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

That not inferior in Might and Wisdom to God the Father is the Son, yea rather His very Wisdom and Might.

And of Myself I do nothing, but as the Father taught Me, I speak these words.

HE speaketh in more human wise, in that the Jews could not otherwise understand, nor endure to hear from Him unvailed things God-befitting. For on these matters are they found hurling stones at Him, and setting it down as blasphemy, that being Man, He made Himself God. Withdrawing therefore the surpassingness of God-befitting glory and having much bereft His language of its splendour, He condescends most excellently to the infirmities of the hearers, and since searching into their mind within He finds that they know Him not to be God, He fashions His Discourse in human wise, that their dispositions may not be again kindled unto anger and they foolishly dart away from cleaving to Him even a little. Ye shall know therefore (He says) when ye have lifted up the Son of Man, that I am, ye shall know again in like manner that of Myself I do nothing, but as My Father taught Me, so I speak.

And what need of these words (tell me) may some one haply say, and what does Christ teach us herein? Therefore we will say, piously and with fair distinction expanding each of the things said; Ye have never ceased (He saith) falling upon My Deeds, as though wrought madly and un-holily, ye condemned Me oft as not refusing to transgress, as wont to act contrary to the Lawgiver. For I loosed the paralytic from his so great infirmity, I compassionated a man on the sabbath. But seeing (He saith) you who ought to have wondered at it, finding fault thereat and missing much of what befit Me, yea even just now I explaining to you what belongs to salvation was persuading you to advance to the desire of sharing in light. Then did I shew you the Very Light, for declaring to you Mine own Nature, I said, I am the light of the world, and YE acting and counselling most unadvisedly, rose up against My words and dared unrestrainedly to say, Thy record is not true. When then ye have lifted up the Son of man, that is, when ye compass Him about with death and behold Him superior to the bonds of death (for I shall rise from the dead, since I am God by Nature) then ye shall know (He says) that I do nothing of Myself but as My Father taught Me so I speak. For ye will learn when ye see that the Son too is God by Nature, that I am by no means self-opiniate, but ever of one Will with God the Father, and whatsoever He doth, these things I too do not shrink from doing and whatever I know that He speaks, I again speak. For I am of the Same Essence as He That begat Me. For I healed the palsied on the sabbath day, YE again were bitterly disposed thereat, yet shewed I you My Father working on the sabbath also: for I said, My Father worketh hitherto and I work: therefore of Myself I do nothing. Again I said, I am the Light of the world, but ye imagined that I was saying something discordant from the Father and in this too did I again shame you, shewing that He said of Me, Behold I have set Thee for a covenant of the people for a light of the nations. In vain therefore (He saith) do ye accuse Him Who ever hath One Will with the Father and doth nought dissonant to Him nor endureth to say ought which is not His. For this is the meaning I think that we should fit on to the words.

But the bitter wild beast will haply leap upon us, the fighter against Christ, I mean Arius, and will cry out upon us (as is likely) and will come and say, “When the discourse, sir, was proceeding all right, what made you pressing forward thrust it aside to your own mere pleasure and do you not blush at secretly stealing away the force of the truth? Lo clearly the Son affirms that He does nought of Himself, but that what He learns of God the Father, this He also speaks, and so is conscious that His Father is in superior position to Himself.”

What then, most excellent sir (will such an one hear in return), is the Son supplied with might and understanding from the Father, that He may be able to do and to speak without blame? how then is He any longer God by Nature, who borrows from another power and wisdom, just as the nature of the creature too has it? for to those who from not being obtain being, every thing that accrues to them is also surely God-given. But not so is it in the Son; for Him the Divine Scripture knows and proclaims as Very God and I think that to Him Who is by Nature God do all good things in perfect degree belong, and that which possesses not perfection in every single thing that ought to be admired, how will it be by Nature God? For as incorruption and immortality must surely belong to it naturally and not from without or imported, so too the all-perfection and lacking nought in all good things. But if according, sir, to thy unhallowed and unlearned argument the Son be imperfect in regard of being able to do things God-befitting and to speak what is right, and yet He is the Power and Wisdom of the Father according to the Divine Scripture, to the Father rather and not to Him will so great an accusal belong. For thus defining these things you will say that in potential no longer is God the Father Perfect, nor yet is He wholly Wise. You see then whither the daring of thine unlearning sinks down. And I marvel how this too has escaped thy acumen: how (tell me) will God the Father supply might to His own Might, or how will He render His own Wisdom wiser? For either one must needs say that it ever advances to something greater and goes forward by little and little to being capable of somewhat more than its existing strength (which is both foolish and utterly impossible), or must impiously suppose that He is strengthened by another. How then will the Son be any more called Lord of Hosts or how will He be any longer conceived of as Wisdom and Might, strengthened (according to you) and made wise by another? Away with the blasphemy and absurdity of reasoning. For either grant outright that the Son is a creature that ye may have the whole of Divinely-inspired Scripture crying out against you, or if ye believe that He is by Nature God, grant, grant that the Properties of Godhead pertain to Him in Perfect degree. For it is the property of the Natural Being [of God] neither to be impotent about anything, nor to come short of supreme Wisdom, yea rather to be Wisdom and Power’s very self; but in wisdom nought is through teaching, nor yet in the Chief and truly conceived-of Power do we see imported power.

But that by examining also the very nature of things, we may more accurately test what are said by Christ, we will add this too to what has been said. What so great deed hath the Only-Begotten made Man wrought, that will surpass His inherent Power? For it was like I suppose that some would say that it then resulted that He should fitly say, as having borrowed the Power from God the Father, Of Myself I do nothing, because He drove out the evil spirit, let go the palsied from his infirmity, freed the leper from his suffering, gave the blind to see, sated a no easily reckoned multitude of men with five loaves, appeased the raging sea with a word, raised Lazarus from the dead: shall we say that the manifestation herein is superior to His innate Power? Then how (tell me) did He stablish the so great Heaven and spread it out as a tent to dwell in, how founded He the earth, how became He Artificer of sun and moon and what pertains to the firmament? how created He angels and Archangels Thrones and Lordships and yet besides, the Seraphim? He Who was in so vast and supernatural position, lacking neither Might nor Wisdom from another, how could He be powerless in matters so small, or how should He Who by the holy Prophets is glorified as Wisdom need one who must teach Him what to say to the Jews? For I hear a certain one say, The Lord who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His Wisdom, and stretched out the heavens in His discretion, and besides, the Divine Daniel too says, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever, for wisdom and understanding and might are His. But if His, according to the Prophet’s voice, are both might and wisdom, who will any more endure the wordiness of the heterodox, saying that the Wisdom and Power of the Father is supplied with both power and wisdom from another?

“But if we said (says he) that there were some other to supply to the Son what He lacked of power, or to teach Him, reasonably could ye attack us with words, knowing that ye were on the side of Him as insulted: but since we say that God the Father gives this, what plea for aggrievance any longer appears to you from thence?”

Therefore if ye think that ye will in nothing wrong the Son, in respect of His being by Nature unlike Him Who begat Him, even though He be said to be supplied by Him, remember, man, your late words, and be taught thereby not to be offended: grant Him to be in all things Equal to His Progenitor, and in no way or respect whatever inferior to Him. But if it draw thee aside from the reasonings of orthodoxy, and persuade thee to deem of Him what is not lawful, why dost thou vainly attempt to beguile us with so rotten words? for it will make no difference at all, whether God the Father Himself, or any other than He, be said to give ought to the Son. For having once fallen under the charge of receiving ought, what gain will He derive, though the Person of the Giver were exceeding illustrious? For what difference (tell me) will it make to a person who refuses a blow to be struck with a wooden rod or a gilt one? for it is not the suffering in this way that is good but the not suffering at all. The Son therefore being proved to be lacking in both power and wisdom, if He be shewn to receive ought from Him, and having herein complete accusal, how is it not utterly foolish that we should smite our hearers with stale words, and by inventions of deceit smear over the charge by deeming that no one else but the Father Alone is admitted as supplying Him? But I marvel how though they think they are wise, and in no slight degree practised in the art of making subtle distinctions with words foreign to the subject, that this escaped them, viz., that by disparaging the Impress of God the Father, i. e., the Son, ye do not so much accuse Himself as Him Whose Impress He is, since He must of necessity so be as He is seen to be in the Son.

“But,” says he, “the Son’s own voice will compel thee even against thy will to consent to what He did not disdain to utter: for Himself hath confessed that He doth nothing of Himself but that whatever He was taught of God the Father these things He speaks.”

Well then to thee, good sir, let the things even that are well said seem to be not well, seeing that thou deniedst the light of truth: but WE again will go our own way, and will deem of the Only-Begotten as is customary and wonted, with becoming piety comparing them with what is before us. For if the Only-Begotten had said, I do nothing of Myself but receiving power from God the Father, I both work wonders and am marvelled at, it would be even thus a speech shewing that He nowise ought to be accused therefore, yet would our opponent have seemed to oppose us with greater shew of reason. But since He says simply and absolutely without any addition, I do nothing of Myself, we will not surely say that He is blaming His own Nature as infirm for ought, but that He means something else that is true and incapable of being found fault with. In order that transforming the force of the expression to man, we may see accurately what He says, let there be two men having the same nature, equal in strength and likeminded one with another, and let one of them say, Of myself I do nothing, will he say this as powerless and able to do nothing at all of himself, or as having the other co-approver and co-minded and co-joined with him? thus conceive I pray of the Son too, yea rather much more than this. For since the Jews were foolishly springing upon Him as He was working marvels, even accusing the breach of the sabbath, and imputing to Him transgression of the law, He at length shewed God the Father in all things Co-minded and Co-approver, skillfully shaming the unbridled mind of them who believe Him not. For it was like that some would now shrink from any inclination to blame Him when He said that He did all things according to the Will of the Father and pointed out His own Will in His. For that the Son does all things according to the Will of the Father will shew that He is not less and an under-worker, but of Him and in Him and Consubstantial. For since He is the Very Wisdom of the Father and His Living Counsel, He confesses that He does not do ought else than what the Father wills, Whose both Wisdom and Counsel He is, seeing that the understanding too that is in us does not ought of itself, but accomplishes all that seems good to us. And little is the example to the verity, but it hath an image not obscure of the truth. And as the understanding that is in us is accounted nought else than we ourselves, in the same way I deem the Wisdom of God the Father, i. e., the Son, is nought other than He in regard to sameness of Essence and exact Likeness of Nature: for the Father is Father and the Son Son in Their own Person.

But because to this He adds, As the Father taught Me, I speak these things, let no one think that the Son is in need of teaching for any thing whatsoever (for great is the absurdity of reasoning herein): but the force of what is said has this meaning. For the Jews who were not able to understand ought that was good, were not only offended at what were marvellously wrought, but also when ought God-befitting was uttered one may see them in the same case, and specially when He truly says, I am the Light of the world, they were both cut to the heart and counselled all-daring deeds. But the Lord Jesus Christ that He might convict them of vainly raging about this says that His own Words are God the Father’s, saying Taught in more human wise. Yet we shall find the force of the speech not without a subtle inner-thought, and if the enemy of the truth will not admit what is human, he very greatly wrongs the plan of the economy with Flesh (for the Only-Begotten humbled Himself being made Man, and for this reason ofttimes He speaketh as Man): but let him know again that the saying, As the Father taught Me, so I speak, will no way injure the Son in respect of God-befitting Dignity, for we will shew that this saying of His too is on all sides sound and right. But let yon accuser of the doctrines of piety answer us who ask, Who (tell me) teaches the new-born babe to use human voice? why does he not roar as a lion or imitate some other of the irrational creation? But nature its teacher fashioning after the property of the sower that which is of him must needs surely and will proceed to that common sound used by all. It is then possible without being taught to learn of nature which infuseth so to say the whole property of the sower into the offspring. Thus therefore does the Only-Begotten Himself here too affirm that He learned of the Father. For what nature is to us, that full surely may God the Father be reasonably conceived of to Him; and as WE since we are men and of men, learning untaught from nature speak as befits men, so He too, since He is God of God by Nature, learnt as of His Own Nature to speak as God and to say things befitting God, as is I am the Light of the world. For what He knows that He is because of the Father from Whom He is (for He is Light of Light), this He said that He learnt of Him, having a sort of untaught learning of God-befitting works and words from the own Nature of Him Who begat Him, mounting up as by necessary laws to sameness in all things of will and of word with God the Father. For how must not sameness of Will and Equality and Likeness in Words needs be without contradiction inexistent in Those Who have the Same Nature? Of God altogether are we speaking, not of us; for us divergences of manners and differences of wills and tyrannies of passions drag aside from the limits of what befits: but the Divine and Inconceivable Nature being the Same always and fixed immoveably in Its own Goods, what divergences unto ought else can It have? or how will It not altogether advance the straight course of Its own Purpose and both speak and accomplish what belongs to It? The Only-Begotten then being of the Same Essence with Him Who begat Him and pre-eminent in the Dignities of the One Godhead, will (I suppose) surely and of necessity work whatever the Father Himself too works (for this is the meaning of doing nothing of Himself); and will surely speak what belongs to Him Who begat Him, not as a minister or bidden or as a disciple, but possessing as the fruit of His Own Nature, to use the words also of God the Father. For herein shines forth clearly and apart from all railing this, viz. that nothing is said by Him [as from Himself].

29 And He That sent Me is with Me, and hath not left Me alone.

Herein He shews clearly that He interprets the Counsel of God the Father, Himself having none other than is in Him (how could He? for He is Himself the Living and Hypostatic Counsel and Will of Him Who begat Him, as is said in the Book of the Psalms by one of the Saints, In Thy Counsel Thou guidedst me, and again, Lord by Thy Will Thou gavest might to my beauty: for in Christ are all good things to them that love Him) but as bringing forth unto our knowledge the things that are in God the Father. For as this word of ours uttered externally and poured forth through the tongue makes known what is in the deep of our understanding, both receiving, as some learning, the will that is in our mind in respect of anything, and impelled by it to utter it in such manner: so again we will piously conceive that the Son (surpassing the force of the example in that He is Himself both Word and Wisdom of God the Father) uttered what exists in Him. And since He is not impersonal as is man’s, but inbeing and Living as having His own Being in the Father and with the Father, He says here that He is not Alone, but that with Him is Him also That sent Him. But when He says, With Me, He indicates again something God-befitting and Mystic. For we do not think that He saith thus, viz. that as God may be (for instance) with a Prophet, guarding him, that is, with His own Might and aiding him by His favour or by the enlightenment through the Spirit stirring him up to prophecy:—that so is He That begat Him with Him. But hero too He puts with Me in another sense: for He That sent Me (He says) i. e., God the Father, is in the same Nature as I.

After this sort will you understand that too which is in Isaiah the Prophet about Christ, Know ye people and be ye worsted for with us is God. For our discourse hereon will befit those who have set on Him their hope of being saved. And these too say With us is God, not as though any should imagine that God will be our co-worker and co-assistant, but that He will be with us, that is, of us. For the Word of God hath become Man, and in Him we all have been saved and burst the bonds of death, and put off the corruption of sin, since God the Word being in the Form of God hath come down to us and become with us. As then we here understand With us is God, for, The Word of God the Father hath become of the same nature with us: so here too preserving the same analogy in our thoughts, when Christ says, He that sent Me is with Me and hath not left Me alone, we shall clearly understand Him to indicate mystically that (as we said before) God the Father is of the Same Nature as I and hath not left Me alone: for it were altogether impossible not to have wholly with Me God the Father of Whom I am begotten.

And perhaps some one will say and will ask more thoughtfully, Why does the Saviour say such things or what was it induced Him to come to this explanation?

To this we will reply, shewing that profitably and of necessity did He add this too to what He had already said. For since He said that as the Father taught Me, I speak these things, needs does He shew that the Father is now co-with Him and consubstantial with Him, that He may be believed to speak what is His, as God the things of God, and urged on by the Natural Property of Him That begat Him to say what is God-befitting, just as the children of men having of their nature some untaught learning, as we said above, know truly the properties of human nature. We must not therefore be offended, when the Son says that He learnt ought from the Father; for not for this reason will He be found less than He nor yet alien according to them. And let us consider the matter thus. Not in knowing any thing or in not knowing it, is the matter of essence tested, but in what each by nature is. As for example suppose Paul and Silvanus; and let Paul know and be instructed perfectly in the mystery as to Christ, Silvanus somewhat less than Paul. Are they then not alike in nature or will Paul surpass Silvanus in respect of essence, because he knows the depth of the mystery more than the other? But I suppose that no one will be foolish to such an extent as ever to suppose that their nature is severed by reason of superiority or inferiority in knowledge. When then the condition of essence is (as we have said) accurately proved not to lie in learning or teaching ought, it will no wise injure the Son in regard of His being by Nature God, if He say that He learns ought of His own Father. For not on this account will He go forth from Consubstantiality with Him, but abideth wholly what He is, God of God, Light of Light.

But yon will perhaps say, How then? the Father is greater in knowledge, for therefore doth He teach the Son. But we again will say that we have entirely shewn through many words that the Wisdom of the Father is without any need of learning and instruction and having joined together many arguments thereto, we proved that their speech has its exit in boundless blasphemy. Next, it is necessary to tell thee besides that the Son’s aim and special care is ever to abate His own Dignity and not to speak much in God-befitting manner, because of the Form of the servant and of the abasement thence for our sakes undertaken. For whither hath He descended, and whence unto what removed, if He say nothing inferior and not wholly worthy of God-befitting glory? For for these reasons He often takes the form of not knowing as Man what as God He knows. You will see this clearly in the history of Lazarus of Bethany, whom when now of four days and stinking, He with wonder-working might and most God-befitting voice caused to return to life. Look at the economy fashioned herein. For knowing that Lazarus was dead and having fore-announced this, as God, to His disciples, in human wise He asked, saying, Where have ye laid him? O wondrous deed! He Who was living far away from Bethany and was not ignorant as God, that Lazarus is dead, how sought He to learn where the tomb was? But you will say (thinking most rightly) that He made feint of the question, arranging something profitable. Receive therefore in this case too that He economically says that what He knows as God, this He learnt of the Father; not permitting the mad folly of the Jews to be further excited, and punishing the wrath of the more unlearned, He does not introduce God-befitting language to them unsoftened, although it rather befitted Him so to do.

But since they were surmising that He is yet mere man, He mingling as it were the Dignity of Godhead with man-befitting words speaks economically more lowly than He is, For I do always the things that please Him. Receive (I pray) herein too the solution of what seem hard and observe clearly that He rightly interprets, Of Myself I do nothing. For for this reason (He says) testified I that I do nothing of Myself, when I but now addressed you, because it is My habit and practice to do nothing discordant to God the Father, nor to be able to do anything save what pleaseth My Progenitor. It is then very clear that in this alone will it be understood that the Son doth nothing of Himself, viz. in His ever doing what pleases God the Father, so that except He had thus wrought, He would have done somewhat of Himself, i. e., contrary to the Will of Him That begat Him. It is not then because He comes short of the Paternal Goodness, nor because of being able to achieve nought of His own Strength, that He here affirms that He does nothing of Himself, but because He is Co-minded and Co-willer ever with His Progenitor in every thing, and has no thought of ever accomplishing any thing as it were separately. And we do not, going off into extravagant notions, think that the Son is here displaying in Himself any virtue proceeding of choice and habit, but rather the Fruit of Nature That knows no turning, Which needs not the Divine [help] in counselling to do anything. For as to the creatures, inasmuch as they are capable of turning to the worse, and of giving way to changes from better to worse, good will be fruit of the pious and virtuous disposition: but as to the Divine and All-Surpassing Nature it is not so. For since all change and turn is removed and has no place, good will be the fruit of the unalterable Nature, just as heat in fire or cold in snow. For fire has obviously its proper action, not of voluntary notion, but natural and essential, without the power of being otherwise except it be driven away from its action by the will of its Maker. Therefore not as WE, or ought other of the rational creation, mastered by our free will to press forward to do what pleases God the Father; not so does the Only-Begotten say thus, but as following the laws of His own Nature and able to think and do nought save according to the Will of Him Who begat Him. For how could the Consubstantial and One Godhead ever be at variance with Itself? or how could It do what liketh It not, as though any had power to turn it aside unto ought else? For though God the Father exist properly and by Himself, likewise both the Son and the Spirit, yet is the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity not riven asunder unto complete severance, but the whole Fulness thereof mounteth up unto One Nature of Godhead.

We must besides consider this too, that no argument can reasonably pull down the Son from His sameness of Nature with the Father, seeing that He affirmed that He always doth what pleaseth Him, but rather being Consubstantial with Him will He be thereby acknowledged to be God of God by Nature and Very. For who (tell me) will savour the things of God after a God-befitting and exact manner, except Himself too be by Nature God? or who will perform always what is pleasing to Him, if he have not a nature beyond the reach of the worse, and have for his share the choice Dignity of the Divine Nature, I mean being unable to sin? For of the creature it has been said, Who will boast that he has his heart clean, or who will be confident that he is pure from sins, and elsewhere the Divine Scripture extending its utterance even to the very utmost bound says, The stars are not pure in His Sight. For angels, albeit far removed from our condition, and having a firmer status as to virtue, have not kept their own princedom. For by reason of some being altogether torn thence and falling into sin, the whole nature of the rational creation lies under the charge of being recipient of sin, and powerless to be imparticipate of change for the worse: and the reasonable and godlike living creature upon the earth hath fallen, not after any long period, but in the first man Adam. Wholly therefore refused to the creature is unchangeability and unturning and being able to be of nature the same; to God Alone That is in truth will it belong. But this shines forth full well in the Son, for He did no sin, as Paul saith, neither was guile found in His Mouth. God therefore is the Son, and by Nature of God who cannot sin, nor ever overstep what befits His Nature. When then He confesses that He does always those things that please the Father, let no one be offended, nor deem that in lesser rank than the Father is He who is of Him, but let him rather think piously that as God of God by Nature He ascendeth unto the sameness of counsel and (so to speak) sameness of work with Him Who begat Him.

30 As He spake these words, many believed on Him.

The wise Evangelist ofttimes marvels at Christ practising depreciation in His Words because of the infirmity of the hearers, and wont to achieve something great thereby. For whereas it was in His Power as God to speak all things, and to fashion His Discourse free and with royal Authority over all, keeping measure in His Speech economically, He encloses many unto obedience, many again He persuades to give heed more zealously unto Him. Therefore not empty is the Saviour’s purpose, I mean His speaking to the multitudes in more human wise: for some of the more unlearned were used to rage against Him not a little and readily to desert Him, beholding a man and hearing God-befitting words. But since He was God and Man in one, having unblamed the authority that pertains to each, and able to speak without fault in whatever way He please, He doing exceeding well fashioned it in view of the levity of His hearers, diversely declaring of Himself (and that often) the things that belong to a man, such (I mean) as Of Myself I do nothing and things akin to this: for they understanding nothing whatever, but attacking without any investigation what was said, went to this common and offhand mode of understanding it, and thought that He said, Receiving power of God I work miracles, and He is with Me, since I do always what is pleasing to Him.

Likeminded then with the unholy Jews are the accursed enemies of the Truth, who contradicting the dogmas of piety and loving to wrangle, think meanly of the Lord, and seizing on what is economically and rightly said, to overturn therewith His inbeing Glory and Authority, they steal away the Beauty of the Truth. For they have not (it seems) remembered Paul who saith that one ought to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God and to bring into captivity every thought to Christ and to His obedience: they have not known what was uttered concerning the Divine Oracles by one of the Prophets, Who is wise and he shall understand these things? prudent and he shall know them? For unless some exceeding great obscurity hovered upon them, and a deep darksome veil floated over, what were the need for a wise and prudent man being sought after who might find out the knowledge of them?

And this is abundance for the present matter, we will speak rather on what is before us, choosing something profitable. Upon Christ when saying these things, there believed on Him, as saith the Evangelist, not all but many. Yet albeit He is Very God, and hath nought that is not wholly naked unto His Eyes and knows and that with all accuracy that He will not take hold of all unto belief, He yet perseveres, expending long discourse on them who come to Him, giving us an Example most fair in this too, and offering Himself a Pattern to the Teachers of the Church. For even though all be haply not profited because of their own depravity, yet since it was likely that some would reap good thereby, we must not be sluggish to lead to what is profitable. For if we bury so to say in unfruitful silence the talent given us, that is, the grace through the Spirit, we shall be like that wicked servant who said without any restraint to his Master, I knew Thee that Thou art an hard man reaping where Thou didst not sow and gathering whence Thou didst not straw and I was afraid and hid Thy talent in the earth, lo, Thou hast Thine own. But to what end that so wretched man came, and what penalty He exacted of him, the studious man well knows having met with it not once only in the Gospel books. Therefore let us lay this to heart and consider aright that it is his duty to be free from all indolence in teaching, his I mean who is set forth for this work, and in no wise to turn aside to despise it, even though all be not persuaded by his words, but rather shalt thou rejoice at what thou gainest by thy toil. It is meet too to consider with all sobriety that which has been spoken by our Saviour, The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord: enough for the disciple that he be as his master and the servant as his lord. For if the Lord persuade not all on account of the crookedness and hardness of heart of the hearers, who will blame our feeble speech, though it demand understanding of free-choice not of necessity?

31 Jesus said therefore to the Jews which believed on Him, If YE abide in My word, ye are My disciples indeed.

He demandeth of those who believe a disposition established and fixed and prepared for the abode of that good which they had once chosen. And this is faith in Him. For wavering shews utter senselessness and unprofit, seeing that A double minded man is unstable in all his ways, as it is written: but to press forward firmly to have hold of what is profitable, is indeed wise and most useful. As far then as belongs to the more obvious meaning, He says this, that if they shall desire to obey His Words, then shall they be surely called His disciples also. But as regards some hidden meaning, He signifies this: for in saying If YE abide in My Word, He is clearly withdrawing them by degrees and gently from the Mosaic teachings, and removing them from adherence to the letter and bidding them no longer cleave to what were uttered and done in type, but rather to His own Word which is clearly the Gospel and Divine preaching. For He it was Who ever of old was speaking to us through the holy Prophets, but they were the mediators, through whom (that is) He spake to us. But the Gospel preaching will be conceived of as properly His Word (for not through another do we find that it came to us but through Himself) wherefore when Incarnate He says, I That speak am present. And Paul too will testify saying in the Epistle to the Hebrews, God Who in many ways and modes of old spake unto the fathers by the prophets in these last times spake unto us by the Son. Himself therefore a worker unto teaching hath the Son come to us at the last periods of the world: therefore will the Gospel teaching be rightly called His Word. It were meet then more nakedly and openly to say, Ye who have accepted the faith in Me, and though late have yet acknowledged Him Who of old is preached unto you by the law and prophets, no longer be ye attached to the types through Moses, nor be persuaded to cleave to the shadows of the law, nor lay it down that the power of salvation consists wholly in them, but in the spiritual teachings, and in the Gospel preachings that are through Me. But it was not unlikely, yea rather it was undoubted, that receiving but now and hardly the faith, and having their understanding shaken and ready for unsettling, they would not endure such words, nor would at all hold out, in that they are ever prone to anger, but as though the all-wise Moses were hereby insulted, and put to nought because the things appointed to them of old through him were despised:—they would have turned readily to their proper daring and, ever set upon agreeing with him, thought nothing of any longer believing on Christ. Economically therefore and veiledly as yet arranging the things of Moses in contrast with His own words, i. e., putting the Gospel preaching over against the law, and setting the new teachings in very superior place to the elder ones, He says, If YE continue in My Word, verily ye are My disciples, for they who are pre-eminent in perfect faith and unhesitatingly receive into their mind the Gospel teaching, not unduly regarding the shadow of the law, are in truth disciples of Christ, while they who act not thus, mock themselves, not able to be in truth disciples, and therefore falling away from salvation. And verily the blessed Paul to those who after the faith foolishly desire to be justified by the law, openly writes, Ye were set free from Christ, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye fell from grace. Wondrous then and precious is single faith and the desire closely to follow Christ, drawing the shadows of the law unto the knowledge of Him, and transfashioning the things darkly spoken unto spiritual instruction. For through the law and the prophets is preached the Mystery of Him.

32 And ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free.

Obscure as yet and not wholly clear is the word, none the less it is replete with force akin to those before it, and though after other fashion wrought will go through the same reflections. For it too persuades those who have once believed gladly to depart and remove from the worship according to the law, instructing that the shadow is our guide to the knowledge of Him, and that leaving the types and figures, we should go resolutely forward to the Truth Itself, i. e., Christ the Giver of true freedom and the Redeemer. Ye shall know therefore (He says) the Truth, if ye abide in My Words, and from knowing the Truth ye shall find the profit that is therefrom. Take then our Lord as saying some such thing as this to the Jews (for we ought I think to enlarge our meditation on what is now before us, for the profit’s sake of the readers): A bitter bondage in Egypt, (He says) ye endured, and lengthened toil consumed you who had come into bitter serfdom under Pharaoh, but ye cried then to God, and ye have moved Him to mercy towards you, bewailing the misfortunes which were upon you ye were seeking a Redeemer from Heaven: forthwith I visited you even then, and brought you forth from a strange land, liberating you from most savage oppression I was inviting you unto freedom. But that ye might learn who is your aider and Redeemer, I was limning for you the mystery of Myself in the sacrifice of the sheep, and bidding it then to pre-figure the salvation through blood: for ye were saved by anointing both yourselves and the doorposts with the blood of the lamb. Hence by advancing a little forth from the types, when ye learn the Truth, ye shall be wholly and truly free. And let none (He says) doubt about this. For if the type was then to you the bestower of so great goods, how does not the Truth rather give you richer grace?

Nothing forbids us to suppose that such were what Jesus says to the Jews, if His Discourse run out to a wide range of thought: but it is probable that some other meaning also beams forth from what is before us. The Law through Moses typified washings and sprinklings, and moreover whosoever it befell to be caught and to fall into the pit of sin, him it bade to sacrifice a bullock or sheep and thus to abate the blame for each one’s transgressions. But nought avail these things for the washing away of sin; for they will never liberate the condemned from blame, nor shew free from obligation of punishment those by whom the Divine Law has been trampled. For what will sacrifice of oxen profit a transgressor, what gain will any one find in sacrificing of sheep? For what will be pleasing from these, as far as pertains to transgression of the Law, to God who has been insulted? for hear Him saying, Will I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? and yet besides openly to the Jews, Gather your whole burnt offerings unto your sacrifices and eat flesh, for I spake not unto your fathers concerning whole burnt offerings or sacrifices, but this thing commanded I them saying, Judge righteous judgment. Wholly profitless therefore is the approach through blood nor can it wash away the spot stained into the man through sin. You will have another proof when you see Him say to Jerusalem the mother of the Jews through the voice of Jeremiah, Why wrought My beloved abominations in Mine House? shall prayers and holy flesh take away from thee thine evil or shall thou escape in these? For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins, as Paul saith. But that they concerned about a fruitless worship, and zealous to perform the offerings through blood, or their gifts, to no useful end, were with reason sent away from the Divine court, He will teach again saying by the mouth of Isaiah, Tread My courts no more: if ye offer fine flour, it is vain, incense is an abomination unto Me. Not in these therefore (I mean the ordinances of the Law) is true salvation, nor yet will any one win hence the thrice-longed for freedom, I mean from sin. But bounding a little above the types, and surveying the beauty of the worship in Spirit and acknowledging the Truth, that is Christ, we are justified through faith in Him, and justified we pass over unto the true liberty, ranked no more among slaves as heretofore, but among the sons of God. And John will testify this, saying of Christ and of them that believe on Him, But as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become children of God. Profitably then doth our Lord and Christ not suffer them who believe on Him to marvel any more at the shadows of the law (for there is nought in them that profits or that bestows the true freedom) but bids them rather know the Truth; for through this does He say that they shall be entirely freed, according to the mind of the words.

33 We be Abraham’s seed and have never been in bondage to any man, how sayest Thou, Ye shall be made free?

They laugh at the promise of our Saviour, rather they even take it ill, as though they were insulted. For that which has no share at all of bondage, how will it need (he says) of One Who calls us unto freedom, and Who gives us a something over and above what is in us already. But they know not, though wont to have a conceit of being wise, that their forefather Abraham was of no notable father after the world, nor yet of highest repute among those who are admired in this life, but was ennobled by faith only in God: Abraham believed God, it says, and faith was imputed to him for righteousness and he was called the Friend of God. Thou seest then very clearly the cause of his illustriousness. For since he was called the friend of God who ruleth over all, he hath become on this account great and famed, and his faith was imputed to him for righteousness, and the righteousness which is of faith hath become to him the cause of freedom towards God. Therefore when he by believing was justified, that is, when he shook off the low birth that is from sin, then did he appear illustrious and of noble birth and free. Foolishly then do the Jews spurning the grace which freed the very founder of their race advance only to him who was freed thereby, but considering neither whence is or whither looks what is illustrious in him, they dishonour the Giver of what is most excellent in him, and forsaking the Fount of all nobility they think greatly of him who is participate thereof; but they will be caught vainly boasting of being never in bondage to any man and what they say about this will be no less proved to be false. For they were in bondage to the Egyptians for 430 years and through the grace that is from above were hardly delivered from the house of bondage and from the iron furnace, as it is written, to wit the tyranny of the Egyptians. And they were in bondage both to the Babylonians and Assyrians, when they removing the whole country of Judæa and Jerusalem itself transferred all Israel to their own land. In no respect then was the speech of the Jews sane: for besides being ignorant of their truer bondage, that in sin, they utterly deny the other ignoble one and have an understanding accustomed to think highly about a mere nothing.

34 The Saviour answered them Verily verily I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.

He lifts out of their innate unlearning these who were carnal and looking only to things corporal, He transfers them to the more spiritual and removes them to a mode of teaching wholly unpractised and unwonted, shewing them their hidden and through long ages unknown bondage; and that they falsely say, To no man have we ever been in bondage He wisely passes by, neither does He say that to no purpose do they boast of the nobility of their forefather, in order that He may not appear to be inciting to what was not right them who were already prone and much inclined to anger, but advances to this needful matter and one which they needed verily to learn, that he is sin’s bondman who doth it, as though He said thus: A compound animal, sirs, is man upon the earth, of soul that is and body, and bondage as to the flesh pertains to the flesh, but that of the soul and which takes place upon the soul, has for its mother, the barbarian, sin. The freedom then of man from bondage after the flesh the authority of the rulers will effect, but that which sets free from sin, is meet to be spoken of God Alone and will belong to none other save He. Therefore He persuades them to think reasonably and to desire real and true freedom, and thus to seek at length not the illustriousness of ancestors which nothing profits them thereto, but rather God Alone authoritative over His own Laws, the transgression whereof creates sin the foster mother of bondage to the soul. But our Lord Jesus Christ seems to be privily as yet and full veiledly convicting them of vainly thinking great things of a man and imagining that the blessed Abraham was altogether free. For His shewing generally that he who doeth sin is the bondman of sin, makes Abraham himself to have been once the bondman of sin and within its toils. For he was justified not as being himself righteous, but when he believed God then called to the freedom of being justified. And not at all as quarrelling with the fame of the righteous man do we say this, but since none among men is without trial of the darts of sin, he too who is reputed great was surely brought under the yoke of sin as it is written, There is none righteous, for all sinned and have come short of the glory of God. But the glory of God besides other things is the being utterly incapable of falling into sin, which has been reserved for Christ Alone, for He Alone has been free among the dead: for He did no sin albeit being among the dead, that is reckoned among men over whom the death of sin once had mastery.

Therefore (for I will sum up the aim of what has been said) the Lord was hinting that the blessed Abraham himself too having been once in bondage to sin, and through faith alone to Christ-ward set free, availed not to pass on to others the spiritual nobility, since neither is he master of the power of freeing others who put away the bondage of sin not by himself nor was himself on himself the bestower of freedom, but received it from Another, Christ Himself Who justifieth.

35 The servant abideth not in the house for ever, the Son abideth ever.

Having shewn that unfree and in bitter bondage is he who is subject to sin, He adds profitably both what will happen to him who hath loved bondage, and what again shall be their lot from Cod who have chosen to live after the Law and have therefore been ranked among the sons of God. For the bondman, He says, abideth not in the house for ever (for indeed and verily he shall go forth into the utter darkness there to pay the penalty of his enslaved life) but the Son abideth ever. For they who have once enjoyed the honour of adoption, shall abide in the presence of God, in no time thrust forth from the court of the firstborn, but rather passing a long and lasting season therein. And you will understand accurately what is said, if you bring forward and read the Gospel parable wherein Christ (it says) shall set the goats on the left, the sheep on the right, and that He shall send away the goats saying, Depart ye cursed into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: and shall gather the sheep to Himself and receive them graciously, crying out, Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For by the goats is meant the unfruitful multitude of them who love sin, by the sheep, the choir of the pious, laden with the fruit of righteousness, as though wool. Therefore he who beareth the disgrace of bondage shall be thrust forth of the kingdom of heaven like some useless and basest vessel: every one who loveth to live aright shall be received and shall abide therein, and be ranked therefore among the sons of God. And it seems likely that the Lord in saying these things hints also to them, that if they admit not the freedom that comes through faith, they shall surely depart forth of the holy and Divine court, that is, the Church, as is said by one of the Prophets, I will drive them out of Mine House. For that that which was afore spoken has reached its fulfilment, the very nature of things attests: for the daughter of Zion was left as a tent in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as it is written: wholly fallen and destroyed is the temple, and themselves have gone forth not abiding therein for ever and in their place hath arisen and been raised up for Christ’s sake the Church of the Gentiles, and they abide in it ever who have been called to Divine sonship through faith. For the boast of the Church will never cease nor ever fail, for the souls of the righteous depart from things of earth and are safely moored at the city that is above, the heavenly Jerusalem the church of the firstborn, which is our mother, according to the voice of Paul.

But since examining into what was said about bondage, and desiring every way to track out the truth, we have said that Abraham himself was numbered among bondmen, and not even him did we put outside the boundary of our contemplations, because of its being said more generally by Christ, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin: come now let us following out our own words make clear the force of what has been said. The Jews were thinking great and excessive things, putting forward Abraham as a sort of head and fount of their nobility: but that it needed to seek to be freed through the grace that is from above, they admitted not even in bare thought, fools and blind according to the Saviour’s voice.

Needs therefore does Christ design to shew that what is by nature bond, sufficeth not for the freedom of others nor yet one whit for its own, for how can that which lacks freedom as to its own nature, give freedom to itself, and that which borrows its own grace from another, how will it suffice for the supply of another? To Him Alone Who is by Nature God of God will befit and rightly be ascribed the power of freeing. Clear proof therefore gives He that all must needs be and be acknowledged bond that abides not for ever, i. e. to which belongs not being always the same. For every thing created will surely be also subject to corruption, and that which is so will be bondservant of God Who called it into being. For respecting the creatures it was said to Him, For all things are Thy servants. And this which is said is general, and one portion of the whole is the blessed Abraham, or again the whole human nature. But the abiding for ever gives a clear sign that the Only-Begotten God Who shines forth from God is King and Lord of all. For to whom will pertain the being always the same and being established in firm tenure of the everlasting good things, save to Him Who is by Nature God? in this way doth the Divine Psalmist too shew us that the creature is bond, God the Word which beamed of God the Father King and Lord. For extending the mental view from a portion to the whole of creation, he says of the heavens and of Him Who is by Nature Son, They shall perish but THOU abidest, and they all shall wax old like a garment and as a covering shalt Thou change them and they shall be changed, but THOU art the Same and Thy years shall not fail. Seest thou how by this too exceeding well and true confessedly it is that the bond abideth not for ever but the Son abideth and that the non-abiding is a proof that that is bond of which it is predicated? And by analogy the other, i. e., the abiding for ever will be a clear token of His being Lord and God of whom such a word may be properly and truly said. Sufficient then were the Psalmist to testify to what we say, but since (as it is written), In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established, come let us besides him shew the blessed Jeremiah too thinking and saying consonantly. For he shewing that every thing that is made from its being corruptible is therefore bond, and shewing that the Son because He abides and is Unchangeable is by Nature God and manifestly therefore also Lord, says thus to Him, For THOU endurest for ever and we perish for ever. For at every time will the originate be corruptible by reason of its having been made, even though by the Power of God it decay not, and God will ever sit, what is here called sitting indicating the stability and unchanged fixedness of His Essence together with Its concentration and Its illustriousness in Royal Appearance and Reality, for sitting has an image of these.

Therefore (for I will go back to what I said at the beginning) from his not abiding for ever He shews that the blessed Abraham is corruptible and originate, for he has died and passed in a way out of the Lord’s house, i. e. this world. By the same reasoning He would have us conceive of him as bond also and so not competent to bestow freedom upon others, and from the Son abiding ever, He says that He is clearly God of God by Nature, whereon will surely follow the being King and Lord. And what is the economy from the above mentioned distinction, shall be shewn in the next that in order follows.

36 If the Son shall make you free ye shall be free indeed.

To Him Alone (He says) Who is by Nature Son of a Truth free and remote from all bondage is found to pertain the power of freeing and to none other whatever save He. For as He because He is by Nature Wisdom and Light and Power, makes wise the things recipient of wisdom, enlightens those that lack light and strengthens those that want strength; so because He is God of God, and the Genuine and Free Fruit of the Essence That reigns over all, He bestows freedom on whomsoever He will. For no one can become truly free at his hands who has it not of nature. But when the Son Himself wills to free any, infusing His own Good, they are called free indeed, receiving the Dignity from Him who hath the Authority and not from any of those who have been lent it from Another and been ennobled with so to say foreign graces.

Most needful therefore is the preceding explanation, and great the profit which arises from that distinction to those who are zealous to hear it more diligently. For it was right to understand why it should be needful to seek for nobility towards God and to learn that the Son can make us free. Let them then who rejoice in the dignities of the world use themselves not to be swollen with lofty conceits nor let them run down the glory and grace of the saints, even though they should be little and spring of little after the flesh: for not the seeming to be illustrious among men suffices to nobility before God, but splendour in life and virtuous ways render a man free indeed and noble. Joseph was sold for a bond-slave, as it is written, but even so was he free, all radiant in the nobility of soul: Esau was born of a free father and was really free, but by the baseness of his ways he shewed a slave-befitting mind. Noble therefore before God, as we have just said, are not they who have riches and are flooded with superfluity of substance, and rejoice in the bright honours that are in the world, but they who are radiant with holy life and an ordered conversation.

37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye are seeking to kill Me because My word hath no place in you.

Having manifoldly shewn them that the boast and conceit from their being of kin to Abraham is utterly empty and devoid of any good, He says this, that they may seek the nobility that is true and dear to God. For God looks not on the flesh according to what is said by our Saviour Christ Himself, The flesh profiteth nothing, but rather accepts and accounts worthy of all praise nobility of soul and knows that they have true kinship, whom likeness of work or sameness of manners gathering unto one virtue, causes to be ennobled with equal forms of good and similarly the contrary. Since how are WE who are of earth and compacted of clay, as it is written, called kin of the Lord of all, as Paul saith, Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God? For confessedly have we been made kin to Him, because of the Flesh That pertains to the Mystery of Christ. But it is possible in another way also to see this truly existing. For by thinking His Thoughts and resolving in no cursory manner to live piously, we are called sons of God who is over all, and forming our own mind after His Will so far as we can, thus are we to likeness with Him and most exact similitude truly kin.

But that God does take likeness and accurate similitude of works or of ways to have the force of kinship, we shall clearly know, if we look closely into the holy words, and explore the Holy Scripture. In the times therefore of Jeremiah the prophet, there was a certain false prophet, Shemaiah the Nehelamite by name, belching things forth of his own heart as it is written and not out of the Mouth of the Lord. And since there was some other great multitude of lying witnesses and false prophets going about among the people, and drawing them away to what was not meet, God the Lord of all was at last rightly indignant. Then after having expended many words upon Shemaiah, and declared more in detail what penalties he should pay for his deed of daring, at last He adds, and I will visit upon Shemaiah and his seed, who do like deeds with him. Hearest thou how He sees kindred in like attempts? for how could He who judgeth right punish along with Shemaiah his seed after the flesh, not like-mannered with himself as regards baseness, albeit He says clearly by the Prophet Ezekiel, The soul that sinneth, it shall die. In order then that one may not imagine anything of this sort respecting him, having said, his seed, He immediately added, Who do like deeds with him, defining kindred to be in sameness of action. But that we may see that what is said is true of the very Jews, let us call to mind the words of John (I mean the holy Baptist), for shewing that rotten was their boast of kindred with Abraham, he says, And say not within yourselves, We have Abraham for a father, for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up seed unto Abraham. For since it had been said unto him by God, Multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, the people of the Jews resting upon the Promiser being surely and of necessity unlying, were thinking big, and expecting that in no wise could they fall from the kinship to their ancestor, that the Divine Promise may be kept. But the blessed Baptist annihilating this their hope, very clearly says, God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And with these falls in the blessed Paul too thus saying, For not all they of Israel are these Israel, neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children. It being shewn therefore on all sides to be true that God acknowledges kindred in manners and habits, clearly vain is it to boast of holy and good ancestors, and be left behind and depart far away from their virtue.

With reason therefore does the Lord say to the Jews, I know that ye are Abraham’s seed yet do ye seek to kill Me because My Word hath no place in you. Yea (He says) when I look to the flesh alone and consider whence the people of the Jews sprang, then I see that ye are of the seed of Abraham, but when I look at the beauty of his conversation and disposition, I see that ye are aliens and no longer kin. For ye are seeking to kill Me, albeit your forefather, of whom ye now think great things, was no murderer, and worst and most lawless of all, on no just pretexts am I persecuted by you, but ye desire to kill Me in utter injustice: for for this reason alone did ye devise to destroy Me, because My Word hath no place in you, albeit calling you to salvation and life. It hath no place in you, because of the sin that indwelleth in you, and which suffereth not advice and counsel for good to have any room in you. Murderers therefore alike and most unrighteous judges are the Jews, determining that they ought to award to death Him who nothing wronged them but rather was engaged in doing them good and zealous to save them. How then are they any longer kin to the righteous and good Abraham, who are so far behind the good that was in him, and have strayed so far from like conduct with him, as one would admit were distant and say were parted vice from virtue?

38 I speak that which I have seen with My Father, do YE then do that which ye heard from the Father.

Uncontained by the Jews did He say that His word was, and having said that this was the only reason why they were incited against Him, yea rather convicting them of desiring even to kill Him, needs does He add these things also, and why, I will set forth. He was not ignorant, it appears, that some of the Jews would rise up and dispute His words and belching forth from their innate madness, say again, Not for nothing (as Thou sayest) do some desire to slay Thee, for reasonable causes are they stimulated thereto, pious is their motion and their zeal free from all just accusal: for without place in them is Thy word seeing Thou madest it dissonant from God. Thou teachest us (he says) another error and drawest us off from the way of the Law, and removest us to that which pleases Thyself Alone. The Jews then whispering these things privately or imagining them in their hearts, the Lord again meets them, knowing the motions of their imaginations within (for He is Very God) and therefore says, I speak that which I have seen with My Father, I beheld close the Nature of Father, I saw ofttimes of Myself and in Myself Him Who begat Me, and am a Beholder of the Will That is in Him. I saw, by innate knowledge that is, of what works He is the Lover, and these I speak to you, I shall not be found to say ought dissonant to Him, nor have I appointed any thing other than pleases Him. To that was I earnest in calling My hearers, not departing from what is Mine (for in Me are His, and Mine again in Him) but if I Who am thus by Nature and am in all things Co-willer with God the Father, appear to you to be not true and I am adjudged to be leading you astray from the Divine Teachings, let the charge be dismissed, cast away suspicion; do that which ye heard from the Father, He hath spoken to you by Moses, accomplish the command, ye heard Him say, The innocent and righteous slay thou not, how then are ye seeking to kill Me and breaking the Father’s commandment?

But in another way again will we take the words, Do YE then do that which ye heard from the Father. He has spoken to you (He says) through the Prophets, ye heard Him say, Rejoice greatly o daughter of Zion, shout o daughter of Jerusalem, behold thy King cometh unto thee, He is just and having salvation and mounted upon a colt the foal of an ass, and again through the voice of Isaiah, O Zion that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain, o Jerusalem that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength, lift ye up, be not afraid, behold your God, behold the Lord cometh with strength and His Arm with rule, behold His Reward with Him and His work before Him: like a shepherd shall He feed His flock, He shall gather the lambs with His Arm and shall comfort those that are with young. Obeying therefore the commands of the Father, receive Him Who is fore-announced to you; honour with faith Him Who has been fore-preached. Give at least to the words of the Father to prevail in you.

But we must know that He says that the Law is God the Father’s, albeit spoken by Him through Angels, not putting Himself outside of the law-giving, but He yielding to the surmises of the Jews who believed that it was so, and economically, does not oppose Himself to their surmise, for ofttimes doth He shame them, since they receive Him not, for He brings before them the Father’s Name.

39 They answered and said unto Him, Our father is Abraham.

O great unlearning and mind withered unto unbelief and looking to only wrangling! For while our Saviour Christ consenteth and saith openly, I know that ye are Abraham’s seed, they persist in the same, and as though one were holding out and contradicting and saying that they were not of Abraham’s seed after the flesh, they again say, Our father is Abraham, and blush not going oft through the same words, who think that they ought not to yield even to Battus, but are but most excellent emulators of that man’s babbling. But perchance they had some most unreasoning plea for this, and what, we will tell. For when the Lord says, I speak that which I have seen with My Father, they did not imagine that He hereby intended God the Father, but thought that He spoke of either the righteous Joseph, or some other of those on the earth, ridiculing and deeming and thinking exceeding little things of Him. For the holy Virgin conceived in her womb the Divine Babe, not of marriage but of the Holy Ghost, as it is written. And the blessed Joseph knowing not at first the mode of the economy was minded to put her away privily, as Matthew saith. But it was not by any means unknown by the Jews that the holy Virgin conceived in her womb before marriage and coming together, yet they understood not that it was of the Holy Ghost; but thought that she had been corrupted by one of the nation, whence they had no right conceptions of Christ. For they deemed that He was a child begotten of some other father who had corrupted (according to their madness) the holy Virgin, and that He was attributed only to Joseph, being a bastard and not son in truth. When then He says, I speak that which I have seen of My Father, they took in no thought at all of God, but that He meant some one of earthly fathers and fancied that He was trying to move them from their honour to their ancestor, and suspecting that He was apportioning to His own kin the honour due to another, and that most ancient glory of the Patriarchate, they meet Him in a more contentious and vehement manner saying, Our father is Abraham. For just as though they were saying, Albeit, sir, you drench us with clever words, and din around us with portentous marvels, and strike us hard with mighty deeds beyond speech, you will not remove us from our pristine boast, we will not register Thy father as the head of our race, we will not attribute such a glory to another, nor will we take new ancestors in exchange for the elder ones. It is no marvel nor hard to believe, that the Jews should fall into such folly, when they imagined that He is even a bare man and in manifold wise holding Him cheap would call Him the carpenter’s son and rank as though nought the King and Lord of all.

But that they had no right opinion as to the holy Virgin also, as though she had been defiled, we shall know full well by what follows.

Jesus saith unto them, If ye would were Abraham’s children, ye do the works of Abraham; 40 but now ye seek to kill Me, a Man That have told you the truth which I heard of God, this did not Abraham.

Soothing, so to say, by every way and word the boldness of the Jews, Christ speaks to them veiledly, not applying open conviction but mingled with gentle speech, and in lowly wise and manifoldly charming their wrath. For since He sees that they are most exceeding silly and understand nought of what is said, He makes His Discourse free at length from any veil and bared of all covering. For it needed (He says) it needed, if ye believed that being classed among Abraham’s children was the highest honour, that ye should be zealous to imitate his manners: it needed that ye should track the lovely virtue of your ancestor, it needed that ye should be zealous of and love his obedience. For he heard God say, Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and come into the land that I will shew thee. And nought delaying in the fulfilment of what was bidden him, he hastens forthwith from his country, and relying on the mercy of Him who bade him, arrives in a foreign land. And being at the very goal so to speak of life and passing his hundredth year, he heard, Thou shalt have a seed, and nothing doubting, he gave fervent faith to Him That spake, heeding not the weakness of his flesh, but looking at the Strength of Him That spoke to him. He heard that he was to offer to God his beloved for a sacrifice and forthwith he strove against the longings of nature, and made his love for the youth second to the Divine Command. In you I find all contrary to these, for ye are seeking, He says, to kill Me because I have told you things from God, this did not Abraham. For he insulted not by his unbelief Him who spake to him, he sought not to do any thing that grieved Him. How then are ye any more Abraham’s children being as far distant from his piety as the difference of your actions shews?

But observe how He arranges His speech: for He said not that they heard the truth from the Father but from God, since, as we just now said, from their innate unbounded folly they were dragged down to untrue conceptions of Him, thinking that He was speaking of some one of earthly fathers. And exceeding well does He making His Discourse about dying call Himself Man, in every way retaining to Himself incorruptibility as God by Nature yet not severing from Himself His own Temple, but as being One Son, even when He became Man, yet says that He spake the Truth. For not in types any more and figures does the Saviour’s word teach us to practise piety, but persuades us to love the spiritual and true worship.

But when He says, Which I heard from the Father, we must by no means be offended. For since He says that He is Man, He speaks this too as befits man: for as He is said as Man to die, let Him be said as Man to hear also. But it seems likely that in the word, heard, He puts the inherent knowledge which He has of the will of His own Progenitor, for so is the wont of the Divinely inspired Scripture oftentimes to say of God. For when it says And the Lord heard, we do not by any means attribute to Him a separate and distinct sense of hearing, like as there is in us, for the Divine Nature is simple and remote from all compound, but we take rather hearing as knowledge and knowledge as hearing; for in the simple there is nought compound as we have said.

And to these meanings we will add a third, not departing from fit aim. God the Father said somewhere of Christ to the most holy Moses, A Prophet will I raise them up (i. e. to them of Israel) from among their brethren like unto thee and I will put My words in His Mouth and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him. For this reason therefore did our Lord Jesus Christ say that He heard from the Father the Truth and spake it to the Jews, at once convicting them of fighting against God the Father and shewing clearly that Himself is He whom the Lawgiver promised before to raise up to them.

41 YE do the deeds of your father.

Having shewn that the Jews are utterly of other manner than their ancestor, and far removed from his piety, He with good reason strips them of their empty fleshly boast. And saving openly that they ought not any longer to be enrolled among his children, He allots them to another father like unto them, and affixed similitude of deeds as a sort of bond of kindred, teaching that the good ought to be joined to the good, and deciding that it is meet that they who live ill should have as fathers those who have been condemned for the like. For like as they who have chosen to live excellently, and are therefore even now called saints, may without hazard call God their Father, so to the wicked is the wicked one rightly ascribed as father, seeing that they form the image of his wickedness and perversity in their characters. For not altogether is he who begot of himself conceived of as father by the Divine Scripture, but he too who has any conformed to his own character, of whom he is said to be therefore father. Thus does the Divine Paul too write to certain, for in Christ Jesus through the Gospel did I beget you. As then (as we said) some are conformed both to God and to the holy fathers through likeness in manners and holiness; so to the devil too and to those like in conduct to him are some rendered like-minded, suffering this through their own depravity. Therefore to the saints the saints are fathers, but to the wicked the wicked who betake themselves to them, most befittingly. And the one, who in holiness take the impression (so to say) of the Divine Form on their own souls, and have the confidence that befits own sons, will with reason say Our Father which art in heaven: the bad again will be ascribed to their own father, begotten as it were through likeness unto him unto equal depravity with him. To the Jews therefore Christ allots and names another father than the holy Abraham, and who, He does not as yet clearly say.

They said therefore to Him, WE have not been born of fornication, we have one Father, God.

Already now have I said that the all-daring Jews were easily sick with bitter and unholy conceptions of our Saviour Christ. For they thought that the holy Virgin had been corrupted, I mean the Lord’s Mother, and that she was taken with child, not of the Holy Ghost or of operation from above but of one of those on the earth. For being wholly disbelieving and without understanding, they either made no account of the prophetic writings, albeit openly hearing, Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, or looking only to the flesh and following the order of events usual with us, and not thinking of the Nature which works beyond speech, to which nought is hard to perform, every thing that seems good to Him easy; they deem that no otherwise could a woman conceive in her womb, save by coming together with her husband and cohabitation. Sick of such a suspicion, the wretched ones dared to accuse the Birth through the Spirit of the Divine and wondrous Offspring. But when putting them forth from kindred with Abraham He allots them to another father, very angry are they, and unrestrainedly foaming up their inherent anger, they reviling say, WE have not been born of fornication, we have one Father, God. For they say darkly somewhat of this sort, Two fathers hast Thou, neither wert Thou born of honourable marriage, WE One, God.

But let a man see and consider clearly how great their disease of madness in this too. For they who by reason of the naughtiness and depravity that was in them are by the Righteous Judge put not even among the children of Abraham, advance to such a measure of madness, as to call even God their Father, perhaps because of what is said in the books of Moses, Israel is My son, My first-born, not admiting into their mind what is said through the voice of Isaiah, Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord.

And one may reasonably enquire what it was that induced the Jews at present to say no longer, Our father is Abraham, or, We have one father Abraham, but to go straight up to One God. To me they seem to have had some thought of this kind. For when they, smiting with their railing the Lord, as though His mother had been dishonoured before marriage, were ascribing to Him two fathers, needs did they seek to take the title of one as an ally of their own ill-will. For whereby they affirm that they have One Father God, by the same they indirectly reproach the Lord of having two, setting the One over against two. For they imagined that if they said, We have one father Abraham, they would be altogether denying the rest, I mean Isaac and Jacob, and the twelve who were from him, which if they should do, they would seem to be arming themselves against themselves and to fight, with their own choice and boast, estranging Israel from the nobility of the fathers, and thereby to go along with the Lord’s own saying. Escaping then the damage that thence seemed to accrue to them, they no longer say, We have one father Abraham, but rather ascribe to themselves One Father God, spell-subdued by only the most unsure pleasures of railing, that they might fall into yet greater blame, craftsmen of all impiety, yet daring to take as their father the Enemy of all impiety.

42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father ye would love Me, for I proceeded forth from God and am come.

The Lord does not hereby take away the power of any to be ranked among the sons of God, but shews rather to whom will pertain the boast of it, and that it will be found rather in the saints, and convicts the insulting Jew of being mad. For I (saith He) am sprung the One and True Son by Nature, from God the Father that is; and all are adopted, formed after Me and mounting up unto My Glory, for images are always after their archetypes. How can ye then (He says) at all be numbered among the children of God, who are minded not only not to love Him Who beamed forth from God and transfashions unto His own Form those who believe on Him, but do even dishonour Him, not in one way but in many? and they who receive not the Image of God the Father, how will they be at all formed after Him? Besides it is lawful (He says) not to any chance persons without blame to call God their Father, but those in whom the beauty of piety towards Him shall flash forth,—those I deem and none other will it befit. I have come from Heaven to counsel you things most excellent, and My Word invites you to the being formed after God. But if it be verily your aim and longing to have God as your Father, surely ye would have loved Me your Guide and Teacher on such a path, Who give you the opportunity of likeness to the One and True Son, Who through the Holy Ghost render conformed to Himself those who receive Him. For he (He says) who altogether boasteth of ownness toward God, how would he not love Him That is of God? how (tell me) will he honour the tree who foolishly loatheth the fruit that is its offspring? Either therefore, He saith, make the tree good and his fruit good, or make the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt. If therefore the Tree (i. e. God the Father) be Noble and ye know how to draw the Splendour thereof on your own heads, why loved ye not the Fruit that is of Him, believing It to be such as He is? The verse before us therefore hath at once a bitter reproof of the Jews (for it shews them to be liars, for when they essay to call God their Father, they are far away from the virtue that pertains to those who are called to this, because they love not Him Who is of God by Nature) and at the same time it profitably brings in the mention of His own Ineffable Generation, that they might be caught in impiety in this too, calling Him ill-born and bastard. For if the saying, I proceeded forth from God, signifies His Ineffable and Eternal Generation from the Father; adding I am come, [He shews] His appearance in this world with Flesh. And surely one will not say that God the Word then first beamed forth from God the Father, when He became Man (for so it seemed to some of the unholy heretics) but he will rather take it as is meet and will conceive of it piously. For not because He joined the words, (I mean I proceeded forth and I am come) will the Word of the Father be co-eval in time with the Birth of the Flesh, but to each of the things indicated will we keep its proper meaning. For we believe the first Generation of the Word conceived of as from God to be without beginning and above mind; wherefore it hath been set forth first in the words, I proceeded forth from God; the second, i. e., that after the Flesh, for neither have I come of Myself but He sent Me. I was Incarnate as you, that is, I became Man, in the Good Pleasure of God the Father came I in this world to declare to you the things of God and to tell to those who know not, what it is that pleases Him. But ye loved not (He says) Him Who from the Divine counsel was revealed ye kuow to you as Saviour and Guide. How then will ye any more be called children of God, or how will ye gain the grace of ownness with Him, if ye honour not Him That is of Him? It is likely that the Lord again means something by this and aims by such words also to silence the people of the Jews who are vainly yelping at Him. And what it is that is intended we will briefly say.

Many among the Jews esteeming no whit the Divine Fear, but admiring and accepting only honours from men, and overcome by base lucre, dared to prophesy, speaking out of their own heart and not out of the Mouth of the Lord, as it is written. And verily the Lord of all Himself chid them saying, I sent not the prophets, I spake not to them yet they prophesied; yea, He threatened to do dread things to them crying out, Woe unto them that prophesy out of their their own heart and see nothing at all. Such an one was that Shemaiah who to the words of Jeremiah opposed his own lie and having taken the yokes of wood and shattered them, said, Thus saith the Lord, I will shatter the yoke of the king of Babylon. Since then when our Saviour Christ says, But now ye seek to kill Me a man who have told you the truth which I heard of God, the Jews began to murmur, and not knowing Who He is in truth, to imagine that He is some false prophet and to be therefore hardened, so as to even dare to revile Him, and so angrily desire to kill Him as even to press on to do it:—profitably does He again terrify them, saying that He came not of Himself as was the wont of them who prophesy falsely, but was sent by God, that by the same He both putting aside the reputation of being a false prophet and teaching that they will incur no slight doom, who not only dishonour Him that has been sent by God the Father, but also dare to devise murder against Him, might cut short their unbridled daring.

This then for what is before us. But it is probable that the heretic will make what has been said the food of his innate impiety. He will haply accuse the Essence of the Only-Begotten and will deem that it is in lower case than the Father’s because of His saying that He had been sent by Him. But let such an one consider the mode of the economy but now spoken, and remember Paul crying aloud of the Son, Who being in the Form of God thought it not robbery to be Equal with God, but emptied Himself taking servant’s form, made in the likeness of men and found in fashion as a man He humbled Himself made obedient unto death. But if He hath of His own will humbled Himself, the Father, that is, consenting and Co-willing it, what accusal will He have, going through the whole mode of the Economy unto its consummation, in any reasonable way? But if because of His saying that He has been sent, you deem that the Son lies in lower case than the Father, how (tell me) doth He That is in lower case, according to thy unlearning, work in all exactitude the things of God? For where does the lesser shew itself in Him who possesses perfectly all that belongs to His own Progenitor and the fullest God-befitting Authority? Therefore He will not be conceived of as less on account of being sent, but being God of God by Nature and verily, since Himself is the Wisdom and Power of the Father, He is sent to us as from the sun the light which is spread abroad from it, in order that He might make wise that which lacks wisdom, and that thus at length that which was weak might be lifted up through Him and strengthened unto the knowledge of God the Father and recovered unto all virtue. For all things most fair beamed on the human race through only Christ. There is therefore nothing at all of servile kind in Christ, but it belongs only to the form of the flesh: but God-befitting is His Authority and Power even all, even though the language meetly conformed to the measure of lowliness take human fashion.

43 Why do ye not understand My speech? because ye cannot hear My word.

What we have oftentimes said we say again for profit to the readers: for there is no harm in our discourse going very frequently through what may profit. It is the custom then of our Saviour Christ not altogether to accept from those who disbelieve Him, the word that boiled up from their tongue, but to look rather on the hearts and reins, and to make His replies to the thoughts that were yet revolving in the depth of their hearts. For man who knows not the thoughts that are in another, will needs admit the uttered word, but God not so; for He knowing all things, takes the thought for the voice. When then the Lord said to the Jews that He had come not of Himself, like them who of their own mind and not of the Divine Spirit advance to prophesy, but that He was sent by God, they again imagine, or reason among themselves, or secretly whispering one to another said, Many Prophets have spoken the things of God and brought words from the Spirit unto us, but we find nought among them of such sort as is in this man’s words. For He bears us wholly away from the worship after the Law and removes us to some other polity and introduces to us a strange transition of life. Dissonant therefore manifestly and irreconcileable is His Discourse with that of those of old. Since He beheld them thinking (as is likely) these things, shewing that He is by Nature God and knoweth the counsels of the hearts, He takes hold of it and says, Why do ye not understand My Speech? because ye cannot hear My Word. I am not ignorant (He says) that ye cannot comprehend My Speech, or doctrine; but I will tell you the reason and will clearly set before you what is the hindrance. Ye cannot hear My Word. He says, ye cannot, convicting them of impotence unto perfect good, because of their being fore-mastered by their passions. For the love of pleasure unnerves the mind, and the unbridled tendency towards evil yet weakening the sinew of the heart, renders it feeble and most spiritless to the power of performing any virtue. Being therefore fore-weakened by tendencies to vice and tyrannized by your own passions ye cannot, He says, hear My Word. For right are the ways of the Lord, as it is written, and the just shall walk in them, but the transgressors shall become impotent in them. Akin to this will you find that too which was in another place said to the Pharisees, How can ye believe which receive honour one of another and seek not the honour that cometh from the only God? for verily in this their not being able to believe shews the voluntary weakness of their understanding or that their mind has been before overcome of vainglory. And we find again that that is true of the Jews which has been spoken by the voice of Paul, But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. Since therefore they were natural, they deemed that He was foolishness Who was inviting them to be saved, and was teaching them the path of an excellent conversation, and directing them full well unto the power of pleasing God who delighteth in virtue, to whom be all honour, glory, might, for ever and ever. Amen.


That not from sins of the soul prior to birth do bodily sufferings befal any, nor yet does God bring the sins of the fathers upon the children or of any upon other, punishing those who have nothing sinned, but brings righteous doom upon all, on the words, Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

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