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Commentary On The Gospel According To Saint John Volumes 1&2

That the Son is in nothing inferior to God the Father, but is of Equal Might in Operation unto all things as God of God.

30 I can of Mine Own Self do nothing: as I hear, I judge, and My Judgment is just, because I seek not Mine Own Will, but the Will of the Father Which sent Me.

GIVE more exact heed again to the things said, and receive the force of its thought with intelligence. For the Jews not knowing the deep Mystery of the economy of flesh, nor yet acknowledging the Word of God indwelling in the Temple of the Virgin, were often excited by zeal, mistaken and not according to knowledge, as Paul saith, to savageness of manners and fierce anger: and indeed were attempting to stone Him, for that He, being a Man, was making Himself God, and again because He said that God was His Father, making Himself Equal with God. But since they were thus hard of understanding and utterly unable to endure God-befitting words, but both thought and spake meanly of Him, the Saviour by an economy acts the child with them, and made His explanation a mixed one, neither wholly foregoing words befitting God, nor altogether rejecting human language: but having said something worthy of His Divine Authority, He forthwith represses the untutored mind of the hearers, by bringing in something human also; and again having said something human by reason of the economy, He suffers not what belongs to Him to be seen in mean estate only, shewing often by His Superhuman Might and Words that He is by Nature God. Some such contrivance will you find now too in the passage at present before us. For what did He say before? For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, so the Son too quickeneth whom He will, next again, For the hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear His Voice; and besides, that they shall also come forth to be judged and to receive their reward according to their works. But He That saith He can quicken whom He will, and in like manner as the Father: how shall He not be conceived of as clothed with Might befitting God? He Who openly says that He will be Judge of all, how shall He not with justice terrify those who deem that He is yet bare Man? For it was like that they being Hebrews and instructed in the Sacred Writings, should not be entirely ignorant that God should be Judge of the world, since they too sang often, Arise, O God, judge the earth, and again, For God is the Judge.

Since then He knew that the ignorant people of the Jews were vexed at these things, He rids them of their accustomed anger by saying in more human language, I can of Mine Own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge. As far then as one can say, taking the words superficially, He derides the understanding of the Jews. For the form of expression gives the idea of a sort of weakness, and of authority not altogether free; but it is not so in truth, since the Son being Equal in all things to the Father, hath by Nature the same Operation and Authority in respect to all things. But He saith that He can do nothing of Himself, but as He heareth, so He judgeth: in another way again shewing Himself Equal in Mind and Power to God the Father.

For neither will the Father be conceived of as doing anything without the Son, Alone and by Himself, seeing He hath Him as His Might and Power (therefore all things were made by Him, and without Him was not made any one thing) nor will the Son again do ought of Himself, the Father not co-with Him. Therefore He saith also, Of Myself I do nothing; but the Father That dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works. And we shall not suppose that the Son is strengthened by the Father, as though weak, and again that authority over all things is given Him: for then would He be no longer God by Nature, as having the glory of the Godhead bestowed; but neither would the Father Himself still exist in unimpaired excellency of good things, if He had the Word, the Impress of His Nature, such as to require Power and Authority from another. For a giver of the things spoken of will be sought for analogously for the Image and Archetype, and thus in short our argument will go forth into boundless controversy, and will run out into the deep sea of blasphemy. But since the Son being of the Essence of the Father takes to Himself by Nature all the Properties of Him who begat Him, and Essentially attains to one Godhead with Him, by reason of Identity of Nature, He is in the Father, and hath again the Father in Himself: wherefore He frequently, Unblamed and Truly, attributes to the Father the Power of His Own Works, not excluding Himself from the power of doing them but attributing all things to the Operation of the One Godhead: for One is the Godhead in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

And that the Son is not inferior to the Father either in Power or Operation unto ought, but is Like in all things and of Equal Might, has been demonstrated by us elsewhere, on the words, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these doeth the Son too likewise. But since I think it just and becoming, to display the most devoted zeal in Divine doctrines; come let us after the custom of sailors on the sea wind back anew (as a cable) the whole argument of the chapter. For in this way one may see, that the Son does not accuse His Own Nature by saying that He can do nothing of Himself, but rather exposes the folly of the Jews, and plainly shews that they trample on the law of Moses. For in that to the words, I can do nothing of Myself, is immediately subjoined, As I hear, I judge, it frees the Son from all reproach of not being able to act of His Own Power: rather it shews clearly that He is in all things Filial and Consentient with Him Who begat Him. For if as though impotent He were borrowing His Power of the Father, as not having sufficient of Himself: how ought He not rather to say, I can of Mine Own Self do nothing, I receive the power of my Father? But now as He does not say this, but rather adds to the being able to do nothing of Himself, that He so judges as He hears, it is evident that not in respect of weakness of operation as to ought, does He put that He cannot, but by reason of impossibility of transgressing in anything the Will of the Father. For since One Godhead is conceived of in the Father and the Son, the Will too (I suppose) will be surely the Same; and neither in the Father, nor yet in the Son or the Holy Ghost will the Divine Nature be conceived of as at variance with Itself; but whatsoever seemeth good to the Father (for example), this is the Will of the Whole Godhead.

Needs therefore does the Son introduce Himself as co-approving and consenting to the Father in whatever seemeth good to Him, explaining that He cannot do anything which is not altogether according to the Mind of the Father, for this is the meaning of Of Myself. Just as if He should say that He cannot commit sin, He would not rightly seem to any to incur the charge of weakness, but rather to set forth a wondrous and God-befitting Property of His Own Nature (for He gives to understand that He is Immoveable and Unchangeable): so when He acknowledges that He can do nothing of Himself, we shall rather be awestruck as seeing Unchangeableness the fruit of the Unchangeable Nature, than unseasonably account the not being able to be a mark of weakness.

Let these things be said by us conformably to our own ability, and let the lover of learning search out for better: but we will not shrink from interpreting the saying in another way too, lowering our manner of speech a little from the bounds of the Godhead and the Excellence of the Only-Begotten: and since the Son truly was and was called Man, translating the force of the passage to the economy with Flesh, and shewing that what follows is akin and connected with what preceded. Therefore He clearly testified that all that are in the graves shall hear His Voice, and that they shall come forth to be judged. When He has once begun on the subject of His judging the world, He not only promises to be a righteous Judge at that time, in which He says the Resurrection of the dead will take place, but also declares that even now He judges rightly and justly of matters in this life. What was the question and of what the discourse, hear. For our sakes was He born of a woman: for as Paul saith, He taketh not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham, wherefore it behoved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren. But since He was made Man and in servant’s form, He the Law-giver as God and Lord is made under the Law also. He speaks then sometimes as under the Law, sometimes again as above the Law, and hath undisputed authority for both. But He is discoursing now with the Jews as Law-keeper and Man, as not able to transgress the commands ordered from above, nor venturing to do ought of His Own Mind, which does not agree with the Divine Law. Wherefore He says, I can of Mine own self do nothing; as I hear, I judge. By testifying to Himself that He can do nothing of Himself, which is not wholly in accordance with the Law, and that He judges and gives sentence in matters, according as He hears, to wit by declaration of the Law, He exposes the unbelief of the Jews, and lays bare their headstrong habit. For this too the words I can of Mine own self do nothing, well hint at, as contrasting with, YE recklessly transgress the commandments given you, ye were bold to do all things of yourselves, fearlessly, and in every matter are ye zealous to give judgments not consonant to the Divine decrees. For ye teach for doctrines the commandments of men, and make your own will a law.

What then is the aim of this way of speaking, or how He introduces Himself as judging justly, and they not, shall be told next. He had healed the paralytic on the Sabbath day, He compassionated a man who had spent long time in sickness, shewing forth right and good judgment upon him. For it was right to pity the sick man even on the sabbath day, and by no means to shut up His compassion from reverence for the sabbath day, practising a most vain piety. As the Father too works even on the sabbath day in regard of His economy towards His creatures, and that surely through the Son, so doth Himself also. For neither did He think that a man who needed compassion on the sabbath day ought to be deprived of it, by reason of the Sabbath, since He knew that the Son of Man was Lord of the sabbath. For not man was made for the sabbath, but the sabbath for man. Therefore righteous herein and good is the judgment of the Saviour, not restraining by reason of the sabbath His Loving-Kindness to the prostrate, but that which as God He knows how to perform (for the Divine Nature is the Fountain of Goodness), this He did even on the sabbath day: but the judgment of the Jews upon Him in that they were vexed on account of the sabbath, and therefore desired to kill Him Who had done them no wrong, how is not this exceedingly dissonant to the Divine Laws (for it is written, The innocent and righteous slay thou not) and the invention rather of their cruelty, and not of the holy Scriptures?

Understand then that Jesus says with a kind of emphasis to those who were angry at His deeds of good and found fault with His holy judgments, following only their own imaginations, and so to speak defining as law that which seemed to them to be right even though it be contrary to the Law:—I can of Mine Own Self do nothing, i. e., I do all things according to the Law set forth by Moses, I endure not to do anything of Myself, as I hear, I judge. For what willeth the Law? Ye shall not respect persons in judgment, for the judgment is God’s. why then (saith He) are ye angry at Me because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day, and condemn not Moses who decreed that children should be circumcised even on the sabbath. Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the Law of Moses should not be broken, thus without due cause are ye vexed at seeing a man every whit healed on the sabbath day? I therefore judged justly, but ye by no means so, for ye do all things of yourselves. But I can of Mine Own Self do nothing; as I hear, I judge, and My Judgment is just, because I seek not Mine Own Will, as ye do, but the Will of the Father Which sent Me.

What manner of sending this is, and the mode of the being sent, we having before spoken of at length, will refrain from speaking any more thereof. But we must observe for profit’s sake that He says that the Law is the Will of God the Father.

31 If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true: 32 there is another that beareth witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesseth of Me is true.

The most wise Solomon, gathering together the things in which a man may very reasonably glory, and shew his manner of life to be enviable, and placing them before those who are apt to learn, says, The righteous man is his own accuser in the opening of the trial, and again, Let thy neighbour praise thee and not thine own mouth, a stranger and not thine own lips. For a thing truly burdensome and most intolerable to the hearers, is it that some like not to be praised by the voice of others, but attest unrestrainedly their own most noble and excellent deeds. But with reason is such language distrusted; for we are wont to be invited by certain (so to speak) natural and necessary drawings of self-love, readily to ascribe to ourselves nought that is ill, but ever to put about us and not altogether truthfully, the things whereby any may be thought well-behaved and good.

When then our Lord Jesus Christ adjudged to Himself that He judgeth righteous judgments, saying openly that He could do nothing of Himself, but that He makes the Will of the Father His Rule in all His Actions, and in saying this, introduced Himself as witness to Himself, although it was true, yet of necessity considering the sophistry of the Pharisees, and what they would say in their folly (for they knew not that He is God by Nature): He anticipates them in putting it forward, and says, Ye following the practice of the common people, and not advancing beyond surmise befitting Jews, will surely say, THOU bearest record of Thyself, Thy record is not true; but ye shall hear this in reply (saith He), I endure yet with your blasphemies, I am by no means exceeding angry with you belching forth your words from the ignorance most dear to you, I grant you for argument’s sake, that even this hath been well said by you: Be it so, ye reject My Voice, there is Another That beareth witness of Me. He here indicates God the Father Which is in heaven Who hath now in divers manners attested the Verity of the Essence of His Own Son; and He says that He knows that His witness is True shewing that His Own Judgement too is in fact most trustworthy and true. For lest by admitting as it were that He said things untrue of Himself, He should give room for malice, and a loophole against Himself to them who are accustomed to think otherwise, He having ceded of necessity to what is becoming and customary, that one ought not altogether to credit as true him who praises and approves himself, returns again as God to His due position and says that He knows that the witness of the Father is true, all but teaching this; I being Very God know Myself (says He), and the Father will say nothing of favour concerning Me. For I am Such by Nature, as He, being True, will declare Me. In the former part then there was an assent so to say of condescension, and the words hypothetic rather than true; in His saying that He knows that the witness of the Father is true, is the demonstration of God-befitting credibility.

But it must be observed that in respect of His Own Person the Father is Other than the Son, and is not, as some uninstructed heretics have imagined, introduced as the Son-Father.

33 YE have sent unto John, and he hath borne witness unto the Truth.

As we have just affirmed that it is disgraceful, and not without share of the uttermost folly, that any one should be seen as an admirer of his own excellencies, even though he should by reason of exceeding virtue escape untruth: so it is an absurdity cognate (so to say) and akin to this, that any not called upon to bear witness to any thing, should of their own accord appear before the judges or those who wish to enquire. For such an one would seem (and that justly) not altogether to be anxious to tell the truth, but rather to be over-eager to give his testimony, to make known not what the nature of the fact is, but rather his own account of it. Most skilfully then, yea rather as God, doth our Lord Jesus Christ, overturning beforehand the charge of the Pharisees in regard to this, say, YE have sent unto John: not of his own accord (says He) does the Baptist come to give his testimony to Me, he is clear from any charge of this: he gave free testimony; YE sent to ask John, and he hath borne witness unto the truth. For when he was asked by them who were sent to him, whether he were the Christ, he confessed and denied not, but confessed I am not the Christ, but am sent before Him. He hath then borne witness to the Truth, for Christ is the Truth.

34 But I receive not testimony from man, but these things I say, that YE might be saved.

He doth not reject the word of John as useless, nor declare the witness of the truth to be of none effect (for He would with justice have seemed to have wrought absurdity against Himself, by unreasonably dismissing from credence him whom He sent to cry, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God) but as striving with the unbounded disobedience of the Jews He proceeds to what is better and of more weight, saying that not of necessity is testimony to Himself from voice of man admitted, but rather giving them more glorious proof from the Authority befitting Him Who is by Nature God, and from the Excellence of the Divine Miracles. For a person will sometimes reject the voice of man, as not true, even though he be haply enrolled among the saints. Which some not scrupling to do, used to oppose the words of the Prophets, crying out, Speak unto us other things and declare unto us another deceit: and yet besides these, certain of them of Jerusalem, or of the land of Judah, who had escaped into Egypt: to wit, Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah and all the proud men, as it is written, openly disbelieving the prophecies of Jeremiah, said, Thou speakest falsely, the Lord sent thee not to say to us, Go not into Egypt. But demonstration through miracles, what gainsaying will it admit of; and the being borne witness to by the Excellencies of God the Father, what mode of stubbornness will it yet grant to the fault-finders? And verily Nicodemus (he was one of their rulers, and ranked among those in authority) gave incontrovertible testimony from His miracles, saying, Rabbi, we know that Thou art a Teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that THOU doest, except God be with Him.

Since then to disbelieve even the holy Baptist himself who brought testimony as far as words go, was not too much for the malice of the Jews, He says again, in a sort of irony, The blessed Baptist hath borne witness to the truth, even though questioned by you, but since nothing has been left untried by you, and ye have foolhardily accustomed yourselves to launch forth into all manner of reviling, ye have, it is likely, rejected his voice. And since this too seems to you to be right, be it so: I am haply persuaded, I agree with you, I will put aside for your sakes the voice of John too, and with you except against his testimony: I have the Father from above bearing testimony. But teaching again that the expression implies assent for argument’s sake, He profitably subjoined, But these things I say that YE might be saved, that is, I used this manner of speech to you, not that the truth is so, but for argument’s sake, that by every means YE may be saved.

And here our second book shall end.


συναίνεσιν ὑποθετικὴν cf. the expression used above p. 281.


CHAPTER 1. A critical enquiry, why the blessed Baptist is called by Christ not only a lamp, but burning and shining; on the words, He was the burning lamp.

CHAPTER 2. That the Son is the Image of God the Father, wherein also is an exposure of the Jews as not understanding the words darkly uttered by Moses; on the words, Ye have neither heard His Voice at any time, &c.

CHAPTER 3. That Moses was indicating the coming of the Saviour, when he said A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you like unto me.

CHAPTER 4. That oftentimes the departures of Christ from Jerusalem signify the transferring of His grace to the Gentiles, wherein is also the discourse of the five barley loaves and the two little fishes; on the words, And after these things Jesus departed across the sea of Tiberias.

CHAPTER 5. That the Only-Begotten is the Impress of the Person of the Father, and no other impress save He, either is or is conceived of; on the words, Which the Son of Man shall give you, &c.

CHAPTER 6. On the manna, that it was a type of Christ’s Presence and of the spiritual graces by Him; on the words, Jesus therefore said unto them, Verily verily I say unto you, not Moses hath given you the Bread from Heaven.

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