this gospel (John 20:31).

The Evangelist may also have in view to show that, while obstinate unbelievers rejected our Lord, God had employed, on His part, the most effectual means to dispose men to receive Him; among the rest, He employed the ministry and testimony of the Baptist, so much prized and valued by the Jews. The Evangelist commends his ministry and testimony by saying he “was sent from God” divinely commissioned.

7. “He came for a witness,” etc. In preceding verse, he points out John’s Divine mission; in this, the object of that Divine mission, which was to give testimony regarding our Lord (“of the light”) as the long expected Messiah, thus to prepare the people to receive Him (Matthew 3). He also pointed Him out after He had come. “Ecce agnus Dei,” etc. (John 1:31). He extols John’s character and Divine mission, beyond others who were not selected by God for so high an office.

“Light” refers to the person of our Lord, “through Him,” through John’s testimony and preaching.

While extolling John in the preceding verse, he here lowers him in comparison with the Word, whose herald he was.

8. “He was not the light.” Although, in some finite respect, a light, the Baptist was not the immense, increated light of which we speak, but the herald and witness of the light, not the sun, but the precursor of the Sun of Justice, “a burning and shining light,” enkindled by the great increated light and true lamp of creation. The Evangelist thus removes any false opinions which the people or the disciples might entertain regarding John as the long expected promised Messiah.

9. After stating that John was not the true light, the Evangelist now states who was the light, viz., the Word Himself, who was different from John; and he enumerates the works of this true light, that is, of the Word, hereafter.

“True light” may metaphorically signify, that He really produces the same effects spiritually in our minds, that the sun produces in enlightening our corporal senses, just as He is termed “true food” (6:32), “the true vine” (16.), or “true” may mean essential light. Others have all their enlightening powers communicated from without; but He is essential, unchangeable, permanent light, such as John or any other creature could not be. John’s light was temporary and precursory.

“Which enlighteneth,” as far as he is concerned, “every man,” of whatever nationality, without distinction of Jew or Gentile. “Enlightens” may refer to the light of reason; but, more probably, to the light of grace and faith. All who are enlightened are enlightened by Him, and if any man is not enlightened, it is his own fault, since the light is offered to all and provided for all.

“That cometh into this world.” In the Greek, the construction is doubtful. According to it “coming,”—ερχομενον—may be joined to “light,” thus: He was the light, that coming into this world enlighteneth every one, or, to “every man,” as in our Vulgate. The former construction seems more in accordance with Scriptural usage, which represents our Lord as the light that enlightens mankind (John 3:19; 12:46). The expression, in this connexion, would imply our Lord’s pre-existence before His Incarnation. The word too may have a future or past signification.

It is in favour of the Vulgate reading which connects “coming” with “every man,” “omnem hominem venientem in hune mundum,” that, whether we understand, “enlightens” of the light of reason, or the light of faith, or both, our Lord, before He came in the flesh, enlightened mankind with the light of reason and of faith. Moreover, the position of “coming,” ερχομενον, in the sentence, is such as to connect it with “every man” “cometh into this world,” is same as, every man born of woman.

10. “He,” the λογος or “Verbum,” not “lux,” as is clear from the Greek ουχ εγνώ αυτον—“was in the world” from its very foundation, upholding it by His conservative providence, “omnia portans verbo virtutis suæ” (Heb. 1), “and the world was made by Him” (v. 3), “and the world knew Him not.” From the visible works of creation, man might have known God, and thus be stimulated to glorify and worship Him as the fountain of all good. “But, the world,” meaning wicked and perverse men, “knew Him not.” They altogether rejected Him, and transferred the worship due to Him, to dumb, senseless idols (Rom. 1.) The term, “world,” has a two-fold signification in this verse. In the words, “was in the world,” it denotes visible creation. The words “the world knew Him not,” mankind. There is question here, of the period before our Lord’s Incarnation, when in virtue of His Divine omnipresence, He filled all creation, and unceasingly bestowed benefits on mankind (v. 3) erat, at all times. In the next verse there is allusion, by anticipation, to His Incarnation among His own people. St. John, as disciple of love, burning with love for his Divine Master, indignantly notes the ungrateful treatment our Lord met with at the hands of men, who received so many signal benefits from Him. This world that “was made by Him,” “knew Him not,” rejected and despised Him. Could there be greater ingratitude?

11. In the preceding verse there is question of His Divinity at all times filling the universe; here there is question of His assumed humanity in time; “into His own”—εις τα ιδῖα—His own country, His own house, and “His own” (ὅι ιδιοὶ). The change in the original Greek is deserving of observation. He came into His own land, and His own chosen people, specially beloved by Him, to whom He was sent to preach, in the first place, among whom and of whom He was born, “received Him not,” as their long expected Messiah, their future deliverer. Far from it, they rejected, repudiated Him, “nec reputavimus eum” (Isaias 53:1–6), nay, persecuted Him, and subjected Him to the ignominious death of the cross. Our Lord reproaches the Jews for having, as a body, rejected Him, although some few among them received Him, and believed in Him.

12. The Evangelist in this verse conveys that our Lord was not rejected by all; and he shows the benefits conferred on such as received Him. It may also be intended to convey that His rejection by His own people did not cause Him to change His beneficent designs, “as many as received Him,” whether from among the Jews or Gentiles. The phrase is explained in the words, “that believed in His name,” believed in Him, as their God, Creator, and Author of their salvation. “Name” often signifies the Person Himself. To them, He transferred the Divine Sonship, taken from the Jews, who, as a body, rejected Him. “He gave power to become sons of God” (εξουσιαν); “power” may mean, He gave them the privilege to become His adopted children, or the actual right to become sons of God in His own Kingdom of Glory, if they believe in Him and obey Him in this life.

13. He points out that the exalted Sonship of God referred to does not come from carnal generation or human descent, thus correcting the erroneous ideas which the Jews attached to their carnal descent from Abraham. “Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,” whether sinful, which this phrase means; “nor of the will of man,” or lawful. The above words express the natural mode of human carnal generation. “But of God,” by a spiritual generation, opposed to the carnal generation referred to. This spiritual generation, by which we become sons of God, is effected in Baptism, whereby we are born again of water and the Holy Ghost, and as sons of God fitted for His kingdom. This is accomplished through grace and faith. Sanctifying grace conferred on us in Baptism, the laver of regeneration and renovation (Titus 3:5), makes us partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

14. “And the Word,” etc. Some understand “and” to mean for, as if the Evangelist were assigning a reason, why they were made sons of God. It arose from this, that the Word assumed human nature and merited this great privilege for us. The term, “Word,” has the definite article before it to show it refers to the same “Word” mentioned in v. 1. Some Commentators connect this with v. 4. These regard the intervening portion as parenthetical.

“Flesh” denotes man, human nature, a signification it has in several passages of SS. Scripture. The term, “soul,” too, is employed to designate the same. The word “flesh” is used preferably to the word, man, to show more clearly the great contrast between Infinite Power,—the “Word” being the creator of the universe—and the greatest weakness and debasement—flesh being the weaker part of human nature. It may also be that “flesh” is used to confound the error of the Docetæ, and such others as denied that our Lord assumed human flesh.

“Was made.” Not by any change in the Divine nature, which could not be; but by assuming human nature, under the Personality of the Word, the human nature of the “WORD” being full and entire, composed of a created soul and body without any distinct human Personality of its own, having for Person, the Divine Person of the Word. The Word had two distinct natures, the Divine and human; and only one Person, the Person of the Son of God. Some Expositors say that St. John’s object here is to show that we need not be surprised at men becoming by adoption and through a spiritual birth, sons of God, when the Eternal Son of God Himself became, what is more surprising still, man, and really assumed human nature so intimately that Christ-man could be truly termed the Son of God. The real union of the two natures was so perfect, that God is man and man is God.

“And dwelt amongst us,” conversed familiarly, sojourned with men, as a member of a family, as a friend, He ate, drank, slept, etc. (1 John 1) They had full opportunity of a familiar acquaintance with Him, so as not to be mistaken, that He was really man. “He came in and went out among them” (Acts 1:21). “Afterwards He was seen upon earth and conversed with men” (Baruch 3:38). The Greek word for “dwelt,” εσκηνωσεν (Tabernacled) denotes temporary dwelling, not making this earth His permanent habitation; dwelt for a time, like those who dwell in tents, which are not their permanent home.

“And we saw His glory,” etc. The Evangelist said, in proof of the Word becoming flesh, that so far as His humanity was concerned, they had ample opportunity of witnessing it since He sojourned as man among them for a time, and he says, as to His Divinity, they had several proofs of it in “seeing His glory,” the splendour of His majesty, at His Transfiguration, of which St. John was one of the witnesses—to this St. Peter also refers—(1:16), at His Resurrection, His Ascension, and in the splendid miracles wrought by Him. “The glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,” a glory suited to the only begotten Son of God. They did not see the Word in Himself. But, from His glory; they saw it was He, just as one seeing the splendour of the sun knows it is over the horizon. “As it were,” signifies reality, here, as in many other passages of SS. Scripture, “the glory as it were,” suited to or becoming Him alone and no other, who was “the only begotten of the Father,” the Eternal, consubstantial Son of the Father, equal with Him in all things. These words are read within a parenthesis, and the following words spoken of the Word made flesh, are to be joined immediately with the words, “and the Word was made flesh (…) full of grace and truth.” The words, “of the Father,” may also be joined, according to some, with “glory,” as if to say, the glory which He received from the Father, such glory as the Father would bestow on the beloved object of His eternal complacency.

“Full of grace and truth.” While dwelling amongst us, the WORD, as man, had not His hands empty. He was distinguished for two qualities, “grace and truth;” of these He was “full,” not only in Himself, in whom “dwelt the whole plenitude of the Divinity” (Col. 2:9), but also, since He went about doing good, “full,” in reference to us, so that we could communicate from this inexhaustible fulness to others; and we did so, for we received of it. The Evangelist wishes to show what the Word did while dwelling with us. He communicated to us the abundance of grace and truth. Grace and truth correspond with life and light. Grace gave life; light, the knowledge of truth.

“Full of grace,” in bestowing all the blessings of Redemption, and liberation from the slavery of the devil, opposed to the weak and needy elements of the Old Law; “and truth,” as the true teacher of mankind. Everything He revealed and taught was free from error of any sort.

“Truth” may be understood not only as opposed to error and falsehood, but also to the types and figures of the Old Law, He being their fulfilment—“finis legis, Christus” (Rom. 10:4). He verified all the promises made regarding Him. The Law, from Moses; truth, from Jesus Christ.

15. The Evangelist adduces in corroboration of his own testimony regarding the “Word” having become man, “full of grace and truth,” etc., the testimony of the Baptist, which was of the greatest weight, among the Jews, “John beareth witness of Him,” as the Word made flesh, “and crieth out, saying,” publicly, fearlessly, acting the part of herald as well as of witness. The Evangelist having already referred, in general terms, to the testimony of John (vv. 7, 8), now specifically states what that testimony was. “Crieth out,” in allusion to the words of Isaias regarding the Baptist, “vox clamantis in deserto.”

“This was He” (or, is He) “of whom I spoke” before I saw Him in person. The Evangelist mentions by anticipation what he describes (v. 29, etc.) when John pointed out our Lord as present.

“He that shall come after me,” in the public exercise of his ministry, of whom I am the mere precursor, “is preferred before me,” shall be regarded as far superior to me in dignity and excellence. The past is used, in prophetic style, for the future, or, it may mean, has been preferred, in the predestination of God. If these words were spoken after our Lord’s Baptism, then, the past form, “has been preferred before me,” “ante me factus est,” would be verified in the preference shown our Lord in the words of the Heavenly Father, “This is my beloved Son,” etc., or, if spoken before His Baptism, before the words were uttered by the Heavenly Father, they would be verified in His miraculous birth, the adoration of the Magi, His sanctity of life, and even these signs, apart, in the designs of the Eternal Father in His regard. Hence, He was made preferable by repeated and successive manifestations on the part of God and man.

“Because He was,” in existence, “before me,” being from eternity; and He was essentially, of His own nature, more exalted in dignity. The phrase chiefly signifies the pre-existence of the Word before John, having been from the beginning, from Eternity.

16. “And of His fulness we all,” etc. This is said of Christ as man God, “in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead corporally” (Coll. 2:9). By some, these are understood to be the words of the Baptist. But, they are more commonly said to be the words of the Evangelist, resuming his narrative from v. 14, “full of grace,” etc., the verse 15 being parenthetical. For, as regards the Baptist, he could hardly say in the past tense, “we all have received,” etc., as it should then be confined to himself and the Prophets of the Old Law, whereas these words are clearly meant to extol the beneficence of our Lord who extended to all His followers in the New Law, the abundant participation of the grace and truth which emanated from Him as their inexhaustible fountain.

In our Lord, was that plenitude of grace, which St. Bonaventure terms, the plenitudo superabundantiœ, which He, the great inexhaustible fountain, communicated to others. In the Blessed Virgin, was the plenitudo prœrogativœ; and in all the other saints, the plenitudo sufficientiœ. Every word in this clause is emphatic. The words “of His fulness,” convey, that this fulness which resides in Him, as intrinsically His own, properly belongs to Him alone, of which all others, the Apostles included, shared, according to measure, which limited measure in them is implied in the words, “His fulness”—the fulness of the Great fountain which continues inexhaustible; they also convey, that no one received grace except through Him.

“And grace for grace.” By some “and” is understood to be explicative namely, that is. By others, emphatic, signifying, we received not only the Gospel Law, and doctrine from Christ, but also grace. By others, adversative, received of His fulness, but grace for grace.

There is a great diversity of opinion regarding the meaning of the words, “grace for grace.” According to some Expositors, they mean an accumulation of graces, grace upon grace, one grace upon another (Beelen. Grammatica Grecitatis). There are several other interpretations given, but the more probable seems to be that of Patrizzi and others, who, giving the Greek word, αντι, pro, “for,” its natural meaning, explain the words thus, “grace” or the abundant effusion of grace furnished in the New Law, “for,” in place of, the scanty measure of grace given under the Old Law. This we derived from the fulness of Christ, the inexhaustible source of grace. In reply to the objection that the Old Law is never called a grace, these say, that it is not of the Old Law directly there is question here; but, of the grace so scantily bestowed on those who lived under the Old Law, and even this small measure of grace came from the New Law, and the retrospective merits of Christ, “the lamb slain from the beginning of the world” (Apoc. 13:8). Owing to this plenitude of Christ, of which we have all partaken, instead of the scanty measure of grace bestowed in the Old Law, we have received the abundant effusion of grace in the New Law.

The context favours this interpretation, as this v. 16, seems to be more fully explained and developed in next v. 17.

17. “For the law,” which, of itself, did not confer grace, and under which but a very small measure of grace at best was dispensed, “was given,” merely promulgated to one nation or one people only, in its several parts, moral and ceremonial, “by Moses,” who could give no grace “But grace,” in all its abundance, whereby men can observe the moral precepts of the law, “and truth,” whereby all the ceremonies and figures of the Old Law are fulfilled, “came,” or, as the Greek has it, were made, or brought about, “by Jesus Christ,” the great fountain of grace, who purchased it by the death of the Cross, and confined it to no one people; but, extended it to all mankind.

Those who understand “grace for grace,” of the accumulated plenitude of grace in the New Law, say, the words of this verse are introduced to show that this was peculiar to the New Law, that this plenitude comes from Christ alone. For, as to Moses, he merely promulgated the Old Law, but could give no grace to fulfil it. Not so with Christ, He gave grace to observe His law, and brought about truth to fulfil its ceremonial and typical precepts The Evangelist here points out to the Jews the superior excellence of Christ and the dispensation established by Him over Moses and the dispensation he promulgated.

18. “No man” in this life “hath seen God at any time,” with the eyes of the body. Those who are said to have seen Him in this life—(it is only of testimony rendered by mortal man there is question)—Job, Moses, Jacob, Isaias, Elias, etc, only saw some luminous body assumed by an angel representing in some way the glory of God (A. Lapide). In the next life, the angels and saints see God intuitively by a clear vision, in which vision consists their sovereign happiness. They see Him in His essence, as far as God enables them. For this the Blessed require the lumen gloriæ. But, no mere creature, whether in this or the world to come, could see Him comprehensively, by a comprehensive vision, or comprehend the entire Divine essence, which, being infinite, could not be comprehended by any finite being. In this latter sense, God alone has a comprehensive vision. He alone can comprehend Himself.

“The only begotten Son,” dearly beloved. The article, for greater emphasis sake, is prefixed to this word. “Who is in the bosom of the Father,” who fully shares in the Father’s most profound secrets, alone fully comprehends Him. The words, “in the bosom,” according to the Holy Fathers, refer to the Divinity and consubstantiality of the Son; they signify His eternal generation of the same substance, having identity of nature with Him. These words also convey full and intimate acquaintance, in a way not communicated to any creature with all the secrets of God.

“Is,” conveys that He has been there from Eternity and continues there unchangeably.

He then who alone fully comprehends, fully knows the secrets of God, “hath declared.” What had He declared or revealed? All these sublime truths and divine mysteries, already referred to in the preceding part of the chapter, regarding the “WORD,” as He is in Himself and in relation to creatures.

The Evangelist uses these words as an overwhelming corroboration of his own testimony and that of the Baptist regarding the Divinity and Incarnation of the WORD, and the other mysteries connected with Him.

The testimony of the Eternal Word Himself—the source of all truth and knowledge—exceeds all other testimony; since He, the God of all truth, testifies to what He alone fully knows, regarding the Divine nature and all mysteries. For, He alone possesses the same Divine nature and is intimately conversant with the deep counsels of God.

19. “And this is the testimony,” etc. Some Commentators hold that the testimony spoken of Him was given after the Baptism of our Lord by the Baptist. The testimony given before His Baptism, is, according to them, recorded by the other Evangelists: and hence, not referred to by St. John, in this Gospel.

The words of this verse are connected by some Expositors with vv. 7 and 15, where there is made a general allusion to John’s testimony regarding our Lord’s Divinity. These say, we have here a more definite and specific description of John’s testimony borne by him on the occasion of the deputation referred to.

Others connect the words with the foregoing verse, thus: He alone who was in the bosom of the Father, could disclose all regarding Him. For, as regards John, He disclaimed all pretensions to superior excellence on this occasion.

Others say, there is question of a new testimony borne by John.

“The Jews … from Jerusalem”—the most distinguished men of the nation—“sent Priests and Levites.” The highest ecclesiastical representatives. The object of this embassy was “to ask Him who art thou?” “Who,” what quality or character dost thou bear or assume? This deputation, no doubt, represented, or were sent by, the Sanhedrim, the Supreme Jewish Council, to whom it belonged to judge of true or false prophets, and in general, of all things appertaining to religion. Some say, they were influenced by jealousy towards John, whose sanctity of life and preaching seemed to lower them in public estimation. Others say, the jealousy was towards our Redeemer, to whose superiority John had so openly testified. It was a subject of doubt, all things considered, if John were not the Messiah, at least, in the minds of the people (Luke 3:15), whether reasonably or not, whether in accordance with the ancient prophecies or not, is another question. But, the fact is recorded by St. Luke, as above; and in this state of doubt, they send forward this solemn embassy to inquire into John’s claims to be considered their long-expected Messiah, the term of whose coming was now accomplished. John’s manner of life and preaching created this doubt, and, likely, it was to clear it up—all feelings of jealousy apart—they deputed these men to make inquiry. This was a very solemn embassy considering all its circumstances. The persons sent, Priests and Levites. The authority by whom sent, the Sanhedrim, from Jerusalem. The grave subject of inquiry, John’s office and authority.

John’s evidence was given publicly and openly to this embassy, of select ecclesiastical personages, who were well able to judge, and not before the crowd, who might misunderstand it. Hence, the Evangelist minutely details every circumstance of it.

The Priests and Levites were taken from the Tribe of Juda. The Priests, from the family of Aaron alone.

These latter were consecrated by a more solemn rite, and exercised more exalted functions in connexion with the service of the Temple and the offering of sacrifice. The Levites were taken from the other families of the Tribe of Juda, consecrated in a less solemn manner, and told off for the inferior functions in the Temple.

20. The question which they were deputed to ask him was, “Who art thou?” From the first reply which he gave them, “I am not the Christ,” it seemsclear, that after asking him, in a general way who he was, they at once ask him, “Art thou the Christ?” For, otherwise, the Baptist could not, with any sense of propriety say, unasked, “I am not the Christ,” as if the people could have so exalted an idea of him, or he could himself have imagined it.

“And he confessed and denied not,” a Hebrew form of conveying most empathically, as well positively as negatively, a full explicit reply to a question, and of conveying a full, open declaration. “He confessed” the truth, “and denied not,” that he was not the Christ.

21. “Art thou Elias?” In the Prophecy of Malachias (c. 4:5, 6), it is stated that Elias, who had been taken up into heaven, is to precede the coming of our Redeemer. In this passage of Malachias, there is question of his coming at the end of time in glory and majesty. But, he was also to come before this last coming in meekness and humility (Malachias 3:1; Zacharias 9:9). The Jews made no distinction between his first and second coming. They ignored this first coming; and hence, they supposed, that Elias, who was taken up into heaven (4 Kings 2:11), would precede our Redeemer whenever He came. This gave rise to the question, “Art thou Elias?”

“I am not.” True, he was not Elias, the Thesbite, in person, to whom their question had reference, although, he came in the spirit and power of Elias (Luke 1:17), to discharge the same office of precursor at our Lord’s first coming, that Elias is to discharge at His second (see Matthew 17:2; Mark 10:9, Commentary on).

“The Prophet” (ὅ προφητης) whom the Jews, from an erroneous interpretation of Deuteronomy (18:15), supposed to precede as well as Elias, the coming of our Lord, or rather accompany Him. The passage in Deuteronomy referred, no doubt, to our Lord Himself (Acts 3:23; 7:37). But, the Jews understood it otherwise; and hence, John though a Prophet, and more than a Prophet, denies that he was “THE Prophet” they referred to, or the Prophet in the sense of their question (see Matthew 11:9, Commentary on).

22. Their opinion of the Baptist was so exalted as to make them fancy that if he were not the Messiah, he must be one of the two great Prophets who were expected about the time of the Messiah’s coming. Finding he was neither, they content themselves with a general question, as to who he was. With what authority or power was he invested? What mission did he receive, to be exercised? This they want to know, in order to bring back word or return a satisfactory answer to the Sanhedrim, by whom they were deputed to wait on the Baptist.

23. See Matthew 3:3, Commentary on. Having already declared what he was not, he now declares in very distinct terms, what he was, thus meaning to show the nothingness of his origin, compared with the Messiah.

24. Those sent were of the sect of the Pharisees, while in dignity Priests and Levites. Who the Pharisees were (see Matthew 3:7). The reason why the Evangelist makes special mention of them here was, that besides being the most powerful party in the Sanhedrim, they were overbearing and haughty; glorying in their knowledge of the law and affected sanctity of life, which will account for their captious questioning, recorded in next verse. Likely, they were not commissioned by those who sent them to question the Baptist further than was necessary to know who he was, by what authority he acted; or if he was the Christ, as the people generally thought in their hearts regarding him (Luke 3:15).

25. “Why therefore,” etc.? By what authority, then, dost thou baptize publicly and with a show of authority, the people flocking to you in crowds, whom you wish to subject to the Baptism of Penance? This they regard as audacious on the part of John, after the declarations elicited from him. The Prophets foretold that at the coming of Christ, Baptism was to be administered to the people (Ezech. 36:25; Zach. 13:1). The Pharisees learned in the law knew this. They thought, however, that it was only by the Messiah or His accompanying Prophet this could lawfully be done.

26. “I baptize in water.” I am commissioned and sent by God—the Jews themselves would not deny that John’s Baptism was from heaven—to “baptize in water” only, as a preparation for the Baptism of the Messiah. Hence, I don’t assume the office which He is to discharge. For, His Baptism will be quite different both in itself and in its effects. Most likely, the Baptist added, “He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and in fire.” The Evangelist omits this part as it was fully given by the other Evangelists. The effects and the end of both Baptisms are quite different.

He is not far off from you, whose precursor I am, whose Baptism will perfect mine, He is “in your midst, whom you know not,” whose exalted dignity you are ignorant of. Hence, their culpability in not finding Him and not believing in Him.

27. (See v. 15, also Matthew 3:2). “He shall come after me” in his public manifestation, when I shall have discharged the office of precursor. But, “He is preferred before Me” in dignity, a dignity so great, that “I,”—whom you seem to esteem so much—“am not worthy to loose the latchet of His shoe,” unworthy to discharge in His regard the most menial and servile offices, the distance between us being infinite. He, true God; I, a creature.

28. For “Bethania,” several writers, Origen, Chrysostom, etc., read “Bethabara.” But “Bethania” is the more common reading of MSS. Both words, probably, refer to the same place. Bethabara signifying the house or place of passage, as it was there, the Hebrews first crossed the Jordan on coming up from Egypt, and it was a place for crossing the Jordan from Perea into Judea. “Bethania” signifies a ferry passage, or house of boats, which were always kept in readiness there, for ferrying passengers across the Jordan. If the words do not denote the same place, the places were quite close to one another on the banks of the Jordan. This “Bethania” is by no means to be confounded with the dwelling-place of Mary and Martha, near Jerusalem. John selected this place for his Baptism, as crowds used to resort to it, when crossing the Jordan. The Evangelist refers to this place of public resort to show, that the testimony of John was publicly given so as to leave no room for afterwards questioning it.

29. “The next day,” immediately following that, on which the foregoing testimony was rendered by the Baptist, to the deputation spoken of in the preceding verses.

“John saw Jesus coming to him.” Our Redeemer retired into the desert, immediately after His Baptism by John (Mark 1:12), where He, probably, was, when the Baptist gave the testimony of Him above recorded. Now, He comes forth from the desert, to give the Baptist an opportunity of bearing the testimony referred to here. This was after His Baptism. For, John says he saw “the Spirit descending on Him,” etc. (v. 32). Now, this occurred at His Baptism. “Behold,” which points to a determinate, distinct Person, “the Lamb of God.” This is allusive to the passage of Isaias (53:7) and Jeremias (11:19) in which our Lord is called a lamb. There is also allusion to the typical signification of the Paschal lamb, whose qualities, as described in the Old Testament, typified the character of our Lord. He was also prefigured by the lamb offered up in daily sacrifices by the Jews, and by the other legal oblations. “Of God,” offered up by God the Son, to His Father, as a victim of full atonement. Thus we say, the sacrifice “of Abraham,” offered up by Abraham—“Lamb of God,” the Divine Lamb, begotten of God the Father, marked out by Him as the true victim, alone adequate to make full atonement for all sin, “the sin of the world,” and utterly destroy it. It is worthy of remark, that whenever our Lord is called a lamb in SS. Scripture, it is always in connexion with His sacrificial character, as a victim of atonement for sin. It is so here, as appears from the words, “taketh away the sin of the world.” “Sin,” in the singular, embraces all the sins of all mankind, “the world;” “taketh away” (Isaias 53:6–12; 1 Peter 2:24, 25); taking on Himself the imputability of all sins, and the voluntary obligation of making full atonement for them, He utterly effaces by His blood, so far as He is concerned, unless obstacles on the part of creatures mar it, all the guilt and punishment of sin. Unlike the Paschal Lamb and other victims among the Jews, which had only a passing effect and were offered for only one people, the oblation of this Lamb had a permanent, abiding effect, in regard to the sins of all mankind.

John then, tells them, that his own Baptism can have no effect compared with His, who alone can remit and atone for all sin. To Him, therefore, they should go for the means of salvation.

30. (See v. 27).

31. Far from being influenced by any private or personal motives in bearing testimony.

“I knew Him not,” in person, till He came to my Baptism, although I knew He had come and I had saluted Him even from my mother’s womb. From my knowledge that He was born and conversing among His people in an unknown capacity.

“I came,” commissioned by God, “baptizing in water,” which, of itself could not remit sin, this being reserved for His Baptism, whose precursor I was—in order “that He may be made manifest in Israel,” when amidst the great concourse of people flocking to my Baptism, I could bear testimony to Him and make Him known, as He was made known to me; first, by revelation, on His coming to be baptized; and again by the voice of the Eternal Father at His Baptism, when I saw the Holy Ghost descending on Him.

32. “And John gave testimony, saying:” These are the words of the Evangelist. They are interposed between the preceding and following words, conveying the Baptist’s testimony.

“I saw the Spirit,” etc. at our Lord’s Baptism (Matthew 3:16, 17, see Commentary).

33. “I knew Him not,” personally and externally. For, it was from the desert I came, being sent to baptize. But God, by whom I was sent, gave me this corrobarative, undoubted sign for knowing Him personally and distinguishing Him from the crowds of those flocking to my Baptism. John knew Him by revelation in his mother’s womb. He had also a revelation regarding Him before Baptism, on which account, he said, “ego debeo a Te baptizari” (Matthew 3:14).

“This is He that Baptizeth with the Holy Ghost,” of whom I spoke to you already. John added this, as is recorded by the other Evanglists, when he said, “I baptize in water” (v. 26). If, then, you believe in my baptism, and receive it as from God (Matthew 21:25), know, that He, who sent me, gave me this sign for knowing the Messiah. If then, you believe in me when baptizing, you should believe in me also when testifying regarding the Messiah, of whose exalted dignity and my own unworthiness I have already spoken.

34. When did John bear testimony that “this is the Son of God ὅ νιος, the Son, the only begotten, natural, consubstantial Son of God, Himself God? This is not distinctly seen in the Gospel. But it may be among the several parts relating to our Lord’s acts, not recorded in the Gospel. It may also be said, that John declared this implicitly, when speaking of His exalted dignity, His “taking away”—remitting—“the sins of the world.” For, the Jews themselves held, that no one but God could remit sin. It would be blasphemy, according to them, to say otherwise. “I saw,” the sign given of His Divinity; and as it was given, not for myself;—as I knew Him already—but for the people; hence, I bore testimony of His Divinity, as was declared by the Eternal Father at His baptism. “Hic est filius meus dilectus,” etc. (Matthew 3:17.)

35. “The next day again” immediately succeeding that on which John gave the testimony referred to in v. 29. He bore testimony before the Jewish deputation in v. 27. Secondly, in v. 29. Thirdly, here. “John stood,” engaged in the ministry of baptizing and preaching to the multitudes.

“And two of his disciples,” among the crowd. These are specially mentioned on account of their faithful correspondence with John’s exhortations.

36. “And beholding Jesus walking,” it would seem towards home, as appears from what follows. Our Lord was among the hearers of John, and now, towards evening, returns home “the Lamb of God,” the Divine Victim, the Saviour of men, alone capable of atoning for sin and of appeasing the Divine anger. John said this in the presence of all. He repeats this testimony for greater emphasis sake.

37. “And the two disciples,” who are specially noted, on account of their prompt correspondence with grace, “heard Him speak,” repeating the testimony rendered by Him on the preceding day.

“And they followed Jesus,” on His way home, with a view to more familiar intercourse, and greater instruction.

38. “And Jesus turning, and seeing them following Him.” Anticipating their wishes, He, in the fulness of His mercy, and wishing to free them from embarrassment, asks them, “What seek ye?” What do you want with Me? This He well knew. But, He wishes to give them a full opportunity of accosting Him.

“Rabbi,” etc. “Rabbi.” a title of honour and distinction, which the Evangelist interprets for his Greek readers. By using the word “Rabbi,” they conveyed that they wanted instruction.

“Where dwellest Thou?” meaning where did He lodge, or where had He taken up His temporary abode? Being a Galilean, He was not supposed to have a house or permanent abode in that district. Likely, the day being now far advanced, they only wished to know where they could find Him on the morrow, in order to converse fully with Him on the subject of His Divine mission.

39. Our Lord, who did not regard the hour as inopportune—for no time would be considered by Him inopportune for promoting the work of salvation—instead of putting them off to the following day, as probably they expected, blandly and kindly invited them to His place of abode. “Come and see.” He graciously asks them to follow Him, in order to inspire them with courage to question Him.

“They stayed with Him that day,” and as St. Augustine probably conjectures, the whole of that night, as the business was too great to be disposed of in two short hours.

“Now, it was about the tenth hour,” from sunrise, and only two hours of day time remained. For the Jews, divided their days into twelve hours and their nights into twelve hours. The hours varied in length, at different seasons of the year.

Who can imagine the spiritual joy and heavenly light with which these favoured disciples were blessed by our Lord, on this, the first occasion of His making disciples? Likely, He fully satisfied their questions, as to His Divinity and mission of Salvation referred to by the Baptist, when speaking of the Lamb of God, who was to make atonement for sin and to ransom mankind. The result would indicate this. For, they were not only themselves convinced, that He was the Son of God, the expected Messiah (v. 41). They also zealously exerted themselves to share their happiness with others.

40. “Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,” etc. The Evangelist gives the name of one of the two disciples, Andrew, on account of the part he had in the introduction of his brother Peter to our Lord. He is here by anticipation called “Simon Peter,” which name our Lord promised him (v. 42).

41. “He findeth his brother Simon,” having sought him, in the first place, to share with him the heavenly treasure he found. The Greek for “first,” πρωτος, “primus invenit,” etc., would signify that he was the first after leaving our Lord’s lodging, on the following morning, to find Simon, for whom the two disciples were searching in different directions, vieing with each other to find him.

“We have found,” Him who was so long expected and ardently desired, and we are anxious that you should have your longing desires of finding Him now fully gratified. We have found Him, the term of whose advent, according to the ancient Prophecies, is fully expired—the desired of the everlasting hills, whom the Patriarchs and Prophets, with sighs and with groans, called on the clouds of heaven to rain down and on the earth to open and deliver up from her bowels.

“The Messiah, which is interpreted, Christ.” (See Matthew 1:1, Commentary on.) Most likely, Andrew communicated to him, the knowledge of what our Lord imparted the night before.

42. “And Jesus looking on him” with the eyes of His soul, penetrating into him by that divine vision, which has before it the future as well as the present, “He said,” after closely scanning him, “Thou art Simon the son of Jona,” showing His knowledge of everything present, however hidden, and His prescience in regard to the future, by saying, “thou shalt be called Cephas,” etc. Our Lord does not change his original name of “Simon,” He only adds that of “Peter,” in token of the future, exalted dignity of Primacy, which He meant to confer on him. Whether our Lord actually bestowed this name on him at present, is warmly disputed. St. Augustine maintains that the name, “Peter,” was given him at this moment, although spoken in a future form. “Shalt be called,” just as in the case of Abraham, who received this name of honour on the spot, although spoken of, in the future. “Vocaberis Abraham” (Genesis 17:5). St. Cyril holds it was only promised, and given afterwards (Mark 3:16). For the meaning of “Cephas,” and the nature of the authority signified and actually conveyed in the term (see Matthew 16, Commentary on).

43. The Evangelist here records another vocation almost at the same time. “The following day,” immediately after that on which he said, “tu vocaberis Cephas”; but not the day immediately following that, on which the disciples followed Him (v. 40). For, most likely, these remained with our Lord till the following morning; and then, after sunrise, Andrew brought Peter to Him on the day following that, on which it is said, they followed Him (v. 40).

“He would go forth,” from Judea, where He was, “into Galilee.” This was not by mere chance. But, with the predetermined divine counsel of meeting Philip and calling him.

“He found Philip,” either on His journey, or, in Galilee.

“Follow Me,” or, become My disciple. To this exterior call, was added the still more powerful influence of interior grace, drawing him towards his Lord. Philip at once obeyed the voice of God. It was the same voice that raised Lazarus from the tomb, and performed so many miraculous wonders, in the cure of those affected with various bodily evils and diseases.

44. “Bethsaida,” a town on the border of the Lake of Galilee. Our Lord refers in terms of reproach to this town as well as to Corozain, on account of their infidelity and abuse of grace (Matthew 11:21). Likely, the Evangelist refers to it here, as the native place of Andrew and Peter, to show that our Lord honoured it notwithstanding its unworthiness, by selecting from its poor inhabitants, three glorious Apostles, as trophies of His supernatural grace; and to reproach the Jews who spurned Him, by showing, that He called His Apostles from the refuse of the earth, the despised fishermen of Galilee.

45. Philip having followed our Lord into Galilee, sought diligently for his friend Nathanael, who was a native of Cana of Galilee (21:2), with a view of making him a sharer in the heavenly treasure, which he himself had found. He brought him to Jesus.

Who this Nathanael was, of whom we have mention only here, and c. 21:2, we cannot know for certain. By some, among them, Patrizzi, he is said to be Bartholomew the Apostle. We are told by St. Chrysostom (Hom. 19), and St. Cyril (Lib. 2), that Nathanael was profoundly versed in the SS. Scriptures; and hence, accommodating himself to Nathanael’s character for sacred erudition. Philip said, “We have found Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth, of whom Moses wrote,” etc., Him of whom Moses wrote in the Law and the Prophets, the long expected of the Jewish nation—who is no other, than Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth. He was reupted to be the son of Joseph of the Royal House of David. Our Lord was a Galilean, being educated and brought up at Nazareth. “Of Nazareth,” is to be joined with the word “Jesus,” not with Joseph,” as is clear from the Greek. The words of this verse are precisely the same as those briefly addressed by Andrew to Peter (v. 41, “We have found the Messiah.”

46. “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael, versed in the SS. Scriptures, knew that Christ was to come from Bethlehem (Micheas 5), and the Scribes, in their reply to Herod, said the same (Matthew 2:5). The Jews, in reply to Nicodemus (John 7:52), said that no Prophet could come out of Nazareth. Hence, Nathanael, in admiration, asks, can any thing extraordinary, can so great a blessing come from this obscure, mean village, in the despised Province of Galilee? Still, Nathanael does not deny it. He only seems to wonder at it. It might be true. For, although Micheas pointed to Bethlehem as his birthplace; still, other Prophecies said he would come from Nazareth (Matthew 2:23). Hence, the prudence of Nathanael, who, answering in hesitation, does not deny it, but only expresses surprise at such a great blessing coming from Nazareth, since the prevalent opinion among the people was, that He was to come from the seed of David and the town of Bethlehem (c. 7:42). “Come and see.” Philip had no doubt that a brief conversation with our Lord would at once convince Nathanael that He was the promised Messiah.

47. Seeing Nathanael coming to Him on the invitation of Philip, our Lord shows in his hearing, that He was the searcher of hearts, intimately acquainted with the inmost thoughts and dispositions of men, so that Nathanael might see who He was. “An Israelite indeed,” a true follower and imitator of Israel, who is praised for His guileless simplicity (Genesis 25:2), “in whom there is no guile,” no deceit, dissimulation, or duplicity. He saw that Nathanael came not from any captious or deceitful design, or with the view of arguing against Him from the SS. Scriptures, in which he was well versed; but, with all simplicity of heart, unlike those who, born of Israel according to the flesh, are still devoid of His spirit (Rom. 9:6); unlike those, who came to question John in the name of the Sanhedrim (v. 19, etc.).

48. “Whence knowest thou Me?” Nathanael wishes to know how could our Lord know his character and interior dispositions, as they were not acquainted with one another. In order to show him that He was not speaking rashly, in disclosing His inmost thoughts, our Lord manifests to him two other things which he supposed to be most occult, viz., that he was under the fig-tree, hidden he supposed from human eye, probably engaged in prayer, or some pious thoughts, humanly speaking, known to himself alone; and again, that he was called by Philip, after going forth from under the fig-tree.

“I saw thee.” I was present on both occasions. He does not say, I knew thee. But in virtue of my Divine Immensity, I was present and saw thee.

49. Owing to the supernatural knowledge displayed by our Lord, in knowing things absent as if they were present, the secret thoughts of the heart, as if they were public, Nathanael, aided by Divine grace, at once acknowledges the truth of what Philip stated, and proclaims our Lord, the true Son of God and King of Israel. “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel.”

Nathanael declares three things, which had been predicted of our Lord in the SS. Scriptures. 1st, he declares Him a doctor and teacher, “Rabbi,’ This was prophesied regarding Him by Joel (2:23), who calls Him “a teacher of justice.” 2nd, “the Son of God.” declared long before by the Psalmist, “filius meus es tu.” 3rdly, King of Israel, as predicted by Zacharias (9:9).

It is disputed whether Nathanael believed or proclaimed our Lord’s Divinity, in calling Him “the Son of God.” Cardinal Franzelin maintains that he proclaimed His Divinity in the words just quoted, and His Messiahship in the words, “King of Israel.” Others maintain the contrary, inasmuch, as the mystery of the Trinity was not yet commonly revealed, to the just of old, save, perhaps, in a certain way, to some of the Prophets. Hence, according to them, Nathanael termed our Lord the “Son of God,” in the sense commonly understood by the Jews, as implying a filiation above all others, angels and saints. But, they did not believe in His Divinity or regard Him as consubstantial with the Father (see Toletus). Our Lord reserved for Himself to promulgate commonly the mystery of the Trinity. “Pater, manifestavi nomen tuum hominibus” (John 17:6).

Although the revealing of the secrets of his heart would hardly, per se, warrant Nathanael in proclaiming our Lord as the Eternal Son of God—do we not find Elizeus declaring the secrets of his servant Giezi (4 Kings 5:26), and of the King of Syria (6:9, 10, 12, 32)? Still, Nathanael might have done so. For, he knew the fulness of time had arrived. He probably heard from Philip, that the Baptist had proclaimed our Lord as the Messiah. To this add, the general opinion regarding Him, and the disclosure of his own secrets. All these considerations, with the help of Divine grace, most likely, impressed him with the conviction expressed in the words taken in their natural sense, “Thou art the Son of God.”

A. Lapide thinks, Nathanael and Philip believed Christ to be the Son of God, but only in a confused and indistinct way; not precisely understanding whether He was the Son of God by an eternal generation, consubstantial with the Father, or merely by adoption.

50. “Thou believest” Me to be “the Son of God,” in whatever sense understood by thee, and “the King of Israel.” Our Lord, while commending Nathanael’s confession, tacitly insinuates that this confession, however imperfect, will be increased by still greater motives.

“Thou shalt see greater things than these.” Greater wonders than the revelation of occult and secret things, which will heighten thy opinion of Me, so as to believe and confess greater things regarding Me, viz., that I am the natural, consubstantial Son of God, and not only “the King of Israel,” but the King also and Sovereign Ruler of the universe, angels and men.

51. “Amen, amen,” point to the solemnity of the declaration about to follow, viz., that Nathanael and those present on this occasion, would see the heavens opened and “the angels ascending and descending” to minister to our Redeemer, who would thus be shown to be “the Son of God” and Lord of Angels. Our Redeemer calls Himself “the Son of Man,” out of humility, and His apparent condition of lowliness at the time in His assumed human nature. As our Lord was spoken of throughout the chapter in His Divine nature, He now refers to the other nature He assumed, so that He was true God and true man.

When did this vision take place? Some say, at His Passion and Resurrection—His Baptism was now past—others, at His Ascension; others, understand it of the ministration of Angels in the Church to be founded by Him, of which the stone, whereon Jacob lay, was a mere figure; others, of the Day of Judgment. A. Lapide holds, it had reference to some particular vision calculated to increase the faith of His hearers. Some say, this particular and wonderful manifestation, like many other acts of our Lord, was left unrecorded by the Evangelist. The words, “the heaven opened,” would seem to refer to some special wonderful manifestation calculated to beget or increase faith in the spectators, relative to our Lord’s Divinity.








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