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A Commentary Upon The Gospel According To Saint Luke -St. Cyril

And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? None is good, but one, God. Thou knowest the commandments: Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear witness falsely; honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth. And when Jesus heard these things, He said unto him; Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And Jesus seeing it said, How hardly shall they that have gold enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to enter in through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, And who can live? And He said, The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God.

THOSE who believe that the Word, Who shone forth from the very substance of God the Father, is by nature and verily God, draw near to Him as unto an omniscient God, Who, as the Psalmist says, “trieth the hearts and reins;” and seeth all that passes in us: “for all things are naked, and spread out before His eyes,” according to the expression of the blessed Paul. But we do not find the Jewish multitudes thus disposed: for they with their princes and teachers were in error, and saw not with the eyes of their mind the glory of Christ. Rather they looked upon Him as one like unto us: as a mere man, I mean; and not as God rather, Who had become man. They approached Him therefore to make trial of Him, and lay for Him the nets of their craftiness.

And this thou mayest learn by what has now been read. For a ruler, it says, asked Him, saying, “Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said unto him, “Why callest thou Me good? None is good but one, God.” Now he, who is here called a Ruler, and who fancied himself to be learned in the law, and supposed that he had been accurately taught therein, imagined that he could convict Christ of dishonouring the commandment spoken by the most wise Moses, and of introducing laws of His own. For it was the object of the Jews to prove that Christ opposed and resisted the former commandments, to establish, as I said, new laws, of His own authority, in opposition to those previously existing, that their wicked conduct towards Him might have a specious pretext. He draws near therefore, and makes pretence of speaking kindly: for he calls Him Teacher, and styles Him Good, and professes himself desirous of being a disciple. For “what, he says, shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Observe therefore how he mixes up flattery with fraud and deceit, like one who mingles wormwood with honey: for he supposed that he could in this way deceive Him. Of such men one of the holy prophets said, “Their tongue is a piercing lance: the words of their mouth are deceitful. To his neighbour he speaketh peacefully: but there is enmity in his soul.” And again the wise Psalmist also thus speaks of them: “Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” And again, “Their words are smoother than oil: and yet are they spears.”

He therefore flatters Jesus, and attempts to deceive Him, making pretence of being well-disposed to Him. And what does the Omniscient reply, “Who, as it is written, taketh the wise in their craftiness?” “Why callest thou Me good? None is good but one, God.” Thou seest how He proved at once that he was neither wise nor learned, though the ruler of a synagogue of the Jews. For if, He says, thou didst not believe that I am God, and the clothing of the flesh hath led thee astray, why didst thou apply to Me epithets suitable to the supreme nature alone, while still thou supposedst Me to be a mere man like unto thyself, and not superior to the limits of human nature? In the nature that transcends all, even in God only, is found the attribute of being by nature, and unchangeably good: but the angels, and we upon earth, are good by resembling Him, or rather by participation of Him. For as He is what He is, and this is His Name, and His everlasting memorial for all generations; but we exist and come into being by being made partakers of Him Who really exists: so He indeed is good, or the good absolutely, but angels and men are good, only by being made, as I said, partakers of the good God. Let therefore the being good be set apart as the special property of God over all alone, essentially attached to His nature, and His peculiar attribute. If, however, He says, I do not seem to thee to be truly God, then thou hast ignorantly and foolishly applied to Me the properties and virtues of the divine nature, at the very time when thou imaginest me to be a mere man, one that is who never is invested with goodness, the property of the unchangeable nature, but only gains it by the assent of the divine will. And such then was the purport of what Christ spake.

But those perchance will not assent to the correctness of this explanation, whose minds are perverted by sharing in the wickedness of Arius. For they make the Son inferior to the supremacy and glory of God the Father: or rather, they contend that He is not the Son; for they both eject Him from being by nature and verily God, and thrust Him away from having really been born, lest men should believe that He is also equal in substance to Him Who begat Him. For they assert, as though they had obtained a reason for their blasphemy from the passage now before us, ‘Behold, He has clearly and expressly denied that He is good, and set it apart as something appropriate to God the Father only: but verily had He been equal to Him in substance, and sprung from Him by nature, how would not He also be good as being God?’

Let this then be our reply to our opponents. Since all correct and exact reasoning acknowledges a son to be consubstantial with the father, how is He not good, as being God? For He cannot but be God, if He be consubstantial with Him Who is by nature God. For surely they will not affirm, however extreme may be the audacity into which they have fallen, that from a good father a son has sprung who is not good. For to this we have the Saviour’s own testimony, Who thus speaks; “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruits.” How from a good root has there shot forth an evil sprout? Or how from a sweet fountain can there flow a bitter river? Was there ever a time when there was no Father, seeing that He is the Father eternally? But He is the Father, because He has begotten, and this is the reason why He bears this name, and not as being one who borrows the title by resemblance to some other person. For from Him all paternity in heaven and earth is named. We conclude therefore that the fruit of the good God is the good Son.

And in another way: as most wise Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God:” and the image, because He displays in His own nature the beauty of Him Who begat Him. How therefore can we see in the Son, Who is not good, the Father, Who is by nature and verily good? “He is the brightness and likeness of His person:” but if He be not good, as the senseless heretic asserts, but the Father is by nature good, it is a brightness different in nature, and that possesses not the splendour of Him Who bade it shine. And the likeness too is counterfeit, or rather is now no likeness at all: for it represents not Him Whose likeness it is, if, as all must allow, that which is not good is the contrary of that which is good.

And much more might one say in opposition to them upon this point: but that our discourse may not extend to an unreasonable length, and be burdensome to any, we will say no more at present, and hold in as with a bridle our earnestness in this matter; but at our next meeting we will continue our explanation of the meaning of this passage from the Gospel, should Christ once again assemble us here: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen.








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