1 In the beginning was the Word;
and the Word was with God;
and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
23 John the Evangelist, as already indicated, makes it his principal object to show the divinity of the Incarnate Word. Accordingly, his Gospel is divided into two parts. In the first he states the divinity of Christ; in the second he shows it by the things Christ did in the flesh (2:1). In regard to the first, he does two things. First he shows the divinity of Christ; secondly he sets forth the manner in which Christ’s divinity is made known to us (1:14). Concerning the first he does two things. First he treats of the divinity of Christ; secondly of the incarnation of the Word of God (1:6).
Because there are two items to be considered in each thing, namely, its existence and its operation or power, first he treats the existence of the Word as to his divine nature; secondly of his power or operation (1:3). In regard to the first he does four things. First he shows when the Word was: In the beginning was the Word; secondly where he was: and the Word was with God; thirdly what fie was: and the Word was God; fourthly, in what way he was: He was in the beginning with God. The first two pertain to the inquiry “whether something exists”; the second two pertain to the inquiry “what something is.”
24 With respect to the first of these four we must examine the meaning of the statement, In the beginning was the Word. And here three things present themselves for careful study according to the three parts of this statement. First it is necessary to investigate the name Word; secondly the phrase in the beginning; thirdly the meaning of the Word was in the beginning.
25 To understand the name Word we should note that according to the Philosopher [On Interpretation 16a3] vocal sounds are signs of the affections that exist in our soul. It is customary in Scripture for the things signified to be themselves called by the names of their signs, as in the statement, “And the rock was Christ” ( 1 Cor 10:4). It is fitting that what is within our soul, and which is signified by our external word, be called a “word.” But whether the name “word” belongs first to the exterior vocal sound or to the conception in our mind, is not our concern at present. However, it is obvious that what is signified by the vocal sound, as existing interiorly in the soul, exists prior to the vocal expression inasmuch as it is its actual cause. Therefore if we wish to grasp the meaning of the interior word, we must first look at the meaning of that which is exteriorly expressed in words.
Now there are three things in our intellect: the intellectual power itself, the species of the thing understood (and this species is its form, being to the intellect what the species of a color is to the eye), and thirdly the very activity of the intellect, which is to understand. But none of these is what is signified by the exterior vocal word: for the name “stone” does not signify the substance of the intellect because this is not what the one naming intends; nor does it signify the species, which is that by which the intellect understands, since this also is not the intention of the one naming; nor does it signify the act itself of understanding since to understand is not an action proceeding to the exterior from the one understanding, but an action remaining within. Therefore, that is properly called an interior word which the one understanding forms when understanding.
Now the intellect forms two things, according to its two operations. According to its operation which is called “the understanding of indivisibles,” it forms a definition; while according to its operation by which it unites and separates, it forms an enunciation or something of that sort. Hence, what is thus formed and expressed by the operation of the intellect, whether by defining or enunciating, is what the exterior vocal sound signifies. So the Philosopher says that the notion (ratio) which a name signifies is a definition. Hence, what is thus expressed, i.e., formed in the soul, is called an interior word. Consequently it is compared to the intellect, not as that by which the intellect understands, but as that in which it understands, because it is in what is thus expressed and formed that it sees the nature of the thing understood. Thus we have the meaning of the name “word.”
Secondly, from what has been said we are able to understand that a word is always something that proceeds from an intellect existing in act; and furthermore, that a word is always a notion (ratio) and likeness of the thing understood. So if the one understanding and the thing understood are the same, then the word is a notion and likeness of the intellect from which it proceeds. On the other hand, if the one understanding is other than the thing understood, then the word is not a likeness and notion of the one understanding but of the thing understood, as the conception which one has of a stone is a likeness of only the stone. But when the intellect understands itself, its word is a likeness and notion of the intellect. And so Augustine (On the Trinity IX, 5) sees a likeness of the Trinity in the Soul insofar as the mind understands itself, but not insofar as it understands other things.
It is clear then that it is necessary to have a word in any intellectual nature, for it is of the very nature of understanding that the intellect in understanding should form something. Now what is formed is called a word, and so it follows that in every being which understands there must be a word.
However, intellectual natures are of three kinds: human, angelic and divine; and so there are three kinds of words. The human word, about which it is said in the Psalm (13:1): “The fool said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ “ The angelic word, about which it is said in Zechariah (1:9), and in many places in Sacred Scripture, “And the angel said to me.” The third is the divine word, of which Genesis (1:3) says, “And God said, ‘Let there be light.’ “ So when the Evangelist says, In the beginning was the Word, we cannot understand this as a human or angelic word, because both these words have been made since man and angel have a cause and principle of their existence and operation, and the word of a man or an angel cannot exist before they do. The word the Evangelist had in mind he shows by saying that this word was not made, since all things were made by it. Therefore, the word about which John speaks here is the Word of God.
26 We should note that this Word differs from our own word in three ways. The first difference, according to Augustine, is that our word is formable before being formed, for when I wish to conceive the notion of a stone, I must arrive at it by reasoning. And so it is in all other things that are understood by us, with the sole possible exception of the first principles which, since they are known in a simple manner, are known at once without any discourse of reason. So as long as the intellect, in so reasoning, casts about this way and that, the formation is not yet complete. It is only when it has conceived the notion of the thing perfectly that for the first time it has the notion of the complete thing and a word. Thus in our mind there is both a “cogitation,” meaning the discourse involved in an investigation, and a word, which is formed according to a perfect contemplation of the truth. So our word is first in potency before it is in act. But the Word of God is always in act. In consequence, the term “cogitation” does not properly speaking apply to the Word of God. For Augustine says (On the Trinity XV): “The Word of God is spoken of in such a way that cogitation is not included, lest anything changeable be supposed in God.” Anselm was speaking improperly when he said: “For the supreme Spirit to speak is for him to look at something while cogitating.”
27 The second difference is that our word is imperfect, but the divine Word is most perfect. For since we cannot express all our conceptions in one word, we must form many imperfect words through which we separately express all that is in our knowledge. But it is not that way with God. For since he understands both himself and everything else through his essence, by one act, the single divine Word is expressive of all that is in God, not only of the Persons but also of creatures; otherwise it would be imperfect. So Augustine says: “If there were less in the Word than is contained in the knowledge of the One speaking it, the Word would be imperfect; but it is obvious that it is most perfect; therefore, it is only one.” “God speaks once” (Jb 33:14).
28 The third difference is that our word is not of the same nature as we; but the divine Word is of the same nature as God. And therefore it is something that subsists in the divine nature. For the understood notion which the intellect is seen to fonn about some thing has only an intelligible existence in our soul. Now in our soul, to understand is not the same as the nature of the soul, because our soul is not its own operation. Consequently, the word which our intellect forms is not of the essence of our soul, but is an accident of it. But in God, to understand and to be are the same; and so the Word of the divine intellect is not an accident but belongs to its nature. Thus it must be subsistent, because whatever is in the nature of God is God. Thus Damascene says that God is a substantial Word, and a hypostasis, but our words are concepts in our mind.
29 From the above it is clear that the Word, properly speaking, is always understood as a Person in the Divinity, since it implies only something expressed, by the one understanding; also, that in the Divinity the Word is the likeness of that from which it issues; and that it is co-eternal with that from which it issues, since it was not first formable before being formed, but was always in act; and that it is equal to the Father, since it is perfect and expressive of the whole being of the Father; and that it is co-essential and consubstantial with the Father, since it is his substance.
It is also clear that since in every nature that which issues forth and has a likeness to the nature from which it issues is called a son, and since this Word issues forth in a likeness and identity to the nature from which it issues, it is suitably and appropriately called a “Son,” and its production is called a generation.
So now the first point is clear, the meaning of the term Word.
30 There are four questions on this point, two of them from Chrysostom. The first is: Why did John the Evangelist oinit the Father and begin at once with the Son, saying, In the beginning was the Word?
There are two answers to this. One is that the Father was known to everyone in the Old Testament, although not under the aspect of Father, but as God; but the Son was not known. And so in the New Testament, which is concerned with our knowledge of the Word, he begins with the Word or Son.
The other answer is that we are brought to know the Father through the Son: “Father, I have manifested your name to the men whom you have given to me” (below 17:6). And so wishing to lead the faithful to a knowledge of the Father, the Evangelist fittingly began with the Son, at once adding something about the Father when he says, and the Word was with God.
31 The second question is also from Chrysostom. Why did he say Word and not “Son,” since, as we have said, the Word proceeds as Son?
There are also two answers to this. First, because “son” means something begotten, and when we hear of the generation of the Son, someone might suppose that this generation is the kind he can comprehend, that is, a material and changeable generation. Thus he did not say “Son,” but Word, which signifies an intelligible proceeding, so that it would not be understood as a material and changeable generation. And so in showing that the Son is born of the Father in an unchangeable way, he eliminates a faulty conjecture by using the name Word.
The second answer is this. The Evangelist was about to consider the Word as having come to manifest the Father. But since the idea of manifesting is implied better in the name “Word” than in the name “Son,” he preferred to use the name Word.
32 The third question is raised by Augustine in his book Eighty-three Questions; and it is this. In Greek, where we have “Word,” they have “Logos”; now since “Logos” signifies in Latin both “notion” and “word” [i.e., ratio et verbum], why did the translators render it as “word” and not “notion,” since a notion is something interior just as a word is?
I answer that “notion” [ratio], properly speaking, names a conception of the mind precisely as in the mind, even if through it nothing exterior comes to be; but “word” signifies a reference to something exterior. And so because the Evangelist, when he said “Logos,” intended to signify not only a reference to the Son’s existence in the Father, but also the operative power of the Son, by which, through him, all things were made, our predecessors preferred to translate it “Word,” which implies a reference to something exterior, rather than “notion “ which implies merely a concept of the mind.
33 The fourth question is from Origen, and is this. In many passages, Scripture, when speaking of the Word of God, does not simply call him the Word, but adds “of God,” saying, “the Word of God,” or “of the Lord”: “The Word of God on high is the foundation of wisdom” (Sir 1:5); “His name is the Word of God” (Rv 19:13). Why then did the Evangelist, when speaking here of the Word of God, not say, “In the beginning was the Word of God,” but said In the beginning was the Word?
I answer that although there are many participated truths, there is just one absolute Truth, which is Truth by its very essence, that is, the divine act of being (esse); and by this Truth all words are words. Similarly, there is one absolute Wisdom elevated above all things, that is, the divine Wisdom, by participating in which all wise persons are wise. Further, there is one absolute Word, by participating in which all persons having a word are called speakers. Now this is the divine Word which of itself is the Word elevated above all words. So in order that the Evangelist might signify this supereminence of the divine Word, he pointed out this Word to us absolutely without any addition.
And because the Greeks, when they wished to signify something separate and elevated above everything else, did this by affixing the article to the name (as the Platonists, wishing to signify the separated substances, such as the separated good or the separated man, called them the good per se, or man per se), so the Evangelist, wishing to signify the separation and elevation of that Word above all things, affixed an article to the name “Logos,” so that if it were stated in Latin we would say “the Word.”
34 Secondly, we must consider the meaning of the phrase, In the beginning. We must note that according to Origen, the word principium has many meanings [such as “principle,” “source,” or “beginning”]. Since the word principium implies a certain order of one thing to another, one can find a principium in all those things which have an order. First of all, order is found in quantified things; and so there is a principle of number and lengths, as for example, a line. Second, order is found in time; and so we speak of a “beginning” of time, or of duration. Third, order is found in learning; and this in two ways: as to nature, and as to ourselves, and in both cases we can speak of a “beginning”: “By this time you ought to be teachers” (Heb 5:12). As to nature, in Christian doctrine the beginning and principle of our wisdom is Christ, inasmuch as he is the Wisdom and Word of God, i.e., in his divinity. But as to ourselves, the beginning is Christ himself inasmuch as the Word has become flesh, i.e., by his incarnation. Fourth, in order is found in the production of a thing. In this perspective there can be a principium on the part of the thing generated, that is, the first part of the thing generated or made; as we say that the foundation is the beginning of a house. Another principium is on the part of the generator, and in this perspective there are three “principles”: of intention, which is the purpose, which motivates the agent; of reason, which is the idea in the mind of the maker; and of execution, which is the operative faculty. Considering these various ways of using the term, we now ask how principium is used here when it says, In the beginning was the Word.
35 We should note that this word can be taken in three ways. In one way so that principium is understood as the Person of the Son, who is the principle of creatures by reason of his active power acting with wisdom, which is the conception of the things that are brought into existence. Hence we read: “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24). And so the Lord said about himself: “I am the principium who also speaks to you” (below 8:25). Taking principium in this way, we should understand the statement, In the beginning was the Word, as though he were saying, “The Word was in the Son,” so that the sense would be: The Word himself is the principium, principle, in the sense in which life is said to be “in” God, when this life is not something other than God.
And this is the explanation of Origen. And so the Evangelist says In the beginning here in order, as Chrysostom says, to show at the very outset the divinity of the Word by asserting that he is a principle because, as determining all, a principle is most honored.
36 In a second way principium can be understood as the Person of the Father, who is the principle not only of creatures, but of every divine process. It is taken this way in, “Yours is princely power (principium) in the day of your birth” (Ps 110:3). In this second way one reads In the beginning was the Word as though it means, “The Son was in the Father.” This is Augustine’s understanding of it, as well as Origen’s. The Son, however, is said to be in the Father because both have the same essence. Since the Son is his own essence, then the Son is in whomsoever the Son’s essence is. Since, therefore, the essence of the Son is in the Father by consubstantiality, it is fitting that the Son be in the Father. Hence it says below (14:10): “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”
37 In a third way, principium can be taken for the beginning of duration, so that the sense of In the beginning was the Word is that the Word was before all things, as Augustine explains it. According to Basil and Hilary, this phrase shows the eternity of the Word.
The phrase In the beginning was the Word shows that no matter which beginning of duration is taken, whether of temporal things which is time, or of aeviternal things which is the aeon, or of the whole world or any imagined span of time reaching back for many ages, at that beginning the Word already was. Hence Hilary says (On the Trinity VII): “Go back season by season, skip over the centuries, take away ages. Set down whatever you want as the beginning in your opinion: the Word already was.” And this is what Proverbs (8:23) says: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made anything.” But what is prior to the beginning of duration is eternal.
38 And thus the first explanation asserts the causality of the Word; the second explanation affirms the consubstantiality of the Word with the Father, who utters the Word; and the third explanation affirms the co-eternity of the Word.
39 Now we should consider that it says that the Word was (erat), which is stated in the past imperfect tense. This tense is most appropriate for designating eternal things if we consider the nature of time and of the things that exist in time. For what is future is not yet in act; but what is at present is in act, and by the fact that it is in act what is present is not described as having been. Now the past perfect tense indicates that something has existed, has already come to an end, and has now ceased to be. The past imperfect tense, on the other hand, indicates that something has been, has not yet come to an end, nor has ceased to be, but still endures. Thus, whenever John mentions eternal things he expressly says “was” (erat, past imperfect tense), but when he refers to anything temporal he says “has been” (fuit, past perfect tense), as will be clear later.
But so far as concerns the notion of the present, the best way to designate eternity is the present tense, which indicates that some thing is in act, and this is always the characteristic of eternal things. And so it says in Exodus (3:14): “I am who am.” And Augustine says: “He alone truly is whose being does not know a past and a future.
40 We should also note that this verb was, according to the Gloss, is not understood here as indicating temporal changes, as other verbs do, but as signifying the existence of a thing. Thus it is also called a substantive verb.
41 Someone may ask how the Word can be co-eternal with the Father since he is begotten by the Father: for a human son, born from a human father, is subsequent to his father.
I answer that there are three reasons why an originative principle is prior in duration to that which derives from that principle. First of all, if the originative principle of anything precedes in time the action by which it produces the thing of which it is the principle; thus a man does not begin to write as soon as he exists, and so he precedes his writing in time. Secondly, if an action is successive; consequently, even if the action should happen to begin at the same time as the agent, the termination of the action is nevertheless subsequent to the agent. Thus, as soon as fire has been generated in a lower region, it begins to ascend; but the fire exists before it has ascended, because the motion by which it tends upward requires some time. Thirdly, by the fact that sometimes the beginning of a thing depends on the will of its principle, just as the beginning of a creature’s coming-to-be depends on the will of God, such that God existed before any creature.
Yet none of these three is found in the generation of the divine Word. God did not first exist and then begin to generate the Word: for since the generation of the Word is nothing other than an intelligible conception, it would follow that God would be understanding in potency before understanding in act, which is impossible. Again, it is impossible that the generation of the Word involve succession: for then the divine Word would be unformed before it was formed (as happens in us who form words by “cogitating”), which is false, as was said. Again, we cannot say that the Father pre-established a beginning of duration for his Son by his own will, because God the Father does not generate the Son by his will, as the Arians held, but naturally: for God the Father, understanding himself, conceives the Word; and so God the Father did not exist prior to the Son.
An example of this, to a limited degree, appears in fire and in the brightness issuing from it: for this brightness issues naturally and without succession from the fire. Again, if the fire were eternal, its brightness would be coeternal with it. This is why the Son is called the brightness of the Father: “the brightness of his glory” (Heb 1:3). But this example lacks an illustration of the identity of nature. And so we call him Son, although in human sonship we do not find coeternity: for we must attain our knowledge of divine things from many likenesses in material things, for one likeness is not enough.
The Council of Ephesus says that the Son always coexists with the Father: for “brightness” indicates his unchangeability, “birth” points to the Word himself, but the name “Son” suggests his consubstantiality.
42 And so we give the Son various names to express his perfection, which cannot be expressed by one name. We call him “Son” to show that he is of the same nature as the Father; we call him “image” to show that he is not unlike the Father in any way; we call him “brightness” to show that he is coeternal; and he is called the “Word” to show that he is begotten in an immaterial manner.
43 Then the Evangelist says, and the Word was with God, which is the second clause in his account. The first thing to consider is the meaning of the two words which did not appear in the first clause, that is, God, and with; for we have already explained the meanings of “Word,” and “beginning. “Let us continue carefully by examining these two new words, and to better understand the explanation of this second clause, we must say something about the meaning of each so far as it is relevant to our purpose.
44 At the outset, we should note that the name “God” signifies the divinity concretely and as inherent in a subject, while the name “deity” signifies the divinity in the abstract and absolutely. Thus the name “deity” cannot naturally and by its mode of signifying stand for a [divine] person, but only for the [divine] nature. But the name “God” can, by its natural mode of signifying, stand for any one of the [divine] persons, just as the name “man” stands for any individual (suppositum) possessing humanity. Therefore, whenever the truth of a statement or its predicate requires that the name “God” stand for the person, then it stands for the person, as when we say, “God begets God.” Thus, when it says here that the Word was with God, it is necessary that God stand for the person of the Father, because the preposition with signifies the distinction of the Word, which is said to be with God. And although this preposition signifies a distinction in person, it does not signify a distinction in nature, since the nature of the Father and of the Son is the same. Consequently, the Evangelist wished to signify the person of the Father when he said God.
45 Here we should note that the preposition with signifies a certain union of the thing signified by its grammatical antecedent to the thing signified by its grammatical object, just as the preposition “in” does. However, there is a difference, because the preposition “in” signifies a certain intrinsic union, whereas the preposition with implies in a certain way an extrinsic union. And we state both in divine matters, namely, that the Son is in the Father and with the Father. Here the intrinsic union pertains to consubstantiality, but the extrinsic union (if we may use such an expression, since “extrinsic” is improperly employed in divine matters) refers only to a personal distinction, because the Son is distinguished from the Father by origin alone. And so these two words designate both a consubstantiality in nature and distinction in person: consubstantiality inasmuch as a certain union is implied; but distinction, inasmuch as a certain otherness is signified as was said above.
The preposition “in,” as was said, principally signifies consubstantiality, as implying an intrinsic union and, by way of consequence, a distinction of persons, inasmuch as every preposition is transitive. The preposition “with” principally signifies a personal distinction, but also a consubstantiality inasmuch as it signifies a certain extrinsic, so to speak, union. For these reasons the Evangelist specifically used here the preposition “with” in order to express the distinction of the person of the Son from the Father, saying, and the Word was with God, that is, the Son was with the Father as one person with another.
46 We should note further that this preposition with has four meanings, and these eliminate four objections. First, the preposition with signifies the subsistence of its antecedent, because things that do not subsist of themselves are not properly said to be “with” another; thus we do not say that a color is with a body, and the same applies to other things that do not subsist of themselves. But things that do subsist of themselves are properly said to be “with” another; thus we say that a man is with a man, and a stone with a stone.
Secondly, it signifies authority in its grammatical object. For we do not, properly speaking, say that a king is with a soldier, but that the soldier is with the king. Thirdly, it asserts a distinction. For it is not proper to say that a person is with himself but rather that one man is with another. Fourthly, it signifies a certain union and fellowship. For when some person is said to be with another, it suggests to us that there is some social union between them.
Considering these four conditions implied in the meaning of this preposition with, the Evangelist quite appropriately joins to the first clause, In the beginning was the Word, this second clause, and the Word was with God. For if we omit one of the three explanations of, In the beginning was the Word (namely, the one in which principium was understood as the Son), certain heretics make a twofold objection against each of the other explanations (namely, the one in which principium means the same as “before all things,” and the one in which it is understood as the Father). Thus there are four objections, and we can answer these by the four conditions indicated by this preposition with.
47 The first of these objections is this. You say that the Word was in the beginning, i.e., before all things. But before all things there was nothing. So if before all things there was nothing, where then was the Word? This objection arises due to the imaginings of those who think that whatever exists is somewhere and in some place. But this is rejected by John when he says, with God, which indicates the union mentioned in the last four conditions. So, according to Basil, the meaning is this: Where was the Word? The answer is: with God; not in some place, since he is unsurroundable, but he is with the Father, who is not enclosed by any place.
48 The second objection against the same explanation is this. You say that the Word was in the beginning, i.e., before all things. But whatever exists before all things appears to proceed from no one, since that from which something proceeds seems to be prior to that which proceeds from it. Therefore, the Word does not proceed from another. This objection is rejected when he says, the Word was with God, taking “with” according to its second condition, as implying authority in what is causing. So the meaning, according to Hilary, is this: From whom is the Word if he exists before all things? The Evangelist answers: the Word was with God, i.e., although the Word has no beginning of duration, still he does not lack a principium or author, for he was with God as his author.
49 The third objection, directed to the explanation in which principium is understood as the Father, is this. You say that In the beginning was the Word, i.e., the Son was in the Father. But that which is in something does not seem to be subsistent, as a hypostasis; just as the whiteness in a body does not subsist. This objection is solved by the statement, the Word was with God, taking “with” in its first condition, as implying the subsistence of its grammatical antecedent. So according to Chrysostom, the meaning is this: In the beginning was the Word, not as an accident, but he was with God, as subsisting, and a divine hypostasis.
50 The fourth objection, against the same explanation, is this. You say that the Word was in the beginning, i.,e., in the Father. But whatever is in something is not distinct from it. So the Son is not distinct from the Father. This objection is answered by the statement, and the Word was with God, taking “with” in its third condition, as indicating distinction. Thus the meaning, according to Alcuin and Bede, is this: The Word was with God, and he was with the Father by a consubstantiality of nature, while still being “with” him through a distinction in person.
51 And so, and the Word was with God, indicates: the union of the Word with the Father in nature, according to Basil; their distinction in person, according to Alcuin and Bede; the subsistence of the Word in the divine nature, according to Chrysostom; and the authorship of the Father in relation to the Word, according to Hilary.
52 We should also note, according to Origen, that the Word was with God shows that the Son has always been with the Father. For in the Old Testament it says that the word of the Lord “came” to Jeremiah or to someone else, as is plain in many passages of sacred Scripture. But it does not say that the word of the Lord was “with” Jeremiah or anyone else, because the word “comes” to those who begin to have the word after not having it. Thus the Evangelist did not say that the Word “came” to the Father, but was “with” the Father, because, given the Father, the Word was with him.
53 Then he says, and the Word was God. This is the third clause in John’s account, and it follows most appropriately considering the order of teaching. For since John had said both when and where the Word was, it remained to inquire what the Word was, that is, the Word was God, taking “Word” as the subject, and “God” as the predicate.
54 But since one should first inquire what a thing is before investigating where and when it is, it seems that John violated this order by discussing these latter first.
Origen answers this by saying that the Word of God is with man and with God in different ways. The Word is with man as perfecting him, because it is through him that man becomes wise and good: “She makes friends of God and prophets” (Wis 7:27). But the Word is not with God as though the Father were perfected and enlightened by him. Rather, the Word is with God as receiving natural divinity from him, who utters the Word, and from whom he has it that he is the same God with him. And so, since the Word was with God by origin, it was necessary to show first that the Word was in the Father and with the Father before showing that the Word was God.
55 This clause also enables us to answer two objections which arise from the foregoing. The first is based on the name “Word,” and is this. You say that In the beginning was the Word, and that the Word was with God. Now it is obvious that “word” is generally understood to signify a vocal sound and the statement of something necessary, a manifesting of thoughts. But these words pass away and do not subsist. Accordingly, someone could think that the Evangelist was speaking of a word like these.
According to Hilary and Augustine, this question is sufficiently answered by the above account. Augustine says (Homily I On John) that it is obvious that in this passage “Word” cannot be understood as a statement because, since a statement is in motion and passes away, it could not be said that In the beginning was the Word, if this Word were something passing away and in motion. The same thing is clear from and the Word was with God: for to be “in” another is not the same as to be “with” another. Our word, since it does not subsist, is not “with” us, but “in” us; but the Word of God is subsistent, and therefore “with” God. And so the Evangelist expressly says, and the Word was with God. To entirely remove the ground of the objection, he adds the nature and being of the Word, saying, and the Word was God.
56 The other question comes from his saying, with God. For since “with” indicates a distinction, it could be thought that the Word was with God, i.e., the Father, as distinct from him in nature. So to exclude this he adds at once the consubstantiality of the Word with the Father, saying, and the Word was God. As if to say: the Word is not separated from the Father by a diversity of nature, because the Word itself is God.
57 Note also the special way of signifying, since he says, the Word was God, using “God” absolutely to show that he is not God in the same way in which the name of the deity is given to a creature in Sacred Scripture. For a creature sometimes shares this name with some added qualification, as when it says, “I have appointed you the God of Pharaoh” (Ex 7:1), in order to indicate that he was not God absolutely or by nature, because he was appointed the god of someone in a qualified sense. Again, it says in the Psalm (81:6): “I said, ‘You are gods.’” —as if to say: in my opinion, but not in reality. Thus the Word is called God absolutely because he is God by his own essence, and not by participation, as men and angels are.
58 We should note that Origen disgracefully misunderstood this clause, led astray by the Greek manner of speaking. It is the custom among the Greeks to put the article before every name in order to indicate a distinction. In the Greek version of John’s Gospel the name “Word” in the statement, In the beginning was the Word, and also the name “God” in the statement, and the Word was with God, are prefixed by the article, so as to read “the Word” and “the God,” in order to indicate the eminence and distinction of the Word from other words, and the principality of the Father in the divinity. But in the statement, the Word was God, the article is not prefixed to the noun “God,” which stands for the person of the Son. Because of this Origen blasphemed that the Word, although he was Word by essence, was not God by essence, but is called God by participation; while the Father alone is God by essence. And so he held that the Son is inferior to the Father.
59 Chrysostom proves that this is not true, because if the article used with the name “God” implied the superiority of the Father in respect to the Son, it would never be used with the name “God” when it is used as a predicate of another, but only when it is predicated of the Father. Further, whenever said of the Father, it would be accompanied by the article. However, we find the opposite to be the case in two statements of the Apostle, who calls Christ “God,” using the article. For in Titus (2:13) he says, “the coming of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ,” where “God” stands for the Son, and in the Greek the article is used. Therefore, Christ is the great God. Again he says (Rom 9:5): “Christ, who is God over all things, blessed forever,” and again the article is used with “God” in the Greek. Further, in 1 John (5:20) it says: “That we may be in his true Son, Jesus Christ; he is the true God and eternal life.” Thus, Christ is not God by participation, but truly God. And so the theory of Origen is clearly false.
Chrysostom gives us the reason why the Evangelist did not use the article with the name “God,” namely, because he had already mentioned God twice using the article, and so it was not necessary to repeat it a third time, but it was implied. Or, a better reason would be that “God” is used here as the predicate and is taken formally. And it is not the custom for the article to accompany names used as predicates, since the article indicates separation. But if “God” were used here as the subject, it could stand for any of the persons, as the Son or the Holy Spirit; then, no doubt, the article would be used in the Greek.
60 Then he says, He was in the beginning with God. This is the fourth clause and is introduced because of the preceding clause. For from the Evangelist’s statement that the Word was God, two false interpretations could be held by those who misunderstand. One of these is by the pagans, who acknowledge many and different gods, and say that their wills are in opposition. For example, those who put out the fable of Jupiter fighting with Saturn; or as the Manicheans, who have two contrary principles of nature. The Lord said against this error (Dt 6:4): “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.”
Since the Evangelist had said, the Word was with God; and the Word was God, they could adduce this in support of their error by understanding the God with whom the Word is to be one [God],and the Word to be another, having another, or contrary, will to the former; and this is against the law of the Gospel. And so to exclude this he says, He was in the beginning with God, as if to say, according to Hilary: I say that the Word is God, not as if he has a distinct divinity, but he is with God, that is, in the one same nature in which lie is. Further, lest his statement, and the Word was God, be taken to mean that the Word has an opposed will, he added that the Word was in the beginning with God, namely, the Father; not as divided from him or opposed, but having an identity of nature with him and a harmony of will. This union comes about by the sharing of the divine nature in the three persons, and by the bond of the natural love of the Father and the Son.
61 The Arians were able to draw out another error from the above. They think that the Son is less than the Father because it says below (14:28): “The Father is greater than I” And they say the Father is greater than the Son both as to eternity and as to divinity of nature. And so to exclude this the Evangelist added: He was in the beginning with God. For Arius admits the first clause, In the beginning was the Word, but he will not admit that principium should be taken for the Father, but rather for the beginning of creatures. So he says that the Word was in the beginning of creatures, and consequently is in no sense coeternal with the Father. But this is excluded, according to Chrysostom, by this clause, He was in the beginning, not of creatures, but in the beginning with God, i.e., whenever God existed. For the Father was never alone without the Son or Word, but He, that is, the Word, was always with God.
62 Again, Arius admits that the Word was God, but nevertheless inferior to the Father. This is excluded by what follows. For there are two attributes proper to the great God which Arius attributed solely to God the Father, that is, eternity and omnipotence. So in whomever these two attributes are found, he is the great God, than whom none is greater. But the Evangelist attributes these two to the Word. Therefore, the Word is the great God and not inferior. He says the Word is eternal when he states, He was in the beginning with God, i.e., the Word was with God from eternity, and not only in the beginning of creatures (as Arius held) , but with God, receiving being and divinity from him. Further, he attributes omnipotence to the Word when he adds, Through him all things came into being.
63 Origen gives a rather beautiful explanation of this clause, He was in the beginning with God, when he says that it is not separate from the first three, but is in a certain sense their epilogue. For the Evangelist, after he had indicated that truth was the Son’s and was about to describe his power, in a way gathers together in a summary form, in this fourth clause, what he had said in the first three. For in saying He, he understands the third clause; by adding was in the beginning, he recalls the first clause; and by adding with God, he recalls the second, so that we do not think that the Word which was in the beginning is different than the Word which was God; but this Word which was God was in the beginning with God.
64 If one considers these four propositions well, he will find that they clearly destroy all the errors of the heretics and of the philosophers. For some heretics, as Ebion and Cerinthus, said that Christ did not exist before the Blessed Virgin, but took from her the beginning of his being and duration; for they held that he was a mere man, who had merited divinity by his good works. Photinus and Paul of Samosata, following them, said the same thing. But the Evangelist excludes their errors saying, In the beginning was the Word, i.e., before all things, and in the Father from eternity. Thus he did not derive his beginning from the Virgin.
Sabellius, on the other hand, although he admitted that the God who took flesh did not receive his beginning from the Virgin, but existed from eternity, still said that the person of the Father, who existed from eternity, was not distinct from the person of the Son, who took flesh from the Virgin. He maintained that the Father and Son were the same person; and so he failed to distinguish the trinity of persons in the deity. The Evangelist says against this error, and the Word was with God, i.e., the Son was with the Father, as one person with another.
Eunomius declared that the Son is entirely unlike the Father. The Evangelist rejects this when he says, and the Word was God. Finally, Arius said that the Son was less than the Father. The Evangelist excludes this by saying, He was in the beginning with God, as was explained above.
65 These words also exclude the errors of the philosophers. I`or some of the ancient philosophers, namely, the natural philosophers, maintained that the world did not come from any intellect or through some purpose, but by chance. Consequently, they did not place at the beginning as the cause of things a reason or intellect, but only matter in flux; for example, atoms, as Democritus thought, or other material principles of this kind as different philosophers inaintained. Against these the Evangelist says, In the beginning was the Word, from whom, and not from chance, things derive their beginning.
Plato, however, thought that the Ideas of all the things that were made were subsistent, i.e., existing separately in their own natures; and material things exist by participating in these. For example, he thought men existed through the separated Idea of man, which he called Man per se. So lest you suppose, as did Plato, that this Idea through which all things were made be Ideas separated from God, the Evangelist adds, and the Word was with God.
Other Platonists, as Chrysostom relates, maintained that God the Father was most eminent and first, but under him they placed a certain mind in which there were the likenesses and ideas of all things. So lest you think that the Word was with the Father in such a way as to be under him and less than he, the Evangelist adds, and the Word was God.
Aristotle, however, thought that the ideas of all things are in God, and that in God, the intellect, the one understanding, and what is understood, are the same. Nevertheless, he thought that the world is coeternal with him. Against this the Evangelist says, He, the Word alone, was in the beginning with God, in such a way that He does not exclude another person, but only another coeternal nature.
66 Note the difference in what has been said between John and the other Evangelists: how he began his Gospel on a loftier plane than they. They announced Christ the Son of God born in time: “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem” (Mt 2:1); but John presents him existing from eternity: In the beginning was the Word. They show him suddenly appearing among men: “Now you dismiss your servant, 0 Lord, in peace, according to your word; because my eyes have seen your salvation” (Lk 2:29); but John says that he always existed with the Father: and the Word was with God. The others show him as a man: “They gave glory to God who had given such authority to men” (Mt 9:8); but John says that he is God: and the Word was God. The others say he lives with men: “While living in Galilee, Jesus said to them” (Mt 17:21); but John says that he has always been with the Father: He was in the beginning with God.
67 Note also how the Evangelist designedly uses the word was (erat) to show that the Word of God transcends all times: present, past and future. It is as though he were saying: He was beyond time: present, past and future, as the Gloss says.
3 All things were made through him,
and without him nothing was made.
What was made 4a in him was life.
68 After the Evangelist has told of the existence and nature of the Divine Word, so far as it can be told by man, he then shows the might of his power. First, he shows his power with respect to all things that come into existence. Secondly, with respect to man. As to the first, he uses three clauses; and we will not distinguish these at present because they will be distinguished in different ways according to the different explanations given by the saints.
69 The first clause, All thifngs were made through him, is used to show three things concerning the Word. First, according to Chrysostom, to show the equality of the Word to the Father. For as stated earlier, the error of Arius was rejected by the Evangelist when he showed the coeternity of the Son with the Father by saying, “He was in the beginning with God.” Here he excludes the same error when he shows the omnipotence of the Son, saying, All things were made through him. For to be the principle of all the things that are made is proper to the great omnipotent God, as the Psalm (134:6) says, “Whatever the Lord wills he does, in heaven and on earth.”Thus the Word, through whom all things were made, is God, great and coequal to the Father.
70 Secondly, according to Hilary, this clause is used to show the coeternity of the Word with the Father. For since someone might understand the earlier statement, “In the beginning was the Word,” as referring to the beginning of creatures, i.e., that before there were any creatures there was a time in which the Word did not exist, the Evangelist rejects this by saying, All things were made through him. For if all things were made through the Word, then time was also. From this we can form the following argument: If all time was made through him, there was no time before him or with him, because before all these, he was. Therefore they [the Son and the Father] are eternally coeternal.
71 Thirdly, according to Augustine, this clause is used to show the consubstantiality of the Word with the Father. For if all things were made through the Word, the Word himself cannot be said to have been made; because, if made, he was made through some Word, since all things were made through the Word. Consequently, there would have been another Word through whom was made the Word of whom the Evangelist is speaking. This Word, through whom all things are made, we call the only begotten Son of God, because he is neither made nor is he a creature. And if he is not a creature, it is necessary to say that he is of the same substance with the Father, since every substance other than the divine essence is made. But a substance that is not a creature is God. And so the Word, through whom all things were made, is consubstantial with the Father, since he is neither made, nor is he a creature.
72 And so in saying All things were made through him, you have, according to Chrysostom, the equality of the Word with the Father; the coeternity of the Word with the Father, according to Hilary; and the consubstantiality of the Word with the Father, according to Augustine.
73 Here we must guard against three errors. First, the error of Valentine. He understood All things were made through him to mean that the Word proferred to the Creator the cause of his creating the world; so that all things were made through the Word as if the Father’s creating the world came from the Word. This leads to the position of those who said that God created the world because of some exterior cause; and this is contrary to Proverbs (16:4), “The Lord made all things for himself.” The reason this is an error is that, as Origen says, if the Word had been a cause to the Creator by offering him the material for making things, he would not have said, All things were made through him, but on the contrary, that all things were made through the Creator by the Word.
74 Secondly, we must avoid the error of Origen. He said that the Holy Spirit was included among all the things made through the Word; from which it follows that he is a creature. And this is what Origen thought. This is heretical and blasphemous, since the Holy Spirit has the same glory and substance and dignity as the Father and the Son, according to the words of Matthew (28:19), “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And, “There are three who give testimony’ in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one” (l Jn 5:7). Thus when the Evangelist says, All things were made through him, one should not understand “all things” absolutely, but in the realm of creatures and of things made. As if to say: All things that were made, were made through him. Otherwise, if “all things” were taken absolutely, it would follow that the Father and the Holy Spirit were made through him; and this is blasphemous. Consequently, neither the Father nor anything substantial with the Father was made through the Word.
75 Thirdly, we must avoid another of Origen’s errors. For he said that all things were made through the Word as something is made by a greater through a lesser, as if the Son were inferior to, and an instrument of, the Father. But it is clear from many places in Scripture that the preposition “through” (per) does not signify inferiority in the thing which is its grammatical object, i.e., in the Son or Word. For the Apostle says, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son” (1 Cor 1:9). If he “through” whom something is done has a superior, then the Father has a superior. But this is false. Therefore, the preposition “through” does not signify any inferiority in the Son when all things are said to have been made through him.
76 To explain this point further, we should note that when something is said to be made through someone, the preposition “through” (per) denotes some sort of causality in its object with respect to an operation; but not always the same kind of causality. For since an operation, according to our manner of signifying, is considered to be medial between the one acting and the thing produced, the operation itself can be regarded in two ways. In one way, as issuing from the one operating, who is the cause of the action itself; in another way, as terminated in the thing produced. Accordingly, the preposition “through” sometimes signifies the cause of the operation insofar as it issues from the one operating: but sometimes as terminated in the thing which is produced. It signifies the cause of the operation as issuing from the one operating when the object of the preposition is either the efficient or formal cause why the one operating is operating. For example, we have a formal cause when fire is heating through heat; for heat is the formal cause of the fire’s heating. We have a movent or efficient cause in cases where secondary agents act through primary agents; as when I say that the bailiff acts through the king, because the king is the efficient cause of the bailiff’s acting. This is the way Valentine understood that all things were made through the Word: as though the Word were the cause of the maker’s production of all things. The preposition “through” implies the causality of the operation as terminated in the thing produced when what is signified through that causality is not the cause which operates, but the cause of the operation precisely as terminated in the thing produced. So when I say, “The carpenter is making a bench through [by means of] a hatchet,” the hatchet is not the cause of the carpenter’s operating; but we do say that it is the cause of the bench’s being made by the one acting.
And so when it says that All things were made through him, if the “through” denotes the efficient or movent cause, causing the Father to act, then in this sense the Father does nothing through the Son, but he does all things through himself, as has been said. But if the “through” denotes a formal cause, as when the Father operates through his widsom, which is his essence, he operates through his wisdom as he operates through his essence. And because the wisdom and power of the Father are attributed to the Son, as when we say, “Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24), then by appropriation we say that the Father does all things through the Son, i.e., through his wisdom. And so Augustine says that the phrase “from whom all things,” is appropriated to the Father; “through whom all things,” is appropriated to the Son; and “in whom all things,” is appropriated to the Holy Spirit. But if the “through” denotes causality from the standpoint of the thing produced, then the statement, “The Father does all things through the Son,” is not [mere] appropriation but proper to the Word, because the fact that he is a cause of creatures is had from someone else, namely the Father, from whom he has being.
However, it does not follow from this that the Word is the instrument of the Father, although whatever is moved by another to effect something partakes of the nature of an instrument. For when I say that someone works through a power received from another, this can be understood in two ways. In one way, as meaning that the power of the giver and of the receiver is numerically one and the same power; and in this way the one operating through a power received from another is not inferior but equal to the one from whom he receives it. Therefore, since the same power which the Father has he gives to the Son, through which the Son works, when it is said that “the Father works through the Son,” one should not on that account say that the Son is inferior to the Father or is his instrument. This would be the case, rather, in those who receive from another not the same power, but another and created one. And so it is plain that neither the Holy Spirit nor the Son are causes of the Father’s working, and that neither is the minister or instrument of the Father, as Origen raved.
77 If we carefully consider the words, All things were made through him, we can clearly see that the Evangelist spoke with the utmost exactitude. For whoever makes something must preconceive it in his wisdom, which is the form and pattern of the thing made: as the form preconceived in the mind of an artisan is the pattern of the cabinet to be made. So, God makes nothing except through the conception of his intellect, which is an eternally conceived wisdom, that is, the Word of God, and the Son of God. Accordingly, it is impossible that he should make anything except through the Son. And so Augustine says, in The Trinity, that the Word is the art full of the living patterns of all things. Thus it is clear that all things which the Father makes, he makes through him.
78 It should be remarked that, according to Chrysostom, all the things which Moses enumerates individually in God’s production of things, saying, “And God said, ‘Let there be light’” (Gn 1:3) and so forth, all these the Evangelist transcends and embraces in one phrase, saying, All things were made through him. The reason is that Moses wished to teach the emanation of creatures from God; hence he enumerated them one by one. But John, hastening toward loftier things, intends in this book to lead us specifically to a knowledge of the Creator himself.
79 Then he says, and without him nothing was made. This is the second clause which some have distorted, as Augustine says in his work, The Nature of the Good. Because of John’s manner of speaking here, they believed that he was using “nothing” in an affirmative sense; as though nothing was something which was made without the Word. And so they claimed that this clause was added by the Evangelist in order to exclude something which was not made by the Word. They say that the Evangelist, having said that All things were made through him, added and without him nothing was made. It was as if to say: I say that all things were made through him in such a way that still something was made without him, that is, the “nothing”.
80 Three heresies came from this. First, that of Valentine. He affirmed, as Origen says, a multitude of principles, and taught that from them came thirty eras. The first principles he postulates are two: the Deep, which he calls God the Father, and Silence. And from these proceed ten eras. But from the Deep and from Silence, he says, there are two other principles, Mind and Truth; and from these issued eight eras. Then from Mind and Truth, there are two other principles, Word and Life; and from these issued twelve eras; thus making a total of thirty. Finally, from the Word and Life there proceeded in time, the man Christ and the Church. In this way Valentine affirmed many eras previous to the issuing forth of the Word. And so he said that because the Evangelist had stated that all things were made through him, then, lest anyone think that those previous eras had been effected through the Word, he added, and without him nothing was made, i.e., all the preceding eras and all that had existed in them. All of these John calls “nothing,” because they transcend human reason and cannot be grasped by the mind.
81 The second error to arise from this was that of Manichaeus, who affirmed two opposing principles: one is the source of incorruptible things, and the other of corruptible things. He said that after John had stated that All things were made through him, then, lest it be thought that the Word is the cause of corruptible things, he immediately added, and without him nothing was made, i.e., things subject to corruption, which are called “nothing” because their being consists in being continually transformed into nothing.
82 The third error is that of those who claim that by “nothing” we should understand the devil, according to Job (18:15), “May the companions of him who is not dwell in his house.” And so they say that all things except the devil were made through the Word. In this way they explain, without him nothing was made, that is, the devil.
83 All these three errors, arising as they do from the same source, namely, taking “nothing” in a positive sense, are excluded by the fact that “nothing” in not used here in an affirmative, but in a merely negative sense: the sense being that all things were made through the Word in such a way that there is nothing participating in existence that was not made through him.
84 Perhaps someone will object and say that it was superfluous to add this clause, if it is to be understood negatively, on the ground that the Evangelist, in stating that All things were made through him, seems to have already said adequately enough that there is not something that was not made through the Word.
The answer to this is that, according to many expositors, this clause was added in many ways for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is, according to Chrysostom, so that no one reading the Old Testament and finding only visible things listed by Moses in the creation of things, would think that these were the only things made through the Word. And so after he had said, All things were made through him, namely, those that Moses listed, the Evangelist then added, and without him nothing was made, as though he were saying: None of the things which exist, whether visible or invisible, was made without the Word. Indeed, the Apostle also speaks in this way (Col 1:16), saying that all things, visible and invisible, were created in Christ; and here the Apostle makes specific mention of invisible things because Moses had made no express mention of them on account of the lack of erudition of that people, who could not be raised above the things of sense.
Chrysostom also gives another reason why this clause was added. For someone reading in the Gospels of the many signs and miracles worked by Christ, such as, “The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed” (Mt 11:5), might believe that in saying, All things were made through him, John meant that only the things mentioned in those Gospels, and nothing else, were made through him. So lest anyone suspect this, the Evangelist adds, and without him nothing was made. As if to say: Not only all the things contained in the Gospels were made through him, but none of the things that were made, was made without him. And so, according to Chrysostom, this clause is added to bring out his total causality, and serves, as it were, to complete his previous statement.
85 According to Hilary, however, this clause is introduced to show that the Word has operative power from another. For since the Evangelist had said, All things were made through him, it might be supposed that the Father is excluded from all causality. For that reason he added, and without him nothing was made. As if to say: All things were made through him, but in such a way that the Father made all things with him. For “without him” is equivalent to saying, “not alone,” so that the meaning is: It is not he alone through whom all things were made, but he is the other one without whom nothing was made. It is as if he said: Without him, with another working, i.e., with the Father, nothing was made, as it says, “I was with him forming all things” (Prv 8:30).
86 In a certain homily attributed to Origen, and which begins, “The spiritual voice of the eagle,” we find another rather beautiful exposition. It says there that the Greek has thoris where the Latin has sine (without). Now thoris is the same as “outside” or “outside of.” It is as if he had said: All things were made through him in such a way that outside him nothing was made. And so he says this to show that all things are conserved through the Word and in the Word, as stated in Hebrews ( 1:3), “He sustains all things by his powerful word.” Now there are certain things that do not need their producer except to bring them into existence, since after they have been produced they are able to subsist without any further activity on the part of the producer. For example, a house needs a builder if it is to come into existence, but it continues to exist without any further action on the part of the builder. So lest anyone suppose that all things were made through the Word in such a way that he is merely the cause of their production and not of their continuation in existence, the Evangelist added, and without him nothing was made, i.e., nothing was made outside of him, because he encompasses all things, preserving them.
87 This clause is also explained by Augustine and Origen and several others in such a way that “nothing” indicates sin. Accordingly, because All things were made through him might be interpreted as including evil and sin, he added, and without him nothing, i.e., sin, was made. For just as art is not the principle or cause of the defects in its products, but is through itself the cause of their perfection and form, so the Word, who is the art of the Father, full of living archetypes, is not the cause of any evil or disarrangement in things, particularly of the evil of sin, which carries the full notion of evil. The per se cause of this evil is the will of the creature, either a man or an angel, freely declining from the end to which it is ordained by its nature. One who can act in virtue of his art but purposely violates it, is the cause of the defects occurring in his works, not by reason of his art, but by reason of his will. So in such cases, his art is not the source or cause of the defects, but his will is. Consequently, evil is a defect of the will and not of any art. And so to the extent that it is such [i.e., a defect], it is nothing.
88 So then, this clause is added to show the universal causality of the Word, according to Chrysostom; his association with the Father, according to Hilary; the power of the Word in the preserving of things, according to Origen; and finally, the purity of his causality, because he is so the cause of good as not to be the cause of sin, according to Augustine, Origen, and a number of others.
89 Then he says, What was made in him was life; and this is the third clause. Here we must avoid the false interpretation of Manichaeus, who was led by this to maintain that everything that exists is alive: for example, stones, wood, men, and anything else in the world. He understood the clause this way: What was made in him, comma, was life. But it was not life unless alive. Therefore, whatever was made in him is alive. He also claimed that “in him” is the same as saying “through him,” since very often in Scripture “in him” and “through him” are interchangeable, as in “in him and through him all things were created” (Col 1:16). However, our present explanation shows that this interpretation is false.
90 There are, nevertheless, a number of ways to explain it without error. In that homily, “The spiritual voice,” we find this explanation: What was made in him, i.e., through him, was life, not in each thing itself, but in its cause. For in the case of all things that are caused, it is always true that effects, whether produced by nature or by will, exist in their causes, not according to their own existence, but according to the power of their appropriate cause. Thus, lower effects are in the sun as in their cause, not according to their respective existences but according to the power of the sun. Therefore, since the cause of all effects produced by God is a certain life and an art full of living archetypes, for this reason What was made in him, i.e., through him, was life, in its cause, i.e., in God.
91 Augustine reads this another way, as: What was made, comma, in him was life. For things can be considered in two ways: as they are in themselves, and as they are in the Word. If they are considered as they are in themselves, then it is not true that all things are life or even alive, but some lack life and some are alive. For example, the earth was made and metals were made, but none is life, none is living; animals and men were made, and these, considered in themselves, are not life, but merely living. Yet considered as they are in the Word, they are not merely living, but also life. For the archetypes which exist spiritually in the wisdom of God, and through which things were made by the Word, are life, just as a chest made by an artisan is in itself neither alive nor life, yet the exemplar of the chest in the artisan’s mind prior to the existence of the chest is in some sense living, insofar as it has an intellectual existence in the mind of the artisan. Nevertheless it is not life, because it is neither in his essence nor is it his existence through the act of understanding of the artisan. But in God, his act of understanding is his life and his essence. And so whatever is in God is not only living, but is life itself, because whatever is in God is his essence. Hence the creature in God is the creating essence. Thus, if things are considered as they are in the Word, they are life. This is explained in another place.
92 Origen, commenting on John, gives another reading, thus: That which was made in him; and then, was life. Here we should note that some things are said of the Son of God as such; for example, that he is God, omnipotent, and the like. And some things are said of him in relation to ourselves; for example, we say he is Savior and Redeemer. Some things are said in both ways, such as wisdom and justice. Now in all things said absolutely and of the Son as such, it is not said that he was “made”, for example, we do not say that the Son was made God or omnipotent. But in things said in reference to us, or in both ways, the notion of being made can be used, as in, “God made him [Jesus Christ] our wisdom, our justice, our sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30). And so, although he was always wisdom and justice in himself, yet it can be said that he was newly made justice and wisdom for us.
And so Origen, explaining it along these lines, says that although in himself the Son is life, yet he was made life for us by the fact that he gave us life, as is said, “Just as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will come to life” (1 Cor 15:22). And so he says “the Word that was made” life for us in himself was life, so that after a time he could become life for us; and so he immediately adds, and that life was the light of men.
93 Hilary reads the clause differently, thus: And without him was made nothing, which was made in him, and later it says, he was life. For he says (The Trinity II) that when the Evangelist says without him nothing was made, one might be perplexed and ask whether there are still other things made by him, that were not made through him, although not without him, but with respect to which he was associated with the maker; and this clause is added to correct the aforesaid error. Therefore lest this be so understood, when the Evangelist says, All things were made through him, he adds, and without him nothing was made, which was made, in him, that is, through him; and the reason for this is that he was life.
For it is plain that all things are said to have been made through the Word inasmuch as the Word, who proceeds from the Father, is God. But let us suppose that some father has a son who does not perfectly exercise the operations of a man, but reaches such a state gradually. In that case the father will do many things, not through the son, yet not without [having] him. Since, therefore, the Son of God has from all eternity the same life that the Father has—“Just as the Father possesses life in himself, so has he granted it to the Son to have life in himself” (below 5:26)—one cannot say that God the Father, although he made nothing without the Son, nevertheless made some things not through him, because he was life. For in living things which participate life, it can happen that imperfect life precedes perfect life; but in per se life, which does not participate life but is simply and absolutely life, there can be no imperfection at all. Accordingly, because the Word is per se life, there was never imperfect life in him, but always perfect life. And so in such a way that nothing was made without him that was not also made in him, i.e., through him.
94 Chrysostom has a different reading and punctuation, thus: And without him was made nothing that was made. The reason for this is that someone might believe that the Holy Spirit was made through the Word. So to exclude this, the Evangelist says, that was made, because the Holy Spirit is not something that is made. And afterward follows, In him was life, which is introduced for two reasons. First, to show that after the creation of all things his causality was indefectible not only with respect to the things already produced, but also with respect to things yet to be produced. As if to say: In him was life, by which he could not only produce all things, but which has an unfailing flow and a causality for producing things continually without undergoing any change, being a living fountain which is not diminished in spite of its continuous outflow; whereas collected water, that is not living [i..e., running] water, is diminished when it flows out, and is used up. So the Psalm (35:10) says, “With you is the fountain of life.” The second reason is to show that things are governed by the: Word. For since In him was life, this shows that he produced things by his intellect and will, not by a necessity of his nature, and that he governs the things he made. “The Word of God is living” (Heb 4:12).
Chrysostom is held in such esteem by the Greeks in his explanations that they admit no other where he expounded anything in Holy Scripture. For this reason, this passage in all the Greek works is found to be punctuated exactly as Chrysostom did, namely, And without him was made nothing that was made.
4b And that life was the light of men.
5 And the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.
95 Above, the Evangelist described the power of the Word insofar as he brought all things into existence; here he describes his power as it is related to men, saying that this Word is a light to men. First, he introduces a certain light to us (v 4b); secondly, the light’s irradiation (v 5a); thirdly, participation in the light (v 5b). This whole section may be explained in two ways: first, according to the influx of natural knowledge; secondly, according to participation in grace.
As to the first point he says, And that life was the light of men.
96 Here we should note first that, according to Augustine and many others, light is more properly said of spiritual things than of sensible things. Ambrose, however, thinks that brightness is said metaphorically of God. But this is not a great issue, for in whatever way the name “light” is used, it implies a manifestation, whether that manifesting concerns intelligible or sensible things. If we compare sensible and intelligible manifestation, then, according to the nature of things, light is found first in spiritual things. But for us, who give names to things on the basis of their properties as known to us, light is discovered first in sensible things, because we first used this name to signify sensible light before intelligible light; although as to power, light belongs to spiritual things in a prior and truer way than to sensible things.
97 To clarify the statement, And that life was the light of men, we should remark that there are many grades of life. For some things live, but do so without light, because they have no knowledge; for example, plants. Hence their life is not light. Other things both live and know, but their knowledge, since it is on the sense level, is concerned only with individual and material things, as is the case with the brutes. So they have both life and a certain light. But they do not have the light of men, who live, and know, not only truths, but also the very nature of truth itself. Such are rational creatures, to whom not only this or that are made manifest, but truth itself, which can be manifested and is manifestive to all.
And so the Evangelist, speaking of the Word, not only says that he is life but also light, lest anyone suppose he means life without knowledge. And he says that he is the light of men, lest anyone suppose he meant only sensible knowledge, such as exists in the brutes.
98 But since he is also the light of angels, why did he say, of men? Two answers have been given to this. Chrysostom says that the Evangelist intended in this Gospel to give us a knowledge of the Word precisely as directed to the salvation of men and therefore refers, in keeping with his aim, more to men than to angels. Origen, however, says that participation in this light pertains to men insofar as they have a rational nature; accordingly, when the Evangelist says, the light of men, he wants us to understand every rational nature.
99 We also see from this the perfection and dignity of this life, because it is intellectual or rational. For whereas all things that in some way move themselves are called living, only those that perfectly move themselves are said to have perfect life; and among lower creatures only man moves himself, properly speaking, and perfectly. For although other things are moved by themselves by some inner principle, that inner principle is nevertheless not open to opposite alternatives; hence they are not moved freely but from necessity. As a result, those things that are moved by such a principle are more truly made to act than act themselves. But man, since he is master of his act, moves himself freely to all that he wills. Consequently, man has perfect life, as does every intellectual nature. And so the life of the Word, which is the light of men, is perfect life.
100 We find a fitting order in the above. For in the natural order of things, existence is first; and the Evangelist implies this in his first statement, In the beginning was the Word. Secondly, comes life; and this is mentioned next, In him was life. Thirdly comes understanding; and that is mentioned next; And that life was the light of men. And, according to Origen, he fittingly attributes light to life because light can be attributed only to the living.
101 We should note that light can be related in two ways to what is living: as an object and as something in which they participate, as is clear in external sight. For the eyes know external light as an object, but if they are to see it, they must participate in an inner light by which the eyes are adapted and disposed for seeing the external light. And so his statement, And that life was the light of men, can be understood in two ways. First, that the light of men is taken as an object that man alone can look upon, because the rational creature alone can see it, since he alone is capable of the vision of God who “teaches us more than the beasts of the earth, and enlightens us more than the birds of the air” Jb 35:11); for although other animals may know certain things that are true, nevertheless, man alone knows the nature itself of truth.
The light of men can also be taken as a light in which we participate. For we would never be able to look upon the Word and light itself except through a participation in it; and this participation is in man and is the superior part of our soul, i.e., the intellectual light, about which the Psalm (4:7) says, “The light of your countenance, O Lord, is marked upon us,” i.e., of your Son, who is your face, by whom you are manifested.
102 Having introduced a certain light, the Evangelist now considers its irradiation, saying, And the light shines in the darkness. This can be explained in two ways, according to the two meanings of “darkness.”
First, we might take “darkness” as a natural defect, that of the created mind. For the mind is to that light of which the Evangelist speaks here as air is to the light of the sun; because, although air is receptive of the light of the sun, considered in itself it is a darkness. According to this the meaning is: the light, i.e., that life which is the light of men, shines in the darkness, i.e., in created souls and minds, by always shedding its light on all. “On a man from whom the light is hidden” (Jb 3:23).
And the darkness did not overcome it, i.e., enclose it [i.e., intellectually]. For to overcome something [comprehendere, to overcome, to comprehend, to seize or apprehend, and so forth], is to enclose and understand its boundaries. As Augustine says, to reach God with the mind is a great happiness; but to overcome [comprehend] him is impossible. And so, the darkness did not overcome it. “Behold, God is great, exceeding our knowledge” (Jb 36:26); “Great in counsel, incomprehensible in thought” as Jeremiah (32:19) says. This explanation is found in that homily which begins, “The spiritual voice of the eagle.”
103 We can explain this passage in another way by taking “darkness” as Augustine does, for the natural lack of wisdom in man, which is called a darkness. “And I saw that wisdom excells folly as much as light excells knowledge” (Ecc 2:13). Someone is without wisdom, therefore, because he lacks the light of divine wisdom. Consequently, just as the minds of the wise are lucid by reason of a participation in that divine light and wisdom, so by the lack of it they are darkness. Now the fact that some are darkness is not due to a defect in that light, since on its part it shines in the darkness and radiates upon all. Rather, the foolish are ‘without that light because the darkness did not overcome it, i.e., they did not apprehend it, not being able to attain a participation in it due to their foolishness; after having been lifted up, they did not persevere. “From the savage,” i.e., from the proud, “he hides his light,” i.e., the light of wisdom, “and shows his friend that it belongs to him, and that he may approach it” (Jb 36:32); “They did not know the way to wisdom, nor did they remember her paths” (Bar 3:23).
Although some minds are darkness, i.e., they lack savory and lucid wisdom, nevertheless no man is in such darkness as to be completely devoid of divine light, because whatever truth is know by anyone is due to a participation in that light which shines in the darkness; for every truth, no matter by whom it is spoken, comes from the Holy Spirit. Yet the darkness, i.e., men in darkness, did not overcome it, apprehend it in truth. This is the way, [ i.e., with respect to the natural influx of knowledge] that Origen and Augustine explain this clause.
104 Starting from And that life was the light of men, we can explain this in another way, according to the influx of grace, since we are illuminated by Christ.
After he had considered the creation of things through the Word, the Evangelist considers here the restoration of the rational creature through Christ, saying, And that life, of the Word, was the light of men, i.e., of all men in general, and not only of the Jews. For the Son of God assumed flesh and came into the world to illumine all men with grace and truth. “I came into the world for this, to testify to the truth” (below 18:37); “As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world” (below 9:5). So he does not say, “the light of the Jews,” because although previously he had been known only in Judea, he later became known to the world. “I have given you as a light to the nations, that you might be my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Is 49:6).
It was fitting to join light and life by saying, And that life was the light of men, in order to show that these two have come to us through Christ: life, through a participation in grace, “Grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ” (below 1:17); and light, by a knowledge of truth and wisdom.
105 According to this explanation, the light shines in the darkness, can be expounded in three ways, in the light of the three meanings of “darkness.”
In one way, we can take “darkness” for punishment. For any sadness and suffering of heart can be called a darkness, just as any joy can be called a light. “When I sit in darkness and in suffering the Lord is my light,” i.e., my joy and consolation (Mi 7:8). And so Origen says: In this explanation, the light shines in the darkness, is Christ coming into the world, having a body capable of suffering and without sin, but “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3). The light is in the flesh, that is, the flesh of Christ, which is called a darkness insofar as it has a likeness to sinful flesh. As if to say: The light, i.e., the Word of God, veiled about by the darkness of the flesh, shines on the world; “I will cover the sun with a cloud” (Ez 32:7).
106 Secondly, we can take “darkness” to mean the devils, as in Ephesians (6:12), “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness.” Looked at this way he says, the light, i.e., the Son of God, shines in the darkness, i.e., has descended into the world where darkness, i.e., the devils, hold sway: “Now the prince of this world will be cast out” (below 12:31). And the darkness, i.e., the devils, did not overcome it, i.e., were unable to obscure him by their temptations, as is plain in Matthew (c 4)
107 Thirdly, we can take “darkness” for the error or ignorance which filled the whole world before the coming of Christ, “You were at one time darkness” (Eph 5:8). And so he says that the light, i.e., the incarnate Word of God, shines in the darkness, i.e., upon the men of the world, who are blinded by the darkness or error and ignorance. “To enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk 1:79), “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light” (Is 9:2).
And the darkness did not overcome it, i.e., did not overcome him. For in spite of the number of men darkened by sin, blinded by envy, shadowed over by pride, who have struggled against Christ (as is plain from the Gospel) by upbraiding him, heaping insults and calumnies upon him, and finally killing him, nevertheless they did not overcome it, i.e., gain the victory of so obscuring him that his brightness would not shine throughout the whole world. Wisdom (7:30) says, “Compared to light, she takes precedence, for night supplants it, but wisdom,” that is, the incarnate Son of God, “is not overcome by wickedness,” that is, of the Jews and of heretics, because it says, “She gave him the prize for his stern struggle that he might know that wisdom is mightier than all else” (Wis 10:12).
6 There was a man sent by God, whose name was John.
7 He came as a witness, that he might bear witness to the light,
so that through him all men might believe. 8 He was not the light,
but [he came] in order to bear witness to the light.
108 Above, the Evangelist considered the divinity of the Word; here he begins to consider the incarnation of the Word. And he does two things concerning this: first, he treats of the witness to the incarnate Word, or the precursor; secondly, of the coming of the Word ( 1:9). As to the first, he does two things: first, he describes the precursor who comes to bear witness; secondly, he shows that he was incapable of the work of our salvation (1:8).
He describes the precursor in four ways. First, according to his nature, There was a man. Secondly, as to his authority, sent by God. I’hirdly, as to his suitability for the office, whose name was John. Fourthly, as to the dignity of his office, He came as a witness.
109 We should note with respect to the first that, as soon as the Evangelist begins speaking of something temporal, he changes his manner of speech. When speaking above of eternal things, he used the word “was” (erat), which is the past imperfect tense; and this indicates that eternal things are without end. But now, when he is speaking of temporal things, he uses “was” (fuit, i.e., “has been”); this indicates temporal things as having taken place in the past and coming to an end there.
110 And so he says, There was a man (Fuit homo). This excludes at the very start the incorrect opinion of certain heretics who were in error on the condition or nature of John. They believed that John was an angel in nature, basing themselves on the words of the Lord, “I send my messenger [in Greek, angelos] before you, who will prepare your way” (Mt 11:10); and the same thing is found in Mark (1:2). But the Evangelist rejects this, saying, There was a man by nature, not an angel. “The nature of man is known, and that he cannot contend in judgment with one who is stronger than himself” (Ecc 6:10).
Now it “ is fitting that a man be sent to men, for men are more easily drawn to a man, since he is like themselves. So in Hebrews (7:28) it says, “The law appoints men, who have weakness, priests.” God could have governed men through angels, but he preferred men so that we could be more instructed by their example. And so John was a man, and not an angel.
11 1 John is described by his authority when it says, sent by God. Indeed, although John was not an angel in nature, he was so by his office, because he was sent by God. For the distinctive office of angels is that they are sent by God and are messengers of God. “All are ministering spirits, sent to serve” (Heb 1:14). Hence it is that “angel” means “messenger.” And so men who are sent by God to announce something can be called angels. “Haggai the messenger of the Lord” (Hg 1:13).
If someone is to bear witness to God, it is necessary that he be sent by God. “How can they preach unless they are sent?” as is said in Romans (10:15). And since they are sent by God, they seek the things of Jesus Christ, not their own. “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:5). On the other hand, one who sends himself, and is not sent by God, seeks his own things or those of man, and not the things of Christ. And so he says here, There was a man sent by God, so that we would understand that John proclaimed something divine, not human.
112 Note that there are three ways in which we see men sent by God. First, by an inward inspiration. “And now the Lord God has sent me, and his spirit” (Is 48:16). As if to say: I have been sent by God through an inward inspiration of the spirit. Secondly, by an expressed and clear command, perceived by the bodily senses or the imagination. Isaiah was also sent in this way; and so he says, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me’” (Is 6:8). Thirdly, by the order of a prelate, who acts in the place of God in this matter. “I have pardoned in the person of Christ for your sake” as it says in 2 Corinthians (2:10). This is why those who are sent by a prelate are sent by God, as Barnabas and Timothy were sent by the Apostle.
When it is said here, There was a man sent by God, we should understand that he was sent by God through an inward inspiration, or perhaps even by an outward command. “He who sent me to baptize with water had said to me: ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit’ “ (below 1:33).
113 We should not understand, There was a man sent by God, as some heretics did, who believed that from the very beginning human souls were created without bodies along with the angels, and that one’s soul is sent into the body when he is born, and that John was sent to life, i.e., his soul was sent to a body. Rather, we should understand that he was sent by God to baptize and preach.
114 John’s fitness is given when he says, whose name was John. One must be qualified for the office of bearing witness, because unless a witness is qualified, then no matter in what way he is sent by another, his testimony is not acceptable. Now a man becomes qualified by the grace, of God. “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor 15:10); “who has made us fit ministers of a new covenant” (2 Cor 3:6). So, the Evangelist appropriately implies the precursor’s fitness from his name when he says, whose name was John, which is interpreted, “in whom is grace.”
This name was not given to him meaninglessly, but by divine preordination and before he was born, as is clear from Luke (1:13), “You will name him John,” as the angel said to Zechariah. Hence he can say what is said in Isaiah (49:1), “The Lord called me from the womb”; “He who will be, his name is already called” (Ecc 6:10). The Evangelist also indicates this from his manner of speaking, when he says was, as to God’s preordination.
115 Then he is described by the dignity of his office. First, his office is mentioned. Secondly, the reason for his office, to bear witness to the light.
116 Now his office is to bear witness; hence he says, He came as a witness.
Here it should be remarked that God makes men, and everything else he makes, for himself. “The Lord made all things for himself” (Prv 16:4). Not, indeed, to add anything to himself, since he has no need of our good, but so that his goodness might be made manifest in all of the things made by him, in that “his eternal power and divinity are clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made”(Rom 1:20). Thus, each creature is made as a witness to God in so far as each creature is a certain witness of the divine goodness. So, the vastness of creation is a witness to God’s power and omnipotence; and its beauty is a witness to the divine wisdom. But certain men are ordained by God in a special way, so that they hear witness to God not only naturally by their existence, but also spiritually by their good works. Hence all holy men are witnesses to God inasmuch as God is glorified among men by their good works. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16). But those who not only share in God’s gifts in themselves by acting well through the grace of God, but also spread them to others by their teaching, influencing and encouraging others, are in a more special way witnesses to God. “Everyone who calls upon my name, I have created for my glory” (Is 43:7). And so John came as a witness in order to spread to others the gifts of God and to proclaim his praise.
117 This office of John, that of bearing witness, is very great, because no one can testify about something except in the manner in which he has shared in it. “We know of what we speak, and we bear witness of what we see” (below 3:11). Hence, to bear witness to divine truth indicates a knowledge of that truth. So Christ also had this office: “I have come into the world for this, to testify to the truth” (below 18:37). But Christ testifies in one way and John in another. Christ bears witness as the light who comprehends all things, indeed, as the existing light itself. John bears witness only as participating in that light. And so Christ gives testimony in a perfect manner and perfectly manifests the truth, while John and other holy men give testimony in so far as they have a share of divine truth. John’s office, therefore, is great both because of his participation in the divine light and because of a likeness to Christ, who carried out this office. “I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and a commander of the nations” (Is 55:4).
118 The purpose of this office is given when he says, that he might bear witness to the light. Here we should understand that there are two reasons for bearing witness about something. One reason can be on the part of the thing with which the witness is concerned; for example, if there is some doubt or uncertainty about that thing. The other is on the part of those who hear it; if they are hard of heart and slow to believe. John came as a witness, not because of the thing about which he bore witness, for it was light. Hence he says, bear witness to the light, i.e., not to something obscure, but to something clear. He came, therefore, to bear witness on account of those to whom he testified, so that through him (i.e., John) all men might believe. For as light is not only visible in itself and of itself, but through it all else can be seen, so the Word of God is not only light in himself, but he makes known all things that are known. For since a thing is made known and understood through its form, and all forms exist through the Word, who is the art full of living forms, the Word is light not only in himself, but as making known all things; “all that appears is light” (Eph 5:13).
And so it was fitting for the Evangelist to call the Son “light,” because he came as “a revealing light to the Gentiles” (Lk 2:32). Above, he called the Son of God the Word, by which the Father expresses himself and every creature. Now since he is, properly speaking, the light of men, and the Evangelist is considering him here as coming to accomplish the salvation of men, he fittingly interrupts the use of the name “Word” when speaking of the Son, and says, “light.”
119 But if that light is adequate of itself to make known all things, and not only itself, what need does it have of any witness? This was the objection of the Manichaeans, who wanted to destroy the Old Testament. Consequently, the saints gave many reasons, against their opinion, why Christ wanted to have the testimony of the prophets.
Origen gives three reasons. The first is that God wanted to have certain witnesses, not because he needed their testimony, but to ennoble those whom he appointed witnesses. Thus we see in the order of the universe that God produces certain effects by means of intermediate causes, not because he himself is unable to produce them without these intermediaries, but he deigns to confer oil them the dignity of causality because he wishes to-ennoble these intermediate causes. Similarly, even though God could have enlightened all men by himself and lead them to a knowledge of himself, yet to preserve due order in things and to ennoble certain men, he willed that divine knowledge reach men through certain other men. “‘You are my witnesses,’ says the Lord” (Is 43:10).
A second reason is that Christ was a light to the world through his miracles. Yet, because they were performed in time, they passed away with time and did not reach everyone. But the words of the prophets, preserved in Scripture, could reach not only those present, but could also reach those to come after. Hence the Lord willed that men come to a knowledge of the Word through the testimony of the prophets, in order that not only those present, but also men yet lo come, might be enlightened about him. So it says expressly, so that through him all men might believe, i.e., not only those present, but also future generations.
The third reason is that not all men are in the same condition, and all are not led or disposed to a knowledge of the truth in the same way. For some are brought to a knowledge of the truth by signs and miracles; others are brought more by wisdom. “The Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek wisdom” (1 Cor 1:22). And so the Lord, m order to show the path of salvation to all, willed both ways to be open. i.e., the way of signs and the way of wisdom, so that those who would not be brought to the path of salvation by the miracles of the Old and New Testaments, might be brought to a knowledge of the truth by the path of wisdom, as in the prophets and other books of Sacred Scripture.
A fourth reason, given by Chrysostom, is that certain men of weak understanding are unable to grasp the truth and knowledge of God by themselves. And so the Lord chose to come down to them and to enlighten certain men before others about divine matters, so that these others might obtain from them in a human way the knowledge of divine things they could not reach by themselves. And so he says, that through him all men might believe. As if to say: he came as a witness, not for the sake of the light, but for the sake of men, so that through him all men might believe. And so it is plain that the testimonies of the prophets are fitting and proper, and should be received as something needed by us for the knowledge of the truth.
120 He says believe, because there are two ways of participating in the divine light. One is the perfect participation which is present in glory, “In your light, we shall see the light” (Ps 3 5:10). The other in imperfect and is acquired through faith, since he came as a witness. Of these two ways it is said, “Now we see through a mirror, in an obscure manner, but then we shall see face to face” (1 Cor 13:12). And in the same place we find, “Now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I am known.” Among these two ways, the first is the way of participation through faith, because through it we are brought to vision. So in Isaiah (7:9) where our version has, “If you do not believe, you will not persist,” another version has, “If you do not believe, you will not understand.” “All of us, gazing on the Lord’s glory with unveiled faces, are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image,” which we have lost (2 Cor 3:18). “From the glory of faith to the glory of vision,” as a Gloss says.
And so he says, that through him all men might believe, not as though all would see him perfectly at once, but first they would believe through faith, and later enjoy him through vision in heaven.
121 He says through him, to show that John is different than Christ. For Christ came so that all might believe in him. “He who believes in me, as Scripture says, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (below 7:38). John, on the other hand, came that all men might believe, not in him, but in Christ through him.
One may object that not all have believed. So if John came to that all might believe through him, he failed. I answer that both on the part of God, who sent John, and of John, who came, the method used is adequate to bring all to the truth. But on the part of those “who have fixed their eyes on the ground” (Ps 16:11 ), and refused to see the light, there was a failure, because all did not believe.
122 Now although John, of whom so much has been said, even including that he was sent by God, is an eminent person, his coming is not sufficient to save men, because the salvation of man lies in participating in the light. If John had been the light, his coming would have sufficed to save men; but he was not the light. So he says, he was not the light. Consequently, a light was needed that would suffice to save men.
Or, we could look at it another way. John came to bear witness to the light. Now it is the custom that the one who testifies is of greater authority than the one for whom he bears witness. So, lest John be considered to have greater authority than Christ, the Evangelist says, he was not the light, but he came in order to bear witness to the light. For he bears witness not because he is greater, but because he is better known, even though he is not as great.
123 There is a difficulty about his saying, he was not the light. Conflicting with this is, “You were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8); and “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14). Therefore, John and the apostles and all good men are a light.
I answer that some say that John was not the light, because this belongs to God alone. But if “light” is taken without the article, then John and all holy men were made lights. The meaning is this: the Son of God is light by his very essence; but John and all the saints are light by participation. So, because John participated in the true light, it was fitting that he bear witness to the light; for fire is better exhibited by something afire than by anything else, and color by something colored.
9 He [the Word] was the true light,
which enlightens every man coming into this world.
10 He was in the world, and through him the world was made,
and the world did not know him.
124 Above, the Evangelist considered the precursor and his witness to the incarnate Word; in the present section he considers the incarnate Word himself. As to this he does three things. First, he shows why it was necessary for the Word to come. Secondly, the benefit we received from the coming of the Word (I:11). And thirdly, the way he came (1:14).
The necessity for the Word’s coming is seen be the lack of divine knowledge in the world. He points out this need for his coming when he says, “For this was I born, and I came into the world for this, to testify to the truth” (below 18:37). To indicate this lack of divine knowledge, the Evangelist does two things. First, he shows that this lack does not pertain to God or the Word. Secondly, that it does pertain to men (v 10b).
He shows in three ways that there was no defect in God or in the Word that prevented men from knowing God and from being enlightened by the Word. First, from the efficacy of the divine light itself, because He was the true light, which enlightens every man coming into this world. Secondly, from the presence of the divine light, because He was in the world. Thirdly, from the obviousness of the light, because through him the world was made. So the lack of divine knowledge in the world was not due to the Word, because it is sufficient. First, he shows the nature of this efficiency, that is, He was the true light. Secondly, its very efficiency, which enlightens every man.
125 The divine Word is efficacious in enlightening because He was the true light. How the Word is light, and how he is the light of men need not be discussed again, because it was sufficiently explained above. What we must discuss at present is how he is the true light. To explain this, we should note that in Scripture the “true” is contrasted with three things. Sometimes it is contrasted with the false, as in “Put an end to lying, and let everyone speak the truth” (Eph 4:25). Sometimes it is contrasted with what is figurative, as in “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ” (below 1:17), because the truth of the figures contained in the law was fulfilled by Christ. Sometimes it is contrasted with what is something by participation, as in “that we may be in his true Son” (1 Jn 5:20), who is not his Son by participation.
Before the Word came there was in the world a certain light which the philosophers prided themselves on having; but this was a false light, because as is said, “They became stultified in their speculations, and their foolish hearts were darkened; claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:21); “Every man is made foolish by his knowledge” (Jer 10:14). There was another light from the teaching of the law which the Jews boasted of having; but this was a symbolic light, “The law has a shadow of the good things to come, not the image itself of them” (Heb 10:1). There was also a certain light in the angels and in holy men in so far as they knew God in a more special way by grace; but this was a participated light, “Upon whom does his light not shine?” (Jb 25:3), which is like saying: Whoever shine, shine to the extent that they participate in his light, i.e., God’s light.
But the Word of God was not a false light, nor a symbolic light, nor a participated light, but the true light, i.e., light by his essence. Therefore he says, He was the true light.
126 This excludes two errors. First, that of Photinus, who believed that Christ derived his beginning from the Virgin. So, lest anyone suppose this, the Evangelist, speaking of the incarnation of the Word, says, He was the true light, i.e., eternally, not only before the Virgin, but before every creature. This also excludes the error of Arius and Origen; they said that Christ was not true God, but God by participation. If this were so, he could not be the true light, as the Evangelist says here, and as in “God is light” (1 Jn 1:5), i.e., not by participation, but the true light. So if the Word was the true light, it is plain that he is true God. Now it is clear how the divine Word is effective in causing divine knowledge.
127 The effectiveness or efficiency of the Word lies in the fact that he enlightens every man coming into this world. For everything which is what it is by participation is derived from that which is such by its essence; just as everything afire is so by participation in fire, which is fire by its very essence. Then since the Word is the true light by his very essence, then everything that shines must do so through him, insofar as it participates in him. And so he enlightens every man coming into this world.
128 To understand this, we should know that “world” is taken in three ways in Scripture. Sometimes, from the point of view of its creation, as when the Evangelist says here, “through him the world was made” (v 10). Sometimes, from the point of view of its perfection, which it reaches through Christ, as in “God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19). And sometimes it is taken from the point of view of its perversity, as in “The whole world lies under the power of the evil one” (1 Jn 5:19).
On the other hand, “enlightenment” or “being enlightened” by the Word is taken in two ways. First, in relation to the light of natural knowledge, as in “The light of your countenance, O Lord, is marked upon us” (Ps 4:7). Secondly, as the light of grace, “Be enlightened, O Jerusalem” (Is 60:1).
129 With these two sets of distinctions in mind, it is easy to solve a difficulty which arises here. For when the Evangelist says, he enlightens every man, this seems to be false, because there are still many in darkness in the world. However, if we bear in mind these distinctions and take “world” from the standpoint of its creation, and “enlighten” as referring to the light of natural reason, the statement of the Evangelist is beyond reproach. For all men coming into this visible world are enlightened by the light of natural knowledge through participating in this true light, which is the source of all the light of natural knowledge participated in by men.
When the Evangelist speaks of man coming into this world, he does not mean that men had lived for a certain time outside the world and then came into the world, since this is contrary to the teaching of the Apostle in Romans (9:11), “When the children were not yet born nor had they done anything good or evil.” Therefore, since they had done nothing before they were born, it is plain that the soul does not exist p3or to its union with the body. He refers to every man coming into this world, to show that men are enlightened by God with respect to that according to which they came into the world, i.e., with respect to the intellect, which is something external [to the world]. For man is constituted of a twofold nature, bodily and intellectual. According to his bodily or sensible nature, man is enlightened by a bodily and sensible light; but according to his soul and intellectual nature, he is enlightened by an intellectual and spiritual light. Now man does not come into this world according to his bodily nature, but under this aspect, he is from the world. His intellectual nature is derived from a source external to the world, as has been said, i.e., from God through creation; as in “Until all flesh returns to its origin, and the spirit is directed to God, who made it” (Ecc 12:7). For these reasons, when the Evangelist speaks of every man coming into this world, he is showing that this enlightenment refers to what is from without, that is, the intellect.
130 If we understand “enlightenment” with respect to the light of grace, then he enlightens every man may be explained in three ways. The first way is by Origen in his homily, “The great eagle,” and is this. “World” is understood from the point of view of its perfection, which man attains by his reconciliation through Christ. And so we have, he enlightens every man coming, by faith, into this world, i.e., this spiritual world, that is, the Church, which has been enlightened by the light of grace.
Chrysostom explains it another way. He takes “world” under the aspect of creation. Then the sense is: He enlightens, i.e., the Word does, in so far as it depends on him, because he fails no one, but rather “wants all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4); every man coming, i.e., who is born into this sensible world. If anyone is not enlightened, it is due to himself, because he turns from the light that enlightens.
Augustine explains it a third way. For him, “every” has a restricted application, so that the sense is: He enlightens every man coming into this world, not every man universally, but every man who is enlightened, since no one is enlightened except by the Word. According to Augustine, the Evangelist says, coming into this world, in order to give the reason why man needs to be enlightened, and he is taking “world” from the point of view of its perversity and defect. It is as though he were saying: Man needs to be enlightened because he is coming into this world which is darkened by perversity and defects and is full of ignorance. (This followed the spiritual world of the first man.) As Luke says (1:79), “To enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
131 The above statement refutes the error of the Manichaeans, who think than men were created in the world from an opposing principle, i.e., the devil. For if man were a creature of the devil when coming into this world, he would not be enlightened by God or by the Word, for “Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8).
132 So it is clear, from the efficacy of the divine Word, that the lack of knowledge in men is not due to the Word, because he is effective in enlightening all, being the true light, which enlightens every man coming into this world.
But so you do not suppose this lack arose from the withdrawal or absence of the true light, the Evangelist rules this out adding, He was in the world. A comparable statement is found in “He is not far from any one of us,” that is, God, “for in him we live, and move, and are” (Acts 17:28). It is as though the Evangelist were saying: The divine Word is effective and is at hand in order to enlighten us.
133 We should remark that something is said to be “in the world” in three ways. In one way, by being contained, as a thing in place exists in a place: “They are in the world” (below 17:11). In another way, as a part in a whole; for a part of the world is said to be in the world even though it is not in a place. For example, supernatural substances, although not in the world as in a place, are nevertheless in it as parts: “God ... who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are in them” (Ps 145:6). But the true light was not in the world in either of these ways, because that light is neither localized nor is it a part of the universe. Indeed, if we can speak this way, the entire universe is in a certain sense a part, since it participates in a partial way in his goodness.
Accordingly, the true light was in the world in a third way, i.e., as an efficient and preserving cause: “I fill heaven and earth” as said in Jeremiah (23:24). However, there is a difference between the way the Word acts and causes all things and the way in which other agents act. For other agents act as existing externally: since they do not act except by moving and altering a thing qualitatively in some way with respect to its exterior, they work from without. But God acts in all things from within, because he acts by creating. Now to create is to give existence (esse) to the thing created. So, since esse is innermost in each thing, God, who by acting gives esse acts in things from within. Hence God was in the world as one giving esse to the world.
134 It is customary to say that God is in all things by his essence, presence and power. To understand what this means, we should know that someone is said to be by his power in all the things that are subject to his power; as a king is said to be in the entire kingdom subject to him, by his power. He is not there, however, by presence or essence., Someone is said to be by presence in all the things that are within his range of vision; as a king is said to be in his house by presence. And someone is said to be by essence in those things in which his substance is; as a king is in one determinate place.
Now we say that God is everywhere by his power, since all things are subject to his power: “If I ascend into heaven, you are there.... If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the furthest part of the sea, even there your hand will lead me, and your right hand will hold me” (Ps 138:8). He is also everywhere by his presence, because “all things are bare and open to his eyes,” as is said in Hebrews (4:13). He is present everywhere by his essence, be cause his essence is innermost in all things. For every agent, as acting, has to be immediately joined to its effect, because mover and moved must be together. Now God is the maker and preserver of all things with respect to the esse of each. Hence, since the esse of a thing is innermost in that thing, it is plain that God, by his essence, through which he creates all things, is in all things.
135 It should be noted that the Evangelist significantly uses the word “was,” when he says, He was in the world, showing that from the beginning of creation he was always in the world, causing and preserving all things; because if God for even a moment were to withhold his power from the things he established, all would return to nothing and cease to be. Hence Origen uses an apt example to show this, when he says that as a human vocal sound is to a human word conceived in the mind, so is, the creature to the divine Word; for as our vocal sound is the effect of the word conceived in our mind, so the creature is the effect of the Word conceived in the divine mind. “For he spoke, and they were created” (Ps 148:5). Hence, just as we notice that as soon as our inner word vanishes, the sensible vocal sound also ceases, so, if the power of the divine Word were withdrawn from things, all of them would immediately cease to be at that moment. And this is because he is “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb 1:3).
136 So it is plain that a lack of divine knowledge in minds is not due to the absence of the Word, because He was in the world; nor is it due to the invisibility or concealment of the Word, because he has produced a work in which his likeness is clearly reflected, that is, the world: “For from the greatness and beauty of creatures, their creator can be seen accordingly” (Wis 13:5), and “The invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made” (Rom 1:20). And so the Evangelist at once adds, and through him the world was made, in order that that light might be manifested in it. For as a work of art manifests the art of the artisan, so the whole world is nothing else than a certain representation of the divine wisdom conceived within the mind of the Father, “He poured her [wisdom] out upon all his works,” as is said in Sirach (1:10).
Now it is clear that the lack of divine knowledge is not due to the Word, because he is efficacious, being the true light; and he is at hand, since he was in the world; and he is knowable, since through him the world was made.
137 The Evangelist indicates the source of this lack when he says, and the world did not know him. As if to say: It is not due to him, but to the world, who did not know him.
He says him in the singular, because earlier he had called the Word not only the “light of men,” but also “God”; and so when he says him, he means God. Again, he uses “world” for man. For the angels knew him by their understanding, and the elements by their obeying him; but the world, i.e., man, who lives in the world, did not know him.
138 We attribute this lack of divine knowledge either to the nature of man or to his guilt. To his nature, indeed, because although all the aforesaid aids were given to man to lead him to the knowledge of God, human reason in itself lacks this knowledge. “Man beholds him from afar” (Jb 36:25), and immediately after, “God is great beyond our knowledge.” But if some have known him, this was not insofar as they were in the world, but above the world; and the kind for whom the world was not worthy, because the world did not know him. Hence if they mentally perceived anything eternal, that was insofar as they were not of this world.
But if this lack is attributed to man’s guilt, then the phrase, the world did not know him, is a kind of reason why God was not known by man; in this sense world is taken for inordinate lovers of the world. It is as though it said, The world did not know him, because they were lovers of the world. For the love of the world, as Augustine says, is what chiefly withdraws us from the knowledge of God, because “Love of the world makes one an enemy to God” (Jas 4:4); “The sensual man does not perceive the things that pertain to the Spirit of God” ( 1 Cor 2:14).
139 From this we call answer the question of the Gentiles who futilely ask this: If it is only recently that the Son of God is set before the world as the Savior of men, does it not seem that before that time he scorned human nature? We should say to them that he did not scorn the world but was always in the world, and on his part is knowable by men; but it was due to their own fault that some have not known him, because they were lovers of the world.
140 We should also note that the Evangelist speaks of the incarnation of the Word to show that the incarnate Word and that which “was in the beginning with God,” and God, are the same. He repeats what he had said of him earlier. For above he had said he [the Word] “was the light of men”; here he says he was the true light. Above, he said that “all things were made through him”; here he says that through him the world was made. Earlier he had said, “without him nothing was made,” i.e., according to one explanation, he conserves all things; here he says, he was in the world, creating and conserving the world and all things. There he had said, “the darkness did not overcome it”; here he says, the world did not know him. And so, all he says after he was the true light, is an explanation of what he had said before.
141 We can gather three reasons from the above why God willed to become incarnate. One is because of the perversity of human nature which, because of its own malice, had been darkened by vices and the obscurity of its own ignorance. And so he said before, the darkness did not overcome it. Therefore, God came in the flesh so that the darkness might apprehend the light, i.e., obtain a knowledge of it. “The people who walked in darkness saw a great light” (Is 9:2).
The second reason is that the testimony of the prophets was not enough. For the prophets came and John had come; but they were not able to give sufficient enlightenment, because he was not the light. And so, after the prophecies of the prophets and the coming of John, it was necessary that the light itself come and give the world a knowledge of itself. And this is what the Apostle says: “In past times, God spoke in many ways and degrees to our fathers through the prophets; in these days he has spoken to us in his Son” as we find in Hebrews (1:1). “We have the prophetic message, to which you do well to give attention, until the day dawns” (2 Pt 1:19).
The third reason is because of the shortcomings of creatures. For creatures were not sufficient to lead to a knowledge of the Creator; hence he says, through him the world was made, and the world did not know him. Thus it was necessary that the Creator himself come into the world in the flesh, and be known through himself. And this is what the Apostle says: “Since in the wisdom of God the world did not know God by its wisdom, it pleased God to save those who believe by the foolishness of our preaching” (1 Cor 1:21).
11 He came unto his own, and his own did not receive him;
12 but whoever received him, he gave them power to become
the sons of God, to all who believe in his name,
13 who are born not from blood, nor from the desires of the flesh,
nor from man’s willing it, but from God.
142 Having given the necessity for the incarnation of the Word, the Evangelist then shows the advantage men gained from that incarnation. First, he shows the coming of the light (v 11); secondly, its reception by men (v 11b); thirdly, the fruit brought by the coming of the light (v 12).
143 He shows that the light which was present in the world and evident, i.e., disclosed by its effect, was nevertheless not known by the world. Hence, he came unto his own, in order to be known. The Evangelist says, unto his own, i.e., to things that were his own, which he had made. And he says this so that you do not think that when he says, he came, he means a local motion in the sense that he came as though ceasing to be where he previously was and newly beginning to be where he formerly had not been. He came where he already was. “I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world,” as said below ( 16:2 8).
He came, I say, unto his own, i.e., to Judea, according to some, because it was in a special way his own. “In Judea God is known” (Ps 75:1); “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel” (Is 5:7). But it is better to say, unto his own, i.e., into the world created by him. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Ps 23:1).
144 But if he was previously in the world, how could he come into the world? I answer that “coming to some place” is understood in two ways. First, that someone comes where he absolutely had not been before. Or, secondly, that someone begins to be in a new way where he was before. For example, a king, who up to a certain time was in a city of his kingdom by his power and later visits it in person, is said to have come where he previously was: for he comes by his substance where previously he was present only by his power. It was in this way that the Son of God came into the world and yet was in the world. For he was there, indeed, by his essence, power and presence, but he came by assuming flesh. He was there invisibly, and he came in order to be visible.
145 Then when he says, and his own did not receive him, we have the reception given him by men, who reacted in different ways. For some did receive him, but these were not his own; hence he says, his own did not receive him. “His own” are men, because they were formed by him. “The Lord God formed man” (Gn 2:7); “Know that the Lord is God: he made us” (Ps 99:3). And he made them to his own image, “Let us make man to our image” (Gn 1:26).
But it is better to say, his own, i.e., the Jews, did not receive him, through faith by believing, and by showing honor to him. “I have come in the name of my Father, and you do not receive me” (below 5:43), and “I honor my Father and you have dishonored me” (below 8:49). Now the Jews are his own because they were chosen by him to be his special people. “The Lord chose you to be his special people” (Dt 26:18). They are his own because related according to the flesh, “from whom is Christ, according to the flesh,” as said in Romans (9:3). They are also his own because enriched by his kindness, “I have reared and brought up sons” (Is 1:2). But although the Jews were his own, they did not receive him.
146 However, there were not lacking those who did receive him. Hence he adds, but whoever received him. The Evangelist uses this manner of speaking, saying, but whoever, to indicate that the deliverance would be more extensive than the promise, which had been made only to his own, i.e., to the Jews. “The Lord is our law giver, the Lord is our king; he will save us” (Is 33:22). But this deliverance was not only for his own, but for whoever received him, i.e., whoever believe in him. “For I say that Christ was a minister to the circumcised, for the sake of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the fathers” (Rom 15:8). The Gentiles, however, [are delivered] by his mercy, because they were received through his mercy.
147 He says, whoever, to show that God’s grace is given without distinction to all who receive Christ. “The grace of the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon the Gentiles”(Acts 10:45). And not only to free men, but to slaves as well; not only to men, but to women also. “In Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female, Jew or Greek, the circumcised or uncircumcised” (Gal 3:28).
148 Then when he says, he gave them power to become the sons of God, we have the fruit of his coming. First, he mentions the grandeur of the fruit, for he gave them power. Secondly, he shows to whom it is given, to all who believe. Thirdly, he indicates the way it is given, not from blood, and so forth.
149 The fruit of the coming of the Son of God is great, because by it men are made sons of God. “God sent his Son made from a woman ... so that we might receive our adoption as sons” (Gal 4:5). And it was fitting that we, who. are sons of God by the fact that we are made like the Son, should be reformed through the Son.
150 So he says, he gave them power to become the sons of God. To understand this we should remark that men become sons of God by being made like God. Hence men are sons of God according to a threefold likeness to God. First, by the infusion of grace; hence anyone having sanctifying grace is made a son of God. “You did not receive the spirit of slavery ... but the spirit of adoption as sons,” as said in Romans (8:15). “Because you are sons of God, God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts” (Gal 4:6).
Secondly, we are like God by the perfection of our actions, because one who acts justly is a son: “Love your enemies ... so that you may be the children of your Father” (Mt 5:44).
Thirdly, we are made like God by the attainment of glory. The glory of the soul by the light of glory, “When he appears we shall be like him” (1 Jn 3:2); and the glory of the body, “He will reform our lowly body” (Phil 3:21). Of these two it is said in Romans (8:23), “We are waiting for our adoption as sons of God.”
151 If we take the power to become the sons of God as referring to the perfection of our actions and the attainment of glory, the statement offers no difficulty. For then when he says, he gave them power, he is referring to the power of grace; and when a man possesses this, he can perform works of perfection and attain glory, since “The grace of God is eternal life” (Rom 6:23). According to this way we have, he gave them, to those who received him, power, i.e., the infusion of grace, to become the sons of God, by acting well and acquiring glory.
152 But if this statement refers to the infusion of grace, then his saying, he gave them power, gives rise to a difficulty. And this is because it is not in our power to be made sons of God, since it is not in our power to possess grace. We can understand, he gave them power, as a power of nature; but this does not seem to be true since the infusion of grace is above our nature. Or we can understand it as the power of grace, and then to have grace is to have power to become the sons of God. And in this sense he did not give them power to become sons of God, but to be sons of God.
153 The answer to this is that when grace is given to an adult, his justification requires an act of consent by a movement of his free will. So, because it is in the power of men to consent and not to consent, he gave them power. However, he gives this power of accepting grace in two ways: by preparing it, and by offering it to him. For just as one who writes a book and offers it to a man to read is said to give the power to read it, so Christ, through whom grace was produced (as will be said below), and who “accomplished salvation on the earth” (Ps 73:12), gave us power to become the sons of God by offering grace.
154 Yet this is not sufficient since even free will, if it is to be moved to receive grace, needs the help of divine grace, not indeed habitual grace, but movent grace. For this reason, secondly, he gives power by moving the free will of man to consent to the reception of grace, as in “Convert us to yourself, 0 Lord,” by moving our will to your love, “and we will be converted” (Lam 5:21). And in this sense we speak of an interior call, of which it is said, “Those whom he called,” by inwardly moving the will to consent to grace, “he justified,” by infusing grace (Rom 8:3).
155 Since by this grace man has the power of maintaining himself in the divine sonship, one may read these words in another way. He gave them, i.e., those who receive him, power to become the sons of God, i.e., the grace by which they are able to be maintained in the divine sonship. “Everyone who is born from God does not sin, but the grace of God,” through which we are reborn as children of God, “preserves him” (1 Jn 5:18).
156 Thus, he gave them power to become the sons of God, through sanctifying grace, through the perfection of their actions, and through the attainment of glory; and he did this by preparing this grace, moving their wills, and preserving this grace.
157 Then when he says, to all who believe in his name, he shows those on whom the fruit of his coming is conferred. We can understand this in two ways: either as explaining what was said before, or as qualifying it. We can regard it as explaining as the Evangelist had said, whoever received him, and now to show what it is to receive him, he adds by way of explanation, who believe in his name. It is as though he were saying: To receive him is to believe in him, because it is through faith that Christ dwells in your hearts, as in “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3:17). Therefore, they received him, who believe in his name.
158 Origen regards this as a qualifying statement, in his homily, “The spiritual voice.” In this sense, many receive Christ, declaring that they are Christians, but they are not sons of God, because they do not truly believe in his name; for they propose false dogmas about Christ by taking away something from his divinity or humanity, as in “Every spirit that denies Christ is not from God” (1 Jn 4:3). And so the Evangelist says, as though contracting his meaning, he gave them, i.e., those who receive him by faith, power to become the sons of God, to those, however, who believe in his name, i.e., who keep the name of Christ whole, in such a way as not to lessen anything of the divinity or humanity of Christ.
159 We can also refer this to formed faith, in the sense that to all, that is, he gave power to become the sons of God, who believe in his name, i.e., those who do the works of salvation through a faith formed by charity. For those who have only an unformed faith do not believe in his name because they do not work unto salvation.
However, the first exposition, which is taken as explaining what preceded, is better.
160 Then when he says, who are born not from blood, he shows the way in which so great a fruit is conferred on men. For since he had said that the fruit of the light’s coming is the power given to men to become the sons of God, then to forestall the supposition that they are born through a material generation he says, not from blood. And although the word “blood” (sanguis) has no plural in Latin, but does in Greek, the translator [from Greek into Latin] ignored a rule of grammar in order to teach the truth more perfectly. So he does not say, “from blood,” in the Latin manner, but “from bloods” (ex sanguinibus). This indicates whatever is generated from blood, serving as the matter in carnal generation. According to the Philosopher [On the Generation of Animals, 1, c 18, 726a26-8], “semen is a residue derived from useful nourishment in its final form.” So “blood” indicates either the seed of the male or the menses of the female.
The cause moving to the carnal act is the will of those coming together, the man and the woman. For although the act of the generative power as such is not subject to the will, the preliminaries to it are subject to the will. So he says, nor from the desires of the flesh, referring to the woman; nor from man’s willing it, as from an efficient cause; but from God. It is as though he were saying: They became sons of God, not carnally, but spiritually.
According to Augustine, “flesh” is taken here for the woman, because as the flesh obeys the spirit, so woman should obey man. Adam (Gn 2:23) said of the woman, “This, at last, is bone of my bones.” And note, according to Augustine, that just as the possessions of a household are wasted away if the woman rules and the man is subject, so a man is wasted away when the flesh rules the spirit. For this reason the Apostle says, “We are not debtors to the flesh, so that we should live according to the flesh” (Rom 8:12). Concerning the manner of this carnal generation, we read, “In the womb of my mother I was molded into flesh” (Wis 7:1).
161 Or, we might say that the moving force to carnal generation is twofold: the intellectual appetite on the one hand, that is, the will; and on the other hand, the sense appetite, which is concupiscence. So, to indicate the material cause he says, not from blood. To indicate the efficient cause, in respect to concupiscence, he says, nor from the desires of the flesh [ex voluntate carnis, literally, “from the will of the flesh”], even though the concupiscence of the flesh is improperly called a “will” in the sense of Galatians (5:17), “The flesh lusts against the spirit.” Finally, to indicate the intellectual appetite he says, nor from man’s willing it. So, the generation of the sons of God is not carnal but spiritual, because they were born from God. “Every one who is born from God conquers the world” (1 Jn 5:4).
162 Note, however, that this preposition de (“of,” or “from”), always signifies a material cause as well as an efficient and even a consubstantial cause. Thus we say a blacksmith makes a knife de ferro (“from” iron), and a father generates his son de seipso (“from” himself), because something of his concurs somehow in begetting. But the preposition a (“by”) always signifies a moving cause. The preposition ex (“from,” or “by”)—[in the sense of “out of” or “by reason of”]—is taken as something common, since it implies an efficient as well as a material cause, although not a consubstantial cause.
Consequently, since only the Son of God, who is the Word, is “of” (de) the substance of the Father and indeed is one substance with the Father, while the saints, who are adopted sons, are not of his substance, the Evangelist uses the preposition ex, saying of others that they are born from God (ex Deo), but of the natural Son, he says that he is born of the Father (de Patre).
163 Note also that in the light of our last exposition of carnal generation, we can discern the difference between carnal and spiritual generation. For since the former is from blood, it is carnal; but the latter, because it is not from blood, is spiritual. “What is born from flesh is itself flesh; and what is born from Spirit is itself spirit” (below 3:6). Again, because material generation is from the desires of the flesh, i.e., from concupiscence, it is unclean and begets children who are sinners: “We were by nature children of wrath” as it says in Ephesians (2:3). Again, because the former is from man’s willing it, that is, from man, it makes children of men; but the latter, because it is from God, makes children of God.
164 But if he intends to refer his statement, he gave them power, to baptism, in virtue of which we are reborn as sons of God, we can detect in his words the order of baptism: that is, the first thing required is faith, as shown in the case of catechumens, who must first be instructed about the faith so that they may believe in his name; then through baptism they are reborn, not carnally froin blood, but spiritually from God.
14a And the Word was made flesh, and made his dwelling among us.
165 Having explained the necessity for the Word’s coming in the flesh as well as the benefits this conferred, the Evangelist now shows the way he came (v 14a). He thus resumes the thread with his earlier statement, he came unto his own. As if to say: The Word of God came unto his own. But lest anyone suppose that he came by changing his location, he shows the manner in which he came, that is, by an incarnation. For he came in the manner in which he was sent by the Father, by whom he was sent, i.e., he was made flesh. “God sent his Son made from a woman” (Gal 4:4). And Augustine says about this that “He was sent in the manner in which he was made.”
According to Chrysostom, however, he is here continuing the earlier statement, he gave them power to become the sons of God. As if to say: If you wonder how he was able to give this power to men, i.e., that they become sons of God, the Evangelist answers: because the Word was made flesh, he made it possible for us to be made sons of God. “God sent his Son ... so that we might receive our adoption as sons” (Gal 4:5).
But according to Augustine, he is continuing the earlier statement, who are born from God. For since it seemed a hard saying that men be born from God, then, as though arguing in support of this and to produce belief in the existence of the Word, the Evangelist adds something which seems less seemly, namely, that the Word was made flesh. As if to say: Do not wonder if men are born from God, because the Word was made flesh, i.e., God became man.
166 It should be noted that this statement, the Word was made flesh, has been misinterpreted by some and made the occasion of error. For certain ones have presumed that the Word became flesh in the sense that he or something of him was turned into flesh, as when flour is made into bread, and air becomes fire. One of these was Eutyches, who postulated a mixture of natures in Christ, saying that in him the nature of God and of man was the same. We can clearly see that this is false because, as was said above, “the Word was God.” Now God is immutable, as is said, “I am the Lord, and I do not change” (Mal 3:6). Hence in no way can it be said that he was turned into another nature. Therefore, one must say in opposition to Eutyches, the Word was made flesh, i.e., the Word assumed flesh, but not in the sense that the Word himself is that flesh. It is as if we were to say: “The man became white,” not that he is that whiteness, but that he asstinled whiteness.
167 There were others who, although they believed that the Word was not changed into flesh but assumed it, nevertheless said that he assumed flesh without a soul; for if he had assumed flesh with a soul, the Evangelist would have said, “the Word was made flesh with a soul.” This was the error of Arius, who said that there was no soul in Christ, but that the Word of God was there in place of a soul.
The falsity of this opinion is obvious, both because it is in conflict with Sacred Scripture, which often mentions the soul of Christ, as: “My soul is sad, even to the point of death” (Mt 26:38), and because certain affections of the soul are observed in Christ which can not possibly exist in the Word of God or in flesh alone: “He began to be sorrowful and troubled” (Mt 26:37). Also, God cannot be the form of a body. Nor can an angel be united to a body as its form, since an angel, according to its very nature, is separated from body, whereas a soul is united to a body as its form. Consequently, the Word of God cannot be the form of a body.
Furthermore, it is plain that flesh does not acquire the specific nature of flesh except through its soul. This is shown by the fact that when the soul has withdrawn from the body of a man or a cow, the flesh of the man or the cow is called flesh only in an equivocal sense. So if the Word did not assume flesh with a soul, it is obvious that he did not assume flesh. But the Word was made flesh; therefore, he assumed flesh with a soul.
168 And there were others who, influenced by this, said that the Word did indeed assume flesh with a soul, but this soul was only a sensitive soul, not an intellectual one; the Word took the place of the intellectual soul in Christ’s body. This was the error of Apollinaris. He followed Arius for a time, but later in the face of the [scriptural] authorities cited above, was forced to admit a soul in Christ which could be the subject of these emotions. But he said this soul lacked reason and intellect, and that in the man Christ their place was taken by the Word.
This too is obviously false, because it conflicts with the authority of Sacred Scripture in which certain things are said of Christ that cannot be found in his divinity, nor in a sensitive soul, nor in flesh alone; for example, that Christ marvelled, as in Matthew (8:10). For to marvel or wonder is a state which arises in a rational and intellectual soul when a desire arises to know the hidden cause of an observed effect. Therefore, just as sadness compels one to place a sensitive element in the soul of Christ, against Arius, so marvelling or amazement forces one to admit, against Apollinaris, an intellectual element in Christ.
The same conclusion can be reached by reason. For as there is no flesh without a soul, so there is no human flesh without a human soul, which is an intellectual soul. So if the Word assumed flesh which was animated with a merely sensitive soul to the exclusion of a rational soul, he did not assume human flesh; consequently, one could not say: “God became man.”
Besides, the Word assumed human nature in order to repair it. Therefore, he repaired what he assumed. But if he did not assume a rational soul, he would not have repaired it. Consequently, no fruit would have accrued to us from the incarnation of the Word; and this is false. Therefore, the Word was made flesh, i.e., assumed flesh which was animated by a rational soul.
169 But you may say: If the Word did assume flesh with such a soul, why did the Evangelist not mention “rational soul,” instead of only “flesh,” saying, the Word was made flesh? I answer that the Evangelist had four reasons for doing this.
First, to show the truth of the incarnation against the Manichaeans, who said that the Word did not assume true flesh, but only imaginary flesh, since it would not have been becoming for the Word of the good God to assume flesh, which they regarded as a creature of the devil. And so to exclude this the Evangelist made special mention of the flesh, just as Christ showed the truth of the resurrection to the disciples when they took him for a spirit, saying: “A spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have” (Lk 24:39).
Secondly, to show the greatness of God’s kindness to us. For it is evident that the rational soul has a greater conformity to God than does flesh, and that it would have been a great sign of compassion if the Word had assumed a human soul, as being conformed to himself. But to assume flesh too, which is something far removed from the simplicity of his nature, was a sign of a much greater, indeed, of an incomprehensible compassion. As the Apostle says (1 Tim 3:16): “Obviously great is the mystery of godliness which appeared in the flesh.” And so to indicate this, the Evangelist mentioned only flesh.
Thirdly, to demonstrate the truth and uniqueness of the union in Christ. For God is indeed united to other holy men, but only with respect to their soul; so it is said: “She [wisdom] passes into holy souls, making them friends of God and prophets” (Wis 7:27). But that the Word of God is united to flesh is unique to Christ, according to the Psalmist: “I am alone until I pass” (Ps 140:10). “Gold cannot equal it” (Jb 28:17). So the Evangelist, wishing to show the uniqueness of the union in Christ, mentioned only the flesh, saying, the Word was made flesh.
Fourthly, to suggest its relevance to man’s restoration For man was weak because of the flesh. And thus the Evangelist, wishing to suggest that the coming of’ the Word was suited to the task of our restoration, made special mention of the flesh in order to show that the weak flesh was repaired by the flesh of the Word. And this is what the Apostle says: “The law was powerless because it was weakened by the flesh. God, sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and in reparation for sin, condemned sin in his flesh” (Rom 83).
170 A question arises as to why the Evangelist did not say that the Word assumed flesh, but rather that the Word was made flesh. I answer that he did this to exclude the error of Nestorius. He said that in Christ there were two persons and two sons, [one being the Son of God] the other being the son of the Virgin. Thus he did not admit that the Blessed Virgin was the mother of God.
But if this were so, it would mean that God did not become man, for one particular suppositum cannot be predicated of another. Accordingly, if the person or suppositum of the Word is different than the person or suppositum of the man, in Christ, then what the Evangelist says is not true, namely, the Word was made flesh. For a thing is made or becomes something in order to be it; if, then, the Word is not man, it could not be said that the Word became man. And so the Evangelist expressly said was made, and not “assumed,” to show that the union of the Word to flesh is not such as was the “lifting up” of the prophets, who were not “taken up” into a unity of person, but for the prophetic act. This union is such as would truly make God man and man God, i.e., that God would be man.
171 There were some, too, who, misunderstanding the manner of the incarnation, did indeed admit that the aforesaid assumption was terminated at a oneness of person, acknowledging in God one person of God and man. But they said that in him there were two hypostases, i.e., two supposita; one of a human nature, created and non-eternal, ‘and the other of the divine nature, non-created and eternal. This is the first opinion presented in the Sentences (III, d6).
According to this opinion the proposition, “God was made man and man was made God,” is not true. Consequently, this opinion was condemned as heretical by the Fifth Council, where it is said: “If anyone shall assert one person and two hypostases in the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.” And so the Evangelist, to exclude any assumption not terminated at a oneness of person, says, was made.
172 If you ask how the Word is man, it must be said that he is man in the way that anyone is, man, namely, as having human nature. Not that the Word is human nature itself, but he is a divine suppositum united to a human nature. The statement, the Word was made flesh, does not indicate any change in the Word, but only in the nature newly assumed into the oneness of a divine person. And the Word was made flesh through a union to flesh. Now a union is a relation. And relations newly said of God with respect to creatures do not imply a change on the side of God, but on the side of the creature relating in a new way to God.
173 Now follows, and made his dwelling among us. This is distinguished in two ways from what went before. The first consists in stating that above the Evangelist dealt with the incarnation of the Word when he said, the Word was made flesh; but now he touches on the manner of the incarnation, saying, and made his dwelling among us. For according to Chrysostom and Hilary, by the Evangelist saying the Word was made flesh, someone might think that he was converted into flesh and that there are not two distinct natures in Christ, but only one nature compounded from the human and divine natures. And so the Evangelist, excluding this, added, and made his dwelling among us, i.e., in our nature, yet so as to remain distinct in his own. For what is converted into something does not remain distinct in its nature from that into which it is converted.
Furthermore, something which is not distinct from another does not dwell in it, because to dwell implies a distinction between the dweller and that in which it dwells. But the Word dwelt in our nature; therefore, he is distinct in nature from it. And so, inasmuch as human nature was distinct from the nature of the Word in Christ, the former is called the dwelling place and temple of the divinity, according to John (2:21): “But he spoke of the temple of his body.”
174 Now although what is said here by these holy men is orthodox, care must be taken to avoid the reproach which some receive for this. For the early doctors and saints were so intent upon refuting the emerging errors concerning the faith that they seemed meanwhile to fall into the opposite ones. For example, Augustine, speaking against the Manichaeans, who destroyed the freedom of the will, disputed in such terms that he seemed to have fallen into the heresy of Pelagius. Along these lines, John the Evangelist added, and made his dwelling among us, so that we would not think there was a mingling or transformation of natures in Christ because he had said, the Word was made flesh.
Nestorius misunderstood this phrase, and made his dwelling among us, and said that the Son of God was united to man in such a way that there was not one person of God and of man. For he held that the Word was united to human nature only by an indwelling through grace. From this, however, it follows that the Son of God is not man.
175 To clarify this we should know that we can consider two things in Christ: his nature and person. In Christ there is a distinction in nature, but not in person, which is one and the same in the two natures, since the human nature in Christ was assumed into a oneness of person. Therefore, the indwelling which the saints speak of must be referred to the nature, so as to say, he made his dwelling among us, i.e., the nature of the Word inhabited our nature; not according to the hypostasis or person, which is the same for both natures in Christ.
176 The blasphemy of Nestorius is further refuted by the authority of Sacred Scripture. For the Apostle calls the union of God and man an emptying, saying of the Son of God: “He, being in the form of God ... emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:6). Clearly, God is not said to empty himself insofar as he dwells in the rational creature by grace, because then the Father and the Holy Spirit would be emptying themselves, since they too are said to dwell in man through grace: for Christ, speaking of himself and of the Father says, “We will come to him and make our home with him” (below 14:23); and of the Holy Spirit the Apostle says: “The Spirit of God dwells in us” (1 Cor 3:16).
Furthermore, if Christ was not God as to his person, he would have been most presumptuous to say: “I and the Father are one” (below 10:30), and “Before Abraham came to be, I am,” as is said below (8:58). Now “I” refers to the person of the speaker. And the one who was speaking was a man, who, as one with the Father, existed before Abraham.
177 However, another connection [besides that given in 173] with what went before is possible, by saying that above he dealt with the incarnation of the Word, but that now he is treating the manner of life of the incarnate Word, saying, he made his dwelling among us, i.e., he lived on familiar terms with us apostles. Peter alludes to this when he says, “During all the time that the Lord Jesus came and went among us” (Acts 1:21). “Afterwards, he was seen on earth” (Bar 3:38).
178 The Evangelist added this for two reasons. First, to show the marvelous likeness of the Word to men, among whom he lived in such a way as to seem one of them. For he not only willed to be like men in nature, but also in living with them on close terms without sin, in order to draw to himself men won over by the charm of his way of life.
Secondly, to show the truthfulness of his [the Evangelist’s] statements. For the Evangelist had already said many great things about the Word, and was yet to mention more wonderful things about him; and so that his testimony would be more credible he took as a proof of his truthfulness the fact that he had lived with Christ, saying, he made his dwelling among us. As if to say: I can well bear witness to him, because I lived on close terms with him. “We tell you ... what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes” (1 Jn 1:1); “God raised him up on the third day, and granted that he be seen, not by all the people, but by witnesses preordained by God,” that is, “to us who ate and drank with him” (Acts 10:40).
l4b And we have seen his glory,
the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
179 Having set forth the incarnation of the Word, the Evangelist then begins to give the evidence for the incarnate Word. He does two things about this. First, he shows the ways in which the incarnate Word was made known. Secondly, he clarifies each way, below (1:16). Now the incarnate Word was made known to the apostles in two ways: first of all, they obtained knowledge of him by what they saw; secondly, by what they heard of the testimony of John the Baptist. So first, he states what they saw about the Word; secondly, what they heard from John (v 15).
He states three things about the Word. First, the manifestation of his glory; hence he says, we have seen his glory. Secondly, the uniqueness of his glory, when he adds, as of the Only Begotten. Thirdly, the precise nature of this glory, because full of grace and truth.
180 And we have seen his glory, can be connected in three ways with what went before. First, it can be taken as an argument for his having said, the Word was made flesh. As if to say: I hold and know that the Word of God was incarnate because I and the other apostles have seen his glory. “We know of what we speak, and we bear witness of what we see” (below 3:11). “We tell you ... what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes” (1 Jn 1:1).
181 Secondly, according to Chrysostom, the connection is made by taking this statement as expressing many benefits. As if to say: The incarnation of the Word not only conferred on us the benefit of becoming sons of God, but also the good of seeing his glory. For dull and feeble eyes cannot see the light of the sun; but they can see it when it shines in a cloud or on some opaque body. Now before the incarnation of the Word, human minds were incapable of seeing the divine light in itself, the light which enlightens every rational nature. And so, in order that it might be more easily seen and contemplated by us, he covered it with the cloud of our flesh: “They looked towards the desert, and saw the glory of the Lord in a cloud” (Ex 16:10), i.e., the Word of God in the flesh.
182 According to Augustine, however, the connection refers to the gift of grace. For the failure of the spiritual eyes of men to contemplate the divine light is due not only to their natural limitations but also to the defects incurred by sin: “Fire,” that is, of concupiscence, “fell on them, and they did not see the sun,” of justice (Ps 57:9). Hence in order that the divine light might be seen by us, he healed our eyes, making an eye salve of his flesh, so that with the salve of his flesh the Word might heal our eyes, weakened by the concupiscence of the flesh. And this is why just after saying, the Word was made flesh, he says, we have seen his glory. To indicate this the Lord made clay from his saliva and spread the clay upon the eyes of the man born blind (below 9:6). For clay is from the earth, but saliva comes from the head. Similarly, in the person of Christ, his human nature was assumed from the earth; but the incarnate Word is from the head, i.e., from God the Father. So, when this clay was spread on the eyes of men, we saw his glory.
183 This is the glory of the Word Moses longed to see, saying, “Show me your glory” (Ex 32:18). But he did not deserve to see it; indeed, he was answered by the Lord: “You shall see my back” (Ex 33:23), i.e., shadows and figures. But the apostles saw his brightness: “All of us, gazing on the Lord’s glory with unveiled faces, are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Cor 3:18). For Moses and the other prophets saw in an obscure manner and in figures the glory of the Word that was to be manifested to the world at the end of their times; hence the Apostle says: “Now we see through a mirror,,in an obscure manner, but then face to face” in 1 Corinthians (13:12); and below (12:41), “Isaiah said this when he saw his glory.” But the apostles saw the very brilliance of the Word through his bodily presence: “All of us, gazing on the Lord’s glory,” and so forth (2 Cor 3:18); “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see. For many kings and prophets desired to see what you see, and did not see it” (Lk 10:23).
184 Then when he says, the glory as of the Only Begotten, he shows the uniqueness of his glory. For since it is written of certain men that they were in glory, as of Moses it says that “his face shone” (Ex 34:29), or was “horned,” according to another text, someone might say that from the fact that they saw him [Jesus] in glory, it should not be said that the Word of God was made flesh. But the Evangelist excludes this when he says, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father. As if to say: His glory is not like the glory of an angel, or of Moses, or Elijah, or Elisha, or anything like that. but the glory as of the Only Begotten; for as it is said, “He [Jesus] was counted worthy of more glory than Moses” (Heb 3:3); “Who among the sons of God is like God?” (Ps 88:7).
185 The word as, according to Gregory, is used to express the fact. But according to Chrysostom, it expresses the manner of the fact: as if someone were to see a king approaching in great glory and being asked by another to describe the king he saw, he could, if he wanted to be brief, express the grandeur of his glory in one word, and say that he approached “as” a king, i.e., as became a king. So too, here, the Evangelist, as though asked by someone to describe the glory of the Word which he had seen, and being unable to fully express it, said that it was “as” of the Only Begotten of the Father, i.e., such as became the Only Begotten of God.
186 The uniqueness of the glory of the Word is brought out in four ways. First, in the testimony which the Father gave to the Son. For John was one of the three who had seen Christ transfigured on the mountain and heard the , voice of the Father saying: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 17:5). Of this glory it is said, “He received honor and glory from God the Father ... ‘This is my beloved Son’” (2 Pt 1:17)
Secondly, it is brought out by the service of the angels. For prior to the incarnation of Christ, men were subject to the angels. But after it, angels ministered, as subjects, to Christ. “Angels came and ministered to him” (Mt 4:11).
Thirdly, it is brought out by the submission of nature. For all nature obeyed Christ and heeded his slightest command, as something established by him, because “All things were made through him” (above 1:3). This is something granted neither to angels nor to any creature, but to the incarnate Word alone. And this is what we read, “What kind of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him?” (Mt 8:27).
Fourthly, we see it in the way he taught and acted. For Moses and the other prophets gave commands to men and taught them not on their own authority, but on the authority of God. So they said: “The Lord says this”; and “The Lord spoke to Moses.” But Christ speaks as the Lord, and as one having power, i.e., by reason of his own power. Hence he says, “I say to you” (Mt 5:22). This is the reason why, at the end of the Sermon on the Mountain, it is said that he taught as one “having authority” (Mt 7:29). Furthermore, other holy men worked miracles, but not by their own power. But Christ worked them by his own power. In these ways, then, the glory of the Word is unique.
187 Note that sometimes in Scripture we call Christ the Only Begotten, as here, and below (1 :18): “it is the Only Begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, who has made him known.” At other times we call him the First-born: “When he brings the Firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all the angels of God adore him’ “ (Heb 1:6). The reason for this is that just as it belongs to the whole Blessed Trinity to be God, so it belongs to the Word of God to be God Begotten. Sometimes, too, he is called God according to what he is in himself; and in this way he alone is uniquely God by his own essence. It is in this way that we say there is but one God: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God is one” (Dt 6:4). At times, we even apply the name of deity to others, insofar as a certain likeness of the divinity is given to men; in this sense we speak of many gods: “Indeed, there are many gods and many lords” (1 Cor 8:5).
Along these lines, if we consider what is proper to the Son as Begotten, and consider the way in which this sonship is attributed to him, that is, through nature, we say that he is the Only Begotten of God: because, since he alone is naturally begotten by the Father, the Begotten of the Father is one only. But if we consider the Son, insofar as sonship is conferred on others through a likeness to him, then there are many sons of God through participation. And because they are called sons of God by a likeness to him, he is called the First-born of all. “Those whom he foreknew, he predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the First-born of many brothers” (Rom 8:29).
So, Christ is called the Only Begotten of God by nature; but he is called the First-born insofar as from his natural sonship, by means of a certain likeness and participation, a sonship is granted to many.
188 Then when he says, full of grace and truth, he determines the glory of the Word. As if to say: His glory is such that he is full of grace and divinity. Now these words can be applied to Christ in three ways.
First, from the point of view of union. For grace is given to someone so that he might be united to God through it. So he who is most perfectly united to God is full of grace. Now some are joined to God by participating in a natural likeness: “Let us make man to our image and likeness” (Gn 1:26). Some are joined by faith: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3:17). And others are united by charity, because “He who abides in love abides in God” (1 Jn 4:16). But all these ways are partial: because one is not perfectly united to God by participating a natural likeness; nor is God seen as he is by faith; nor is he loved to the extent that he is lovable by charity—for since he is the infinite Good, his lovableness is infinite, and the love of no creature is able to love this infinitely. And so these unions are not full.
But in Christ, in whom human nature is united to the divinity in the unity of a suppositum, we find a full and perfect union with God. The reason for this is that this union was such that all the acts not only of his divine but also of his human nature were acts of the suppositum [or person]. So he was full of grace insofar he did not receive any special gratuitous gift from God, but that he should be God himself. “He gave him,” i.e., God the Father gave to the Son, “a name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9). “He was foreordained to be the Son of God in power” (Rom 1:4). He was also full of truth, because the human nature in Christ attained to the divine truth itself, that is, that this man should be the divine Truth itself. In other men we find many participated truths, insofar as the First Truth gleams back into their minds through many likenesses; but Christ is Truth itself. Thus it is said: “In whom all the treasures of wisdom are hidden” (Col 2:3).
189 Secondly, these words can be applied in relation to the perfection of his soul. Then he is said to be full of grace and truth inasmuch as in his soul there was the fulness of all graces without measure: “God does not bestow the Spirit in fractions,” as we read below (3:34). Yet it was given in fractions to all rational creatures, both angels and men. For according to Augustine, just as there is one sense common to all the parts of the body, namely, the sense of touch, while all the senses are found in the head, so in Christ, who is the head of every rational creature (and in a special way of the saints who are united to him by faith and charity), all virtues and graces and gifts are found superabundantly; but in others, i.e., the saints, we find participations of the graces and gifts, although there is a gift common to all the saints, and that is charity. We read about this fulness of Christ’s grace: “There shall come forth a shoot out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall spring up out of his root. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of piety” (Is 11:1).
Further, Christ was also full of truth because his precious and h1essed soul knew every truth, human and divine, from the instant of his conception. And so Peter said to him, “You know all things” (below 21:17). And the Psalm (88:25) says: “My truth,” i.e., the knowledge of every truth, “and my mercy,” i.e., the fulness of all graces, “shall be with him.”
190 In a third way these words can be explained in relation to his dignity as head, i.e., inasmuch as Christ is the head of the Church. In this way it is his prerogative to communicate grace to others, both by producing virtue in the minds of men through the inpouring of grace and by meriting, through his teaching and works and the sufferings of his death, superabundant grace for an infinite number of worlds, if there were such. Therefore, he is full of grace insofar as he conferred perfect justice upon us. We could not acquire this perfect justice through the law, which was infirm and could make no one just or bring anyone to perfection. As we read: “The law was powerless because it was weakened by the flesh. God, sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and in reparation for sin, condemned sin in his flesh” (Rom 8:3).
Again, he was full of truth insofar as he fulfilled the figures of the Old Law and the promises made to the fathers. “Christ was a minister to the circumcised to confirm the promises made to the fathers” (Rom 15:8); “All the promises of God are fulfilled in him” (2 Cor 1:20).
Further, he is said to be full of grace because his teaching and manner of life were most gracious. “Grace is poured out upon your lips” (Ps 44:3). And so it is said, “All the people came to him early in the morning,” i.e., in the morning they were eager to come (Lk 21:38). He was full of truth, because he did not teach in enigmas and figures, nor gloss over the vices of men, but preached the truth to all, openly and without deception. As it says below: “Now you are speaking plainly” (16:29).
15 John bore witness to him, and he cried out saying:
“This is the one of whom I said:
‘He who comes after me, ranks ahead of me,
because he existed before me.’”
191 Having given the evidence by which the Word was made known to the apostles by sight, the Evangelist then presents the evidence by which the Word was made known to persons other than the apostles by their hearing the testimony of John. He does three things about this. First, the witness is presented. Secondly, his manner of testifying is indicated. Thirdly, his testimony is given.
192 So he says: We indeed have seen his glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father. But we are not believed, perhaps because we are held in suspicion. So let his witness come forth, that is, John the Baptist, who bears witness to Christ. He is a faithful witness who will not lie: “A faithful witness will not lie” (Prv 14:5), “You sent [messengers] to John, and he bore witness to the truth” (below 5:33). John gives his testimony here and fulfills his office with perseverance because he came as a witness. As Proverbs (12:19) says, “Truthful lips endure forever.”
193 Then when he says, John bore witness to him, and he cried out, he describes the way he bore witness, that is, it was with a cry. So he says, he cried out, i.e., freely without fear. “Cry out in a loud voice.... Say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God” (Is 40:9). He cried out ardently and with great fervor, because it is said, “His word burned like a torch” (Si 48:1); “Seraphim cried one to another” (Is 6:3), which is expressive of a more interior eagerness of spirit. The use of a cry shows that the statements of the witness are not made to a few in figurative language or secretly, but that a truth is being declared openly and publicly, and told not to a few but to many. “Cry out, and do not stop” (Is 58:1).
194 Then he adds his testimony. And he does two things. First, he shows that his testimony was continuous. Secondly, he describes the person to whom he bore witness.
195 The testimony of the Baptist was continuous because he bore witness to him not only once but many times, and even before Christ had come to him. And so he says, This is the one of whom I said, i.e., before I saw him in the flesh I bore witness to him. “And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High” (Lk 1:76). He pointed him out both as present and when about to come. And his testimony is certain because he not only predicted that he would come, but pointed him out when he was present, saying, Look! There is the Lamb of God. This implies that Christ was physically present to John; for he had often come to John before being baptized.
196 Then he describes the one to whom he bore witness, saying, He who comes after me, ranks ahead of me. Here we should note that John does not at once preach to his disciples that Christ is the Son of God, but he draws them little by little to higher things: first, by preferring Christ to himself, even though John had such a great reputation and authority as to be considered the Christ or one of the great prophets. Now he compares Christ to himself: first, with regard to the order of their preaching; secondly, as to the order of dignity; and thirdly, as to the time of their existence.
197 With respect to the order of their preaching, John preceded Christ as a servant precedes his master, and as a soldier his king, or as the morning star the sun: “See, I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me” (Mal 3:1 ). So, He comes after me, in being known to men, through my preaching. Observe that comes is in the present tense, became in Greek the present participle is used.
Now John preceded Christ for two reasons. First, according to Chrysostom, because John was a blood relation of Christ according to the flesh: “your relative, Elizabeth” (Lk 1.36). Therefore, had he borne witness to Christ after knowing him, his testimony might have been open to question; accordingly, John came preaching before he was acquainted with Christ, in order that his testimony might have more force. Hence he says, “And I did not know him! And yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptizing with water” (below 1:31).
Secondly, John preceded Christ because in things that pass into act from potency, the imperfect is naturally prior to the perfect; hence it is said in 1 Corinthians (15:46): “The spiritual is not first, but the animal.” Accordingly, the perfect doctrine of Christ should have been preceded by the less perfect teaching of John, which was in a certain manner midway between the doctrine of the law and the prophets (which announced the coming of Christ from afar), and the doctrine of Christ, which was clear and plainly made Christ known.
198 He [John] compares him to himself with respect to dignity when he says, he ranks ahead of me [ante me factus est, literally, he “was made before me”]. It should be noted that it is from this text that the Arians took occasion for their error. For they said that “He who comes after me,” is to be understood of Christ as to the flesh he assumed, but what follows, “was made before me,” can only be understood of the Word of God, who existed before the flesh; and for this reason Christ as the Word was made, and was not coeternal with the Father.
According to Chrysostom, however, this exposition is stupid, because if it were true, the Baptist would not have said, he “was made before me, because he existed before me,” since no one is unaware that if he was before him, he was made before him. He rather would have said the opposite: “He was before me, because he was made before me.” And so, according to Chrysostom, these words should be taken as referring to his [Christ’s] dignity, that is, he was preferred to me and placed ahead of me. It is as though he said: Although Jesus came to preach after me, he was made more worthy than I both in eminence of authority and in the repute of men: “Gold will not be equal to it” (Jb 28:17). Or alternatively: he is preferred ahead of me, that is, before my eyes, as the Gloss says and as the Greek text reads. As if to say: Before my eyes, i.e., in my sight, because he came into my view and was recognized.
199 He compares him to himself with respect to their duration, saying, because he existed before me. As if to say: He was God from all eternity, I am a frail man of time. And therefore, even though I came to preach ahead of him, yet it was fitting that he rank before me in the reputation and opinion of men, because he preceded all things by his eternity: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). “Before Abraham came to be, I am,” as we read below (8:58).
If we understand this passage as saying that he “was made before me,” it can be explained as referring to the order of time according to the flesh. For in the instant of his conception Christ was perfect God and perfect man, having a rational soul perfected by the virtues, and a body possessed of all its distinctive features, except that it lacked perfect size: “A woman shall enclose a man,” i.e., a perfect man (Jer 31:22). Now it is evident that Christ was conceived as a perfect man before John was born; consequently he says that he “was made before me,” because he was a perfect man before I came forth from the womb.
16 Of his fullness we have all received—indeed, grace upon grace;
17 because, while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
200 He follows with, Of his fullness we have all received words and those that follow to (v 19), “This is the testimony of John,” are taken in two ways. According to Origen, these are the words of John the Baptist and are added by him to support what he had said previously. It is as though he said: Truly, he existed before me, because of his fullness, i.e., of his grace, not only I but all, including the prophets and patriarchs, have received, because all had the grace they possessed by faith in the incarnate Word. According to this explanation, John the Baptist began weaving the story of the incarnation at, “John bore witness to him” (v 15).
But according to Augustine and Chrysostom, the words from “John bore witness to him” (v 15), are those of John the Evangelist. And they are connected with the previous words, “full of grace and truth,” as though he were saying: Above, the Evangelist gave the evidence for the Word which was learned through sight and by hearing, but here he explains each. First, how he was made known to the apostles through sight, which was tantamount to receiving the evidence from Christ. Secondly, how John bore witness to him, at “This is the testimony of John” (v 19). As to the first he does two things. First, he shows that Christ is the origin, as a fountain, of every spiritual grace. Secondly, he shows that grace is dispensed to us through him and from him.
201 He says first of all: We know from our own experience that we have seen him full of grace and truth, because of his fullness we have all received. Now one fullness is that of sufficiency, by which one is able to perform acts that are meritorious and excellent, as in the case of Stephen. Again, there is a fullness of superabundance, by which the Blessed Virgin excels all the saints because of the eminence and abundance of her merits. Further, there is a fullness of efficiency and overflow, which belongs only to the man Christ as the author of grace. For although the Blessed Virgin superabounds her grace into us, it is never as authoress of grace. But grace flowed over from her soul into her body: for through the grace of the Holy Spirit, not only was the mind of the Virgin perfectly united to God by love, but her womb was supernaturally impregnated by the Holy Spirit. And so after Gabriel said, “Hail, full of grace,” he refers at once to the fullness of her womb, adding, “the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). And so the Evangelist, in order to show this unique fullness of efficiency and overflow in Christ, said, Of his fullness we have all received, i.e., all the apostles and patriarchs and prophets and just men who have existed, do now exist, and will exist, and even all the angels.
202 Note that the preposition de [of, from] sometimes signifies efficiency, i.e., an originative cause, as when it is said that a ray is or proceeds “from” the sun. In this way it signifies the efficiency of grace in Christ, i.e., authorship, because the fullness of grace in Christ is the cause of all graces that are in intellectual creatures. “Come to me, all you who desire me, and be filled with my fruits,” that is to say, share in the fullness of those fruits which come from me (Si 24:26).
But sometimes this preposition de signifies consubstantiality, as when it is said that the Son is “of” the Father [de Patre]. In this usage, the fullness of Christ is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from him, consubstantial with him in nature, in power and in majesty. For although the habitual gifts in the soul of Christ are other than those in us, nevertheless it is one and the same Holy Spirit who is in him and who fills all those to be sanctified. “One and the same Spirit produces all these” (1 Cor 12:11); “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” (JI 2:28); “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him” (Rom 8:9). For the unity of the Holy Spirit produces unity in the Church: “The Spirit of the Lord filled the whole world” (Wis 1:7).
In a third way, the preposition de [of, from] can signify it portion, as when we say “take ‘from’ this bread or wine [de hoc pane, vel vino],” i.e., take a portion and not the whole. Taken in this way it signifies that those who take a part derive it from the fullness. For he [Christ] received all the gifts of the Holy Spirit without measure, according to a perfect fullness; but we participate through him some portion of his fullness; and this is according to the measure which God grants to each. “Grace has been given to each of us according to the degree to which Christ gives it” (Eph 4:7).
203 Then when he says, grace upon grace, he shows the distribution of graces into us through Christ. Here he does two things. First, he shows that we receive grace from Christ, as its author. Secondly, that we receive wisdom from him (1:18). As to the first he does two things. First, he shows that we have received of his fullness. Secondly, our need to receive it.
204 First, he says that we have received of the fullness of Christ what is described as grace upon grace. In the light of what is said, we are forced to understand that of his fullness we have received grace, and that upon that grace we have received another. Accordingly, we must see what that first grace is upon which we have received a second one, and also what that second grace is.
According to Chrysostom, the first grace, which was received by the whole human race, was the grace of the Old Testament received in the law. And this was indeed a great grace: “I will give you a good gift” (Prv 4:2). For it was a great benefit for idolatrous men to receive precepts from God, and a true knowledge of the one true God. “What is the advantage of being a Jew, or the benefit of circumcision? It is great in every way. First indeed, because the words of God were entrusted to them” (Rom 3:1). Upon that grace, then, which was first, we have received a second far better. “He will follow grace with grace” (Zec 4:7).
But was not the first grace sufficient? I answer that it was not, because the law gives only a knowledge of sin, but does not take it away. “The law brought nothing to perfection” (Heb 7:19). Hence it was necessary that another grace come that would take away sin and reconcile one with God.
205 And so he says, because, while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ. Here the Evangelist ranks Christ above Moses the lawgiver, whom the Baptist ranked above himself. Now Moses was regarded as the greatest of the prophets: “There did not arise again in Israel a prophet like Moses” (Dt 34:10). But he ranks Christ above Moses in excellence Mid in dignity of’ works, because the law was given through Moses; and between these two, the One excels the other as the reality excels the symbol and the truth the shadow: “The law had a shadow of the good things to come” (Heb 10:1). Further, Christ excels him in the way he works, because the law was given by Moses as by one proclaiming it, but not originating it; for “The Lord alone is our lawgiver” (Is 33:22). But grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ, as through the Lord and Author of truth and grace, as was explained above.
206 According to Augustine, however, the first grace is justifying and prevenient grace, which is not given to us because of our works: “If it is by grace, it is not now by works” (Rom 11:6). Upon that grace, then, which is imperfect, we have received another grace which is perfect, i.e., the grace of eternal life. And although eternal life is in some way acquired by merits, nevertheless, because the principle of meriting in everyone is prevenient grace, eternal life is called a grace: “The grace of God is eternal life” (Rom 6:23). To be brief, whatever grace is added to prevenient grace, the whole is called grace upon grace.
The need for this second grace arises from the insufficiency of the law, which showed what was to be done and what avoided; but it gave no help to fulfill what was commanded. Indeed, what seemed to have been directed to life was the occasion for producing death. Hence the Apostle says that the law was a minister of death: “If the ministry that condemned had glory, the ministry that justifies has much more glory” (2 Cor 3:9). Also, it promised the help of grace but did not fulfill, because “The law brought nothing to perfection” (Heb 7:19). Again, it prefigured the truth of the new grace by its sacrifices and ceremonies; indeed, its very rites proclaimed that it was a figure. Hence is was necessary that Christ come, who by his own death would destroy other deaths and grant the help of new grace, in order that we might both fulfill his precepts with ease and joy, and die to our sins and our old way of life: “Our old self was crucified with him” (Rom 6:6), and in order that the truth of the figures contained in the law might be revealed and the promises made to the fathers be fulfilled.
This can be explained in another way: truth has come through Jesus Christ, as to the wisdom and truth which was hidden for centuries, and which he openly taught when he came into the world: “I came into the world for this, to testify to the truth,” as we read below (18:37).
207 But if Christ is the Truth, as it says below (14:6), how did truth come [i.e., come to be, be made] through him, because nothing can make itself? I answer that by his essence he is the uncreated Truth, which is eternal and not made, but is begotten of the Father; but all created truths were made through him, and these are certain participations and reflections of the first Truth, which shines out in those souls who are holy.
18 No one has ever seen God;
it is the Only Begotten Son,
who is in the bosom of the Father,
who has made him known.
208 Above, the Evangelist showed how the apostles received grace from Christ as its author; here he shows how they received it from him as a teacher. About this he does three things. First, he shows the need for this teaching. Secondly, the competency of the teacher. Thirdly, the teaching itself.
209 The need for this teaching arose from the lack of wisdom among men, which the Evangelist implies by alluding to the ignorance concerning God which prevailed among men, saying: No one has ever seen God. And he does this fittingly, for wisdom consists properly in the knowledge of God and of divine things. Hence Augustine says that wisdom is the knowledge of divine things, as science is the knowledge of human things.
2 10 But this statement of the Evangelist, No one has ever seen God, seems to contradict many passages of divine Scripture. For it is said in Isaiah (6:1): “I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne.” And about the same is found in 2 Samuel (6:2). Again in Matthew (5:8), the Lord says: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”If someone were to answer this last statement by saying that it is true that in the past no one has seen God, but will see him in the future, as the Lord promises, the Apostle would exclude this, saying, “He dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16).
Because the Apostle says, “no man has seen,” someone might say that if he cannot be seen by men, then at least he can be seen by angels; especially since God says, “Their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father” (Mt 18:10). But it cannot be taken in this way either, because it is said, “The sons of the resurrection will be like the angels of God in heaven” (Mt 22:30). If, therefore, the angels see God in heaven, then it is plain that the sons of the resurrection also see him: “When he appears we shall be like him, and we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2).
211 How then are we to understand what the Evangelist says: No one has ever seen God? To understand it we must know that God is said to be seen in three ways. First, through a created substitute presented to the bodily sight; as Abraham is believed to have seen God when he saw three [men] and adored one (Gn 18). He adored one because he recognized the mystery of the Trinity in the three, whom he first thought to be men, and later believed to be angels. In a second way, through a representation in the imagination; and in this way Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne. Many visions of this sort are recorded in the Scriptures. In a third way, he is seen through an intelligible species abstracted from material things; and in this way he is seen by those who, considering the greatness of creatures, see with their intellect the greatness of the Creator, as it is said: “From the greatness and beauty of creatures, their Creator can be seen accordingly” (Wis 13:5); “The invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made,” as found in Romans (1:20). In another way, God is seen through a certain spiritual light infused by God into spiritual minds during contemplation; and this is the way Jacob saw God face to face, as it says in Genesis (32:30). According to Gregory, this vision came about through his lofty contemplation.
But the vision of the divine essence is not attained by any of the above visions: for no created species, whether it be that by which an external sense is informed, or by which the imagination is informed, or by which the intellect is informed, is representative of the divine essence as it is. Now man knows as to its essence only what the species he has in his intellect represents as it is. Therefore, the vision of the divine essence is not attained through any species.
The reason why no created species can represent the divine essence is plain: for nothing finite can represent the infinite as it is; but every created species is finite; therefore [it cannot represent the infinite as it is]. Further, God is his own esse; and therefore his wisdom and greatness and anything else are the same. But all those cannot be represented through one created thing. Therefore, the knowledge by which God is seen through creatures is not a knowledge of his essence, but a knowledge that is dark and mirrored, and from afar. “Everyone sees him,” in one of the above ways, “from afar” (Jb 36:25), because we do not know what God is by all these acts of knowing, but what he is not, or that he is. Hence Denis says, in his Mystical Theology, that the perfect way in which God is known in this present life is by taking away all creatures and every thing understood by us.
212 There have been some who said that the divine essence will never by seen by any created intellect, and that it is seen neither by the angels nor by the blessed. But this statement is shown to be false and heretical in three ways, First, because it is contrary to the authority of divine Scripture: “We shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2); “This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (below 17:3). Secondly, because the brightness of God is the same as his substance; for he does not give forth light by participating in light, but through himself. And thirdly, because it is impossible for anyone to attain perfect happiness except in the vision of the divine essence. This is because the natural desire of the intellect is to understand and know the causes of all the effects that it knows; but this desire cannot be fulfilled unless it understands and knows the first universal cause of all things, which is a cause that is not composed of cause and effect, as second causes are. Therefore, to take away the possibility of the vision of the divine essence by man is to fake away happiness itself. Therefore, in order for the created intellect to be happy, it is necessary that the divine essence be seen. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8).
213 Three things should be noted about the vision of the divine essence. First, it will never be seen with a bodily eye, either by sense or imagination, since only sensate bodily things are perceived by the senses, and God is not bodily: “God is spirit” (below 4:24). Secondly, that as long as the human intellect is in the body it cannot see God, because it is weighed down by the body so that it cannot attain the summit of contemplation. So it is that the more a soul is free of passions and is purged from affections for earthly things, the higher it rises in the contemplation of truth and tastes how sweet the Lord is. Now the highest degree of contemplation is to see God through his essence; and so as long as a man lives in a body which is necessarily subject to many passions, he cannot see God through his essence. “Man will not see me and live” (Ex 33:20). Therefore, if the human intellect is to see the divine essence it must wholly depart from the body: either by death, as the Apostle says, “We would prefer to be absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8); or by being wholly abstracted by rapture from the senses of the body, as is mentioned of Paul in 2 Corinthians (12:3).
Thirdly, no created intellect (however abstracted, either by death, or separated from the body) which does see the divine essence, can comprehend it in any way. And so it is commonly said that although the whole divine essence is seen by the blessed, since it is most simple and has no parts, yet it is not wholly seen, because this would be to comprehend it. For “wholly” implies a certain mode. But any mode of God is the divine essence. Hence one who does not see him wholly does not comprehend him. For one is properly said to comprehend a thing through knowledge when he knows that thing to the extent that it is knowable in itself; otherwise, although he may know it, he does not comprehend it. For example, one who knows this proposition, “A triangle has three angles equal to two right angles,” by a dialectical syllogism, does not know it as well as it is knowable in itself; thus he does not know it wholly. But one who knows this by a demonstrative syllogism does know it wholly. For each thing is knowable to the extent that it has being and truth; while one is a knower according to his amount of cognitive power. Now a created intellectual substance is finite; hence it knows in a finite way. And since God is infinite in power and being, and as a consequence is infinitely knowable, he cannot be known by any created intellect to the degree that he is knowable. And thus he remains incomprehensible to every created intellect. “Behold, God is great, exceeding our knowledge” (Jb 36:26). He alone contemplates himself comprehensively, because his power to know is as great as his entity in being. “O most mighty, great, powerful, your name is Lord of hosts, great in counsel, incomprehensible in thought” (Jer 32:18).
214 Using the above explanations, we can understand, No one has ever seen God. First, No one, i.e, no man, has seen God, that is, the divine essence, with the eye of the body of or the imagination. Secondly, No one, living in this mortal life, has seen the divine essence in itself. Thirdly, No one, man or angel, has seen God by a vision of comprehension. So when it is said that certain ones have seen God with their eyes or while living in the body, he is not seen through his essence, but through a creature acting as a substitute, as was said. And thus it was necessary for us to receive wisdom, because No one has ever seen God.
215 The Evangelist mentions the competent teacher of this wisdom when he adds, it is the Only Begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father. He shows the competence of this teacher in three ways: by a natural likeness, by a singular excellence, and by a most perfect consubstantiality.
216 By natural likeness, because a son is naturally like his father. Wherefore it also follows that one is called a son of God insofar as he shares in the likeness of his natural son; and one knows him insofar he has a likeness to him, since knowledge is attained through assimilation [or “likeness to”]. Hence 1 John (3:2) says, “Now we are sons of God,” and he immediately adds, “when he comes, we will be like him, and we will see him as he is.” Therefore, when the Evangelist says Son, he implies a likeness as well as all aptitude for knowing God.
217 Because this teacher knows God in a more special way than other sons do, the Evangelist suggests this by his singular excellence, saying, the Only Begotten. As if to say: He knows God more than other sons do. Hence, because he is the natural Son, having the same nature and knowledge as the Father, he is called the Only Begotten. “The Lord said to me: ‘You are my Son’” (Ps 2:7).
218 Although he may know in a unique way, he would be lacking the ability to teach if he were not to know wholly. Hence he adds a third point, namely, his consubstantiality to the Father, when he says, who is in the bosom of the Father. “Bosom” is not to be taken here as referring to men in their garments, but it indicates the secret things of the Father. For what we carry in our bosom we do in secret. The secret things of the Father refer to his unsurpassed power and knowledge, since the divine essence is infinite. Therefore, in that bosom, i.e., in the most secret things of the paternal nature and essence, which transcends all the power of the creature, is the Only Begotten Son; and so he is consubstantial with the Father.
What the Evangelist signifies by “bosom,” David expressed by “womb,” saying: “From the womb, before the daystar,” i.e., from the inmost secret things of my essence, incomprehensible to every created intellect, “I begot you” (Ps 109:3), consubstantial with me, and of the same nature and power, and virtue and knowledge. “What man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? So also, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11). Therefore, he comprehends the divine essence, which is his own.
219 But the soul of Christ, which knows God, does not comprehend him, because this is attributed only to the Only Begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father. So the Lord also says: “No one knows the Father except the Son, and any to whom the Son wishes to reveal him”(Mt 11:27); we should understand this as referring to the knowledge of comprehension, about which the Evangelist seems to be speaking here. For no one comprehends the divine essence except the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And so we have shown the competence of the teacher.
220 We should note that the phrase, who is in the bosom of the Father, rejects the error of those who say that the Father is invisible, but the Son is visible, though he was not seen in the Old Testament. For from the fact that he is among the hidden things of the Father, it is plain that he is naturally invisible, as is the Father. So it is said of him: “Truly, you are a hidden God” (Is 45:15). And so Scripture mentions the incomprehensibility of the Son: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son” (Mt 11:27), “What is the name of his son, if you know?” as we read in Proverbs (30:4)
221 Then the Evangelist indicates the way in which this teaching is handed down, saying that it is the Only Begotten Son who has made him known. For in the past, the Only Begotten Son revealed knowledge of God through the prophets, who made him known to the extent that they shared in the eternal Word. Hence they said things like, “The Word of the Lord came to me.” But now the Only Begotten Son has made him known to the faithful: “It is I who spoke; here I am” (Is 52:6); “God, who in many and varied ways, spoke to the fathers in past times through the prophets, has spoken to us in these days in his Son” (Heb 1:1).
And this teaching surpasses all other teachings in dignity, authority and usefulness, because it was handed on immediately by the Only Begotten Son, who is the first Wisdom. “It was first announced by the Lord, and confirmed to us by those who heard him” (Heb 2:3).
222 But what did he make known except the one God? And even Moses did this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God is one” (Dt 6:4). What did this add to Moses? It added the mystery of the Trinity, and many other things that neither Moses nor any of the prophets made known.
19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jeru’salem to him, to ask him: “Who are you?” 20 He declared openly, and did not deny, and stated clearly, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 And they questioned him, “Who then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he responded, “No.” 22 They therefore said to him, “Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself9" 23 He said, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I am 6 a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord’” [Is 40:3].
223 Above, the Evangelist showed how Christ was made known to the apostles through the testimony of John; here he develops this testimony more fully. First, he presents John’s testimony to the people. Secondly, the testimony he gave of Christ to his own disciples (below 1:35). If we carefully consider what was said, we discover a twofold testimony of John to Christ: one which he gave to Christ in his presence, the other in his absence. For he would not have said, “It is he” (below 1:30), unless he had given testimony in Christ’s presence; and he would not have said, “of whom I said,” unless he gave testimony to him in his absence. So first, the Evangelist develops the testimony John gave to Christ in his absence; secondly, that he gave in his presence (v 29).
Now these two testimonies differ, because the first was given when he was questioned; the other was spontaneous. So in the first instance, we are given not only his testimony, but also the questions. First, he was asked about himself; secondly, about his office (v 24). First we are shown how John stated that he was not what he really was not; secondly, that he did not deny what he was.
224 As to the first, there are three questions and three answers, as is plain from the text. In the first question there is great respect for John shown by the Jews. They had sent certain ones to him to ask about his testimony. The greatness of their respect is gathered from four facts. First, from the dignity of those who sent the questioners; for they were not sent by Galileans, but by those who were first in rank among the people of Israel, namely, Judeans, of the tribe of Juda, who lived about Jerusalem. It was from Juda that God chose the princes of the people.
Secondly, from the preeminence of the place, that is, from Jerusalem, which is the city of the priesthood, the city dedicated to divine worship: “You people claim that Jerusalem is the place where men must worship God” (below 4:20); “They will worship him with sacrifices and offerings” (Is 19:21). Thirdly, from the authority of the messengers, who were religious and from among the holier of the people, namely, priests and Levites; “You will be called the priests of the Lord” (Is 61:6).
Fourthly, from the fact that they sent them so that John might bear witness to himself, indicating that they put such trust in his words as to believe John even when giving testimony about himself. Hence he says they were sent to ask him, Who are you? They did not do this to Christ; in fact they said to him: “You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true” (below 8:13).
225 Then when he says, He declared openly, and did not deny, John’s answer is given. The Evangelist twice mentioned that John spoke forth to show his humility; for although he was held in such high esteem among the Jews that they believed he might be the Messiah, he, on his part, usurped no honor what was not due him; indeed, he stated clearly, I am not the Messiah.
226 What of’ the statement, He declared openly, and did not deny? For it seems that he did deny, because he said that he was not the Messiah. It must be answered that he did not deny the truth, for he said he was not the Messiah; otherwise he would have denied the truth. “A very great iniquity, and a denial of the most high God” (Jb 31:28). Thus he did not deny the truth, because however great he might have been considered, he did not become proud, usurping for himself the honor of another. He stated clearly, I am not the Messiah; because in truth he was not. “He was not the light,” as was said above (1:8).
227 Why did John answer, I am not the Messiah, since those who had been sent did not ask if he was the Messiah, but who he himself was? I answer that John directed his answer more to the mind of the questioners than to their question. And we can understand this in two ways. According to Origen, the priests and Levites came to John with a good intention. For they knew from the Scriptures, and particularly from the prophecy of Daniel, that the time for the coming of the Messiah had arrived. So, seeing John’s holiness, they suspected that he might be the Messiah. So they sent to John, wishing to learn by their question, Who are you? whether John would admit that he was the Messiah. And so he directs his answer to their thoughts: I am not the Messiah.
Chrysostom, however, says that they questioned him as a stratagem. For John was related to priests, being the son of a chief priest, and he was holy. Yet, he bore witness to Christ, whose family seemed lowly; for that reason they even said, “Is not this the son of the carpenter?”; and they did not know him. So, preferring to have John as their master, not Christ, they sent to him, intending to entice him by flattery and persuade him to take this honor for himself, and to state that he was the Messiah. But John, seeing their evil intent, said, I am not the Messiah.
228 The second question is stated when they ask him, Who then? Are you Elijah? Here we should note that just as the Jews awaited the Lord who was to come, so to they waited for Elijah, who would precede the Messiah: “I will send you Elijah, the prophet” (Mal 4:5). And so those who were sent, seeing that John did not say that he was the Messiah, pressed him that at least he state if he were Elijah. And this is what they ask: Who then? Are you Elijah?
229 There are certain heretics who say that souls migrate from one body to another. And this belief was current among the Jews of that time. For this reason they believed that the soul of Elijah was in John’s body, because of the similarity of John’s actions to those of Elijah. And they say that these messengers asked John whether he was Elijah, i.e., whether the soul of Elijah was in John. They support this with Christ’s statement, “He is Elijah who is to come,” as is found in Matthew (11:14). But John’s answer conflicts with their opinion, as he says, I am not. i.e., Elijah.
They counter this by saying that John answered in ignorance, not knowing whether his soul was the soul of Elijah. But Origen says in answer to this that it seems most unreasonable that John, a prophet enlightened by the Spirit, and telling such things about the Only Begotten Son of God, should be ignorant of himself, and not know whether his soul had been in Elijah.
230 So this was not the reason John was asked, Are you Elijah? Rather it was because they took it from Scripture (2 Kings 2:11) that Elijah did not die, but had been carried alive by a whirlwind into heaven. Accordingly, they believed that he had suddenly appeared among them.
But against this opinion is the fact that John was born from parents who were known, and his birth had been known to everyone. So it says in Luke (1:66) that all said, “What do you think this child will be?” One might say to this that it is not incredible that they should regard John in the manner described. For a similar situation in found in Matthew (14:1): for Herod thought that Christ was John, whom he had beheaded, even though Christ had been preaching and was known for some time before John had been beheaded. And so from a similar stupidity and madness the Jews asked John whether he was Elijah.
231 Why does John say, I am not Elijah, while Christ said, “He is Elijah” (Mt 11:14). The angel gives us the answer: “He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Lk 1:17), i.e., in his works. Thus he was not Elijah in person, but in spirit and power, i.e., because he showed a similarity to Elijah in his works.
232 This likeness can be found in three matters. First, in their office: because as Elijah will precede the second coming of Christ, so John preceded the first. Thus the angel said, “He will go before him.” Secondly, in their manner of living. For Elijah lived in desert places, ate little food and wore coarse clothing, as recorded in 1 and 2 Kings. John, also, lived in the desert, his food was locusts and wild honey, and he wore clothing of camel’s hair. Thirdly, in their zeal. For Elijah was filled with zeal; thus it was said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord” (1 Kgs 19:10). So, also, John died because of his zeal for the truth, as is clear from Matthew (14:6)
233 Then when he says, Are you the Prophet? the third question is presented. Here there is a difficulty, for since it is said in Luke (1:76), “And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,” why does John, when asked if he is a prophet, answer that he is not a prophet?
There are three ways of answering this. One is that John is not just a prophet, but more than a prophet. For the other prophets only predicted future things from afar: “if there is a delay, wait for it” (Hb 2:2).. But John proclaimed that the Messiah was present, pointing him out with his finger: “Look, there is the Lamb of God,” as it says below (1:36). And so the Lord says that he is more than a prophet (Mt 11:9).
Again, in another way, according to Origen, because through a misunderstanding the Jews associated three great personages with the coming of Christ: Christ himself, Elijah, and some other person, the greatest of the prophets, about whom Deuteronomy (18:15) says: “The Lord your God will raise up a prophet for you.” And although this greatest of the prophets is in fact none other than Christ, according to the Jews he is someone other than Christ. And so they do not ask simply whether he is a prophet, but whether he is that “greatest of the prophets.” And this is clear from the order of their questions. For they first ask whether he is the Messiah; secondly, whether he is Elijah; thirdly, whether he is that prophet. Accordingly, in Greek, the article is used here as signifying the prophet, as it were, antonomastically.
In a third way, because the Pharisees were indignant at John for assuming the office of baptizing outside the order of the law and their tradition. For the Old Testament mentions three persons to whom this office could belong. First, to the Messiah, since “I will pour clean water upon you, and you will be cleansed” (Ez 36:25), are words considered as spoken by the person of the Messiah. Secondly, to Elijah, of whom it says in 2 Kings that he divided the water of the Jordan, and crossing over, was taken up. Finally, to Elisha, who made Naaman the Syrian wash seven times in the Jordan so as to be cured of leprosy, as mentioned in 2 Kings (c 5). And so when the Jews saw that John was baptizing, they believed that he was one of those three: the Messiah, or Elijah, or Elisha. Accordingly, when they ask here, Are you the Prophet? they are asking whether he is Elisha, who is called “prophet” in a special way because of the many miracles he had performed; hence he himself says, “Let him come to me, so that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel” (2 Kgs 5:8). And to this John answers, No, I am not Elisha.
234 Then he shows how he declared who he was. First, the question of the messengers is given; secondly, his answer (v 23).
235 They said, Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. As if to say: We were sent to learn who you are; so tell us, What have you to say about yourself?
Notice John’s devotion. He has already fulfilled what the Apostle says, “It is not I who now live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). And so he does not answer, “I am the son of Zachary,” or this or that, but only the way in which he followed Christ.
236 So he says, I am a voice that cries in the wilderness. And he says that he is a voice because from the point of view of origin, a voice comes after the [mental, interior] word, but before the knowledge it causes. For we know a [mental, interior] word conceived in the heart by means of the voice which speaks it, since it is its sign. But God the Father sent the precursor John, who came to be in time, in order to make known his Word, which was conceived from eternity. And so he fittingly says, I am a voice.
237 The addition, that cries, can be understood in two ways: as referring to John, crying and preaching in the wilderness; or to Christ crying in him, according to, “Do you want proof that Christ is speaking in me” (2 Cor 13:3).
Now he cries for four reasons. First of all, a cry implies a showing; and so he cries in order to show that Christ is clearly speaking in John and in himself: “Now on the last, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If any one thirsts, let him come to me and drink’” (below 7:37). But he did not cry out in the prophets because prophecies were given in enigmas and figures; so it is said that he was “wrapped in dark rain-clouds” (Ps 17:12). Secondly, because a cry is made to those who are at a distance; and the Jews were far from God. Thus it was necessary that he cry: “You have taken my friends and neighbors away from me” (Ps 88:19). He cries, in the third place, because they were deaf: “Who is deaf, but my servant?” (Is 42:19). He cries, fourthly, because he speaks with indignation, for they deserved God’s wrath: “He will speak to them in his anger” (Ps 2:5).
238 Note that he cries in the wilderness, because “The word of the Lord came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the desert,” as we read in Luke (3:2). There can be both a literal and a mystical reason for this. The literal reason is that by living in the desert he would be immune from all sin, and so be more worthy to bear witness to Christ, and his testimony would be more credible to men because of his life.
The mystical reason is twofold. For the wilderness or desert designates paganism, according to Isaiah (54:1); “She who is deserted has more children than she who has a husband.” Accordingly, in order to show that God’s teaching would from now on not be in Jerusalem alone, but also among the pagans, he cried in the wilderness. “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and given to a people that will produce its fruits” (Mt 21:43). Again, the desert can indicate Judea, which was already deserted: “Your house will be left to You, deserted” (Mt 23:38). And so he cried in the desert, in the wilderness, i.e., in Judea, to indicate that the people to whom he was preaching had already been deserted by God: “in a desert land, where there is no way or water, so I have come to your sanctuary” (Ps 62:3).
239 Why does he cry, Make a straight way for the Lord? Because this is the task for which he was sent. “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his way” (Lk 1:76). The way, prepared and straight, for receiving the Lord is the way of justice, according to Isaiah (26:7): “The way of the just is straight.” For the way of the just is straight when the whole man is subject to God, i.e., the intellect through faith, the will through love, and actions through obedience, are all subject to God.
And this was spoken, i.e., predicted, by the prophet Isaiah. As if to say: I am the one in whom these things are fulfilled.
24 Now these men had been sent from the Pharisees, 25 and they put this further question to him: “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John replied, “I baptize with water. But there is one standing in your midst whom you do not recognize—27 the one who is to come after me, who ranks ahead of me—the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to unfasten.” 28 This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
240 Above, we saw John bear witness to Christ as he was being questioned on matters concerning himself; here, on matters concerning his office. Four things are set forth: first, those who question him; secondly, their questions; thirdly, his answer, in which he bore witness; and fourthly, the place where all this happened.
241 His interrogators were Pharisees. Hence he says, Now these men had been sent from the Pharisees. According to Origen, what is being said from this point on describes a different testimony given by John; and further, those who were sent from the Pharisees are not the same as those priests and Levites sent by the generality of the Jews, but others who were specifically sent by the Pharisees. And according to this it says: Now these men had been sent, not by the Jews, as the priests and Levites had been, but were others, from the Pharisees. So he says about this that because the priests and Levites were educated and respectful, they ask John humbly and respectfully whether he is the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet. But these others, who were from the Pharisees, according to their name “separated” and importunate, used disdainful language. Thus they asked him, Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?
But according to others, such as Gregory, Chrysostom, and Augustine, these Pharisees are the same priests and Levites who had been sent by the Jews. For there was among the Jews a certain sect which was separated from the others by reason of its external cult; and for this reason its members were called Pharisees, i.e., “divided.” In this sect there were some priests and Levites, and some of the people. And so, in order that the delegates [to John] might possess a greater authority, they sent priests and Levites, who were Pharisees, thus furnishing them with the dignity of a priestly caste and with religious authority.
242 The Evangelist adds, these men had been sent from the Pharisees, to disclose, first, the reason why they asked about John’s baptizing, which was not why they were sent. It is as though he were saying: They were sent to ask John who he was. But they asked, Why do you baptize? because they were from the Pharisees, whose religion was being challenged. Secondly, as Gregory says, in order to show with what intention they asked John, “Who are you?” (1:19). For the Pharisees, more than all the others, showed themselves crafty and insulting to Christ. Thus they said of him: “He casts out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils” (Mt 12:24). Further, they consulted with the Herodians on how to trap Jesus in his speech (Mt 22:15). And so in saying that these men had been sent from the Pharisees, he shows that they were disrespectful and were questioning him out of envy.
243 Their questions concerned his office of baptizing. Hence he says that they asked him, Why then do you baptize? Here we should note that they are asking not to learn, but to obstruct. For since they saw many people coming to John because of the new rite of baptism, foreign both to the rite of the Pharisees and of the law, they became envious of John and tried all they could to hinder his baptism. But being unable to contain themselves any longer, they reveal their envy and say, Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet? As if to say: You should not baptize, since you deny that you are any of those three persons in whom baptism was prefigured, as was said above. In other words, if you are not the Messiah, who will possess the fountain by which sins are washed away, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet, i.e., Elisha, who made a dry passageway through the Jordan (2 Kgs 2:8), how do you dare baptize’? They are like envious persons who hinder the progress of souls, “who say to the seers, ‘See no visions’” (Is 30:10).
244 His answer is true: and so he says that John answered, I baptize with water. As if to say: You should not be disturbed, if I, who am not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet, baptize; because my baptism is not completive but imperfect. For the perfection of baptism requires the washing of the body and of the soul; and the body, by its nature, is indeed washed by water, but the soul is washed by the Spirit alone. So, I baptize with water, i.e., I wash the body with something bodily; but another will come who will baptize perfectly, namely, with water and with the Holy Spirit; God and man, who will wash the body with water and the spirit with the Spirit, in such a way that the sanctification of the spirit will be distributed throughout the body. “For John indeed baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5).
245 Then he bears witness to Christ. First, in relation to the Jews. Secondly, in relation to himself (v 27).
246 He relates him to the Jews when he says, But there is one standing in your midst. As if to say: I have done an incomplete work, but there is another who will complete my work, and he is standing in your midst.
This is explained in a number of ways. First, according to Gregory, Chrysostom and Augustine, it refers to the ordinary way Christ lived among men, because according to his human nature he appeared to be like other men: “He, being in the form of God ... emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:6). And according to this he says, there is one standing in your midst, i.e., in many ways he lived as one of you: “I am in your midst” (Lk 22:27), whom you do not recognize, i.e., you cannot grasp the fact that God was made man. Likewise, you do not recognize how great he is according to the divine nature which is concealed in him: “God is great, and exceeds our knowledge” (Jb 36:26). And so, as Augustine says, “The lantern was lighted,” namely, John, “so that Christ might be found.” “I have prepared a lamp for my anointed” (Ps 131:17).
It is explained differently by Origen; and in two ways. First, as referring to the divinity of Christ: and according to this, there is one standing, namely, Christ, in your midst, that is, in the midst of all things; because he, as Word, has filled all from the beginning of creation: “I fill heaven and earth” (Jer 23:24). Whom you do not recognize, because, as was said above (1:10), “He was in the world ... and the world did not know him.”
It is explained another way as referring to his causality of human wisdom. But there is one standing in your midst, i.e., he shines in everyone’s understanding; because whatever light and whatever wisdom exists in men has come to them from participating in the Word. And he says, in your midst, because in the midst of man’s body lies the heart, to which is attributed a certain wisdom and understanding; hence, although the intellect has no bodily organ, yet because the heart is our chief organ, it is the custom to take it for the intellect. So he is said to stand among men because of this likeness, insofar as he “enlightens every man coming into this world” (1:9). Whom you do not recognize, because, as was said above (1:5), “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
In a fourth way, it is explained as referring to the prophetic foretelling of the Messiah. In this sense the answer is directed chiefly to the Pharisees, who continually searched the writings of the Old Testament in which the Messiah was foretold; and yet they did not recognize him. And according to this it says, there is one standing in your midst, i.e., in the Sacred Scriptures which you are always considering: “Search the Scriptures” (below 5:39); whom you do not recognize, because your heart is hardened by unbelief, and your eyes blinded, so that you do not recognize as present the person you believe is to come.
247 Then John compares Christ to himself. First, he states the superiority of Christ as compared to himself. Secondly, he shows the greatness of this superiority.
248 He shows the superiority of Christ in comparison to himself both in preaching and in dignity. Now, as to the order of preaching, John was the first to become known. Thus he says, the one who is to come after me, to preach, to baptize and to die; because as was said in Luke (1:76): “You will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his way.” John preceded Christ as the imperfect the perfect, and as the disposition the form; for as is said, “The spiritual is not first, but the animal” (1 Cor 15:46). For the entire life of John was a preparation for Christ; so he said above, that he was “a voice that cries in the wilderness.”
But Christ preceded John and all of us as the perfect precedes the imperfect and the exemplar precedes the copy: “If any one wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24); “Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example” (1 Pt 2:21).
Then he compares Christ to himself as to dignity, saying, who ranks ahead of me, i.e., he has been placed above me and is above me in dignity, because as he says (below 3:30), “he must increase, and I must decrease.”
249 He touches on the greatness of his superiority when he says, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to unfasten. As if to say: You must not suppose that he ranks ahead of me in dignity in the way that one man is placed ahead of another, rather he is ranked so far above me that I am nothing in comparison to him. And this is clear from the fact that it is he the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to unfasten, which is the least service that can be done for men. It is clear from this that John had made great progress in the knowledge of God, so far that from the consideration of God’s infinite greatness, he completely lowered himself and said that he himself was nothing. So did Abraham, when he recognized God, and said (Gn 18:27), “1 will speak to my Lord, although I am but dust and ashes.” And so also did Job, saying, “Now I see you, and so I reprove myself, and do penance in dust and ashes” (Jb 42:5). Isaiah also said, after he had seen the glory of God, “Before him all the nations are as if they are not” (Is 40:17). And this is the literal explanation.
250 This is also explained mystically. Gregory explains it so that the sandal, made from the hides of dead animals, indicates our mortal human nature, which Christ assumed: “I will stretch out my sandal to Edom” (Ps 59:10). The strap of Christ’s sandal is the union of his divinity and humanity, which neither John nor anyone can unfasten or fully investigate, since it is this which made God man and made man God. And so he says, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to unfasten, i.e., to explain the mystery of the incarnation perfectly and fully. For John and other preachers unfasten the strap of Christ’s sandal in some way, although imperfectly.
It is explained in another way by recalling that it was ordered in the Old Law that when a man died without children, his brother was obligated to marry the wife of the dead man and raise up children from her as his brother’s. And if he refused to marry her, then a close relative of the dead man, if willing to marry her, was to remove the sandals of the dead man as a sign of this willingness and marry her; and his home was then to be called the home of the man whose sandals were removed (Dt 25:5). And so according to this he says, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to unfasten, i.e., I am not worthy to have the bride, that is, the Church, to which Christ has a right. As if to say: I am not worthy to be called the bridegroom of the Church, which is consecrated to Christ in the baptism of the Spirit; but I baptize only in water. As it says below (3:29): “It is the groom who has the bride.”
251 The place where these events happened is mentioned when he says, This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan. A question arises on this: Since Bethany is on the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem, as is said in John (11:1 ) and also in Matthew (26:6), how can he say that these things happened beyond the Jordan, which is quite far from Jerusalem? Origen and Chrysostom answer that it should be called Bethabora, not Bethany, which is a village on the far side of the Jordan; and that the reading “Bethany” is due to a copyist’s error. However, since both the Greek and Latin versions have Bethany, one should rather say that there are two places called Bethany: one is near Jerusalem on the side of the Mount of Olives, and the other is on the far side of the Jordan where John was baptizing.
252 The fact that he mentions the place has both a literal and a mystical reason. The literal reason, according to Chrysostom, is that John wrote this Gospel for certain ones, perhaps still alive, who would recall the time and who saw the place where these things happened. And so, to lead us to a greater certitude, he makes them witnesses of the things they had seen.
The mystical reason is that these places are appropriate for baptism. For in saying “Bethany,” which is interpreted as “house of obedience,” he indicates that one must come to be baptized through obedience to the faith. “To bring all the nations to have obedience to the faith” (Rom 1:5). But if the name of the place is “Bethabora,” which is interpreted as “house of preparation,” it signifies that a man is prepared for eternal life through baptism.
There is also a mystery in the fact that this happened on the far side of the Jordan. For “Jordan” is interpreted as “the descent of them”; and according to Origen it signifies Christ, who descended from heaven, as he himself says that he descended from heaven to do the will of his Father (below 6:38).
Further, the river Jordan aptly signifies baptism. For it is the border line between those who received their inheritance from Moses on one side of the Jordan, and those who received it from Josue on the other side. Thus baptism is a kind of border between Jews and Gentiles, who journey to this place to wash themselves by coming to Christ so that they might put off the debasement of sin. Forjust as the Jews had to cross the Jordan to enter the promised land, so one must pass through baptism to enter into the heavenly land. And he says, on the far side of the Jordan, to show that John preached the baptism of repentance even to those who trangressed the law and sinners; and so the Lord also says, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13).
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and he said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. 30 It is he of whom I said:
‘After me is to come a man, who ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’
31 And I did not know him! And yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptizing with water.”
32 John gave this testimony also:
“I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove, and resting on him. 33 And I did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water had said to me: ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 Now I have seen for myself and have given testimony that he is the Son of God.”
253 Above, John had given testimony to Christ when he was questioned. Here, he gives testimony to him on his own initiative. First, he gives the testimony; secondly, he confirms it (v 32). As to the first: first, the circumstances of the testimony are given; and secondly, the testimony itself is given (v 29); thirdly, suspicion is removed from the witness (v 3 1).
254 The circumstances are first described as to the time. Hence he says, The next day. This gives credit to John for his steadfastness, because he bore witness to Christ not for just one day or once, but on many days and frequently: “Every day I will bless you” (Ps 144:2). His progress, too, is cited, because one day should not be just like the day before, but the succeeding day should be different, i.e., better: “They will go from strength to strength” (Ps 83:8).
Another circumstance mentioned is his manner of testifying, because John saw Jesus. This shows his certitude, for testimony based on sight is most certain. The last circumstance he mentions is about the one to whom he bore witness. Hence he says that he saw Jesus coming toward him, i.e., from Galilee, as it says, “Jesus came from Galilee” (Mt 3:13). We should not understand this as referring to the time when he came to be baptized, of which Matthew is here speaking, but of another time, i.e., a time when he came to John after he had already been baptized and was staying near the Jordan. Otherwise, he Would not have said, “‘The man on whom yoti see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptize with the I loly Spirit.’ Now I have seen” (v 33). Therefore, he had already seen him and the Spirit come down as a dove upon him.
255 One reason why Christ now came to John was to confirm the testimony of John. For John had spoken of Christ as “the one who is to come after me” (v 27). But since Christ was now present, some might not understand who it was that was to come. So Christ came to John to be pointed out by him, with John saying, Look! There is the Lamb of God. Another reason Christ came was to correct an error. For some might believe that the first time Christ came, i.e., to be baptized, he came to John to be cleansed from his sins. So, in order to preclude this, Christ came to him even after his baptism. Accordingly, John clearly says, There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He committed no sin, but came to take away sin. He also came to give us an example of humility, because as it is said, “The greater you are the more humble you should be in all matters” (Sir 3:20).
Note that after the conception of Christ, when his mother, the Virgin, went in haste to the mountainous country to visit John’s mother, Elizabeth, that John, still in his mother’s womb and unable to speak, leaped in her womb as though performing a religious dance out of reverence for Christ. And as then, so even now; for when Christ comes to John out of humility, John offers his testimony and reverence and breaks out saying, Look! There is the Lamb of God.
256 With these words John gives his testimony showing the power of Christ. Then Christ’s dignity is shown (v 30). He shows the power of Christ in two ways: first, by means of a symbol; secondly, by explaining it (v 29).
257 As to the first, we should note, as Origen says, that it was customary in the Old Law for five animals to be offered in the temple: three land animals, namely, the heifer, goat and sheep (although the sheep might be a ram, a sheep or a lamb) and two birds, namely, the turtle-dove and the dove. All of these prefigured the true sacrifice, which is Christ, who “gave himself for us as an offering to God,” as is said in Ephesians (5:2).
Why then did the Baptist, when giving witness to Christ, specifically call him a Lamb? The reason for this is that, as stated in Numbers (28:3), although there were other sacrifices in the temple at other times, yet each day there was a time in which a lamb was offered every morning, and another was offered in the evening. This never varied, but was regarded as the principal offering, and the other offerings were in the form of additions. And so the lamb, which was the principal sacrifice, signified Christ, who is the principal sacrifice. For although all the saints who suffered for the faith of Christ contribute something to the salvation of the faithful, they do this only inasmuch its they are immolated upon the oblation of the Lamb, they being, as it were, in oblation added to the principal sacrifice. The lamb is offered in the morning and in the evening because it is through Christ that the way is opened to the contemplation and enjoyment of the intelligible things of God, and this pertains to “morning knowledge”; and we are instructed how to use earthly things without staining ourselves, and this pertains to “evening knowledge.” And so he says, Look! There is the Lamb of God, i.e., the one signified by the lamb.
He says, of God, because there are two natures in Christ, a human nature and a divine nature. And it is due to the power of the divinity that this sacrifice has the power to cleanse and sanctify us from our sins, inasmuch as “God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19). Or, he is called the Lamb of God, because offered by God, i.e., by Christ himself, who is God; just as we call what a man offers the offering of the man. Or, he is called the Lamb of God, that is, of the Father, because the Father provided man with an oblation to offer that satisfied for sins, which man could not have through himself. So when Isaac asked Abraham, “Where is the victim for the holocaust?” he answered, “God himself will provide a victim for the holocaust” (Gn 22:7); “God did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for all of us” (Rom 8:32).
258 Christ is called a Lamb, first, because of his purity: “Your lamb will be without blemish” (Ex 12:5); “You were not redeemed by perishable gold or silver” (1 Pt 1:18). Secondly, because of his gentleness: “Like a lamb before the shearer, he will not open his mouth” (Is 53:7). Thirdly, because of his fruit; both with respect to what we put on: “Lambs will be your clothing” (Prv 27:26), “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13:14); and with respect to food: “My flesh is for the life of the world” (below 6:52). And so Isaiah said (16:1 ): “Send forth, O Lord, the lamb, the ruler of the earth.”
259 Then when he says, who takes away the sins of the world, he explains the symbol he used. In the law, sin could not be taken away either by a lamb or by any other sacrifice, because as is said in Hebrews (10:4), “It is impossible that sins be taken away by the blood of bulls and goats.” This blood takes away, i.e., removes, the sins of the world. “Take away all iniquity” (Hos 14:3). Or, takes away, i.e., he takes upon himself the sins of the whole world, as is said, “He bore our sins in his own body” (1 Pt 2:24); “It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured,” as we read in Isaiah (53:4).
However, according to a Gloss, he says sin, and not “sins,” in order to show in a universal way that he has taken away every kind of sin: “He is the offering for our sins” (1 Jn 2:2); or because he died for one sin, that is, original sin: “Sin entered into this world through one man” (Rom 5:12).
260 Above, the Baptist bore witness to the power of Christ; now he bears witness to his dignity, comparing Christ to himself in three respects. First, with respect to their office and order of preaching. So he says, It is he, pointing him out, that is, the Lamb, of whom I said, i.e., in his absence, After me is to come a man, to preach and baptize, who in birth came after me.
Christ is called a man by reason of his perfect age, because when he began to teach, after his baptism, he had already reached a perfect age: “Jesus was now about thirty years of age” (Lk 3:23). He is also called a man because of the perfection of all the virtues that were in him: “Seven women,” i.e., the virtues, “will take hold of one man,” the perfect Christ (Is 4:1); “Look, a man! His name is the Orient,” because he is the origin of all the virtues found in others (Zec 6:12). He is also called a man because of his espousal, since he is the spouse of the Church: “You will call me ‘my husband’” (Hos 2:16); “I espoused you to one husband” (2 Cor 11:2).
261 Secondly, he compares himself to Christ with respect to dignity when he says, who ranks ahead of me. As if to say: Although he comes to preach after me, yet he ranks before me in dignity. “See, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills” (Sg 2:8). One such hill was John the Baptist, who was passed over by Christ, because as is said below (3:30), “He must increase, and I must decrease.”
262 Thirdly, he compares himself to Christ with respect to duration, saying, because he existed before me. As if to say: It is not strange if he ranks ahead of me in dignity; because although he is after me in time, he is before me in eternity, because he existed before me.
This statement refutes a twofold error. First, that of Arius, for John does not say that “he was made before me,” as though he were a creature, but he existed before me, from eternity, before every creature: “The Lord brought me forth before all the hills,” as is said in Proverbs (8:25). The second error refuted is that of Paul of Samosata: for John said, he existed before me, in order to show that he did not take his beginning from Mary. For if he had taken the beginning of his existence from the Virgin, he would not have existed before the precursor, who, in the order of human generation, preceded Christ by six months.
263 Next (v 31), he precludes an erroneous conjecture from his testimony. For someone might say that John bore witness to Christ because of his affection for him, coming from a special friendship. And so, excluding this, John says, And I did not know him!; for John had lived in the desert from boyhood. And although many miracles happened during the birth of Christ, such as the Magi and the star and so on, they were not known to John: both because he was an infant at the time, and because, after withdrawing to the desert, he had no association with Christ. In the interim between his birth and baptism, Christ did not perform any miracles, but led a life similar to any other person, and his power remained unknown to all.
264 It is clear that he worked no miracles in the interim until he was thirty years old from what is said below (2:11): “This beginning of signs Jesus worked in Cana of Galilee.” This shows the error of the book, The Infancy of the Savior. The reason he performed no miracles during this period was that if his life had not been like that of other infants, the mystery of the circumcision and incarnation might have been regarded as pure fancy. Accordingly, he postponed showing his knowledge and power to another time, corresponding to the age when other men reach the fulness of their knowledge and power. About this we read, “And Jesus increased in grace and wisdom” (Lk 2:52); not that he acquired a power and wisdom that he previously lacked, for in this respect he was perfect from the instant of his conception, but because his power and wisdom were becoming known to men: “Indeed, you are a hidden God” (Is 45:15).
265 The reason why John did not know him was that he had so far seen no signs, and no one else had known Christ through signs. Hence he adds: It was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptizing with water. As if to say: My entire ministry is to reveal: “He was not the light, but he came in order to bear witness to the light,” as was said above (1:8).
266 He says, I came baptizing with water, to distinguish his baptism from that of Christ. For Christ baptized not just in water, but in the Spirit, conferring grace; and so the baptism of John was merely a sign, and not causative.
John’s baptism made Christ known in three ways. First, by the preaching of John. For although John could have prepared the way for the Lord and led the people to Christ without baptizing, yet because of the novelty of the service many more came to him than would have come if his preaching were done without baptism. Secondly, John’s baptism was useful because of Christ’s humility, which he showed by willing to be baptized by John: “Christ came to John, to be baptized by him” (Mt 3:13). This example of humility he gives us here is that no one, however great, should disdain to receive the sacraments from any person ordained for this purpose. Thirdly, because it was during Christ’s baptisin by John that the power of the Father was present in the voice, and the Holy Spirit was present in the dove, by which the powerand dignity of’Christ were all the more shown: “And the voice of the Father was heard: ‘This is my beloved Son’” (Lk 3:22).
267 Then when he says, John gave this testimony also, he confirms by the authority of God the great things he testified to about Christ, that Christ alone would take away the sins of the whole world. As to this he does three things. First, he presents a vision. Secondly, he tells us the meaning of the vision (v 33). Thirdly, he shows what he learned from this vision (v 34).
268 He presents the vision when he says, I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven. When this actually happened John the Evangelist does not tell us, but Matthew and Luke say that it took place when Christ was being baptized by John. And it was indeed fitting for the Holy Spirit to be present at this baptism and to the person being baptized. It was appropriate for the one baptized, for as the Son, existing by the Father, manifests the Father, “Father, I have manifested your name” (below 17:6), so the Holy Spirit, existing by the Son, manifests the Son, “He will glorify me, because he will receive from me” (below 16:14). It was appropriate for this baptism because the baptism of Christ begins and consecrates our baptism. Now our baptism is consecrated by invoking the whole Trinity: “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). Thus, the ones we invoke in our baptism were present at the baptism of Christ: the Father in the voice, the Holy Spirit in the dove, and the Son in his human nature.
269 He says, coming down, because descent, since it has two termini, the start, which is from above, and the end, which is below, suits baptism in both respects. For there is a twofold spirit: one of the world and the other of God. The spirit of the world is the love of the world, which is not from above; rather, it comes up to man from below and makes him descend. But the spirit of God, i.e., the love of God, comes down to man from above and makes him ascend: “We have not received the spirit of this world, but the spirit of God,” as is said in 1 Corinthians (2:12). And so, because that spirit is from above, he says, coming down.
Similarly, because it is impossible for the creature to receive God’s goodness in the fulness in which it is present in God, the communication of this goodness to us is in a way a certain coming down: “Every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Jas 1:17).
270 The Evangelist, in describing the manner of the vision and of the coming down, says that the Holy Spirit did not appear in the spirit, i.e., in his nature, but in the form of a dove, saying, that he came like a ove. The reason for this is that the Holy Spirit cannot be seen in his nature, as is said, “The Spirit blows where it wills, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (below 3:8), and because a spirit does not come down but goes up, “The spirit lifted me up” (Ez 8:3).
It was appropriate that the Son of God, who was made visible through flesh, should be made known by the Holy Spirit in the visible form of a dove. However, the Holy Spirit did not assume the dove into a unity of person, as the Son of God assumed human nature. The reason for this is that the Son did not appear as a manifester but as a Savior. And so, according to Pope Leo, it was appropriate that he be God and man: God, in order to provide a remedy; and man, in order to offer an example. But the Holy Spirit appeared only to make known, and for this it was sufficient merely to assume a visible form which was suitable for this purpose.
271 As to whether this dove was a real animal and whether it existed prior to its appearance, it seems reasonable to say that it was a real dove. For the Holy Spirit came to manifest Christ, who, being the Truth, ought to have been manifested only by the truth. As to the other part of the question, it would seem that the dove did not exist prior to its appearance, but was formed at the time by the divine power, without any parental union, as the body of Christ was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and not from a man’s seed. Yet it was a real dove, for as Augustine says in his work, The Christian Combat: “It was not difficult for the omnipotent God, who produced the entire universe of creatures from nothing, to form a real body for the dove without the aid of other doves, just as it was not difficult to form the true body of Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin without natural semen.”
Cyprian, in his The Unity of the Church, says: “It is said that the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove because the dove is a simple harmless animal, not bitter with gall, not savage with its bites, not fierce with rending talons; it loves the dwellings of men, is able to live together in one nest, together it raises its young, they remain together when they fly, spend their life in mutual association, signify the concord of peace with the kiss of their bill, and fulfill the law of harmony in all things.”
272 Many reasons are given why the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove rather than in some other form. First, because of its simplicity, for the dove is simple: “Be wise as serpents, and simple as doves” (Mt 10:16). And the Holy Spirit, because he inclines souls to gaze on one thing, that is, God, makes them simple; and so he appeared in the form of a dove. Further, according to Augustine, the Holy Spirit also appeared in the form of fire over the heads of the assembled apostles. This was done because some are simple, but lukewarm; while others are fervent but guileful. And so in order that those sanctified by the Spirit may have no guile, the Spirit is shown in the form of a dove; and in order that their simplicity may not grow tepid, the Spirit is shown in fire.
A dove was used, secondly, because of the unity of charity; for the dove is much aglow with love: “One is my dove” (Sg 6:9). So, in order to show the unity of the Church, the Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove. Nor should it disturb you that when the Holy Spirit rested on each of the disciples, there appeared separate tongues of fire; for although the Spirit appears to be different according to the different functions of his gifts, he nevertheless unites us through charity. And so, because of the first he appeared in separate tongues of fire, as is said, “There are different kinds of gifts” (1 Cor 12:4); but he appears in the form of a dove because of the second.
A dove was used, thirdly,because of its groaning, for the dove has a groaning chant; so also the Holy Spirit “pleads for us with indescribable groanings” (Rom 8:26); “Her maidens, groaning like doves” (Na 2:7). Fourthly, because of the doves fertility, for the dove is a very prolific animal. And so in order to signify the fecundity of spiritual grace in the Church, the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove. This is why the Lord commanded an offering of two doves (Lv 5:7).
A dove was used, fifthly, because of its cautiousness. For it rests upon watery brooks, and gazing into them can see the hawk flying overhead and so save itself: “His eyes are like doves beside brooks of water” (Sg 5:12). And so, because our refuge and defense is found in baptism, the Holy Spirit appropriately appeared in the form of a dove.
The dove also corresponds to a figure in the Old Testament. For as the dove bearing the green olive branch was a sign of God’s mercy to those who survived the waters of the deluge, so too in baptism, the Holy Spirit, coming in the form of a dove, is a sign of the divine mercy which takes away the sins of those baptized and confers grace.
273 He says that the Holy Spirit was resting on him. If the Holy Spirit does not rest on someone, it is due to two causes. One is sin. For all men except Christ are either suffering from the wound of mortal sin, which banishes the Holy Spirit, or are darkened with the stain of venial sin, which hinders some of the works of the Holy Spirit. But in Christ there was neither mortal nor venial sin; so, the Holy Spirit in him was never disquieted, but was resting on him.
The other reason concerns charismatic graces, for the other saints do not always possess their power. For example, the power to work miracles is not always present in the saints, nor is the spirit of prophecy always in the prophets. But Christ always possessed the power to accomplish any work of the virtues and the graces. So to indicate this, he says, resting on him. Hence this was the characteristic sign for recognizing Christ, as the Gloss says. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him” (Is 11:2), which we should understand of Christ as man, according to which he is less than the Father and the Holy Spirit.
274 Then when he says, I did not know him, he teaches us how this vision should be understood. For certain heretics, as the Ebionites, said that Christ was neither the Christ nor the Son of God from the time he was born, but only began to be the Son of God and the Christ when he was anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit at his baptism. But this is false, because at the very hour of his birth the angel said to the shepherds: “This day a Savior has been born for you in the city of David, Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11). Therefore, so that we do not believe that the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ in his baptism as though Christ needed to receive the Spirit anew for his sanctification, the Baptist gives the reason for the Spirit’s coming down. He says that the Spirit descended not for the benefit of Christ, but for our benefit, that is, so that the grace of Christ might be made known to us. And so he says, And I did not know him! And yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptizing with water.
275 There is a problem here. For he says, he who sent me to baptize. If he is saying that the Father sent him, it is true. Also, if he is saying that the Son sent him, it is even more clear, since it is said that both the Father and the Son sent him, because John is not one of those referred to in Jeremiah (23:21), “1 did not send the prophets, yet they ran.” But if the Son did send him, how can he then say, I did not know him? If it is said that although he knew Christ according to his divinity, yet he did not know him according to his humanity until after he saw the Spirit coming down upon him, one might counter that the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ when he was being baptized, and John had already known Christ before he was baptized, otherwise he would not have said: “I ought to be baptized by you, and you come to me?” (Mt 3:14).
So we must say that this problem can be resolved in three ways. In one way, according to Chrysostom, so that the meaning is to know familiarly; the sense being that I did not know him, i.e., in a familiar way. And if the objection is raised that John says, “I ought to be baptized by you,” it can be answered that two different times are being discussed: so that I did not know him, refers to a time long before baptism, when he was not yet familiar with Christ: but when he says, “I ought to be baptized by you,” he is referring to the time when Christ was being baptized, when he was now familiar with Christ because of his frequent visits. In another way, according to Jerome, it could be said that Christ was the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and that John did in fact know this; but it was not through the baptism that he knew that he was the Savior of the world. And so to remedy this ignorance he adds, he is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit. But it is better to say with Augustine that John knew certain things and was ignorant of others. Explaining what he did not know, he adds that the power of baptizing, which Christ could have shared with his faithful followers, would be reserved for himself alone. And this is what he says, he who sent me to baptize with water ... is the one, exclusively and solely, who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit, i.e., he and no one else, because this power he reserved for himself alone.
276 We should note that a threefold power of Christ is found in baptism. One is the power of efficiency, by which he interiorly cleanses the soul from the stain of sin. Christ has this power as God, but not as man, and it cannot be communicated to any other. Another is the power of ministry, which he does share with the faithful: “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). Therefore priests have the power to haptize as ministers. Christ too, as man, is called a minister, as the Apostle says. But he is also the head of all the ministers of the Church.
Because of this he alone has the power of excellence in the sacraments. And this excellence shows itself in four things. First, in the institution of the sacraments, because no mere man or even the entire Church could institute sacraments, or change the sacninients, or dispense with the sacraments. For by their institution the sacraments give invisible grace, which only God can give. Therefore, only one who is true God can institute sacraments. The second lies in the efficacy of Christ’s merits, for the sacraments have their power from the merit of Christ’s passion: “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, have been baptized into his death” (Rom 6:3). The third is that Christ can confer the effect of baptism withmit the sacrament; and this is peculiar to Christ. Fourthly, because at one time baptism was conferred in the name of Christ, although this is no longer done.
Now he did not communicate these four things to anyone; although he could have communicated some of them, for example, that baptism be conferred in the name of Peter or of someone else, and perhaps one of the remaining three. But this was not done lest schisins arise in the Church by men putting their trust in those in whose name they were baptized.
And so John, in stating that the Holy Spirit came down upon Christ, teaches that it is Christ alone who baptizes interiorly by his own power.
277 One might also say that when John said, “I ought to be baptized by you,” he recognized Christ. through an interior revelation, but that when he saw the Holy Spirit coming down upon him, he knew him through an exterior sign. And so he mentions both of these ways of knowing. The first when he says, he who sent me to baptize with water had said to me, i.e., revealed something in an interior way. The second when he adds, The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit.
278 Then he shows what the Baptist understood from this vision, that is, that Christ is the Son of God. And this is what he says, Now I have seen for myself, that is, the Spirit coming down on him, and have given testimony that he, that is, Christ, is the Son of God, that is, the true and natural Son. For there were adopted sons of the Father who had a likeness to the natural Son of God: “Conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29). So he who baptizes in the Holy Spirit, through whom we are adopted as sons, ought to fashion sons of God. “You did not receive the spirit of slavery ... but the spirit of adoption” (Rom 8:15). Therefore, because Christ is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit, the Baptist correctly concludes that he is the true and pure Son of God: “that we may be in his true Son” (1 Jn 5:20).
279 But if there were others who saw the Holy,Spirit coming down upon Christ, why did they not also believe? I answer that they had not been so disposed for this. Or perhaps, this vision was seen only by the Baptist.
35 On the following day John was standing there again with two of his disciples. 36 And seeing Jesus walking by, he said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God.” 37 Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned around, and seeing them following him said, “What are you looking for?” They replied, “Rabbi (which means Teacher), where do you live?” 39 “Come and see,” he replied. They went and saw where he lived, and they stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.
40 One of the two who had followed him after hearing John was Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew. 41 The first thing fie did was to look for his brother Simon, and say to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means the Christ), 42 and he brought him to Jesus. Looking at hini intently Jesus said, “You are Simon, son of John; you are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
280 Above, the Evangelist presented the Baptist’s testimony to the people; here he presents his testimony to John’s disciples. First, his testimony is given; secondly, the fruit of this testimony (v 37). As to the first he does three things: first, the one giving the testimony is described; secondly, his way of testifying is given (v 36); and thirdly, his testimony itself, Look! There is the Lamb of God.
281 The witness is described when he says, On the following day John was standing there again with two of his disciples. In saying standing, three things are noted about John. First, his manner of teaching, which was different from that of Christ and his disciples. For Christ went about teaching; hence it is said: “Jesus traveled over all Galilee” (Mt 4:23). The apostles also traveled the world teaching: “Go to the whole world, and preach the good news to every creature” (Mkl6:15). But John taught in one place; hence he says, standing, that is, in one place, on the far side of the Jordan. And John spoke of Christ to all who came to him.
The reason why Christ and his disciples taught going about is that the preaching of Christ was made credible by miracles, and so they went to various places in order that the miracles and powers of Christ might be made known. But the preaching of John was not confirmed by miracles, so that is is written, “John performed no sign” (below 10:41), but by the merit and sanctity of his life. And so he was standing in one place so that various people might stream to him and be led to Christ by his holiness. Furthermore, if John had gone from place to place to announce Christ without performing any miracles, his testimony would have been quite unbelievable, since it would seem to be inopportune and he would seem to be forcing himself upon the people.
Secondly, John’s perseverence in the truth is noted, because John was not a reed shaken by the wind, but was firm in the faith; “Let him who thinks that he stands, take heed so he will not fall” (1 Cor 10:12); “1 will stand my watch” (Hb 2:1).
Thirdly, and allegorically, it is noted that to stand is, in an allegorical sense, the same as to fail or cease: “The oil stood,” i.e., failed (2 Kgs 4:6). So when Christ came John was standing, because when the truth comes the figure ceases. John stands because the law passes away.
282 The manner of his testifying is presented as being certain, hecause based on sight. So he says, seeing Jesus walking by. Here it should be remarked that the prophets bore witness to Christ: “All the prophets bear witness to him” (Acts 10:43). So did the apostles as they traveled the world: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all of’ Judea and Samaria, and to the remotest parts of the world” (Acts 1:8). However, their testimony was not about a person then visible or present, but on one who was absent. In the case of the prophets about one who was to come; in the case of the apostles, about one who was now gone. But John bore witness when Christ was present and seen by him; and so he says, seeing Jesus, with the eyes of his body and of his mind: “Look on the face of your Christ” (Ps 83:10); “They will see eye to eye” (Is 5 2:8).
He says, walking, to point out the mystery of the incarnation, in which the Word of God assumed a changeable nature: “I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world,” as it says below (16:2 8).
283 Then he gives John’s testimony in saying, Look! There is the Lamb of God. He says this not just to point out the power of Christ, but also in admiration of it: “His name will be called Wonderful” (Is 9:6). And this Lamb did possess truly wonderful power, because being slain, it killed the lion—that lion, I say, of which it says: “Your enemy, the devil, goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour” (1 Pt 5:8). And so this Lamb, victorius and glorious, deserved to be called a lion: “Look! The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered” (Rv 5:5).
The testimony he bears is brief, Look! There is the Lamb of God. It is brief both because the disciples before whom he testified had already been sufficiently instructed about Christ from the things they had heard from John, and also because this is sufficient for John’s intention, whose only aim was to lead them to Christ. Yet he does not say, “Go to him,” so that the disciples would not seem to be doing Christ a favor by following him. But he does praise the grace of Christ so that they would regard it as of benefit to themselves if they followed Christ. And so he says, Look! There is the Lamb of God, i.e., here is the One in whom is found the grace and the power which cleanses from sin; for the lamb was offered for sins, as we have said.
284 The fruit of his testimony is given when he says, Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. First, the fruit resulting from the testimony of John and his disciples is given. Secondly, the fruit resulting from the preaching of Christ (v 43). In relation to the first: first, the fruit arising from John’s testimony is given; secondly, the fruit coming from the preaching of one of his disciples (v 40). With respect to the first he does two things. First, he shows the very beginning of the fruit coming from John’s testimony. Secondly, its consummation as accomplished by Christ (v 38).
285 He says, Hearing this, John saying, “Look! There is the Lamb of God,” the two disciples, who were with him, followed Jesus, literally. going with him, First, the fact that it is John who speaks while Christ is silent, and that disciples gather to Christ through the words of John, all this points out a mystery. For Christ is the groom of the Church, and John, the friend and groomsman of the groom. Now the function of the groomsman is to present the bride to the groom, and verbally make known the agreements; the role of the groom is to be silent, from modesty, and to make arrangements for his new bride as he wills. Thus, the disciples are presented by John to Christ and espoused in faith. John speaks, Christ is silent; yet after Christ accepts them, he carefully instructs them.
We can note, secondly, that no one was converted when John praised the dignity of Christ, saying, he “ranks ahead of me,” and “I am not worthy to unfasten the strap of his sandal.” But the disciples followed Christ when John revealed Christ’s humility and about the mystery of the incarnation; and this is because we are more moved by Christ’s humility and the sufferings he endured for us. So it is said: “Your name is like oil poured out,” i.e., mercy, by which you have obtained salvation for all; and the text immediately follows with, “young maidens have greatly loved you” (Sg 1:2).
We can note, thirdly, that the words of a preacher are like seed falling on different kinds of ground: on one they bear fruit, and on another they do not. So too, John, when he preaches, does not convert all his disciples to Christ, but only two, those who were well disposed. The others are envious of Christ, and they even question him, as mentioned in Matthew (9:14).
Fourthly, we may note that John’s disciples, after hearing his witness to Christ, did not at once thrust themselves forward to speak with him hastily; rather, seriously and with a certain modesty, they tried to speak to Christ alone and in a private place: “There is a time and fitness for everything” (Ecc 8:6).
286 The consummation of this fruit is now set forth (v 38), for what John began is completed by Christ, since “the law brought nothing to perfection” (Heb 7:19). And Christ does two things. First, he questions the disciples who were following him. Secondly, he teaches them (v 39). As to the first we have: first, the question of Christ is given; secondly, the answer of the disciples.
287 He says, Jesus turned around, and seeing them following him said. According to the literal sense we should understand that Christ was walking in front of them, and these two disciples, following him, did not see his face at all; and so Christ turns to them to holster their confidence. This lets us know that Christ gives confidence and hope to all who begin to follow hini with a pure heart: “She goes to meet those who desire her” (Wis 6:14). Now Jesus turns to us in order that we may see him; this will happen in that blessed vision when he will show us his face, as is said: “Show us your face, and we will be saved” (Ps 79:4). For as long as we are in this world we see his back, because it is through his effects that we acquire a knowledge of him; so it is said, “You will see my back” (Ex 33:23). Again, he turns to give us the riches of his mercy. This is requested in Psalm 89 (13): “Turn to us, 0 Lord.” For as long as Christ withholds the help of his mercy he seems to be turned away from us. And so Jesus turned to the disciples of John who were following him in order to show them his face and to pour his grace upon them.
288 Christ examines them specifically about their intention. For all who follow Christ do not have the same intention: some follow him for the sake of temporal goods, and others for spiritual goods. And so the Lord asks their intention, saying, What are you looking for?; not in order to learn their intention, but so that, after they showed a proper intention, he might make them more intimate friends and show that they are worthy to hear him.
289 It may be remarked that these are the first words which Christ speaks in this Gospel. And this is appropriate, because the first thing that God asks of a man is a proper intention. And, according to Origen, after the six words that John had spoken, Christ spoke the seventh. The first words spoken by John were when, bearing witness to Christ, he cried out, saying, “This is the one of whom I said.” The second is when he said, “I am not worthy to unfasten the strap of his sandal.” The third is, “I baptize with water. But there is one standing in your midst whom you do not recognize.” The fourth is, “Look! There is the Lamb of God.” The fifth, “I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove.” The sixth, when he says here, “Look! There is the Lamb of God.” But it is Christ who speaks the seventh words so that we may understand, in a mystical sense, that rest, which is signified by the seventh day, will come to us through Christ, and that in him is found the fulness of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
290 The disciples answer; and although there was one question, they gave two answers. First, why they are following Christ, namely, to learn; thus they call him Teacher, Rabbi (which means Teacher). As if to say: We ask you to teach us. For they already knew what is stated in Matthew (23:10): “You have one Teacher, the Christ.” The second answer is what they want in following him, that is, Where do you live? And literally, it can be said that in truth they were looking for the home of Christ. For because of the great and wonderful things they had heard about him from John, they were not satisfied with questioning him only once and in a superficial way, but wanted to do so frequently and seriously. And so they wanted to know where his home was so that they might visit him often, according to the advice of the wise man: “If you see a man of understanding, go to him early” (Sir 6:36), and “Happy is the man who hears me, who watches daily at my gates” (Prv 8:34).
In the allegorical sense, God’s home is in heaven, according to the Psalm (122:1 ): “I have lifted up my eyes to you, who live in heaven.” So they asked where Christ was living because our purpose in following him should be that Christ leads us to heaven, i.e., to heavenly glory.
Finally, in the moral sense, they ask, Where do you live? as though desiring to learn what qualities men should possess in order to be worthy to have Christ dwell in them. Concerning this dwelling Ephesians (2:22) says: “You are being built into a dwelling place for God.” And the Song (1:6) says: “Show me, you whom my soul loves, where you graze your flock, where you rest at midday.”
291 Then when he says, Come and see, Christ’s instruction of the disciples is given. First we have the instruction of the disciples by Christ; secondly, their obedience is cited; and thirdly, the time is given.
292 First he says, Come and see, that is, where I live. There is a difficulty here: for since the Lord says, “The Son of Man does not have any place to lay his head” (Mt 8:20), why does he tell them to Come and see where he lives? I answer, according to Chrysostom, that when the Lord says, “The Son of Man does not have any place to lay his head,” he showed that he had no home of his own, but not that he did not remain in someone else’s home. And such was the home he invited them to see, saying, Come and see.
In the mystical sense, he says, Come and see, because the dwelling of God, whether of glory or grace, cannot be known except by experience: for it cannot be explained in words: “I will give him a white stone upon which is written a new name, which no one knows but he who receives it” (Rv 2:17). And so he says, Come and see: Come, by believing and working; and see, by experiencing and understanding.
293 It should be noted that we can attain to this knowledge in four ways. First, by doing good works; so he says, Come: “When shall I come and appear before the face of God” (Ps 41:3). Secondly, by the rest or stillness of the mind: “Be still and see” (Ps 45:10). Thirdly, by tasting the divine sweetness: “Taste and see that the I.ord is sweet” O’s 33:9). Fourthly, by acts of devotion: “Let us lift up our hearts and hands in prayer” (Lam 3:41). And so the Lord says: “it is I myself. Feel and see” (Lk 24:39).
294 Next the obedience of the disciples is mentioned; for immediately they went and saw, because by coming they saw him, and seeing they did not leave him. Thus it says, and they stayed with him the rest of that day, for as stated below (6:45): “Every one who hears the Father, and has learned, comes to me.” For those who leave Christ have not yet seen him as they should. But those who have seen him by perfectly believing stayed with him the rest of that day; hearing and seeing that blessed day, they spent a blessed night: “Happy are your men, and happy are your servants, who always stand before you” (1 Kgs 8:10). And as Augustine says: “Let us also build a dwelling in our heart and fashion a home where he may come and teach us.”
And he says, that day, because there can be no night where the light of Christ is present, where there is the Sun of justice.
295 The time is given when he says, It was about the tenth hour. The Evangelist mentions this in order that, considering the literal sense, he might give credit to Christ and the disciples. For the tenth hour is near the end of the day. And this praises Christ who was so eager to teach that not even the lateness of the hour induced him to postpone teaching them; but he taught them at the tenth hour. “In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not let your hands be idle” (Ecc 11:6).
296 The moderation of the disciples is also praised, because even at the tenth hour, when men usually have eaten and are less self-possessed for receiving wisdom, they were both self-possessed and prepared to hear wisdom and were not hindered because of food or wine. But this is not unexpected, for they had been disciples of John, whose drink was water and whose food was the locust and wild honey.
297 According to Augustine, however, the tenth hour signifies the law, which was given in ten precepts. And so the disciples came to Christ at the tenth hour and remained with him to be taught so that the law might be fulfilled by Christ, since it could not be fulfilled by the Jews. And so at that hour he is called Rabbi, that is, Teacher.
298 Then (v 40), he sets forth the fruit produced by the disciple of John who was converted to Christ. First, the disciple is described; secondly, the fruit begun by him (v 41); thirdly, the consummation of this fruit by Christ (v 42).
299 The disciple is described by name when he says, Andrew, i.e., “manly”. “Act manfully, and let Your heart be strong,” as it says in Psalm 30 (v 25). he mentions his name in order to show his privilege: he was not only the first to be perfectly converted to Christ, but he also preached Christ. So, as Stephen was the first martyr after Christ, so Andrew was the first Christian.
He is described, secondly, by his relationship, that is, as Simon Peter’s brother, for he was the younger. And this is mentioned to commend him, for although younger in age, he became first in faith.
He is described, thirdly, by his discipleship, because he was one of the two who had followed him. His name is mentioned in order to show that Andrew’s privilege was remarkable. For the name of the other disciple is not mentioned: either because it was John the Evangelist himself, who through humility followed the practice in his Gospel of not mentioning his own name when he was involved in some event; or, according to Chrysostom, because the other one was not a notable person, nor had he done anything great, and so there was no need to mention his name. Luke does the same in his Gospel (10:1), where he does not mention the names of the seventy-two disciples sent out by the Lord, because they were not the outstanding and important persons that the apostles were. Or, according to Alcuin, this other disciple was Philip: for the Evangelist, after discussing Andrew, begins at once with Philip, saying: “On the following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and coming upon Philip” (below 1:43).
He is commended, fourthly, for the zeal of his devotion; hence he says that Andrew followed him, i.e., Jesus: “My foot has followed in his steps” (Jb 23:11).
300 The fruit begun by Andrew is mentioned when he says, The first thing he did was to look for his brother Simon. He first mentions the one for whom he bore fruit, that is, his brother, in order to mark the perfection of his conversion. For as Peter says, in the Itinerary of Clement, the evident sign of a perfect conversion of anyone is that, once converted, the closer one is to him the more he tries to convert him to Christ. And so Andrew, being now perfectly converted, does not keep the treasure he found to himself, but hurries and quickly runs to his brother to share with him the good things he has received. And so he says the first thing he, that is, Andrew, did was to look for his brother Simon, so that related in blood he might make him related in faith: “A brother that is helped by his brother is like a strong city” (Prv 18:19); “Let him who hears say, ‘Come’ “ (Rv 22:17).
301 Secondly, he mentions the words spoken by Andrew, We have found the Messiah (which means the Christ). Here, according to Chrysostom, he is tacitly answering a certain question: namely, that if someone were to ask what they had been instructed about by Christ, they would have the ready answer that through the testimony of the Scriptures he instructed him in such a way that he knew he was the Christ. And so he says, We have found the Messiah. He implies by this that he had previously sought him by desire for a long time: “Happy is the man who finds wisdom” (Prv 3:13).
“Messiah,” which is Hebrew, is translated as “Christos” in Greek, and in Latin as “Unctus” (anointed), because he was anointed in a special way with invisible oil, the oil of the Holy Spirit. So Andrew explicitly designates him by this title: “Your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows,” i.e., above all the saints. For all the saints are anointed with that oil, but Christ was singularly anointed and is singularly holy. So, as Chrysostom says, he does not simply call him “Messiah,” but the Messiah.
302 Thirdly, he mentions the fruit he produced, because he brought him, that is, Peter, to Jesus. This gives recognition to Peter’s obedience, for he came at once, without delay. And consider the devotion of Andrew: for he brought him to Jesus and not to himself (for he knew that he himself was weak); and so he leads him to Christ to be instructed by him. This shows us that the efforts and the aim of preachers should not be to win for themselves the fruits of their preaching, i.e., to turn them to their own private benefit and honor, but to bring them to Jesus, i.e., to refer them to his glory and honor: “What we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ,” as is said in 2 Corinthians (4:5).
303 The consummation of this fruit is given when he says, Looking at him intently Jesus said. Here Christ, wishing to raise him up to faith in His divinity, begins to perform works of divinity, making know things that are hidden. First of all, things which are hidden in the present: so looking at him, i.e, as soon as Jesus saw him, he considered him by the power of his divinity and called him by name, saying, You are Simon. This is not surprising, for as it is said: “Man sees the appearances, but the Lord sees the heart” (I Sm 16:7). This name is appropriate for the mystery. For “Simon” means “obedient,” to indicate that obedience is necessary for one who has been converted to Christ through faith: “He gives the Holy Spirit to all who obey him” (Acts 5:32).
304 Secondly, he reveals things hidden in the past. Hence he says, son of John, because that was the name of Simon’s father; or he says, “son of Jonah,” as we find in Matthew (16:17), “Simon Bar-Jonah.” And each name is appropriate to this mystery. For “John” means “grace,” to indicate that it is through grace that men come to the faith of Christ: “You are saved by his grace” (Eph 2:5). And “Jonah” means “dove,” to indicate that it is by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us, that we are made strong in our love for God: “The love of God is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5).
305 Thirdly, he reveals things hidden in the future. So he says, you are to be called Cephas (which is translated Peter), and in Greek, “head.” And this is appropriate to this mystery, which is that he who was to be the head of the others and the vicar of Christ should remain firm. As Matthew (16:18) says: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”
306 There is a question here about the literal meaning. First, why did Christ give Simon a name at the beginning of his conversion, rather than will that he have this name from the time of his birth? Two different answers have been given for this. The first, according to Chrysostom, is that divinely given names indicate a certain eminence in spiritual grace. Now when God confers a special grace upon anyone, the name indicating that grace is given at one’s birth: as in the case of John the Baptist, who was named before he was born, because he had been sanctified in his mother’s womb. But sometimes a special grace is given during the course of one’s life: then such names are divinely given at that time and not at birth: as in the case of Abraham and Sarah, whose names were changed when they received the promise that their posterity would multiply. Likewise, Peter is named in a divine way when he is called to the faith of Christ and to the grace of apostleship, and particularly because he was appointed Prince of the apostles of the entire Church—which was not done with the other apostles.
But, according to Augustine, if he had been called Cephas from birth, this mystery would not have been apparent. And so the Lord willed that he should have one name at birth, so that by changing his name the mystery of the Church, which was built on his confession of faith, would be apparent. Now “Peter” (Petrus) is derived from “rock” (petra). But the rock. was Christ. Thus, the name “Peter” signifies the Church, which was built upon that solid and immovable rock which is Christ.
307 The second question is whether this name was given to Peter at this time, or at the time mentioned by Matthew (16:18). Augustine answers that this name was given to Simon at this time; and at the event reported by Matthew the Lord is not giving this name but reminding him of the name that was given, so that Christ is using this name as already given. But others think that this name was given when the Lord said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Mt 16:18); and in this passage in the Gospel of John, Christ is not giving this name, but foretelling what will be given later.
308 The third question is about the calling of Peter and Andrew: for here it says that they were called near the Jordan, because they were John’s disciples; but in Matthew (4:18) it says that Christ called them by the Sea of Galilee. The answer to this is that there was a triple calling of the apostles. The first was a call to knowledge or friendship and faith; and this is the one recorded here. The second consisted in the prediction of their office: “From now on you will be catching men” (Lk 5:10). The third call was to their apostleship, which is mentioned by Matthew (4:18). This was the perfect call because after this they were not to return to their own pursuits.
43 On the following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and coming upon Philip, he said, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip came from Bethsaida, the same town as Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip sought out Nathanael, and said to him, “We have found the one Moses spoke of in the law - the prophets too - Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” 46 “From Nazareth!” Nathanael replied, “What good can come from th1t place?” Philip said, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him: “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile.” 48 Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?” Jesus replied and said, “Before Philip called you, I saw you when you were sitting under the fig tree.” 49 “Rabbi,” said Nathanael, “you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus responded and said, “You believed just because I said to you that I saw you sitting under the fig tree! You will see greater things than this.” 51 He went on to say, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
309 After having shown the fruit produced by John’s preaching and that of his disciples, the Evangelist now shows the fruit obtained from the preaching of Christ. First, he deals with the conversion of one disciple as the result of Christ’s preaching. Secondly, the conversion of others due to the preaching of the disciple just converted to Christ (v 45). As to the first he does three things: first, the occasion when the disciple is called is given; secondly, his calling is described; thirdly, his situation.
310 The occasion of his calling was the departure of Jesus from Judea. So he says, On the following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and coming upon Philip. There are three reasons why Jesus left for Galilee, two of which are literal. One of these is that after being baptized by John and desiring to shed honor on the Baptist, he left Judea for Galilee so that his presence would not obscure and lessen John’s teaching authority (while he still retained that state); and this teaches us to show honor to one another, as is said in Romans (12:10).
The second reason is that there are no distinguished persons in Galilee: “No prophet is to rise from Galilee” (below 7:52). And so, to show the greatness of his power, Christ wished to go there and choose there the princes of the earth, who are greater than the prophets: “He has turned the desert into pools of water,” as we read in Psalm 106 (v 35).
The third reason is mystical: for “Galilee” means “passage.” So Christ desired to go from Judea into Galilee in order to indicate that on “on the following day,” i.e., on the day of grace, that is, the day of the Good News, he would pass from Judea into Galilee, i.e., to save the Gentiles: “Is he going to go to those who are dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?” (below 7:35).
311 A disciple’s vocation is to follow: hence he says that after Christ found Philip he said, Follow me. Note that sometimes man finds God, but without knowing it, as it were: “He who finds me will find life, and will have salvation from the Lord” (Prv 8:35). And at other times God finds the man, in order to bestow honor and greatness upon him: “I have found David, my servant” (Ps 88:2 1 ). Christ found Philip in this way, that is, to call him to the faith and to grace. And so he says at once, Follow me.
312 There is a question here: Why did not Jesus call his disciples at the very beginning? Chrysostorn answers that he did not wish to call anyone before someone clung to him spontaneoulsy because of John’s preaching, for men are drawn by example more than by words.
313 One might also ask why Philip followed Christ immediately after only a word, while Andrew followed Christ after hearing about him from John, and Peter after hearing from Andrew.
Three answers can be given. One is that Philip had already been instructed by John: for according to one of the explanations given above, Philip was that other disciple who followed Christ along with Andrew. Another is that Christ’s voice had power not only to act on one’s hearing from without, but also on the heart from within: “My words are like fire” (Jer 23:29). For the voice of Christ was spoken not only to the exterior, but it enkindled the interior of the faithful to love him. The third answer is that Philip. had perhaps already been instructed about Christ by Andrew and Peter, since they were from the same town. In fact, this is what the Evangelist seems to imply by adding, Now Philip came from Bethsaida, the same town as Andrew and Peter.
314 This gives us the situation of the disciples he called: for they were from Bethsaida. And this is appropriate to this mystery. For “Bethsaida” means “house of hunters,” to show the attitude of Philip, Peter and Andrew at that time, and because it was fitting to call, from the house of hunters, hunters who were to capture souls for life: “I will send my hunters” (Jer 16:16).
315 Now the fruit produced by the disciple who was converted to Christ is given. First, the beginning of the fruit, coming from this disciple. Secondly, its consummation by Christ (v 47). As to the first, he does three things: first, the statement of Philip is given; secondly, Nathanael’s response; and thirdly, Philip’s ensuing advice.
316 As to the first, note that just as Andrew, after having been perfectly converted, was eager to lead his brother to Christ, so too Philip with regard to his brother, Nathanael. And so he says that Philip found Nathanael, whom he probably looked for as Andrew did for Peter; and this was a sign of a perfect conversion. The word “Nathanael” means “gift of God”; and it is God’s gift if anyone is converted to Christ.
He tells him that all the prophecies and the law have been fulfilled, and that the desires of their holy forefathers are not in vain, but have been guaranteed, and that what God has promised was now accomplished. We have found the one Moses spoke of in the law—the prophets too—Jesus. We understand by this that Nathanael was fairly learned in the law, and that Philip, now having learned about Christ, wished to lead Nathanael to Christ through the things he himself knew, that is, from the law and the prophets. So he says, the one Moses spoke of in the law. For Moses wrote of Christ: “If you believed Moses, you would perhaps believe me, for he wrote of me” (below 5:46). The prophets too wrote of Christ: “All the prophets bear witness to him” (Acts 10:43).
317 Note that Philip says three things about Christ that are in agreement with the law and the prophets. First, the name: for he says, We have found Jesus. And this agrees with the prophets: “I will send them a Savior” (Is 19:20); “1 will rejoice in God, my Jesus” (Hb 3:18).
Secondly, the family from which Christ took his human origin, when he says, son of Joseph, i.e., who was of the house and family of David. And although Jesus did not derive his origin from him, yet he did derive it from the Virgin, who was of the same line as Joseph. He calls him the son of Joseph, because Jesus was considered to be the son of the one to whom his mother was married. So it is said: “the son of Joseph (as was supposed)” (Lk 3:23). Nor is it strange that Philip called him the son of Joseph, since his own mother, who was aware of his divine incarnation, called him his son: “Your father and I have been looking for you in sorrow” (Lk 2:48). Indeed, if one is called the son of another because he is supported by him, this is more reason why Joseph should be called the father of Jesus, even though he was not so according to the flesh: for he not only supported him, but was the husband of his virgin mother. However, Philip calls him the son of Joseph (not as though he was born from the union of Joseph and the Virgin) because he knew that Christ would be born from the line of David; and this was the house and family of Joseph, to whom Mary was married. And this also is in agreement with the prophets: “I will raise up a just branch for David” (Jer 23:5).
Thirdly, he mentions his native land, saying, from Nazareth; not because he had been born there, but because he was brought up there; but he had been born in Bethlehem. Philip omits to mention Bethlehem but not Nazareth because, while the birth of Christ was not known to many, the place where he was brought up was. And this also agrees with the prophets: “A shoot will arise from the root of Jesse, and a flower (or Nazarene, according to another version) will rise up from his roots” (Is I I: I).
318 Then when he says, Nathanael replied, the answer of Nathanael is given. His answer can be interpreted as an assertion or as a question; and in either way it is suitable to Philip’s affirmation. If it is taken as an assertion, as Augustine does, the meaning is: “Some good can come from Nazareth.” In other words, from a city with that name it is possible that there come forth to us some very excellent grace or some outstanding teacher to preach to us about the flower of the virtues and the purity of sanctity; for “Nazareth” means “flower.” We can understand from this that Nathanael, being quite learned in the law and a student of the Scriptures, knew that the Savior was expected to come from Nazareth—something that was not so clear even to the Scribes and Pharisees. And so when Philip said, We have found Jesus from Nazareth, his hopes were lifted and he answered: “Indeed, some good can come from Nazareth.”
But if we take his answer as a question, as Chrysostom does, then the sense is: From Nazareth! What good can come from that place? As if to say: Everything else you say seems credible, because his name and his lineage are consistent with the prophecies, but your statement that he is from Nazareth does not seem possible. For Nathanael understood from the Scriptures that the Christ was to come from Bethlehem, according to: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of you a ruler will come forth, who will rule my people Israel,” as we read in Matthew (2:6). And so, not finding Philip’s statement in agreement with the prophecy, he prudently and moderately inquires about its truth, What good can come from that place?
319 Then Philip’s advice is given, Come and see. And this advice suits either interpretation of Nathanael’s answer. To the assertive interpretation it is as though he says: You say that something good can come from Nazareth, but I say that the good I state to you is of such a nature and so marvelous that I am unable to express it in words, so Come and see. To the interpretation that makes it a question, it as as though he says: You wonder and say: What good can come from that place?, thinking that this is impossible according to the Scriptures. But if you are willing to experience what I experienced, you will understand that what I say is true, so Come and see.
Then, not discouraged by his questions, Philip brings Nathanael to Christ. He knew that he would no longer argue with him if he tasted the words and teaching of Christ. And in this, Philip was imitating Christ who earlier answered those who had asked about the place where he lived: “Come and see ... “Come to him, and be enlightened” (Ps 33:6).
320 Then when he says, When Jesus saw Nathanael, the consummation of this fruit by Christ is described. We should note that there are two ways in which men are converted to Christ: some by miracles they have seen and things experienced in themselves or in others; others are converted through internal insights, through prophecy and the foreknowledge of what is hidden in the future. The second way is more efficacious than the first: for devils and certain men who receive their help can simulate marvels; but to predict the future can only be done by divine power. “Tell us what is to come, and we will say that you are gods” (Is 41:23); “Prophecies are for those who believe.” And so our Lord draws Nathanael to the faith not by miracles but by making known things which are hidden. And so he says of him, Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile.
321 Christ mentions three hidden matters: things hidden in the present, in the heart; past facts; and future heavenly matters. To know these three things is not a human but a divine achievement.
He mentions things hidden in the present when he says, Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile. Here we have, first, the prior revelation of Christ; secondly, Nathanael’s question, How do you know me?
322 First he says, When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him. As if to say: Before Nathanael reached him, Jesus said, Here is a true Israelite. He said this about him before he came to him, because had he said it after he came, Nathanael might have believed that Jesus had heard it from Philip.
Christ said, Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile. Now “Israel” has two meanings. One of these, as the Gloss says, is “most righteous”.—“Do not fear, my most righteous servant, whom I have chosen” (Is 44:2). Its second meaning is “the man who sees God.” And according to each meaning Nathanael is a true Israelite. For since one in whom there is no guile is called righteous, Nathanael is said to be a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile. As if to say: You truly represent your race because you are righteous and without guile. Further, because man sees God through cleanness of heart and simplicity, Christ said, a true Israelite, i.e., you are a man who truly sees God because you are simple and without guile.
Further, he said, in whom there is no guile, so that we do not think that it was with malice that Nathanael asked: What good can come from that place?
323 Augustine has a different explanation of this passage. It is clear that all are born under sin. Now those who have sin in their hearts but outwardly pretend to be just are called guileful. But a sinner who admits that he is a sinner is not guileful. So Christ said, Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile, not because Nathanael was without sin, or because he had no need of a physician, for no one is born in such a way as not to need a physician; but he was praised by Christ because he admitted his sins.
324 Then when he says, How do you know me?, we have Nathanael’s question. For Nathanael, in wonder at the divine power in this revelation of what is hidden, because this can only be from God—“The heart is depraved and inscrutable, and who is able to know it? I the Lord search the heart and probe the loins” (Jer 17:9); “Man sees the appearances, but the Lord sees the heart” (I Sin 16:7)—asks, How do you know me? Here we can recognize Nathanael’s humility, because, although he had been praised, he did not become elated, but held this praise of himself suspect. “My people, who call you blessed, they are deceiving you” (Is 3:12).
325 Then he touches on matters in the past, saying, Before Philip called you, I saw you when you were sitting under the fig tree. First we have the statement of Christ; secondly, the confession of Nathanael.
326 As to the first, we should note that Nathanael might have had two misgivings about Christ. One, that Christ said this in order to win his friendship by flattery; the other, that Christ had learned what he knew from others. So, to remove Nathanael’s suspicions and raise him to higher things, Christ reveals certain hidden matters that no one could know except in a divine way, that is, things that related only to Nathanael. He refers to these when he says, Before Philip called you, I saw you when you were sitting under the fig tree. In the literal sense, this means that Nathanael was under a fig tree when he was called by Philip—which Christ knew by divine power, for “The eyes of the Lord are far brighter than the sun” (Sir 23:28).
In the mystical sense, the fig tree signifies sin: both because we find a fig tree, bearing only leaves but no fruit, being cursed, as a symbol of sin (Mt 11:19); and because Adam and Eve, after they had sinned, made clothes from fig leaves. So he says here, when you were sitting under the fig tree, i.e., under the shadow of sin, before you were called to grace, I saw you, with the eye of mercy; for God’s predestination looks upon the predestined, who are living under sin, with an eye of pity, for as Ephesians (1:4) says, “ He chose us before the foundation of the world.” And he speaks of this eye here: I saw you, by predestining you from eternity.
Or, the meaning is, according to Gregory: I saw you when you were sitting under the fig tree, i.e., under the shadow of the law. “The law has only a shadow of the good things to come” (Heb 10:1).
327 Hearing this, Nathanael is immediately converted, and, seeing the power of the divinity in Christ, breaks out in words of conversion and praise, saying, Rabbi, you are the Son of God. Here he considers three things about Christ. First, the fullness of his knowledge, when he says, Rabbi, which is translated as Teacher. As if to say: You are perfect in knowledge. For he had already realized what is said in Matthew (23:10): “You have one Teacher, the Christ.” Secondly, the excellence of his singular grace, when he says, you are the Son of God. For it is due to grace alone that one becomes a son of God by adoption. And it is also through grace that one is a son of God through union; and this is exclusive to the man Christ, because that man is the Son of God not due to any preceding merit, but through the grace of union. Thirdly, he considers the greatness of his power when he says, you are the King of Israel, i.e., awaited by Israel as its king and defender: “His power is everlasting” (Dn 7:14).
328 A question comes up at this point, according to Chrysostom. For since Peter, who after many miracles and much teaching, confessed what Nathanael confesses here about Christ, that is, you are the Son of God, merited a blessing, as the Lord said: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona” (Mt 16:17), why not the same for Nathanael, who said the same thing before seeing any miracles or receiving any teaching? Chrysostom answers that the reason for this is that even though Nathanael and Peter spoke the same words, the meaning of the two was not the same. For Peter acknowledged that Christ was the true Son of God by nature, i.e., he was man, and yet truly God; but Nathanael acknowledged that Christ was the Son of God by means of adoption, in the sense of, “I said: You are gods, and all of you the sons of the Most High”(Ps 81:6). This is clear from what Nathanael said next: for if he had understood that Christ was the Son of God by nature, he would not have said, you are the King of Israel, but “of the whole world.” It is also clear from the fact that Christ added nothing to the faith of Peter, since it was perfect, but stated that he would build the Church on that profession. But he raises Nathanael to greater things, since the greater part of his profession was deficient; to greater things, i.e., to a knowledge of his divinity.
329 And so he said, You will see greater things than this. Here we have, thirdly, an allusion to the future. As if to say: Because I have revealed the past to you, you believe that I am the Son of God only by adoption, and the King of Israel; but I will bring you to greater knowledge, so that you may believe that I am the natural Son of God, and the King of all ages. And accordingly he says, Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. By this, according to Chrysostom, the Lord wishes to prove that he is the true Son of God, and God. For the peculiar task of angels is to minister and be subject: “Bless the Lord, all of you, his angels, his ministers, who do his will” (Ps 102:20). So when you see angels minister to me, you will be certain that I am the true Son of God. “When he leads his First-Begotten into the world, he says: ‘Let all the angels of God adore him’” (Heb 1:6).
330 When did the apostles see this? They saw it, I say, during the passion, when an angel stood by to comfort Christ (Lk 22:13); again, at the resurrection, when the apostles found two angels who were standing over the tomb. Again, at the ascension, when the angels said to the apostles: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking up to heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11 ).
331 Because Christ spoke the truth about the past, it was easier for Nathanael to believe what he foretells about the future, saying, you will see. For one who has revealed the truth about things hidden in the past, has an evident argument that what he is saying about the future is true. He says, the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man, because, in his mortal flesh, he was a little less than the angels; and from this point of view, angels ascend and descend upon him. But insofar as he is the Son of God, he is above the angels, as was said.
332 According to Augustine, Christ is here revealing his divinity in a beautiful way. For it is recorded that Jacob dreamed of a ladder, standing on the ground, with “the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Gn 28:16). Then Jacob arose and poured oil on a stone and said, “Truly, the Lord is in this place” (Gn 28:16). Now that stone is Christ, whom the builders rejected; and the invisible oil of the Holy Spirit was poured on him. He is set up as a pillar, because he was to be the foundation of the Church: “No one can lay another foundation except that which has been laid” (1 Cor 3:11). The angels are ascending and descending inasmuch as they are ministering and serving before him. So he said, Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened, and so forth, as if to say: Because you are truly an Israelite, give heed to what Israel saw, so that you many believe that I am the one signified by the stone anointed by Jacob, for you also will see angels ascending and descending upon him [viz. Jesus].
333 Or, the angels are, according to Augustine, the preachers of Christ: “Go, swift angels, to a nation rent and torn to pieces,” as it says in Isaiah (18:2). They ascend through contemplation, just as Paul had ascended even to the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2); and they descend by instructing their neighbor. On the Son of Man, i.e., for the honor of Christ, because “what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:5). In order that they might ascend and descend, the heavens were opened, because heavenly graces must be given to preachers if they are to ascend and descend. “The heavens broke at the presence of God” (Ps 67:9); “1 saw the heavens open” (Rv 4:1 ).
334 Now the reason why Nathanael was not chosen to be an apostle after such a profession of faith is that Christ did not want the conversion of the world to the faith to be attributed to human wisdom, but solely to the power of God. And so he did not choose Nathanael as an apostle, since he was very learned in the law; he rather chose simple and uneducated men. “Not many of you are learned,” and “God chose the simple of the world” (1 Cor 1:26).