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

The last verse (53) of preceding chapter, “and they returned each one to his own home,” is clearly in contrast with v. 1 of this c. 8, from which, in the division of chapters, it ought not to have been separated. They went to their own homes to enjoy themselves and concert measures against our Lord, But, He went out to Mount Olivet to spend the night, as was His wont, in prayer. The portion from verse 53 of preceding chapter to verse 11 of this inclusive, is wanting in several MSS., and ancient copies of the Gospel. Hence, the authenticity of the passage is questioned by many. It is classed with the portions of SS. Scripture commonly termed, Deutero-Canonical. Several arguments, extrinsic and intrinsic, are adduced in favour of, and against its authenticity. The preponderance, however, is in favour of it. But, whatever may be said of the arguments on both sides, no Catholic can question it, after the solemn declaration of the Council of Trent (SS. iv.), “Decreto de Canonicis Scripturis,” in which all are commanded, under pain of Anathema, “to receive as sacred and canonical the entire books themselves” (which are there recounted), “with all their parts, as they are wont to be redd in the Catholic Church, and are found in the old Latin Vulgate.”

This chapter commences with an account of the woman caught in the act of adultery, and our Lord’s merciful treatment of her, while He baffles the insidious designs of her accusers (1–11).

Our Lord’s declaration of the truth of His doctrine, and of His heavenly mission, which, according to the rules of evidence sanctioned in their Law, they should admit (11–19). These things He spoke in the most frequented part of the Temple, fearlessly and openly (20).

He resumes His discourse, threatening them with eternal reprobation, in case they persisted in their unbelief regarding His Divinity, after all the testimonies borne in His favour (21–31).

He next declares that they were not genuine sons of Abraham, in whom they so much gloried, as they did not imitate His works; but, rather children of the devil, of whose wicked works they were imitators, in rejecting Him and harbouring murderous designs regarding Him (31–51).

He next declares His superiority over Abraham, as Abraham “WAS MADE”—created; whereas He always was (52–58).

Our Lord, in virtue of His Divine power, hides Himself from them and leaves the Temple (59).

Commentary

1. “Went unto Mount Olivet,” which was distant, a Sabbath day’s journey, from Jerusalem to the east. Between it and the city ran the little brook or rivulet, Cedron. Close by it was the Garden of Gethsemane. The house of Martha and Mary was near. Our Lord frequently spent the night in Mount Olivet, communing with His Heavenly Father in prayer. On this account, it was that the traitor, who well knew His habits and places of resort, directed or conducted there the armed band sent to apprehend Him, thinking it to be the place, where He was most likely to be found.

2. “Early in the morning” He came again—according to custom—“into the Temple.”

3, 4. “The Scribes”—who gloried in the knowledge—“and the Pharisees,” in their strict and religious observance of the law, now come to test His knowledge and religious sentiments in regard to the law, of which His decision in the following case, which they submit to Him, would be regarded as a true test, “taken in adultery.” From the Greek reading of following verse (4), “this woman was taken in adultery” (μοιχευομενη), it is clear she was caught in the actual commission of crime.

“Master,” They wish to conciliate Him and gain His good will, by affecting respect for His opinions, as teacher. “What sayest Thou?” as teacher.

5. The law of Moses commanded, that in case a virgin espoused to a man was found guilty of crime with another, both should be stoned (Deut. 22:24). In regard to adulterers also, death was enacted. No mention, however, was made of the kind of death (Levit. 20:10; Deut. 22:22). The Jews, however, following tradition, and guided by the interpretation of the ancients, extended the specific punishment of stoning to adultery, as being a still more grievous crime. That it was the kind of death actually in flicted on adulterers, is clear from Ezechiel 16:40. Likely, it was the kind of death in reserve for Susanna, as the elders underwent it, at the hands of the multitude. This would point to stoning, as their mode of action conjointly (Daniel 13:62).

6. “Tempting Him.” Their object was, according to several Commentators, to involve Him in a dilemma, so that whatever answer He gave, they would have an opportunity of accusing Him, either with the civil authorities or the people. If He decided, she should be stoned; then, they would charge Him with excessive severity and want of that spirit of mercy, so often hitherto commended and practised by Him. Moreover, He would be acting as judge; and thus amenable to the civil authorities. If He said, she should not be stoned; then, He would be the enemy of the law of Moses, a charge so often before made against Him. He would be thus amenable to the Mosaic or religious authorities. Others say, “tempting,” had solely for object, to elicit from Him an opinion or decision at variance with, or in modification of, the sentence of the law, which the Jews quote for Him. This, they hoped would bring Him into disrepute as an enemy of the law.

This seems to be their object in quoting the law. It is not easy to see, how our Lord could be charged with want of clemency in agreeing in the sentence of the law of Moses. Hence, there seems to be no ground for the dilemma above referred to.

“Wrote with His finger on the ground.” What did He write? It is idle to conjecture, since He Himself has not vouchsafed to tell us. Why did He write? The reason generally assigned is, that He wished to convey, that He would decline giving any answer to a question so captious and so dishonestly intended. Hence, He delineated some character on the pavement of the Temple.

7. Perceiving, probably, from His stooping down and delineating some characters on the pavement or the dust, with which it might have been covered, that He meant to decline having anything to say to them, they persevered in asking for an explicit answer to their captious, insidious questions, thus interrupting Him. “He lifted up Himself and said to them, he that is without sin among you, let him first cast,” etc. “Without sin,” may refer to sin in general, or to the sin with which this adulterous woman was charged. For, there is abundant evidence, as testified by Josephus, regarding the low state of morality at the time, even among those who affected sanctity and religious observance of the moral law.

“Let him first cast a stone at her.” The law prescribed (Deut. 17:7), that the accuser or witness should be the first to cast a stone at the guilty party; doubtless, with a view to make men more cautious in bringing forward accusations, from a sense of their responsibility, in being executioners. The throwing of the first stone was a signal to the bystanders for a general attack on the culprit.

Our Lord does not say the adulterous woman was to be set free, or, that she was undeserving of the punishment provided by the law against such transgressions; and hence, does not interfere with the just sentence of the law. He implies that she deserved death; and thus baffled the insidious attempts of His enemies. At the same time, He mercifully stays the execution, which the Roman Governor alone could warrant, although the Sanhedrim might pass sentence, by remitting each to the tribunal of conscience, which convicted them of the crime, for which they would fain execute vengeance on their fellow-creature. Our Lord does not here mean, that no judge could pass sentence on a convicted criminal, if the judge himself were in sin. He merely remits His enemies to the tribunal of conscience. They ask Him to give judicial sentence; this He declines doing. It belonged to the public authority to do so. He conveys to us that, in a private capacity, it would be congruous, that a man who, in private, sits in judgment on another and condemns him, would himself be free from the crime for which he judges others. There is no reference whatever here to public authority, but only to the execution of a sentence by private authority. “First cast a stone.” Our Lord knowing their guilty consciences, knew well they would not dare submit to the test.

8. He then resumes the operation of writing on the ground, in which they had interrupted Him by their importunity. He probably intended by this to give them, in the exercise of clemency, an opportunity of quietly retiring without being put to excessive confusion or shame.

9. “When they heard this—(the Greek adds, “being convicted by their own conscience”) they went out one by one, beginning at the eldest”—(to which the Greek adds, “unto the last”).

The “eldest” may mean those who, advanced in life, were most hardened in iniquity, like the old judges who falsely accused Susanna (Daniel 13); or, the word may refer not to age; but to dignity. The whole sentence means, that all the accusers meanly sneaked away, without exception, either as regards age or dignity.

“Jesus alone remained.” etc. “Alone.” regards the accusers, but not the multitude, who remained, as appears from verse 12.

10, 11. Our Lord mercifully inspiring her with true sorrow for her sin, pardons her guilt, without passing any judicial sentence on her. “Neither will I condemn thee”—to legal punishment. He implies her moral guilt, which was manifest. “Sin no more.” At the same time, He shows, in these words, His abhorrence of sin.

12. “Again, therefore, Jesus spoke to them.” After being interrupted in His course of teaching (v. 2) by this unhappy incident regarding the adulterous woman, our Lord now resumes His discourse to the people.

“I am the light of the world,” not only considered in My Divine nature, as eternal wisdom and truth, but in My human nature, of which it was predicted, “populus … vidit lucem magnam.” (Isaias 9) He is the light of the world, enlightening minds, by His teaching and example. “Of the world,” not merely of one nation, but all the nations of the earth.

“He that followeth Me.” When pointing out the true path, by My teaching and example. “Walketh not in darkness,” of error, which the light of My teaching dissipates; or, of sin, which My conversation and life condemns.

“But shall have the light of life.” When at the close of His mortal pilgrimage, He shall reach His eternal home (Ps. 35, “et in lumine tuo, videbimus lumen”)—others understand it of the light of faith, which is opposed to walking “in darkness,” and faith is said to be “the light of life,” inasmuch as it leads and gives the knowledge of the way that leads to life, and even in this world, united to charity, it gives life to the soul.

13. “The Pharisees.” Some of them, who remained in the crowd, when the others had retired in confusion, after they were baffled by His answer in the case of the adulterous woman.

“Is not true,” that is, not worthy of credit, receivable in evidence. The testimony of two witnesses was required to be produced in evidence.

14. “My testimony is true,” deserving of being received in evidence. “For I know whence I came,” etc. It is an obscure way of saying, “BECAUSE I AM GOD, THE ETERNAL SON OF GOD, THE INFALLIBLE TRUTH.” Our Lord uses this obscure way of conveying the sacred truth, in accommodation to the weakness of His hearers. “I know whence I came,” descending from the bosom of My Eternal Father, God of God, light of light, to assume human nature and redeem mankind. Thus, He conveys to them the fundamental truth regarding His Divinity and humanity, His Divine nature and Incarnation. “And whither I go.” After My work on earth is accomplished, I ascend to the Father, to be seated next Him, at His right hand of majesty in glory. As the Son of God, My own assertion is sufficient. As well might one question the existence of the sun in the midst of noon-day splendour. Had He plainly conveyed to them this truth, “I am the Son of God,” and, therefore, entitled to un doubting belief, they would have recoiled from Him, as a blasphemer. He, however, conveyed the same truth in an obscure way, and proved it by undoubted arguments and reasons, independently of His personal testimony, which reasons and arguments superadded to His own personal testimony, were in a moral point, equivalent to an additional witness.

“But you know not, whence I come or whither I go.” It is because you know Me not, nor wish to know Me, though you have had already evident proofs of it in many ways, that you disbelieve or affect to disbelieve My words.

15. Your judgment regarding Me is according to your carnal notions, and the external appearances you behold; or, you judge of Me, merely from the appearance of the flesh in which I am clothed. You judge of Me, the man God, and of My words, as you would of any other human being, or mere man.

“I”—considered as mere man—“judge not any man.” I am not alone in judging any man, which means, in bearing testimony regarding any man. My testimony, which forms the chief part in determining any judicial process, is not Mine only. I am joined in it by another. The word “judge,” as appears from the entire context, refers to bearing witness, which is the chief thing in determining any judgment, as it is by evidence, the judge is guided in his decision.

16. And if I were to judge and bear testimony, “My judgment” or testimony “is true” and admissible according to the strictest rules of evidence; “because I am not alone.” I am not a single or solitary witness. My Father also testifies along with Me.

17. He refers them to their own, the Mosaic, law, “Your law.” “Your,” in the observance of which you glory so much, as if no one else observed it so well. He merely quotes the substance of the law, which applies to His case regarding two witnesses. (The words of the law, Deut. 17:6; 19:15, are, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand.”) In the words of this verse, our Lord conveys, that two human witnesses will decide any case, and their testimony be accepted, as legal evidence—(“is true”)—though in several instances the testimony of two has been proved to be false; for example, in the case of Susanna, and others. If this be so, of how much greater force ought the testimony of God the Father, and the Son, be regarded, to whose united evidence, reference is made in the following verse? The word “true,” means accepted as legal evidence.

18. No doubt, in the sense of the law, there are required two witnesses, distinct from the party in whose favour testimony is borne. We are, however, to bear in mind, that our Lord had two natures, and one person. As God, or, in His Divine nature, He could, and did bear testimony, through the works peculiar to the Divinity and other undoubted evidence, to the fact or fundamental truth, that under His visible human nature was concealed the Divine nature and person of the Son of God. Of Himself as man, with a distinct nature, He Himself, as God in His Divine nature, bore testimony; and adduced besides His testimony, reasons and additional arguments in proof of it.

19. “Where is your Father?” Who is this Father, of whom you boast so often? Where is He? Show Him to us, as bearing testimony to you. They feign a desire of knowing the truth, and wish to elicit from Him an explicit declaration, that He was the Son of God, which they knew well He meant; and thus, have a pretext for carrying out what they intended, viz., to stone Him, as a blasphemer (5:18; 10:31).

Our Lord does not directly and clearly answer, My Father is in heaven. They wished to elicit this, in order to catch Him in His words. He, however, answers these hypocrites indirectly. “Neither Me do you know,” etc., by which He meant to convey, that they were mistaken, in regarding Him as mere man, having Joseph for His father. They knew not the truth as to His Incarnation, His assuming human flesh, being at the same time, the Son of God; neither did they know God to be His Father, paternity and filiation being relative designations. He performed several miracles, to prove this, which they blindly and obstinately ignored.

“If you did know Me, perhaps,” etc. “Perhaps,” Greek (άν) means, surely. If they knew Him to be God, a truth, He often proved to them, they would know that His Father was God, to be sought for not on earth; but, in heaven. The Eternal and Divine Sonship of our Lord connotes the relation of paternity in the Eternal Father.

20. “In the treasury”—the entire portico surrounding the chest or ark, in which the moneys and valuable property of the Temple were deposited and preserved As this was a very public part of the Temple, the Evangelist wishes to convey, that our Lord spoke not in private or in any obscure corner, but rather in the most public place, and with the greatest freedom of speech. This seems to be the point He had in view in alluding to the place where our Lord spoke—still, they did not apprehend Him. His divine power restrained them, as the time, He had Himself fixed for freely and voluntarily undergoing death, had not yet arrived.

21. “Again, therefore, Jesus spoke,” etc. “Therefore,” as they durst not seize on Him; and as they were persevering in their feelings of hatred and malice. “Jesus again,” as He had spoken already, repeats the words addressed to the servants sent to apprehend Him (7:33, 34). “I go,” returning, after My death, to the bosom of My Father. “And you shall seek Me,” which is understood by some to mean: in your blind hatred and malice, you shall desire to crucify Me again. But, your efforts shall be in vain, as I shall be beyond your reach, sitting in glory at the right hand of My Father (7:33).

“And you shall die in your sin.” You shall persevere and die in your sinful state of infidelity and refusal to believe in Me.

“Whither I go, you cannot come.” While I shall ascend up to heaven, you shall descend into hell, in punishment of your malice and sin. In vain, then, shall you seek Me on earth, when I shall be seated in majesty at the right hand of My Heavenly Father.

22. The servants of the Pharisees, on receiving a similar answer, took a more benignant view of His expressed intentions, not being blinded, like their employers, with hatred and malice. They said; “Will He go into the dispersed,” etc. (7:34). But the Pharisees, who harboured murderous designs against Him, thinking He could not escape their hands, go where He might, by any other means than self destruction, ask, “will He”—to escape our hands—“kill Himself?”

23. “You are from beneath,” “of the earth, earthly,” only thinking of earthly things, measuring everything by your earthly conceptions.

“I am from above.” You are altogether bent on things of earth, persevering in your sins, and shall be punished eternally in the lower regions. You cannot, therefore, come to Me, who am dwelling in heaven.

Or, the words may be assigned by our Lord, as a cause why they understood perversely, of His intending to put Himself to death, what He meant regarding His return to heaven. They thus thought perversely; because, they were earthly and carnal in their ideas and conceptions.

“You are of this world,” a further explanation, or rather a confirmatory repetition of the above. Being “of this world,” they were blinded by the passions and corrupt leading maxims of this wicked world, in their judgments regarding our Lord. The phrase, “of the world,” implies blindness of intellect; low, earthly, grovelling ideas and corruption of heart, the latter being in great measure the cause of the former.

24. It is on account of low, earthly ideas regarding Me, you cannot believe in Me as your long expected Messiah, as the Saviour sent to redeem the world, the Eternal Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages. “I am He,” the eternal uncreated, self-existent, only begotten Son of the Father before all ages, the great essential source of light and life in creatures.

25. Forgetful of all our Lord’s miraculous wonders, which would prove His Divinity, or, at least, affecting to forget them, they insolently and scornfully ask, “Who art Thou?” “Who” being emphatic. You say, “I am He.” You threaten us with everlasting misery, with a bad death, unless we believe that “Thou art He.” “Who art Thou?” What are we to believe regarding you?

Our Lord knowing they wished to entrap Him, answers, not directly or explicitly, “The beginning, who also speak unto you.” This passage presents great difficulties, chiefly owing to the Greek reading, which has “the beginning” not in the nominative as the Vulgate has it, but in the accusative case (την αρχην). Some Expositors, following the Vulgate reading, which they regard as giving the sense of the words, expound them thus: I am the beginning, the principle of all things with the Father and the Holy Ghost, “who also speak unto you.” Although viewed according to My Divine nature, to you invisible, I am “the beginning” of all things; still, viewed according to My human nature, assumed by Me for your sakes, under the personality of the Divine Word, I now “speak to you,” and reveal to you heavenly truths, hitherto concealed from the children of men. Briefly; according to My Divinity, “the beginning” of all things, being one and the same with My Father; but, according to My Humanity, which I also possess with My Divine nature, I speak to you, teaching you what you are to believe concerning Me. These Expositors regard ὅτι or, ὅ τι, not as an adverb, but as a pronoun, agreeing not with principium, “beginning,” but with “ego,” “I, the beginning, who speak to you.”

The Greek reading, however, will hardly admit of this construction. Hence, St. Augustine retaining the accusative, την αρχην, interprets it thus: You ask Me who I am, that you may believe in Me. I say, believe Me to be the beginning, etc. Hence, St. Augustine adds or prefixes the word credite, believe, this being understood as the object of their question.

Others understand the Greek word for “beginning” in an adverbial sense, prefixing, κατα, to it, κατα την αρχην, meaning, omnino, altogether, by all means, as if He said; I am by all means what I have been saying and proclaiming all along to you, the Eternal Son of God, the light of the world, the bread of life, etc.

Others understand it to mean, from the beginning. I am what I have been saying to you, from the beginning, and still say to you, viz., the Word, by whom all things were made, born of the Father before all ages; the source of life and light to all creatures. Hence, the Evangelist supposes that our Lord here refers to His eternal generation, when he adds (v. 27), “they understood not that He called God His Father.” The Vulgate giving the sense of the Greek words, renders it, “the beginning,” the source and fountain of existence to all creatures.

Some Catholic Expositors follow the Greek reading, and render it, “as from the beginning,” I also speak to you” (Kenrick). I am what I affirmed from the beginning, and still affirm, etc. (as above).

26. I have many things whereon to expostulate with you and condemn you. “But he that sent Me is true.” But, passing over these, I will content Myself with saying, that the Father “who sent Me,” whose doctrine I preach, is infinitely veracious. Hence, My doctrines, which you deride, are true, and should be believed. Since “the things I have heard, I speak,” etc. I proclaim to the world those things only which I have heard from Him.

27. “… called God His Father.” In the Greek the word “God” is wanting … “that He spoke to them of the Father.” The sense, however, is more clearly expressed in our Vulgate. Our Lord, in verses 25, 26, referred to His Father in heaven, of whom He was eternally begotten before all ages. This, however, He uttered obscurely, lest, by saying in clear terms, He was the Eternal Son of God, they would charge Him with blasphemy, and stone Him. Hence, they did not clearly understand Him, nor had they any clear grounds of proceeding against Him as a blasphemer, God having providentially so arranged it, as the hour marked out for the death of His Son, had not yet arrived.

28. “Therefore,” as you do not now clearly understand, you shall understand it, “when you shall have lifted up,” etc., that is, raised Him and suspended Him on the cross, as explained by Himself (12:33). Commentators carefully note, regarding the word, “lifted up,” “exaltaveritis,” that the humiliation and scandal of the cross was the source of our Lord’s greatest exaltation (Phil. 2:8, 9).

“Then you shall know that I am He.” The result following from Christ’s death, owing to the great miracles which took place on occasion of it—the verification of His predictions regarding it—His Resurrection which soon followed it, was, that many of the Jews proclaimed Him to be the Son of God, and regarded Him in quite a different light from that in which His unbelieving hearers viewed Him. They looked upon Him, not as a mere man, but as God.

“I am He,” the Messiah promised to you; the Eternal Son of God, whom I proclaimed Myself to be.

“And that I do nothing of Myself,” having the same Divine will and operation with My Father, with whom I act simultaneously and in perfect concert and harmony.

“But as the Father,” with whom I have the same knowledge, “taught Me,” being thus, Omniscient in My eternal generation, born of Him, God of God, light of light.

29. To prevent any erroneous inference, that might be deduced from the foregoing. He conveys that the Father, by sending Him, did not desert or relinquish Him either as to His Divinity or Humanity. In His Divinity, He is identical, and, therefore, always with the Father. In His Humanity, the Father so guided, directed, and led Him, that all His works were pleasing to God. ever in accordance with His Holy will, exalted, meritorious in the highest degree; nay, Divine.

30. Many of the simple, unsophisticated crowd, captivated by His words, the grace of God, at the same time interiorly enlightening and aiding them, believed iu Him; but, very few, if any, from among the carping, envious Pharisees.

31. Addressing those who believed, our Lord, in order to strengthen their faith, says to them: if you persevere in the faith and doctrine you have received, and in obedience to My words, you will merit the name of being, in reality, My disciples, and after trials and persecutions during life, you will receive the eternal inheritance reserved by Me for My faithful followers. “He that shall persevere to the end, shall be saved.”

32. “And you shall know the truth.” By persevering in My doctrine, you shall know by experience and practice, and shall taste how true are all things you believe of Me, and how salutary is My doctrine and teaching. This knowledge of faith and truth will free and emancipate you from the servitude of sin and the tyranny of your passions (v. 34). It will inspire you with true sentiments of penance, contrition and charity, and will cause you to see God, not from fear of punishment peculiar to slaves, but from love and affection.

33. “They answered Him.” “They,” are understood of the unbelieving Jews (v. 27), not of those that believed. Both were among His hearers, and a speaker addressing an assembly, may direct his words to one portion, in particular.

“And we have never been slaves,” etc. This, in reference to their fathers, would be untrue, who were slaves to the Egyptians, Babylonians, etc. “Egypto manum dedimus et Assyriis, etc. “Servi dominati sunt nobis” (Jeremiah, 4:6–8). It is, therefore, most likely, the Jews spoke not of past times, but of the generation then alive; and, although subject to the Romans, they were not slaves. They enjoyed, in a great measure, their own institutions and laws. Our Lord, as appears from next verse, refers to a different kind of bondage, the bondage of sin. He addresses to them a twofold reproach: ignorance and servitude. Overlooking the former charge, the Jews expressed indignation, and murmured against the latter.

34. “Amen, amen.” The Hebrews expressed a superlative by repeating a word, as if He said, most truly. Our Lord tells them, He speaks not of civil bondage; but, of the bondage of sin. He speaks in very general terms and in the third person, while specially intending it for them, to avoid offence. What He really meant was: you are slaves to sin; and this is the servitude from which I rescue you and all others, involved in it. I alone can do it. “Whosoever,” without exception, be he slave, in a civil sense, or a freeman; be he born of Abraham, or of Gentile parents, “committeth sin, is the servant of sin,” bound over by its corrupt passions and concupiscences.

35. From the condition of his existence, the slave has no fixed right to remain always in the house of his master. He is liable to be cast out at a moment’s notice, and sold to some other master. It is different with the son, who has a right to his father’s fortune and inheritance. The implied conclusion from this generally admitted truth, in its application is, that the Jews, being the slaves of sin, had no fixed right to remain in the house, that is, the Church of God. They were liable to be cast out, and if they persevered in their unbelief, would be cast out of the Church, God’s inheritance, which would be transferred to others. This may contain a latent allusion to the exclusion, or reprobation of the Jews, and the call of the Gentiles.

36. “If, therefore, the Son shall make you free.” If, I who am the Son of God, eternal truth, the heir in My Father’s house, make you free, and I alone can do it, “you shall be free indeed.” As the heir emancipates his slaves, so you will receive from Me, a liberty far exceeding civil liberty, a true liberty, from the tyranny of sin and the bondage of your passions.

37. I know you are descendants of Abraham according to the flesh. But, you are degenerate sons, neither imitating his virtues nor walking in his footsteps; since you seek to kill Me, the true son of Abraham, your descent from Abraham will only condemn you the more. On the day of Judgment, Abraham will disown you, “because My word hath no place in you.” On account of the servitude of sin, in which you are involved, your hearts are too corrupt, too full of pride, envy and other passions, to obey My words; your intellects are too obscured, and darkened to comprehend them properly.

38. “I speak and teach what I have seen with My Father.” “You”—in turn—“do the things which you have seen with your father,” implying that Abraham was not their father. They had another father, the Devil, whose works they performed, whose wishes they execute, when they wish to kill Him. Their father “was a murderer from the beginning” (v. 44).

39. The Jews understanding our Lord to assign to them tacitly a father different from Abraham, now repeat that Abraham, and no one else, was their father. In him, there is no bad example given us to imitate.

Our Lord tells them, if they were the true, genuine sons of Abraham, the children, not merely according to the flesh, but the children of benediction, who were to be heirs of his promises, they should imitate his example, and do his good works.

40. “This Abraham did not do.” He never injured any one. He never sought to compass the death of a teacher of truth. Hence, while compassing My death, you are not doing the work of Abraham; you are proving yourselves to be degenerate, undutiful children.

41. Our Lord repeats his assertion that the Jews were not the true children of Abraham, that they had a different father, whose works they did, whose example they followed. He forbears mentioning, who that father is. He mentions it in v. 44. From the work they did, it might be easily seen who their father was, whose works they imitated.

“We are not born of fornication.” They understood our Lord, in denying their descent from Abraham, to speak not of carnal, but of spiritual, generation. Now, idolatry was regarded as spiritual fornication by the Jews. Hence, here they meant to say, that they were not idolators, the worshippers of false gods, like the Gentiles. They worshipped the true God, whom they regarded as their Spiritual Father, God Himself, on account of His special predilection for the Jewish people, his special Providence in their regard, and the special blessings bestowed on them preferably to all other nations. He calls them His first-born, His Son, Ex Egypto vocavi filium meum.” (Exod. 4)

42. “If God were your Father,” if you were His adopted children, “you would love Me,” who am His eternal, only begotten Son It is but meet, that the adopted children should love the natural, genuine offspring of the same father, rather than hate him, as you hate me. “For, I proceeded from God, and came.” I, who had been begotten of the Father before all ages, proceeded from Him, and came into the world in my Incarnation. The words, most likely, refer to the Incarnation of our Lord, and His coming amongst us in human flesh. They suppose also his eternal generation. “For I came not of Myself.” I am not self-sent, like false teachers, reproached by the Prophet. “I did not send Prophets, yet they ran,” etc. (Jer. 23:21) “But He sent Me.”

43. If you are the adopted sons of God, having God for your Father, as you boast, “why then not know My speech?” who am the natural Son of God? Why not recognise My speech, as suited to and indicative of my eternal Sonship? Domestics easily recognise the language and peculiar manner of speaking of their master. The reason is, “because you cannot”—you will not—“hear My word.” You are so blinded by passion and hatred of Me, that you are unwilling to attend to My words, and to the proofs I have so abundantly given of My Divinity.

44. Our Lord now plainly expresses, what He merely insinuated (v. 41), viz.: that the devil was their father. By imitation of his conduct, by their crimes of murder and lying, they are his children, and in this way he was their father, just as, on the other hand, the believers are, by imitation of his faith, the children of Abraham.

“And the desires of your father,” etc. In this is assigned the cause why they are children of the devil; because, they mean to carry out his wicked desires, suggestions and instincts. They were only carrying out his desires in putting our Lord to death. Our Lord specifies two special traits in the Evil One, wherein they were his imitators. “He was a murderer from the beginning” of man’s creation. For, in order to be a murderer, he must have some one to murder. By persuading our first parents to disobey God, he murdered the entire human race spiritually, and was the cause of the temporal death of their bodies. By the envy of the devil, death entered into the world. (Wisdom 2) So, they now, from envy, wish to put our Lord to death (37–40). Like Satan, they were murderers. Like him, who was a liar, and the father of lies, they turned away from the truth (13, 32, 37, 40, 43), “and he stood not in the truth.” Created in justice and sanctity, he persevered not, however, in this state. By his rebellion against God, he lost all his primeval integrity and sanctity. The word “truth,” includes also veracity, truthfulness in language, as seems from the following words—“When he speaketh a lie,” etc. So that both senses are conveyed. Before his fall, his nature was such, that had he spoken at all—of which there is no evidence, before he deceitfully addressed Eve (eritis sicut Dii)—he would have uttered the truth. It may mean, he did not embrace the truth addressed by God to Adam, “Morte morieris”; on the contrary he falsely said, “Non morieris.” (Jan. Gandav.)

“Because truth is not in him.” “Because,” denotes effect. It is clear, he did not persevere in truth, because he is now altogether “a liar,” “and the father of lies.” Hence, the Angels were created in grace, as Theologians infer from this passage.

“When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own.” He speaks from his own perverse will and nature, corrupted by his fall; he need not be taught lying by anyone else. It is innate in his corrupt, fallen nature.

“For he is a liar,” delights in telling what is false, with the intention of deceiving.

“And the Father thereof,” that is, of lying he was the first author, when, by telling a lie, he persuaded Eve to commit sin.

45. “But if I speak the truth.” “If,” means, because (οτι). He had already convicted them of having imitated the murderous designs of their father; he now shows they are imitators, and as such, children of the devil, in their lying spirit and aversion to truth. It is, because our Lord speaks the truth they refuse to believe Him; whereas, His speaking the truth should be a reason for their believing Him. Hence, He shows them to be lovers of lies, and, in this leading trait, children of the devil, the father of lies.

46. “Which of you,” etc, as if he said, I can confidently challenge any of you to come forward, and by bringing any solid proofs against Me, to convict Me of sin, whether in regard to morals or faith; any violation of the law of God, in point of morals, or of any error in point of faith or doctrine, however unsparing in your vain, unproven accusations. In neither point, can you do so. There is no reason, therefore, why you should turn a deaf ear to My teaching, and refuse to believe Me.

“If I say the truth,” as you must admit from the several proofs exhibited before your eyes, “why do you not believe Me?” They should first convict Him of sin or error. Failing such proof, they should believe Him.

47. He assigns the cause of their not believing or obeying His words, viz., because “they are not of God.” They are not children of God, sharers in His Spirit; but rather, children of the devil, filled with His spirit, so opposed to the Spirit of God. For, all the children of God willingly hear and obey His words. They, on the contrary, despise His teachings, disobey His precepts, indulge in vice, which proves they are not the sons of God, but sons of a different father, viz., the devil.

St. Gregory infers from this passage, that it is a sign of predestination, to hear the Word of God, and obey His holy inspirations. “Beati qui audiunt,” etc. (Luke 10) “Oves meæ vocem meam audiunt.” (John 10) But, a sign of reprobation to refuse, “because I called, and you refused,” etc. (Proverbs 1)

48. “Do we not say?” etc. Are we not justified in what we are in the habit of calling you? “Say,” habitually. Hence, it appears, although not recorded, that they used to address to Him these opprobrious epithets. Driven to madness by the truthful charges of our Lord, accusing them of murder and of love for lying, in which respect they were children of the devil, the Pharisees, in their impotent rage, address the most abusive language to our Blessed Lord. They retort by saying, that while He charges them with not being children of Abraham, He was Himself “a Samaritan.” While He charges them with being “children of the devil,” they say, He Himself has a devil, who inspires Him and works miracles through Him. “Samaritan” was a term of insult and reproach among the Jews, the Samaritans being Schismatics separated from God’s people. They had partly turned to the worship of the false gods of the Assyrians (4 Kings 18); nor did they duly value the law of Moses. Moreover, they had but very little esteem or respect for the Jews, who gloried in being the true descendants of Abraham.

“And hast a devil,”—a delirious madman, madly uttering foolish things, while asserting that his own doctrine was from God; theirs, from the devil, whose children he reproachfully calls them.

It may be, they also meant, that as the devil (Lucifer), impiously sought to be regarded as God, and would fain arrogate to himself God’s glory; so did our Lord imitate Lucifer, by claiming to be considered the Son of God. This latter meaning is borne out by our Lord’s words, “I seek not My own glory” (v. 50).

49. Our Lord passes over as a purely personal insult, the first charge. Every one knew He was a Jew, and not a Samaritan. It might be He did not deny it, looking to the etymology of the word, “Samaritan” which means, “Guardian.” Our Lord was guardian of the entire human race, “Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem,” etc. “Custos, quid de nocte.” This is the mystical meaning given the words by St. Gregory (Hom. 18), “Duo ei allata fuerunt; unum negavit, alterum, tacendo consensit.” But when doctrine or teaching is assailed, He vigorously repels and repudiates the charge, in defence of His Father’s glory. “I have no devil.” Far from dishonouring, “I honour My Father” in all things, by My good works. To Him, I refer all I do, giving Him the glory of every good work I perform.

“But, you dishonour Me.” By reviling Me and wishing to compass My death. You thus dishonour My Father, by dishonouring Me, His only and well-beloved Son, whom He has sent into the world, and to whom He has given, to be exhibited, His Divine credentials.

50. “But I seek not,” etc., so far as I am personally concerned, I regard not, from a human point of view, or, as man, any dishonour or insults you may offer Me. I am concerned only about the glory of My Father, not my own.

“There is one,” God the Father, “that seeketh” to promote My glory, “and judgeth,” will avenge all dishonour and insults offered to Me.

The Father wishes that all men should honour His Son as Himself, and He will severely punish such as act otherwise. Elsewhere, our Lord says, “the Father judges no one” (5:22), but there, He speaks of general public judgment Here, there is question of private and every day judgment, exercised on those who insult the Son, just as was done, when through the Romans, Titus and Vespasian, He utterly destroyed the Jewish race, and had them scattered abroad, as vagabonds, over the face of the earth.

51. Unmoved by the gross insulting reproach of the Jews, our Lord, far from seeking revenge, assures them in the most solemn manner, “Amen, amen,” He has only their salvation in view “If any man keep My word,” observes My precepts, believes My doctrine, although he may pass through the gates of temporal death, as is insinuated, by saying, they shall escape eternal death, “he shall not see death for ever,” shall be saved from everlasting death. Our Lord may be said to speak of the death of the body also, for the death of the body being but of the shortest duration, may be termed not death, but sleep. For, our Lord shall one day raise up the believer from the grave to live for ever in glory. Similar is our Lord’s promise (6:52, 53, 59), regarding His sacred flesh, thus putting His word and His flesh, to some extent, on a level, both being the nourishment of man’s soul.

52. “Now we know,” etc. The Jews becoming now still more insulting, while our Lord shows the greatest meekness and forbearance, exclaim, “now we know,” we are more and more convinced, that Thou art possessed of a devil, who inspires Thee with such blasphemous arrogance.

They understood our Lord to speak of the temporal death of the body, and exultingly exclaim, “Abraham and the Prophets” observed God’s law; and still, this did not save them from death.

53. “Art Thou greater than Abraham,” the father of the faithful, the father of the Synagogue, the friend of God “or the Prophets,” who never swerved from the observance of God’s law; and, still, never obtained what is here promised. Art Thou greater than God Himself, whose Word could not save Abraham from death, whereas Thou boasted that Thy word can do more?

“Whom makest thou Thyself?” when indulging in this blasphemous boasting.

54. In reply to their question, “whom makest Thou Thyself?” He answers, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing,” if in thus speaking of Myself, I have only in view My own glory, as you suppose; My glory is of little value or weight amongst men. He speaks from common estimation, and the general opinion among men regarding self praise. Similar is His saying (5:31), “If I bear testimony of Myself,” etc. Hence, it is said in the Book of Proverbs, “Let another praise thee, and not thy own mouth” (Proverbs 27:2). It may be also a reason for the words (v. 50), “I seek not,” etc., because, if I did, it would be worthless. But there is one who glorifies Me, viz., “My Father,” by the oracles of the Prophets, by the wonders wrought through Me, by testimonies from heaven, proving that all I say is true. And if you ask who is My Father? I reply, it is He “of whom you say that He is your God,” implying that He was not in reality their God, as they boasted. For, if He were truly their God, they would have honoured Him. In this our Lord conveys, that He was Himself the natural Son of God. For, He calls the God of the Jews, His own Father.

55. And while worshiping Him, “you have not known Him,” to be what is true regarding Him, one in Nature and three in Person; or, you have not known Him, as My Father, glorifying Me by signs and miraculous wonders. Had they known the Father, they would have known our Lord and believed in Him, as the Eternal Son of the Father, as He says, on the other hand, had you known Me, you would have surely known My Father (14:7). They did not know Him, since they did not acknowledge His words nor the works wrought through His Son. Nor did they observe His precepts. It is implied that their minds were so blinded by indulgence in passion, that they could not come to a true knowledge of God. Hence, He adds, “but I know Him, and keep His word,” thus showing, in what sense they did not know Him. Similar are the words (John 2:3, 4). I know the Father, His power and majesty; therefore, as man, I reverence Him and keep His Commandments, which you violate, because you know not His majesty and attributes. He also wishes to convey, that He speaks not unknown things, but what He received from the Father Hence, the Jews should abide by His testimony, since, through Him alone could they know the Father. “I know Him,” as My Father, “and if I shall say that I know Him not, I shall be like you, a liar.”

56. In reply to their question, “Art Thou greater than our father Abraham?” (v. 53), He says that Abraham, in whom they gloried, acknowledged His superiority. “He rejoiced” that is; in ecstacy of spirit, he earnestly desired, longed and yearned to “see His day.” There is a diversity of opinion, as to what day, reference is made here, whether the day of our Lord’s eternal generation, born of the Father before the day star (Psa. 109), before all ages; or, His day in the flesh, when, in time, He assumed human flesh. It most likely refers to the entire course of our Redeemer’s life on earth, from His Incarnation in the womb of the Virgin, to His Ascension. Abraham (of whose seed He was to be born), the Father of the faithful, the friend of God, having been gifted with faith, in the coming of Him, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, the entire human race redeemed from the slavery of Satan and sin, longed for the day of His coming; so did all the Prophets. From their prison in Limbo, with sighs and with tears, they sent up their loud cries, praying for the coming of this deliverer. They called on the dews of heaven, to rain Him down, and on the earth to open and deliver Him up from her bowels. “Rorate cæli desuper,” etc. (Isaias 45:8.) “Utinam disrumperes cælos et descenderes” (Isaias 64:1).

“He saw it and was glad.” Most likely, this refers to the knowledge, which, we can hardly doubt, was communicated to Abraham in Limbo, by the angels of God, not to speak of the Baptist, holy Simeon, etc.

“He saw it,” as all the Prophets longed to see it, in its reality and accomplishment.

“And was glad,” overjoyed at the happy tidings, at the knowledge that his desires were accomplished, the sighs and groans of the Patriarchs and Prophets in the prison of Limbo were now fully heard. Our Lord Himself preached in Limbo; but, at a period subsequent to this.

Besides showing in this, His superiority over Abraham, our Lord reproaches the Jews, who pretended to be imitators of Abraham, with spurning Him now present amongst them, for whose advent Abraham had so earnestly yearned, as his blessed seed, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed.

57. “Fifty years old.” Our Lord, according to the common opinion throughout the entire Church, had only reached his thirty-third or thirty-fourth year. But, the Jews fix on a period exceeding that; a period or age which they were sure He had not reached, and which they were safe in mentioning without fear of a contradictory reply, or of being charged by Him with falsehood. Some say, that although only thirty-three years, our Lord, owing to His mortified, laborious life, seemed to be near fifty.

“And hast Thou seen Abraham?” The proper phrase should be, “and Abraham saw Thee,” since it was of Abraham having seen His day, our Lord spoke. But, with the Jews, to have seen Abraham and be seen by Abraham, amounted to the same, signifying to have lived with Abraham, to have been in the world at the same time with Abraham.

58. “Before Abraham was made”—created—“I am,” existing from eternity, existing before Abraham or any other created being existed. When they came into existence, “I AM.” I was before them, existing from eternity. Similar are the words, “I AM, WHO AM,” self-existent, uncreated, from Myself, existing by the force of My Divine nature and essence. “I AM,” in the present tense, denotes continued, unchanged existence, without respect to time, in His case, before all ages, from eternity. The force of “was made,” applied to Abraham, and “I AM,” applied to our Blessed Lord, is very expressive and significant. The Jews fancied our Lord could not see nor be seen by Abraham, owing to the long interval of time that was between them, fancying our Lord to be mere man. But He here asserts His Divine nature and consequent eternal existence.

59. “They, therefore, took up stones to cast at Him,” as a blasphemer, who preferred Himself to Abraham and compared Himself to the Eternal God. The punishment of blasphemers in the law was stoning (Leviticus 24:16).

“Hid Himself,” by an effort of Divine power, rendered Himself invisible, so as to escape the murderous effect of their fury; He thus passed unseen in their midst from the Temple.








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