LECTURE I1 Jesus however proceeded to the Mount of Olives, 2 and early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and sitting down, he taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery and placed her in their midst. 4 They said to him, "Master, this woman has just now been caught in adultery. 5 In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. But what do you say?" 6 (They said this to test him so that they could accuse him.) But Jesus bending down wrote on the ground with his finger. 7 As they persisted in the question, he stood up and said to them: "Whoever among you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone at her." 8 And again bending down, he wrote on the ground. 9 On hearing this, one after the other departed, beginning with the oldest, and there remained only Jesus and the woman standing there in the center. 10 Rising up, Jesus asked the woman: "Woman, where are those who accuse you? Has no one condemned you?" 11 To which she replied, "No one, Lord." Then Jesus said: "Nor will I condemn you. Go and do not sin again."
1118 After having treated of the origin of the doctrine of Christ, the Evangelist here considers its power. Now the doctrine of Christ has the power both to enlighten and to give life, because his words are spirit and life. So first, he treats of the power of Christ's doctrine to enlighten; secondly, of its power to give life (10:1). He shows the power of Christ's doctrine to enlighten, first by words; and secondly, by a miracle (9:1). As to the first, he does two things: first, he presents the teaching of Christ; secondly, he shows the power of his teaching (8:12).
There are two things that pertain to the office of a teacher: to instruct the devout or sincere, and to repel opponents. So first, Christ instructs those who are sincere; and secondly, he repels his opponents (v 3). The Evangelist does three things with respect to the first: first, he mentions the place where this teaching takes place; secondly, he mentions those who listened to it; and thirdly, the teacher. This teaching took place in the temple; so he first mentions that Jesus left the temple, and then that he returned.
1119 He mentions that Jesus left the temple when he says, Jesus however proceeded to the Mount of Olives. For our Lord made it his practice, when he was at Jerusalem on the festival days, to preach in the temple and to work miracles and signs during the day, and when evening came, he would return to Bethany (which was on the Mount of Olives) as the guest of Lazarus' sisters, Martha and Mary. With this in mind, the Evangelist says that since Jesus had remained in the temple and preached on the last day of the great feast, in the evening, Jesus proceeded to the Mount of Olives, where Bethany was located.
And this is appropriate to a mystery: for as Augustine says, where was it appropriate for Christ to teach and show his mercy, if not on the Mount of Olives, the mount of anointing and of grace. The olive (oliva) signifies mercy; so also in Greek, oleos is the same as mercy. And Luke (10:24) tells us that the Samaritan applied oil and wine, which correspond to mercy and the stringency of judgment. Again, oil is healing: "Wounds and bruises and swelling sores are not bandaged or dressed, or soothed with oil" (Is 1:6). It also signifies the medicine of spiritual grace which has been transmitted to us by Christ: "God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows" (Ps 44:8); and again, "like the precious ointment on the head which ran down upon the beard (Ps 132:2); and in Job we read that "The rock poured out rivers of oil" (Jb 29:6).
1120 Christ's return to the temple is described as being early; thus he says, and early in the morning he came again to the temple. This signifies that he was about to impart knowledge and manifest his grace in his temple, that is, in his believers: "We have received your mercy, O God, in the middle of your temple" (Ps 47:10). The fact that he returned early in the morning signifies the rising light of new grace: "His going forth is as sure as the dawn" (Hos 6:3).
1121 Those who listened to his teaching were the sincere among the people; thus he says, all the people came to him: "The assembly of the people will surround you" (Ps 7:8).
1122 Their teacher is presented as seated, and sitting down, that is, going down to their level, so that his teaching would be more easily understood. His sitting down signifies the humility of his incarnation: "You knew when I sat down, and when I rose" (Ps 138:1). Because it was through the human nature that our Lord assumed that he became visible, we began to be instructed in the divine matters more easily. So he says, sitting down, he taught them, that is, the simple, and those who respected his teaching: "He will teach his ways to the gentle, and will guide the mild in judgment" (Ps 24:9); "He will teach us his ways (Is 2:3).
1123 Then (v 3), our Lord wards off his opponents. First, we see him tested, so that he can then be accused; and secondly, he checks his accusers (v 6b). As to the first, the Evangelist does three things: first, he mentions the occasion for the test; secondly, he describes the test itself (v 4); and thirdly, the purpose of those who were testing our Lord.
1124 The occasion for the test is a woman's adultery. And so first, her accusers detail the crime; and also exhibit the sinner. As to the first, the Evangelist says, Then the scribes and Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. As Augustine says, three things were noteworthy about Christ: his truth, his gentleness, and his justice. Indeed, it was predicted about him: "Go forth and reign, because of truth, gentleness, and justice" (Ps 44:5). For he set forth the truth as a teacher; and the Pharisees and scribes noticed this while he was teaching: "If I speak the truth, why do you not believe me?" (8:46). Since they could find nothing false in his words or his teachings, they had ceased their accusations on that score. He showed his gentleness as a liberator or savior; and they saw this when he could not be provoked against his enemies and persecutors: "When he was reviled, he did not revile" (1 Pet 2:23). Thus Matthew has: "Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart" (11:29). Thus they did not accuse him on this point. And he exercised justice as its advocate; he did this because it was not yet known among the Jews, especially in legal proceedings. It was on this point that they wanted to test him, to see if he would abandon justice for the sake of mercy. So they present him with a known crime, deserving denunciation, adultery: "Every woman who is a harlot will be walked on like dung on the road" (Sir 9:10). Then they present the sinner in person to further influence him: and placed her in their midst. "This woman will be brought into the assembly, and among the sons of God" (Sir 23:24).
1125 The Evangelist shows them proceeding with their test. First, they point out the woman's fault; secondly, they state the justice of the case according to the Law; thirdly, they ask him for his verdict.
1126 They point out the woman's fault when they say this woman has just now been caught in adultery. They detail her fault in three ways, calculated to deflect Christ from his gentle manner. First, they mention the freshness of her fault, saying just now; for an old fault does not affect us so much, because the person might have made amends. Secondly, they note its certainty, saying, caught, so that she could not excuse herself. This is characteristic of women, as we see from Proverbs (33:20): "She wipes her mouth and says: 'I have done no evil." "Thirdly, they point out that her fault is great, in adultery, which is a serious crime and the cause of many evils. "Every woman who is an adulterous will sin" (Sir 9), and first of all against the law of her God.
1127 They appeal to the justice contained in the Law when they remark, in the Law, that is, in Leviticus (20:10) and in Deuteronomy (22:21), Moses commanded us to stone such a woman.
1128 They ask Jesus for his verdict when they say, But what do you say? Their question is a trap, for they are saying in effect: If he decides that she should be let go, he will not be acting according to justice, yet he cannot condemn her because he came to seek and to save those who are lost: "God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (3:17). Now the Law could not command anything unjust. Thus, Jesus does not say, "Let her go," lest he seem to be acting in violation of the Law.
1129 The Evangelist reveals the malicious intention behind those who were questioning Jesus when he says, They said this to test him so that they could accuse him. For they thought that Christ would say that she should be let go, so as not to be acting contrary to his gentle manner; and then they would accuse him of acting in violation of the Law: "Let us not test Christ as they did" as we read in 1 Corinthians (10:9).
1130 Then, Jesus checks his enemies by his wisdom. The Pharisees were testing him on two points: his justice and his mercy. But Jesus preserved both in his answer. First, the Evangelist shows how Jesus kept to what was just; and secondly, that he did not abandon mercy (v 7). As to the first, he does two things: first, he mentions the sentence in accordance with justice; secondly the effect of this sentence (v 9). About the first he does three things: first, we see Jesus writing his sentence; then pronouncing it; and thirdly, continuing again to write it down.
1131 Jesus wrote his sentence on the earth with his finger: But Jesus bending down wrote on the ground with his finger. Some say that he wrote the words Jeremiah: "O earth, earth, listen…write down this man as sterile" (Jer 22:29). According to others, and this is the better opinion, Jesus wrote down the very words he spoke, that is, Whoever among you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone at her. However, neither of these opinions is certain.
Jesus wrote on the earth for three reasons. First, according to Augustine, to show that those who were testing him would be written on the earth: "O Lord, all who leave you will be written on the earth" (Jer 17:13). But those who are just and the disciples who follow him are written in heaven: "Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Lk 10:20). Secondly, he wrote on earth to show that he would perform signs on earth, for he who writes make signs. Thus, to write on the earth is to make signs. And so he says that Jesus was bending down, by the mystery of the Incarnation, by means of which he performed miracles in the flesh he had assumed. Thirdly, he wrote on the earth because the Old Law was written on tablets of stone (Ex 31; 2 Cor 3), which signify its harshness: "A man who violates the law of Moses dies without mercy" (Heb 10:28). But the earth is soft. And so Jesus wrote on the earth to show the sweetness and the softness of the New Law that he gave to us.
We can see from this that there are three things to be considered in giving sentences. First, there should be kindness in condescending to those to be punished; and so he says, Jesus was bending down: "There is judgment without mercy to him who does not have mercy" (Jas 2:13); "If a man is overtaken in any fault, you who are spiritual instruct him in a spirit of mildness" (Gal 6:1). Secondly, there should be discretion in determining the judgment and so he says that Jesus wrote with his finger, which because of its flexibility signifies discretion: "The fingers of a man's hand appeared, writing" (Dan 5:5). Thirdly, there should be certitude about the sentence given; and so he says, Jesus wrote.
1132 It was at their insistence that Jesus gave his sentence; and so the Evangelist says, As they persisted in the question, he stood up and said to them: Whoever among you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone at her. The Pharisees were violators of the Law; and yet they tried to accuse Christ of violating the Law and were attempting to make him condemn the woman. So Christ proposes a sentence in accord with justice, saying, Whoever among you is without sin. He is saying in effect: Let the sinner be punished, but not by sinners; let the Law be accomplished, but not by those who break it, because "When you judge another you condemn yourself" (Rom 2:1). Therefore, either let this woman go, or suffer the penalty of the Law with her.
1133 Here the question arises as to whether a sinful judge sins by passing sentence against another person who has committed the same sin. It is obvious that if the judge who passes sentence is a public sinner, he sins by giving scandal. Yet, this seems to be true also if his sin is hidden, for we read in Romans (2:1): "When you judge another you condemn yourself." However, it is clear that no one condemns himself except by sinning. And thus it seems that he sins by judging another.
My answer to this is that two distinctions have to be made. For the judge is either continuing in his determination to sin, or he has repented of his sins; and again, he is either punishing as a minister of the law or on his own initiative. Now if he has repented of his sin, he is no longer a sinner, and so he can pass sentence without sinning. But if he continues in his determination to sin, he does not sin in passing sentence if he does this as a minister of the law; although he would be sinning by doing the very things for which he deserves a similar sentence. But if he passes sentence on his own authority, then I say that he sins in justice, but from some evil root; otherwise he would first punish in himself what he notices in someone else, because "A just person is the first to accuse himself" (Prv 18:17).
1134 Jesus continued to write, and again bending down, he wrote. He did this, first, to show the firmness of his sentence, "God is not like a man, who may lie, or like a son of man, so that he may change" (Num 23:19). Secondly, he did it to show that they were not worthy to look at him. Because he had disturbed them with his zeal for justice, he did not think it fit to look at them, but turned from their sight. Thirdly, he did this out of consideration for their embarrassment, to give them complete freedom to leave.
1135 The effect of his justice is their embarrassment, for on hearing this, one after the other departed, both because they had been involved in more serious sins and their conscience gnawed them more: "Iniquity came out from the elder judges who were seen to rule the people" (Dn 13:5), and because they better realized the fairness of the sentence he gave: "I will go therefore to the great men and speak to them: for they have known the way of the Lord and the judgment of their God" (Jer 5:5).
And there remained only Jesus and the woman standing there, that is, mercy and misery. Jesus alone remained because he alone was without sin; as the Psalm says (Ps 13:1): "There is no one who does what is good not even one," except Christ. So perhaps this woman was afraid, and thought she would be punished by him.
If only Jesus remained, why does it say that the woman was standing there in the center? I answer that the woman was standing in the center of the disciples, and so the word only excludes outsiders, not the disciples. Or, we could say, in the center, that is, in doubt whether she would be forgiven or condemned. And so it is clear that our Lord's answer preserved justice.
1136 Then (v 10), he shows that Jesus did not abandon mercy, but gave a merciful sentence. First, Jesus questions the woman; then forgives her; and finally, cautions her.
1137 Jesus questioned her about her accusers; thus he says that Jesus rising up, that is, turning from the ground on which he was writing and looking at the woman, asked her, Woman, where are those who accuse you? He asks about her condemnation saying, Has no one condemned you? And she answers, No one, Lord.
1138 Jesus forgives her; and so it says, Then Jesus said: Nor will I condemn you, I who perhaps you feared would condemn you, because you saw that I was without sin. This should not surprise us for "God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (3:17); "I do not desire the death of the sinner" (Ez 18:23). And he forgave her sin without imposing any penance on her because since he made her inwardly just by outwardly forgiving her, he was well able to change her so much within by sufficient sorrow for her sins that she would be made free from any penance. This should not be taken as a precedent for anyone to forgive another without confession and the assigning of a penance on the ground of Christ's example, for Christ has power over the sacraments, and could confer the effect without the sacrament. No mere man can do this.
1139 Finally, Jesus cautions her when he says, Go, and do not sin again. There were two things in that woman: her nature and her sin. Our Lord could have condemned both. For example, he could have condemned her nature if he had ordered them to stone her, and he could have condemned her sin if he had not forgiven her. He was also able to absolve each. For example, if he had given her license to sin, saying: "Go, live as you wish, and put your hope in my freeing you. No matter how much you sin, I will free you even from Gehenna and from the tortures of hell." But our Lord does not love sin, and does not favor wrongdoing, and so he condemned her sin but not her nature, saying, Go, and do not sin again. We see here how kind our Lord is because of his gentleness, and how just he is because of his truth.
12 Again Jesus spoke to them saying: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but he will have the light of life." 13 The Pharisees then said to him, "You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true. 14 Jesus replied: "Even though I bear witness concerning myself, my testimony is true, because I know where I come from and where I am going. But you do not know where I come from, or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh. I do not judge anyone. 16 And if I do judge, my judgment is true because I am not alone; but there is me and the Father who sent me. 17 And it is written in your Law that the testimony of two men is true. 18 It is I who bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me who bears witness concerning me." 19 They therefore said to him, "Where is your Father?" Jesus replied, "You know neither me nor my Father. If you did know me, you might also know my Father." 20 Jesus spoke these words in the treasury where he was teaching in the temple; and no one arrested him because his hour had not yet come.
1140 The Evangelist has presented Christ as teaching; now he shows, first, the power which this teaching has to give light, and secondly, what Christ himself said about it (v 13). With respect to the first he does three things: first, he states Christ's prerogative concerning spiritual light; secondly, the effect of this prerogative, Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness; and thirdly, its fruit, but he will have the light of life.
1141 He says, concerning the prerogative of Christ, who is the light, to the spiritual light, Again Jesus spoke to them saying: I am the light of the world. We can relate this statement with what went before in this way. Christ had said, when forgiving the woman's sin, "Nor will I condemn you." And so they would have no doubt that he could forgive and pardon sins, he saw fit to show the power of his divinity more openly by saying that he is the light which drives away the darkness of sin. Or, we could connect this statement with what the Pharisees said before (7:52): "Look at the Scriptures and see that the Prophet will not come from Galilee." For they thought of him as a Galilean and linked to a definite place, and so they rejected his teaching. So our Lord shows them that he is in the universal light of the entire world, saying, I am the light of the world, not just of Galilee, or of Palestine, or of Judea.
1142 The Manicheans, as Augustine relates, misunderstood this: for since they judged by their imagination, which does not rise to intellectual and spiritual realities, they believed that nothing but bodies existed. Thus they said that God was a body; and a certain infinite light. Further, they thought that the sun that we see with our physical eyes was Christ the Lord. And that is why, according to them, Christ said, I am the light of the world. But this cannot hold up, and the Catholic Church rejects such a fiction. For this physical sun is a light which can be perceived by sense. Consequently, it is not the highest light, which intellect alone grasps, and which is the intelligible light characteristic of the rational creature. Christ says about this light here: I am the light of the world. And above we read: "He was the true light, which enlightens every man coming into this world" (1:9). Sense perceptible light, however, is a certain image of spiritual light, for every sensible thing is something particular, whereas intellectual things are a kind of whole. Just as particular light has an effect on the thing seen, inasmuch as it makes colors actually visible, as well as on the one seeing, because through it the eye is conditioned for seeing, so intellectual light makes the intellect to know because whatever light is in the rational creature is all derived from that supreme light "which enlightens every man coming into the world." Furthermore, it makes all things to be actually intelligible inasmuch as all forms are derived from it, forms which give things the capability of being known, just as all the forms of artifacts are derived from the art and reason on the artisan: "How magnificent are your works, O Lord! You have made all things in wisdom" (Ps 103:24). Thus Christ truly says here: I am the light of the world; not the sun which was made, but the one who made the sun. Yet as Augustine says, the Light which made the sun was himself made under the sun and covered with a cloud of flesh, not in order to hide but to be moderated [to our weakness].
1143 This also eliminates the heresy of Nestorius, who said that the Son of God was united to human nature by a mere indwelling. For it is obvious that the one who said, I am the light of the world, was a human being. Therefore, unless the one who spoke and appeared as a human being was also the person of the Son of God, he could not have said, I am the light of the world, but "The light of the world dwells in me."
1144 The effect of this light is to expel darkness; and so he says, Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness. Because this light is universal, it universally expels all darkness. Now there are three kinds of darkness. There is the darkness of ignorance: "The have neither known nor understood; they walk in darkness" (Ps 81:5); and this is the darkness reason has of itself, insofar as it is darkened of itself. There is the darkness of sin: "You were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord" (Eph 5:8). This darkness belongs to human reason not of itself, but from the affections which, by being badly disposed by passion or habit, seek something as good that is not really good. Further, there is the darkness of eternal damnation: "Cast the unprofitable servant into the exterior darkness" (Mt 25:30). The first two kinds of darkness are found in this life; but the third is at the end of life. Thus, Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness: the darkness of ignorance, because I am the truth; nor the darkness of sin, because I am the way; nor the darkness of eternal damnation, because I am the life.
1145 He next adds the fruit of his teaching, but he will have the light of life, for one who has the light is outside the darkness of damnation. He says, Whoever follows me, because just as one who does not want to stumble in the dark has to follow the one who is carrying the light, so one who wants to be saved must, by believing and loving, follow Christ, who is the light. This is the way the apostles followed him (Mt 4). Because physical light can fail because it sets, it happens that one who follows it meets with darkness. But the light we are talking about here does not set and never fails; consequently, one who follows it has an unfailing light, that is, an unfailing light of life. For the light that is visible does not give life, but gives us an external aid because we live insofar as we have understanding, and this is a certain participation in this light. And when this light completely shines upon us we will then have perfect life: "With you is the fountain of life, and in your light we will see the light" (Ps 35:10). This is the same as saying: We will have perfectly or completely when we see this light as it is. Thus we read further on: "This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (17:3).
Note that the phrase, whoever follows me, pertains to our merits; while the statement, he will have the light of life, pertains to our reward.
1146 The Evangelist mentions three things that Jesus says about himself. First, I am the light of the world; secondly, I am going away (v 21); and thirdly, if any one keeps my word, he will not see death forever (v 51).
The first thing he said was, I am the light of the world; and this troubled the Jews. So first, he shows their opposition; secondly, how Jesus proved that they were wrong by showing what he said was true (v 14).
1147 With respect to the first, it is obvious that what Jesus said in the temple, he said in the presence of the people. But now he is speaking before the Pharisees, and so they said to him: You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true. They were saying in effect: Because you are bearing witness to yourself, your testimony is not true.
Now in human affairs it is neither acceptable nor fitting that a person praise himself: "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth" (Prv 27:2), because self-praise does not make a person commendable, but being commended by God does: "It is not he who commends himself who is approved, but he whom God commends" (2 Cor 10:18), because only God perfectly knows a person. But no one can really sufficiently commend God except God himself; and so it is fitting that he bear witness to himself, and also to men: "My witness is in heaven" (Jb 16:20). Thus the opinion of the Jews was mistaken.
1148 Next (v 14), our Lord rejects their opposition: first, by the authority of his Father; secondly, by answering their rejection, which arose concerning his Father (v 19). The opposition of the Jews arose from a certain conclusion which they drew: and so the first he shows that their conclusion is not true; secondly, he proves that his own testimony is true (v 1b). He does two things concerning the first: first, he shows that their conclusion is false; secondly, he adds the reason for their error (v 14b).
1149 Their conclusion was that the testimony of Christ was not true, because he bore witness to himself. But our Lord says the opposite, namely, that because of this it is true. Jesus replied: Even though I bear witness concerning myself, my testimony is true; and it is true because I know where I come from and where I am going. It is like saying, according to Chrysostom, my testimony is true because I am from God, and because I am God, and because I am the Son of God: "God is truthful" (Rom 3:4).
He says, I know where I come from, that is, my origin, and where I am going, that is to the Father, whom no one but the Son can know perfectly: "No one knows the Father except the Son, and he to whom Son wishes to reveal him" (Mt 11:27). This does not imply that anyone who knows, by love and understanding, where he comes from and where he is going can speak only the truth, for we all come from God and are going to God. But God is truth: how much more, then, does the Son of God speak the truth, he who knows perfectly where he comes from and where he is going!
1150 Then when he says, But you do not know where I come from or where I am going, he shows the reason for their error, which was their ignorance of the divinity of Christ. For it was because they did not know this that they judged him according to his human nature. Thus, there were two reasons for their error. One, because they did not know his divinity; the other, because they judged him only by his human nature. And so he says, with respect to the first, you do no know where I come from, that is, my eternal procession from the Father, or where I am going, "The one who sent me is truthful. Whatever I have heard from him, this I declare to the world" (8:26); "From where, then, does wisdom come?" (Jb 28:20); "Who will state his origin?" (Is 53:8).
As for the second reason for their error, he says, you judge according to the flesh, that is, you judge me thinking that I am merely flesh and not God. Or, we could say, according to the flesh, that is, wickedly and unjustly. For just as to live according to the flesh is to live wickedly, so to judge according to the flesh is to judge unjustly.
1151 Then (v 15b), he shows that his testimony is true, and that it is false to say that he alone is bearing witness to himself. Because mention was now made about judging, he shows, first, that he is not alone in judging; and secondly, that he is not alone in bearing witness (v 17). He does three things about the first: first, he says that his judgment is deferred; secondly, that his judgment is true; and thirdly, he gives the reason why his judgment is true.
1152 He mentions that his judgment is deferred when he says, I do not judge anyone. He is saying in effect: You judge wickedly, but I do not judge anyone: "God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (3:17). Or, we could say, I do not judge anyone, according to the flesh, as you judge: "He will not judge by the sight of his eyes, or reprove by what his ears hear" (Is 11:3).
1153 Yet, I will judge at some time, because "The Father has given all judgment to the Son" (5:22). And then, my judgment is true, that is, just: "He will judge the people with justice" (Ps 95:10); "We know that the judgment of God is according to the truth" (Rom 2:2). This shows that his judgment is true.
1154 He gives the reason for its truth when he says, because I am not alone. What Christ said before, "The Father himself judges no one" (5:22), should be understood to refer to the Father in isolation from the Son. Or, again, he said this because the Father will not appear visibly to all at the judgment. Thus he says, I am not alone, because he is not left alone by the Father, but is with him: "I am in the Father, and the Father is in me" (14:10).
This statement rejects the error of Sabellius, who said that the Father and the Son were the same person, the only difference between them being in their names. But if this were true, Christ would not have said: I am not alone; but there is me and the Father who sent me. He would rather have said: "I am the Father, and I am the Son." We should, therefore, distinguish between the persons, and realize that the Son is not the Father.
1155 Then (v 17), He shows that he is not alone in bearing witness. He does not defer bearing witness, as he does his judging. Thus he does not say, "I do not bear witness." First, he mentions the Law; secondly, he gives his conclusion (v 18).
1156 He says, And it is written in your Law, the Law which was given to you - "Moses imposed a law"- (Sir 24:33), that the testimony of two men is true; for it is written in Deuteronomy (19:15): "By the mouth of the two or three witnesses the issue will be settled."
According to Augustine the statement that the testimony of two men is true, involves a great difficulty. For it could happen that both of them would be lying. Indeed, the chaste Susanna was harassed by two false witnesses (Dn 13), and all the people lied about Christ. I answer that statement, the testimony of two men is true, means that such testimony should be regarded as true when giving a verdict. The reason for this is that true certitude cannot be obtained when human acts are in question, and so in its place one takes what can be considered the more certain, that is, what is said by a number of witnesses: for it is more probable that one person might lie than many: "A threefold cord is not easily broken" (Eccl 4:12).
When we read, "By the mouth of two or three witnesses the issue will be settled" (Dt 19:15), we are lead, as Augustine says, to a consideration of the Trinity, in which truth is permanently established, from which all truths are derived. It says, "of two or three," because in Sacred Scripture sometimes three Persons are enumerated and at other times two persons, in which is implied the Holy Spirit, who is the bond of the other two.
1157 If, therefore, the testimony of two or three is true, my testimony is true, because It is I who bear witness to myself and the Father who sent me who bears witness concerning me: "I have testimony that is greater than that of John" (5:36).
But this does not seem to be to the point. First, because the Father of the Son of God is not a man, while Christ says, the testimony of two men is true. Secondly, because there are two witnesses to someone when they are testifying about a third person; but if one testifies to one of the two, there are not two witnesses. Thus, since Christ is testifying about himself, and the Father is also testifying about Christ, it does not seem that there are two witnesses. To answer this we must say that Christ is here arguing from the lesser to the greater. For it is clear that the truth of God is greater than the truth of a man. So, therefore, if they believe in the testimony of men, then they should believe the testimony of God much more. "If you receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater" (1 Jn 5:9). In addition, he says this to show that he is consubstantial with the Father, and does not need outside testimony, as Chrysostom says.
1158 Next (v 19), we see the question arising about Christ's Father. First, the Evangelist mentions the question asked by the Jews; then Christ's answer; and thirdly, he intimates the security of Christ.
1159 The question which the Jews had for Christ was about his Father, where his Father was. They said to him: Where is your Father? for they thought that the Father of Christ was a man, just like their own fathers. Because they heard him say, "I am not alone; but there is me and the Father who sent me," and since they saw that he was now alone, they asked him, Where is your Father?
Or, we could say that they were here speaking with a certain irony and contempt, saying in effect: "Why do you speak to us so often about your Father? Is he so great that his testimony should be believed?" For they were thinking of Joseph, who was an unknown, and a person of low status; and they were ignorant of the Father: "So the Gentiles will not say: 'Where is their God'" (Ps 113:2).
1160 Christ's answer is mysterious: You know neither me nor my Father. Christ does not reveal the truth to them because they were questioning him not because they desired to learn, but in order to belittle him. Rather, he first shows them knowledge of the truth. He shows them their ignorance when he says, you know neither me. He is saying: You should not be asking about my Father, because you do not know me. For since you regard me as a man, you are asking about my Father as though he were a man. But because you do not know me, neither can you know my Father.
1161 This seems to conflict with what he said above: "You do indeed know me, and you know where I come from" (7:27). The answer to this is that they did know him according to his humanity, but not according to his divinity.
We should note, according to Origen, that some have misunderstood this, and they said that the Father of Christ was not the God of the Old Testament: for the Jews knew the God of the Old Testament, according to "God is known in Judea" (Ps 75:1). There are four answers to this. First, our Lord says that the Jews did not know his Father because insofar as they do not keep his commandments they are acting like those who do not know him. This answer refers to their conduct. Secondly, they are said not to know God because they did not cling to him spiritually by love: for one who knows something adheres to it. Thirdly, because although they did know him through faith, they did not have a full knowledge of him: "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" (1:18). Fourthly, because in the Old Testament the Father was known under the aspect of God Almighty: "I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but my name, Lord, I did not show them" (Ex 6:3), that is, under the aspect of Father. Thus, although they knew him as God Almighty, they did not know him as the Father of a consubstantial Son.
1162 Christ says that he is the way to arrive at a knowledge of the Father, If you did know me. He is saying in effect: Because I speak of my Father, who is hidden, it is first necessary that you know me, and then you might also know my Father. For the Son is the way to the knowledge of the Father: "If you had known me, you would have also known my Father" (14:7). As Augustine says, what does If you did know me mean, except, "I and the Father are one" (10:30). It is customary when you see someone who is like someone else to say: "If you have seen one, you have seen the other"; not that the Son is the Father, but he is like the Father.
He says, you might, not to indicate a doubt, but as a rebuke. It would be like being irritated with your servant and saying to him: "Have you no respect for me? Just remember that I might be your master."
1163 The Evangelist shows the security with which Christ answered when he says, Jesus spoke these words in the treasury. We see the first from the place where he taught, that is, in the treasury (gazophylacium) and in the temple. For gaza is the Persian word for "riches," and philaxe for "keep." Thus gazophylacium is the word used in Sacred Scripture for the chest in which riches are kept. It is used in this sense in 2 Kings (12:9): "And Jehoiada the priest took a chest (gazophylacium) and bored a hole in its top, and put it by the altar, to the right of those coming into the house of the Lord. And the priests who kept the doors put into it all the money that was brought to the temple of the Lord." Sometimes, however, it was used to indicate the building where riches were kept; and this is the way it was used here.
We can also see Christ's security from the fact that those who had been sent to arrest him could not do so, because he was not willing. Thus the Evangelist says, and no one arrested him because his hour had not yet come, that is, the time for him to suffer, an hour not fixed by fate, but predetermined from all eternity by his own will. Thus Augustine says: "His hour had not yet come, not in which he would be forced to die, but in which he would not refuse being killed."
1164 We may note, according to Origen, that whenever the place where our Lord did something is mentioned, this is done because of some mystery. Thus Christ taught in the treasury, the place where riches were kept, to signify that the coins, that is, the words of his teaching, are impressed with the image of the great King.
Note also that when Christ was teaching, no one arrested him, because his words were stronger than those who wanted to seize him; but when he willed to be crucified, then he became silent.
21 Again he said to them: "I am going away; and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come." 22 (So the Jews wondered, "Will he kill himself, since he says, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'?" 23 To them he said: "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sin." 25 Then they ask him, "Who are you?" Jesus replied: "The source (beginning) who is also speaking to you. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge. But the one who sent me is truthful. Whatever I have heard from him, this I declare to the world." 27 (And they did not realize that he was calling God his Father.) 28 So Jesus said to them: "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will understand that I AM, and that I do nothing of myself; but as the Father taught me, so I speak. 29 He who sent me is with me; he has not deserted me, because I always do what is pleasing to him." 30 Because he spoke in this way, many came to believe in him.
1165 After our Lord showed his special position with respect to light, he here reveals the effect of this light, that is, that it frees us from darkness. First, he shows that the Jews are imprisoned in darkness; secondly he teaches the remedy which can free them (v 22). He does three things concerning the first: first, our Lord tells them he is going to leave; secondly, he reveals the perverse plans of the Jews, and thirdly, he mentions what they will be deprived of.
1166 Our Lord says that he is going to leave them by his death, I am going away. We can see two things from this. First, that he is going to die voluntarily, that is, as going, and not as one led by someone else: "I am going to him who sent me" (16:5); "No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of myself" (10:18). And so this appropriately follows what went before: for he had said, "and no one arrested him" (8:20). Why? Because he is going willingly, on his own.
Secondly, we can see that the death of Christ was a journey to that place from which he had come, and which he had not left, for just as one who walks heads toward what is ahead, so Christ, by his death, reached the glory of exaltation: "He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Because of this God exalted him" (Phil 2:8); "Jesus…knowing that he came from God, and is going to God" (13:3).
1167 We see their sinful plans by their deceitful search for Christ; he says, you will seek me. Some look for Christ in a devout way through charity, and such a search results in life: "Seek the Lord, and your soul will live" (Ps 68:7). But they wickedly searched for him out of hatred, to persecute him: "The who sought my soul used violence" (Ps 37:13). He says, you will seek me, by attacking me after my death with your accusations: "We remembered that while still living the seducer said: 'After three days I will rise'" (Mt. 27:63). And they will also seek out my members: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me" (Acts 9:4).
1168 This will be followed by their death, and so he adds what they will be deprived of, foretelling to them, and you will die in your sin. First, he foretells that deprivation which consists in the condemnation of death; secondly, that deprivation which consists in their exclusion from glory, Where I am going, you cannot come.
1169 He is saying: Because you will wickedly search for me, you will die while continuing in your sin. We can understand this in one way as applying to physical death: and then one dies in his sins who keeps on sinning up to the time of his death. And so in saying, you will die in your sin, he emphasizes their obstinacy: "There is no one who does penance for his sin, saying: 'What have I done?'" (Jer 8:6); "They went down to the lower regions with their weapons" as we read in Ezekiel (32:2).
In another way, we can understand this as applying to the death of sin, about which the Psalm says, "The death of sinners is the worst" (Ps 33:22). And just as a physical weakness precedes physical death, so a certain weakness precedes this kind of death. For as long as sin can be remedied, it is a kind of weakness which precedes death: "Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak" (Ps 6:3). But when sin can no longer be remedied, either absolutely, as after this life, or because of the very nature of the sin, as a sin against the Holy Spirit, it then causes death: "There is a sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that" (1 Jn 5:16). And according to this, our Lord is foretelling them that the weakness of their sins results in death.
1170 He shows the deprivation which consists in their exclusion from glory when he says, Where I am going, you cannot come. Our Lord goes by death, and so also do they. But our Lord goes without sin, while they go with their sins, because they are dying in their sin, and so do not come to the glory of the vision of the Father. So he says, Where I am going, willingly, by my passion, to the Father and to his glory, you cannot come, because you do not want to. For if they had wanted to and had not been able to do so, it could not have reasonably been said to them, "You will die in your sin."
1171 Note that one can be hindered from going where Christ goes in two ways. One way is by reason of some contrary factor, and this is the way that sinners are hindered. This is what he is speaking of here; and so to those who are absolutely continuing in their sin he says, Where I am going, you cannot come. "He who is proud will not live in my house" (Ps 100:7); "It will be called a holy way, and the unclean will not pass over it" (Is 35:8); "Who will dwell in your tent?… He who walks without blame" (Ps 14:1).
One is hindered another way by reason of some imperfection or indisposition. This is the way the just are hindered as long as they live in the body: "While we are in the body, we are absent from the Lord" (2 Cor 5:6). To persons such as these our Lord does not say absolutely, Where I am going, you cannot come, but he adds a qualification as to the time: "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now" (13:36).
1172 Then (v 22), he treats of the remedy which can set them free from the darkness. First, he gives the remedy for escaping the darkness; secondly, he shows the efficacy of the remedy (v 31). Concerning the first, he does three things: first, he indicates what is the unique remedy for escaping the darkness; secondly, he states the reasons why they should ask for this remedy (v 25); and thirdly, we see Christ foretelling the means of obtaining it (v 28). As for the first, he does two things: first, he gives the circumstances for Christ's words; and secondly, the reason why Christ can propose the remedy (v 23).
1173 The circumstances surrounding Christ's words was the perverse understanding of the Jews. For since they were carnal, they understood what Christ said, "Where I am going, you cannot come," in a carnal way: "The sensual man does not perceive those things that pertain to the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:14). Thus the Jews said, Will he kill himself? As Augustine says, this is indeed a foolish notion. For if Christ was going to kill himself, couldn't they go where he was going? For they could kill themselves also. Thus, death was not the term of Christ's going: it was the way he was going to the Father. Accordingly, he did not say that they could not go to death but that they could not go through death to the place where Christ, through his death, would be exalted, that is, at the right hand of God. According to Origen, however, perhaps the Jews did have a reason why they said this. For they had learned from their traditions that Christ would die willingly, as he himself said: "No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of myself'" (10:18). They seem to have especially gathered this from Isaiah (53:12): "I will give him many things, and he will divide the spoils of the strong, because he delivered himself to death." And so because they suspected that Jesus was the Christ, when he said, "Where I am going you cannot come," they understood it according to this opinion that he would willingly deliver himself to death. But they interpreted this in an insulting way, saying, Will he kill himself? Otherwise [if they were not speaking contemptuously] they would have said: "Is his soul going to depart, leaving his body when he wishes? We are unable to do this, and this is the reason for his saying, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'."
1174 Then (v 23), he proposes the remedy for escaping from the darkness. First, he mentions his own origin, and then theirs; secondly, he concludes to his point (v 24).
1175 With respect to the first, he distinguishes his own origin from theirs in two ways. First, because he is from above, and they are from below. Secondly, because they are of this world, and Christ is not. As Origen says, to be from below is not the same as to be of this world, for "above" and "below" refer to differences in place. Thus, so that they do not understand the statement that he is from above as meaning that he is from a part of the world which is above, he excludes this by saying that he is not of this world. He is saying in effect: I am from above, but in such a way that I am entirely above the entire world.
1176 It is clear that they are of this world and from below. But we have to understand correctly how Christ is from above and not of this world. For some who thought that all visible created realities were from the devil, as the Manicheans taught, said that Christ was not of this world even with respect to his body, but from some other created world, an invisible world. Valentine also incorrectly interpreted this statement, and said that Christ assumed a heavenly body. But it is obvious that this is not the true interpretation, since our Lord said to his apostles: "You are not of this world" (15:19).
We must say, therefore, that this passage can be understood of Christ as the Son of God, and of Christ as human. Christ, as Son of God, is from above: "I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world" (16:28). Likewise, he is not of this sensible world, that is, this world which is made up of sense perceptible things, but he is of the intelligible world, because he is the very Word of God, being the supreme Wisdom. For all things were made in wisdom. Thus we read of him: "Through him the world was made" (1:10).
Christ, as human, is from above, because he did not have any affection for worldly and weak things, but rather for higher realities, in which the soul of Christ was at home, as in "Our home is in heaven" (Phil 3:20); "Where your treasure is, there is your heart also" (Mt 6:21). On the other hand, those who are from below have their origin from below, and are of this world because their affections are turned to earthy things: "The first man was of the earth, earthly" (1 Cor 15:47).
1177 Then (v 24), he concludes his point. First, he explains what he said about their deprivation; secondly, he points out its remedy (v 24b).
1178 We should note with respect to the first, that everything in its development follows the condition of its origin. Thus, a thing whose origin is from below naturally tends below if left to itself. And nothing tends above unless its origin is from above: "No one has gone up to heaven except the One who has come down from heaven" (3:13). Thus our Lord is saying: This is the reason why you cannot come where I am going, because since you are from below, then so far as you yourself are concerned, you can only go down. And so what I said is true, that you will die in your sins, unless you adhere to me.
1179 Then, in order not to entirely exclude all hope for their salvation, he proposes the remedy, saying, For if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sin. He is saying in effect: You were born in original sin, from which you cannot be absolved except by my faith: because, if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sin.
He says, I am, and not "what I am," to recall to them what was said to Moses: "I am who am" (Ex 3:14), for existence itself (ipsum esse) is proper to God. For in any other nature but the divine nature, existence (esse) and what exists are not the same: because any created nature participates its existence (esse) from that which is being by its essence (ens per essentiam), that is, from God, who is his own existence (ipsum suum esse), so that his existence (suum esse) is his essence (qua essentia). Thus, this designates only God. And so he says, For if you do not believe that I am, that is, that I am truly God, who has existence by his essence, you will die in your sin.
He says, that I am, to show his eternity. For in all things that begin, there is a certain mutability, and a potency to nonexistence; thus we can discern in them a past and a future, and so they do not have true existence of themselves. But in God there is no potency to non-existence, nor has he begun to be. And thus he is existence itself (ipsum esse), which is appropriately indicated by the present tense.
1180 Next we are given the reasons that can lead them to believe. First, we see the question asked by the Jews; secondly, the answer of Christ (v 25b); and thirdly, the blindness of their understanding (v 27).
1181 Since our Lord had said, "If you do not believe that I am" it was left to them to ask who he was. And so they said to him, Who are you? So that we may believe: "The poor man spoke" (Sir 13:29).
1182 When he says, the source, who is also speaking to you, he gives an answer which can lead them to believe: first, because of the sublimity of his nature; secondly, because of the power he has to judge (v 26); and thirdly, because of the truthfulness of his Father (v 26b).
1183 Indeed, the sublimity of Christ's nature can lead them to believe in him, because he is the source (principium: source, beginning, origin). In Latin the word for source, principium, is neuter in gender, and so there is a question whether it is used here in the nominative or accusative case. (In Greek, it is feminine in gender and is used here in the accusative case.) Thus, according to Augustine, we should not read this as "I am the source," but rather as "Believe that I am the source," lest you die in your sins.
The Father is also called the source or beginning. In one sense the word "source" is common to the Father and the Son, insofar as they are the one source of the Holy Spirit through a common spiration. Again, the three Persons together are the source of creatures through creation. In another way, the word "source" is proper to the Father, insofar as the Father is the source of the Son through an eternal generation. Yet, we do not speak of many sources, just as we do not speak of many gods: "The source is with you in the day of your power" (Ps 109:3). Here, however, our Lord is saying that he is the source or beginning with regard to all creatures: for whatever is such by essence is the source and the cause of those things which are by participation. But, as was said, his existence is an existence by his very essence.
Yet because Christ possesses not only the divine nature but a human nature as well, he adds, who is also speaking to you. Man cannot hear the voice of God directly, because as Augustine says: "Weak hearts cannot hear the intelligible word without a sensible voice." "What is man that he may hear the voice of the Lord his God" (Ex c 20). So, in order for us to hear the divine Word directly, the Word assumed flesh, and spoke to us with a mouth of flesh. Thus he says, who is also speaking to you, that is, I, who was humbled for your sakes, have come down to speak these words: "In many and various ways God spoke to our fathers through the prophets; in these days he has spoken to us in his Son" (Heb 1:1); "It is the Only Begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, who has made him known" (1:18).
1184 Chrysostom explains this a little differently, so that in saying, the beginning, who is also speaking to you, our Lord is reproving the Jews for their slowness to understand. For in spite of the many signs which they had seen our Lord perform, they were still impenetrable, and asked our Lord, "Who are you?" Our Lord then answers: I am the beginning, that is, the one who has spoken to you from the beginning. It is the same as saying: You should not have to ask who I am, because it should be clear to you by now: "For although you should be masters by this time, you have to be taught again the first rudiments of the world of God" (Heb 5:12).
1185 Secondly, they can be led to believe in Christ by his judicial authority; and so he says, I have much to say about you and much to judge, which means in effect: I have authority to judge you. Let us note that it is one thing to speak to us, and another to speak about us. Christ speaks to us for our benefit, that is, to draw us to himself; and he speaks to us this way while we are living, by means of preaching, by inspiring us, and by things like that. But Christ speaks about us, not for our benefit, but for showing his justice, and he will speak about us this way at the future judgment. And this is what is meant by, I have much to say about you.
1186 This seems to conflict with what was said above: "God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (3:17). I answer by saying that it is one thing to judge, and another to have judgment. For to judge implies the act of judging, and this does not belong to the first coming of our Lord, as he said above: "I do not judge anyone" (8:15), that is, at present. But to have judgment implies the power to judge; and Christ does have this: "The Father has given all judgment to the Son" (5:22); "It is he who was appointed by God to be the judge of the living and of the dead" (Acts 10:42). And so he says, explicitly, I have much to say about you and much to judge, but at a future judgment.
1187 The truthfulness of the Father can also lead them to believe in Christ, and as to this he says, but the one who sent me is truthful. He is saying in effect: The Father is truthful; but what I say is in agreement with him; therefore, you should believe me. Thus he says, the one who sent me, that is, the Father, is truthful, not by participation, but he is the very essence of truth; otherwise, since the Son is truth itself, he would be greater than the Father: "God is truthful" (Rom 3:4). Whatever I have heard from him, what I have received, not by my human sense of hearing, but by my eternal generation, this I declare: "What I have heard from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, I have announced to you" (Is 21:10); "The Son cannot do anything of himself" (5:19).
1188 The statement, the one who sent me is truthful, can be connected in two ways with what went before. One way is this: I say that I have much to judge about you; but my judgment will be true, because the one who sent me is truthful: "The judgment of God is according to the truth" (Rom 2:2). The other way of relating this to what went before is from Chrysostom, and is this: I say that I have much to judge about you; but I am not doing so now, not because I lack the power, but out of obedience to the will of the Father. For the one who sent me is truthful: thus, since he promised a Savior and a Defender, he sent me this time as Savior. And since I only say what I have heard from him, I speak to you about life-giving things.
1189 When he says, And they did not realize that he was calling God his Father, he reproves their slowness to understand: for they had not yet opened the eyes of their hearts by which they could understand the equality of the Father and the Son. The reason for this was because they were carnal: "The sensual man does not perceive those things that pertain to the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:14).
1190 Here, for the first time, Christ foretells how they are to come to the faith, which is the remedy for death. He does two things: first: he shows what will lead them to the faith; and secondly, he teaches what must be believed about himself (v 28).
1191 He says, first, that they ought to come to the faith by means of his passion: So Jesus said to them: When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will understand. He is saying in effect: You do not know now that God is my Father, but when you have lifted up the Son of Man, that is, when you have nailed me to the wood of the cross, then you will understand, that is, some of you will understand by faith. "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself" (12:32). And so, as Augustine says, he recalls the sufferings of his cross to give hope to sinners, so that no one will despair, no matter what his crime, or think that he is too evil, since the very people who crucified Christ are freed from their sins by Christ's blood. For there is no sinner so great that he cannot be freed by the blood of Christ.
Chrysostom's explanation is this: When you have lifted up the Son of Man, on the cross, then you will understand, that is, you will be able to understand what I am, not only by the glory of my resurrection, but also by the punishment of your captivity and destruction.
1192 With respect to the second, he teaches three things that must be believed about himself: first, the greatness or grandeur of his divinity; secondly, his origin from the Father; thirdly, his inseparability from the Father.
He mentions the greatness of his divinity when he says, that I am, that is, that I have in me the nature of God, and that it is I who spoke to Moses, saying: "I am who am" (Ex 3:14). But because the entire Trinity pertains to existence itself, and so that we do not overlook the distinction between the Persons, he teaches that his origin from the Father must be believed, saying, I do nothing of myself; but as the Father taught me, so I speak. Because Jesus began both to do and to teach, he indicates his origin from the Father in these two respects. As regards those things he does, he says, I do nothing of myself: "The Son cannot do anything of himself" (5:19). And as regards what he teaches, he says, as the Father taught me, that is to say, he gave me knowledge by generating me as one who knows. Since he is the simple nature of truth, for the Son to exist is for him to know. And so, just as the Father, by generating, gave existence to the Son, so he also, by generating, gave him knowledge: "My doctrine is not mine" (7:16).
So that we do not think that the Son was sent by the Father in such a way as to be separated from the Father, he teaches, thirdly, that they must believe that he is inseparable from the Father when he says, he who sent me, the Father, is with me, by a unity of essence: "I am in the Father, and the Father is in me" (14:10). And the Father is also with me by a union of love, "The Father loves the Son, and shows him everything that he does" (5:20). And so the Father sent the Son in such a way that the Father did not separate himself from the Son; and so the text continues, he has not deserted me, because I am the object of his love. For although both are together, one sends and the other is sent: for the sending is the incarnation, and this pertains only to the Son, and not to the Father. That he has not deserted me is clear from this sign: because I always do what is pleasing to him. We should not understand this to indicate a meritorious cause, but a sign; it is the same as saying: The fact that I always do, without beginning and without end, what is pleasing to him, is a sign that he is always with me and has not deserted me, "I was with him forming all things" (Prv 8:30).
Another interpretation would be this: he has not deserted me, that is, as man, protecting me, because I always do what is pleasing to him. In this interpretation it does indicate a meritorious cause.
1193 Then when he says, Because he spoke in this way, many came to believe in him, he shows the effect of his teaching, which is the conversion of many of them to the faith because they had heard Christ's teaching: "Faith comes by hearing, and what is heard by the word of Christ" (Rom 10:17).
31 Jesus then said to those Jews who believe in him: "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples. 32 You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 33 They replied, "We are of the seed of Abraham, and we have never been the slaves of anyone. How is it that you say, 'You will be free'?" 34 Jesus replied: "Amen, amen, I say to you: everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 A slave does not remain in the household forever; but the Son remains forever. 36 If therefore the Son frees you, you will be truly free. 37 I know that you are sons of Abraham. Yet you want to kill me, because my message is not grasped by you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father. And what you have seen with your father, that you do."
1194 After he had shown the remedy for escaping from the darkness, he now shows the effectiveness of this remedy. First, he shows the effectiveness of this remedy; then their need for remedy (v 33). He does two things about the first. First, he shows what is required from those to whom the remedy is granted, and this concerns merit; secondly, he shows what is given for this, and this concerns their reward (v 31).
1195 He says first: It was said that many believe in him, and so he told them, the Jews who believed in him, what they had to do, which was to remain in his word. So he says, If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples. He is saying in effect: You will not be my disciples if you just believe superficially, but you must remain in my word.
We need three things with respect to the word of God. A concern to hear it: "Let every man be quick to hear" (Jas 1:19). Then we need faith to believe it: "Faith comes by hearing" (Rom 10:17). And also perseverance in continuing with it: "How exceedingly bitter is wisdom to the unlearned. The foolish will not continue with her" (Sir 6:21). And so he says, If you remain, that is, by a firm faith, through continual meditation: "He will meditate on his law day and night" (Ps 1:2); and by your ardent love: "His will is the law of the Lord" (Ps 1:2). Thus Augustine says that those who remain in the word of our Lord are those who do not give in to temptations.
1196 He mentions what will be given to those who do remain when he says, you will truly be my disciples, and with three characteristics. First, they will have the excellence of being disciples of Christ; secondly, they will have a knowledge of the truth; and then, they will be free.
1197 Indeed, it is a great privilege to be a disciple of Christ: "Children of Sion, rejoice and delight in the Lord your God, because he has given you a teacher of justice" (Jl 2:23). Concerning this he says, you will truly be my disciples; for the greater the master, the more honorable or excellent it is to be his disciple. But Christ is the greatest and most excellent of teachers; therefore, his disciples will be of the highest dignity.
Three things are required to be a disciple. The first is understanding, to grasp the words of the teacher: "Are you also still without understanding?" (Mt 15:16). But it is only Christ who can open the ears of the understanding: Then he opened their minds so that they could understand the Scriptures" (Lk 24:45); "The Lord opened my ears" (Is 50:5).
Secondly, a disciple needs to assent, so as to believe the doctrine of his teacher, for "The disciple is not above his teacher" (Lk 6:40), and thus he should not contradict him: "Do not speak against the truth in any way" (Sir 4:30). And Isaiah continues in the same verse, "I do not resist."
Thirdly, a disciple needs to be stable, in order to persevere. As we read above: "From this time on, many of his disciples turned back, and no longer walked with him" (6:67); and Isaiah adds: "I did not turn back" (Is 50:5).
1198 But it is a greater thing to know the truth, since this is the end of a disciple. And our Lord also gives this to those who believe; thus he says, you will know the truth, the truth, that is of the doctrine that I am teaching: "I was born for this, and I came for this, to give testimony to the truth" (18:37); and they will know the truth of the grace that I produce: "Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (1:17) - in contrast to the figures of the Old Law - and they will know the truth of the eternity in which I remain: "O Lord, your word remains forever, your truth endures from generation to generation" (Ps 118:89).
1199 Yet the greatest things is the acquisition of freedom, which the knowledge of the truth produces in those who believe. Thus he says, and the truth will make you free. In this context, to free does not mean a release from some confinement, as the Latin language suggests, but rather a being made free; and this is from three things. The truth of this doctrine will free us from the error of falsity: "My mouth will speak the truth; my lips will hate wickedness" (Prv 8:7). The truth of grace will free us from the slavery to sin: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed me from the law of sin and of death" (Rom 8:2). And the truth of eternity, in Christ Jesus, will free us from corruption: "The creature will be freed from its slavery to corruption" (Rom 8:21).
1200 Next (v 33), he shows that the Jews need this remedy. First, he amplifies on their presumption in denying that they need any such remedy; secondly, he shows in what respect they need this remedy (v 34).
1201 The presumption of the Jews is shown by their disdainful question: They replied: We are of the seed of Abraham, and we have never been the slaves of anyone. How is it that you say, You will be free? First, they affirm one thing; then deny another; and thirdly, pose their question.
They assert that they are the descendants of Abraham: We are of the seed of Abraham. This shows their vainglory, because they glory only in the origin of their flesh: "Do not think of saying: 'We have Abraham as our Father'" (Mt 2:9). Those who seek to be praised for their noble birth act in the same way: "Their glory is from their birth, from the womb and from their conception" (Hos 9:11).
Further, they deny their slavery; thus they say, and we have never been the slaves of anyone. This reveals them as dull in mind and as liars. It shows them as dull because while our Lord is speaking of spiritual freedom, they are thinking of physical freedom: "The sensual person does not perceive what pertains to the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:14). It shows them as liars because if they mean their statement as, we have never been the slaves of anyone, to apply to physical slavery, then they are either speaking generally of the entire Jewish people, or in particular of themselves. If they are speaking generally, they are obviously lying: for Joseph was sold into slavery and their ancestors were slaves in Egypt, as is clear from Genesis (c 40) and from Exodus (c 3). Thus Augustine says: "Ungrateful! Why does the Lord so often remind you that he freed you from the house of bondage, if you have never been slaves to anyone?" For we read in Deuteronomy (13:10): "I have called you out of Egypt, from the house of your slavery." But even if they are speaking of themselves, they are still guilty of lying, because they were at that time paying taxes to the Romans. Thus they asked: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" (Mt 22:17).
They ask him about the kind of freedom he is talking about when they say, How is it that you say, You will be free? Our Lord had promised them two things: freedom and knowledge of the truth, when he said, "you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." The Jews took this to mean that our Lord regarded them as ignorant slaves. And although it is more harmful to lack knowledge than freedom, yet because they were carnal they pass over the truth part and ask about the kind of freedom: "They have set their eyes, lowering themselves to the earth" (Ps 16:11).
1202 Our Lord ignores their presumption and shows them that they do need the remedy he mentioned. First, he mentions their slavery; secondly, he treats of their freedom (v 35); and thirdly, of their origin (v 37).
1203 He shows that they are slaves, not in the physical sense they thought he meant, but spiritually, that is, slaves of sin. And in order to make this clear he starts with two things. The first is a solemn affirmation that he repeats, saying, Amen, amen, I say to you. Amen is a Hebrew word which means "truly," or "May it be this way." According to Augustine, neither the Greeks nor the Latins translated it so that it might be honored and veiled as something sacred. This was not done to hide it, but to prevent it from becoming commonplace if its meaning were stated. It was done especially out of reverence from our Lord who frequently used it. Our Lord makes use of it here as a kind of oath, and he repeats it to reinforce his statement: "He interposed an oath, so that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have the strongest comfort" (Heb 6:17).
Secondly, he makes a general statement when he says, everyone, whether Jew or Greek, rich or poor, emperor or beggar: "There is no difference between Jews and Greeks: all have sinned" (Rom 3:22). He mentions slavery when he says, who commits sin is a slave to sin.
1204 But one might argue against this in the following way: A slave does not act by his own judgment, but by that of his master; but one who commits sin is acting by his own judgment; therefore, he is not a slave. I answer by saying that a thing is whatever is appropriate to it according to its nature, it acts of itself; but when it is moved by something exterior, it does not act of itself, but by the influence of that other: and this is a kind of slavery. Now according to his nature, man is rational. And thus when he acts according to reason, he is acting by his own proper motion and is acting of himself; and this is a characteristic of freedom. But when he sins, he is acting outside reason; and then he is moved by another, being held back by the limitations imposed by that other. Therefore, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin: "Whatever overcomes a person, is that to which he is a slave" (2 Pet 2:19). And to the extent that someone is moved by something exterior, to that extent he is brought into slavery; and the more one is overcome by sin, the less he acts by his own proper motion, that is, by reason, and the more he is made a slave. Thus, the more freely one does the perverse things he wills, and the less the difficulty he has in doing them, the more he is subjected to the slavery of sin, as Gregory says.
This kind of slavery is the worst, because it cannot be escaped from: for wherever a person goes, he carries his sin with him, even though its act and pleasure may pass: "God will give you rest from your harsh slavery (that is, to sin) to which you were subjected before" (Is 14:3). Physical slavery, on the other hand, can be escaped, at least by running away. Thus Augustine says: "What a wretched slavery (that is, slavery to sin)! A slave of man, when worn out by the harsh commands of his master, can find relief in flight; but a slave of sin drags his sin with him, wherever he flees: for the sin he did is within him. The pleasure passes, the sin (the act of sin) passes; what gave pleasure has gone, what wounds has remained."
1205 Then (v 35) he considers their liberation from slavery; for since all have sinned, all were slaves to sin. Now the hope of liberation is held out by the one who is free of sin, and this is the Son. Thus he does three things with respect to this. First, he mentions the status of a slave as distinguished from that one who is free; secondly, he shows that the status of the Son is different from that of a slave; and thirdly, he concludes that the Son has the power to set us free.
1206 The status of a slave is transient and unstable; so he says, A slave does not remain in the household forever. This house is the Church: "So you may know how to act in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God" (1 Tim 3:15). In this house some who are spiritually slaves remain only for a time, just as in a household those who are physically slaves remain only for a while. But the former will not remain forever, for although those who are evil are not now separated from the faithful in a separate group, but only by merit, in the future they will be separated in both ways: "Cast out the slave and her son: for the son of the slave woman will not inherit with the son of the free woman" (Gal 4:30).
1207 On the other hand, the status of the Son is everlasting and stable; so he says, but the Son, that is, Christ, remains forever, namely, in the Church, as in his own house. In Hebrews (3:6) Christ is described as a son in his own house. And indeed, it is of himself that Christ remains in his house forever, because he is immune from sin. As for us, just as we are freed from sin through him, so it is through him that we remain in his house.
1208 The Son has the power to free us; so he adds, If therefore the Son frees you, you will be truly free: "We are not the children of the slave woman, but of the free, by whose freedom Christ has freed us" (Gal 4:31). For as the Apostle says, he paid a price not in gold, but of his own blood, for he came in the likeness of sinful flesh although he had no sin; and so he became a true sacrifice for sin. Thus, through him, we are freed, not from barbarians, but from the devil.
1209 Note that there are several kinds of freedom. There is a perverted freedom, when one abuses his freedom in order to sin; there is a freedom from justice, a freedom that no one is compelled to keep: "Be free, and do not make your freedom a cloak for evil," as we read in 1 Peter (2:16). Then there is a vain freedom, which is temporal or bodily: "A slave, free from his master" (Job 3:19). Then we have true and spiritual freedom, which is the freedom of grace, and consists in the absence of sin. This freedom is imperfect because the flesh lusts against the spirit, and we do what we do not want to do (Gal 5:17). Then there is the freedom of glory; this is a perfect and full freedom, which we will have in our homeland: "The creature will be delivered from its slavery" (Rom 8:21), and this will be so because there will be nothing there to incline us to evil, nothing to oppress us, for then there will be freedom from sin and punishment.
1210 Chrysostom explains this in another way: since he had said, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin, then lest the Jews anticipate him and say, "Even though we are slaves to sin, we can be freed by the sacrifices and ceremonies of the Law," our Lord shows that they cannot be freed by these, but only by the Son. Hence he says, a slave, i.e., Moses and the priests of the Old Testament, does not remain in the household forever: "Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant" (Heb 3:5). Furthermore, the ceremonies are not eternal; therefore they cannot confer a freedom which will continue forever.
1211 Then he considers their origin (v 37). First, he gives their origin according to the flesh; secondly, he inquires into their origin according to the spirit (v 37b).
1212 He traces their origin in the flesh to Abraham. I know that you are sons of Abraham, by carnal origin only, and not by resembling him in faith: "Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you" (Is 51:2).
1213 He inquires into their spiritual origin when he says, yet you want to kill me. First he shows that they have a spiritual origin; secondly, he rejects what they presume to be their origin (v 34); thirdly, he shows them their true origin (v 44). As to the first he does two things: first, he points out their guilt; secondly, he infers their spiritual origin (v 38). As to the first he does three things: first, he lays on them the guilt of murder; secondly, the sin of unbelief; and thirdly, he anticipates an excuse they might give.
1214 Our Lord shows that they have their spiritual origins from an evil root. Hence he expressly accuses them of sin and passing over all the other crimes in which the Jews were implicated, he mentions only the one which they continued to nurture in their minds, the sin of murder, because, as was said, they wished to kill him. This is why he says, you want to kill me, which is against your Law: "You shall not kill" (Ex 20:13); "So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death" (11:53).
1215 Because they might say that to kill someone for his crime is not a sin, our Lord says that the cause of this murder is not any crime committed by Christ or their own righteousness, but rather their unbelief. As if to say: you seek to kill me not because of your own righteousness but because of your unbelief: because my message is no grasped by you: "Not all men can receive this message, but only those to whom it is given" (Mt 19:11). Our Lord uses this way of speaking, first of all, to show the excellence of his message. As if to say: my message transcends your ability, for it is concerned with spiritual things, whereas you have a sensual understanding, that is why you do not grasp it: "The sensual man does not perceive the things that are of the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:14). He speaks this way also to recall a certain similarity: for as Augustine says, the Lord's message to unbelievers is what a hook is to a fish, it does not grasp unless it is grasped. And so he says his message does not grasp them in their hearts, because it is not grasped by them, as Peter was grasped: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (6:68). Yet it does not harm those who are grasped, for they are grasped to salvation, and left uninjured.
1216 In Deuteronomy (c 18) we read that a prophet who speaks, as coming from the mouth of the Lord, things that the Lord did not say, should be killed. So, lest the Jews say that he should be killed for speaking from himself, and not from the mouth of the Lord, he adds, I speak of what I have seen with my Father. As if to say: I cannot be accused of speaking things that I have not heard, for I speak not only what I have heard, but what is more, I speak of what I have seen. Other prophets spoke the things they heard, whereas I speak the things I have seen: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known" (1:18); "That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you" (1 Jn 1:3). This must be understood of a vision which gives the most certain knowledge, because the Son knows the Father as he knows himself: "No one knows the Father except the Son" (Mt 11:27).
1217 He then infers their spiritual origin when he says, and what you have seen with your father, that you do. As if to say: I speak things that are in accord with my origin; but you do the things that are done by your father, namely, the devil, whose children they were, according to Augustine, not insofar as they were men, but insofar as they were evil. You do those things, I say, which you see, at the devil's suggestion: "Through the devil's envy death entered the world" (Wis 2:24).
Chrysostom uses another text: What you see with your father, do it. As if to say: just as I reveal my Father in truth by my words, so you, reveal the father of our origin, namely, Abraham, by your deeds. Thus he says: Do what you see your father doing, you who are taught by the law and the prophets.
39 They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do what Abraham did [If you are Abraham's children, do what Abraham did], 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God; this is not what Abraham did. 41 You do what your father did. "They said to him, "We were not born of fornication, we have one Father, even God." 42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word."
1218 After showing that the Jews had a certain spiritual origin, our Lord here rejects certain origins which they had presumptuously attributed to themselves. First, he rejects the origin they claimed to have from Abraham; secondly, the origin they thought they had from God (v 41). As to the first he does two things: first, he gives the opinion of the Jews about their origin; secondly, he rejects it (v 39b).
1219 It should be noted with respect to the first, that our Lord had said to them, what you have seen with your father, that you do, and so, glorying in their carnal descent, they aligned themselves with Abraham. Thus they said, Abraham is our father. This is like saying: If we have a spiritual origin we are good, because our father Abraham is good: "O offspring of Abraham his servant" (Ps 105:6). And as Augustine says, they tried to provoke him to say something against Abraham and so give them an excuse for doing what they had planned, namely, to kill Christ.
1220 Our Lord rejects this opinion of theirs as false (v 39). First, he gives the true sign of being a child of Abraham; secondly, he shows that this sign is not verified in the Jews (v 40); thirdly, he draws his conclusion, you do what your father did.
1221 The sign of anyone being a child is that he is like the one whose child he is; for just as children according to the flesh resemble their parents according to the flesh, so spiritual children (if they are truly children) should imitate their spiritual parents: "Be imitators of God, as beloved children" (Eph 5:1). And as to this he says, If you are Abraham's children, do what Abraham did. This is like saying: if you imitated Abraham, that would be a sign that you are his children: "Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you" (Is 51:2).
1222 Here a question arises, for when he says, if you are Abraham's children, he seems to be denying that they are the children of Abraham, whereas just previously he had said, "I know that you are children of Abraham" (v 37). There are two ways of answering this. The first, according to Augustine, is that before he said that they were children of Abraham according to the flesh, but here he is denying that they are children in the sense of imitating his works, especially his faith. Therefore, they took their flesh from him, but not their life: "It is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham" (Gal 3:7).
For Origin, who has another explanation, both statements refer to their spiritual origin. Where our text reads, "I know that you are children of Abraham," the Greek has, "I know that you are the seed of Abraham." But Christ says here, if you are Abraham's children, do what Abraham did, because the Jews, spiritually speaking, were the seed of Abraham, but were not his children. There is a difference between a seed and a child: for a seed is unformed, although it has in it the characteristics of that of which it is a seed. A child, however, has a likeness to the parent after the seen has been modified by the informing power infused by the agent acting upon the matter which has been furnished by the female. In the same way, the Jews were indeed the seed of Abraham, insofar as they had some of the characteristics which God had infused into Abraham; but because they had not reached the perfection of Abraham, they were not his children. This is why he said to them, if you are Abraham's children, do what Abraham did, i.e., strive for a perfect imitation of his works.
1223 Again, because he said, do what Abraham did, it would seem that whatever he did, we should do. Consequently, we should have a number of wives and approach a maidservant, as Abraham did. I answer that the chief work of Abraham was faith, by which he was justified before God: "He believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness" (Gen 15:6). Thus, the meaning is, do what Abraham did, i.e., believe according to the example of Abraham.
1224 One might say against this interpretation that faith should not be called a work, since it is distinguished from works: "Faith apart from works is dead" (Jas 2:26) ["Do what Abraham did" if translated literally gives "Do the works of Abraham."] I answer that faith can be called a work according to what was said above: "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent" (6:29). An interior work is not obvious to man, but only to God, according to, "The Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" (1 Sam 16:7). This is the reason we are more accustomed to call exterior action works. Thus, faith is not distinguished from all works, but only from external works.
1225 But should we do all the works of Abraham? I answer that works can be considered in two ways. Either according to the kind of works they are, in which sense we should not imitate all his works; or, according to their root, and in this sense we should imitate the works of Abraham, because whatever he did, he did out of charity. Thus Augustine says that the celibacy of John was not esteemed above the marriage of Abraham, since the root of each was the same. Or, it might be said that all of Abraham's works should be imitated as to their symbolism, because "all these things happen to them in figure" [1 Cor 10:11].
1226 Then (v 40) he shows that they do not have the above mentioned sign of being children. First, the conduct of the Jews is given; secondly, he shows that it does not resemble the conduct of Abraham (v 40b).
1227 The conduct of the Jews is shown to be wicked and perverse, because they were murderers; so he says, now you seek to kill me: "How the faithful city has become a harlot, she that was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers" (Is 1:21). This murder was an unfathomable sin against the person of the Son of God. But because it is said, "If they had understood, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Cor 2:8), our Lord does not say that they sought to kill the Son of God, but a man. For although the Son of God is said to have suffered and died by reason of the oneness of his person, this suffering and death was not insofar as he was the Son of God, but because of his human weakness, as it says: "For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God" (2 Cor 13:4).
1228 In order to further elucidate this murder, he shows that they have no reason to put him to death; thus he adds, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. This truth is that he said that he is equal to God: "This is why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God" (5:18). He heard this truth from God inasmuch as from eternity he received from the Father, through an eternal generation, the same nature that the Father has: "For as the Father has life in himself, so has he granted the Son also to have life in himself" (5:26).
Furthermore, he excludes the two reasons for which the Law commanded that prophets were to be killed. First of all, for lying, for Deuteronomy (c 13) commands that a prophet should be killed for speaking a lie or feigning dreams. Our Lord excludes this from himself, saying, a man who has told you the truth: "My mouth will utter truth" (Prov 8:7). Secondly, a prophet ought to be killed if he speaks in the name of false gods, or says in the name of God things that God did not command (Deut 13). Our Lord excludes this from himself when he says, which I heard from God.
1229 Then when he says, this is not what Abraham did, he shows that their works are not like those of Abraham. He is saying in effect: Because you act contrary to Abraham, you show that you are not his children, for it is written about him: "He kept the law of the Most High, and was taken into covenant with him" (Si 44:20).
Some frivolously object that Christ did not exist before Abraham and therefore that Abraham did not do this [kill Christ], since one who did not exist could not be killed. I answer that Abraham is not commended for something he did not do to Christ, but for what he did not do to anyone in like circumstances, i.e., to those who spoke the truth in his day. Or, it might be answered that although Christ had not come in the flesh during the time of Abraham, he nevertheless had come into his mind, according to Wisdom (7:27): "in every generation she [Wisdom] passes into souls." And Abraham did not kill Wisdom by sinning mortally. Concerning this we read: "They crucify the Son of God" (Heb 6:6).
1230 Then when he says, you do what your father did, he draws his conclusion. It was like saying: from the fact that you do not do the works of Abraham, it follows that you have some other father whose works you are doing. A similar statement is made in Matthew (23:32): "Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers."
1231 Then when he says, they said to him, we were not born of fornication, he shows that they do not take their origin from God, for since they knew from our Lord's words that he was not speaking of carnal descent, they turn to spiritual descent, saying, we were not born of fornication. First, they give their own opinion; secondly, our Lord rejects it (v 42).
1232 According to some, the Jews are denying one thing and affirming another. They are denying that they were born of fornication. According to Origin, they said this tauntingly to Christ, with the unspoken suggestion that he was the product of adultery. It was like saying: we were not born of fornication as you were.
But it is better to say that the spiritual spouse of the soul is God: "I will betroth you to me forever" (Hos 2:19), and just as a bride is guilty of fornication when she admits a man other than her husband, so in Scripture Judea was said to be fornicating when she abandoned the true God and turned to idols: "For the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the Lord" (Hos 1:2). And so the Jews said: we were not born of fornication. It was like saying: although our mother, the synagogue, may now and then have departed from God and fornicated with idols, yet we have not departed or fornicated with idols: "We have not forgotten thee, or been false to thy covenant. Our heart has not turned back" (Ps 44:17); "But you, draw near hither, sons of the sorceress, offspring of the adulterer and the harlot" (Is 57:3). Further, they affirm that they are children of God; and this seems to follow from the fact that they did not believe that they were born of fornication. Thus they say, we have one Father, even God: "Have we not all on father?" (Mal 2:10); "And I thought you would call me, My Father" (Jer 3:19).
1233 Next (v 42), our Lord refutes their opinion: first we see the sign of being a child of God; secondly, the reason for this sign is given (v 42); and thirdly, we see that the Jews lack this sign (v 43).
1234 With respect to the first it should be noted that above he had said that the sign of being a child according to the flesh was in the exterior actions that a person performs; but here he places the sign of being a child of God in one's interior affections. For we become children of God by sharing in the Holy Spirit: "you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship" (8:15). Now the Holy Spirit is the cause of our loving God, because "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom 5:5). Therefore, the special sign of being a child of God is love: "Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love" (Eph 5:1). Therefore he says, If God were your Father, you would love me: "The innocent and the right in heart," who are the children of God, "have clung to me" [Ps 21:4].
1235 Then (v 42) he gives the reason for this sign. First, he states the truth; secondly, he rejects an error (v 42b).
1236 The truth he asserts is that he proceeded and came forth from God. It should be noted that all friendship is based on union, and so brothers love one another inasmuch as they take their origin from the same parents. Thus our Lord says: you say that you are the children of God; but if this were so, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God. Therefore, any one who does not love me is not a child of God.
I say I proceeded from God from eternity as the Only Begotten, of the substance of the Father: "From the womb before the daystar I begot you" (Ps 109:4); "In the beginning was the Word" (1:1). And I came forth as the Word made flesh, sent by God [into the world] through incarnation. "I came [proceeded] from the Father," from eternity, as the Word, "and have come into the world" when I was made flesh in time (16:28).
1237 He rejects an error when he says, I came not of my own accord [a meipso]. And first, he rejects the error of Sabellius, who said that Christ did not have his origin from another, for he said that the Father and the Son were the same in person. In regard to this he says, I came not of my own accord, i.e., according to Hilary, I came, not existing of myself, but in a way as sent by another, that is, the Father. Thus he adds, but he sent me: "God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law" (Gal 4:4). Secondly, he rejects an error of the Jews who said that Christ was not sent by God, but was a false prophet, of whom we read in Jeremiah (23:21): "I did not send the prophets, yet they ran." And in regard to this he says, according to Origen, I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Indeed, this is what Moses prayed for: "O, my Lord, send, I pray, whom you will send" [Ex 4:13].
1238 He shows that they lack this sign when he says, Why do you not understand what I say? For as was stated above, to love Christ is the sign of being a child of God; but they did not love Christ; therefore it is obvious that they did not have this sign. That they do not love Christ is shown by the effect of love: for the effect of loving someone is that the lover joyfully hears the words of the beloved; thus we read: "Let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet" (Song 2:14). And again, "My companions are listening for your voice; let me hear it" (8:13). Therefore, because they did not love Christ, it seemed tedious to them even to hear his voice: "This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?" (6:60); "The very sight of him is a burden to us" (Wis 2:15).
It sometimes happens that a person is not glad to hear the words of another because he cannot weigh them and for that reason does not understand them, and so he contradicts them: "Answer, I beseech you, without contention…and you shall not find iniquity on my tongue" [Job 6:29]. Therefore he says, Why do you not understand what I say? You question what I mean, as "Where I am going, you cannot come" (8:21). I say that you do not understand because you cannot bear to hear my word, i.e., your heart is so hardened against me that you do not even want to hear me.
44 "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth [and did not stand in the truth] because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
1239 After showing that the Jews had a certain spiritual origin, and after rejecting the origin they presumed they had, our Lord here gives their true origin, ascribing their fatherhood to the devil. First, he makes his statement; secondly, he gives its reason; and thirdly, he explains this reason.
1240 He says: You do the works of the devil; therefore, you are of your father the devil, that is, by imitating him: "Your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite" (Ez 16:3).
Here one must guard against the heresy of the Manicheans who claim that there is a definite nature called "evil," and a certain race of darkness with its own princes, from which all corruptible things derive their origin. According to this opinion, all men, as to their flesh, have come from the devil. Further, they say that certain souls belong to that creation which is good, and others to that which is evil. Thus they said that our Lord said, you are of your father, the devil, because they came from the devil according to the flesh, and their souls were part of that creation which was evil. But as Origen says, to suppose that there are two natures because of the difference between good and evil seems to be like saying that the substance of an eye which sees is different from that of an eye that is clouded or crossed. For just as a healthy and bleary eye do not differ in substance, but the bleariness is from some deficient cause, so the substance and nature of a thing is the same whether it is good or has a defect in itself, which is a sin of the will. And so the Jews, as evil, are not called the children of the devil by nature, but by reason of their imitating him.
1241 Then when he says, and your will is to do your father's desires, he gives the reason for this, for their being of the devil. It is like saying: you are not the children of the devil as though created and brought into existence by him, but because by imitating him your will is to do your father's desires. And these desires are evil, for as he envied and killed man - "through the devil's envy death entered the world" (Wis 2:24) - so you too envy me and "you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth" (8:40).
1242 Then when he says, he was a murderer from the beginning, he explains the reason he gave. First, he mentions the characteristic of the devil that they imitate; secondly, he shows that they are truly imitators of that (8:45).
With respect to the first it should be noted that two sins stand out in the devil: the sin of pride towards God, and of envy towards man, whom he destroys. And from the sin of envy towards man, because of which he injures him, we can know his sin of pride. And so first, he mentions the devil's sin against man; secondly, his sin against God, he did not stand in the truth.
1243 His sin of envy against man lies in the fact that he kills him. So he says, he, that is, the devil, was a murderer from the beginning. Here it should be noted that the devil kills man not with the sword, but by persuading him to do evil. "Through the devil's envy death entered the world" (Wis 2:24). First, the death of sin entered: "The death of the wicked is very evil" [Ps 33:22]; then came bodily death: "Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin" (Rom 5:12). As Augustine says: "Do not think that you are not a murderer when you lead your brother into evil." However, it should be noted with Origen, that the devil is not called a murderer with respect to only some particular person, but with respect to the whole race, which he destroyed in Adam, in whom all die, as we read in 1 Corinthians (c 15). Thus he is called a murderer because that is a chief characteristic, and he is so indeed from the beginning, that is, from the time that a man existed who could be killed, who could be murdered; for one cannot be murdered unless he first exists.
1244 Then when he says, he did not stand in the truth, he mentions the devil's sin against God, which consists in the fact that he turned away from the truth, which is God. First, he shows that he is turned from the truth; secondly, he shows that he is contrary to the truth: when he lies, he speaks according to his own nature. As to the first he does two things: first, he shows that the devil is turned from the truth; secondly, he explains what he has said, because there is no truth in him.
1245 He says, he did not stand in the truth. Here it should be noted that truth is of two kinds, namely, the truth of word and the truth of deed. The truth of word consists in a person saying what he feels in his heart and what is in reality: "Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor" (Eph 4:25); "He who speaks truth from his heart, who does not slander with his tongue" (Ps 15:3). The truth of deed, on the other hand, is the truth of righteousness, i.e., when a person does what befits him according to the order of his nature. Concerning this it says above: "He who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God" (3:21). Speaking of this truth our Lord says, in the truth, namely, the truth of righteousness, he did not stand, because he abandoned the order of his nature, which was that he be subject to God, and through him acquire his happiness and the fulfillment of his natural desire. And so, because he wanted to obtain this through himself, he fell from the truth.
1246 The statement, he did not stand in the truth, can be understood in two ways. Either he never had anything to do with the truth, or that he once did, but did not continue in it. Now never to have anything to do with the truth of righteousness has two meanings. One is according to the Manicheans, who say that the devil is evil by nature. From this it follows that he was always evil, because whatever is present by nature is always present. But this is heretical, for we read: "God made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them" (Ps 146:6). Therefore, every being is from God; but everything which is from God, insofar as it is, is good.
Consequently, others have said that the devil was created good in his nature by God, but became evil in the first instant by his own free choice. And this opinion differs from that of the Manicheans who say that the devils were always and by nature evil, whereas this opinion claims that they were always evil by free choice.
Someone might suppose that since an angel is not evil by nature but by a sin of his own will - and sin is an act - it is possible that at the beginning of the act the angel was good, and at the end of the evil act he became evil. For it is plain that the act of sin in the devil is subsequent to his creation, and that the terminus of creation is the existence of an angel; but the terminus of the act of sin is that he is evil. Consequently, according to this explanation, they conclude that it is impossible that an angel be evil in the first instant in which the angel came to exist.
But this explanation does not seem to be sufficient, because it is true only in motions that occur in time and that are accomplished in a successive manner, not in instantaneous motions. For in every successive motion the instant in which an act begins is not the one in which the action is terminated; thus, if a local motion follows upon an alteration, the local motion cannot be terminated in the same instant as the alteration. But in changes that are instantaneous, the terminus of a first and of a second change can occur together and in the same instant. Thus, in the same instant that the moon is illumined by the sun, the air is illumined by the moon. Now it is clear that creation is instantaneous, and likewise the act of free choice in the angels, since they do not go through the weighings and discoursings of reason. Thus, in the case of an angel there is nothing to prevent the same instant from being the terminus of creation (in which he was good), and the terminus of a free decision (in which he was evil). Some admit this, although they do not say that it so happened, but that it could have so happened. And they base themselves on the authority of Scripture, for under the figure of the king of Babylon it is said of the devil: "How have you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who did rise in the morning?" [Is 14:12]; and under the person of the king of Tyre it says: "You were in the pleasures of the paradise of God" [Ez 28:13]. Accordingly, they say that he was not evil at the first instant of his creation, but that he was once good, and fell through his free choice.
But it must be said that he could not be evil at the first instant of his creation. The reason for this is that no act is sinful except insofar as it is outside the nature of the voluntary agent. But in order of acts, the natural act is first: thus in understanding, first principles are understood first, and through them other things are understood; and in willing, we likewise first will the ultimate perfection and ultimate end, the desire for which is naturally in us, and on account of this we seek other things. Now that which is done according to nature is not sin. Therefore, it is impossible that the first act of the devil was evil; consequently, at some instant the devil was good. But he did not stand in the truth, i.e., he did not remain in it. Concerning the statement from 1 John (3:8): "The devil has sinned from the beginning," one may say that he did indeed sin from the beginning in the sense that once he began to sin he never stopped.
1247 Then when he says, because there is no truth in him, he explains what he has said. And this explanation can be understood in two ways. In one way, according to Origen, so that it is an explanation of the general by the particular, as when I explain that Socrates is an animal by the fact that he is a man. It is then like saying: he did not stand in the truth, but fell from it, and this because there is not truth in him. Now there are two classes of those that do not stand in the truth: some do not stand in the truth because they are not convinced, but waiver: "My feet had almost stumbled, my steps had well nigh slipped" (Ps 73:2); others, on the other hand, because they have entirely recoiled from the truth. And this was the way the devil did not stand in the truth, but turned away from it in aversion.
But is there no truth at all in him? For if there is no truth in him, we would not understand himself or anything else, since understanding is concerned only with things that are true. I answer that there is some truth in the evil spirits, just as there is something true [a nature]. For no evil utterly destroys a good thing, since at least the subject in which evil is found is good. Thus Dionysius says that the natural goods remain intact in evil spirits. Thus there is some truth in them, but not the fulfilling truth from which they have turned, namely, God, who is fulfilling truth and wisdom.
1248 In a second way, this explanation is understood as a sign, as Augustine says. For it seems that he should rather have said the converse, namely, "there is not truth in him, because he did not stand in the truth." But just as a cause is sometimes shown by its effect, so our Lord wished to show that the truth was not in him because he did not stand in the truth; for truth would have been in him had he stood in the truth. A similar pattern of speech is found in "I cried because you heard" [Ps 16:6]: as if to say that it is evident that I cried because you heard me.
1249 Then he shows that the devil is contrary to the truth, when he lies, he speaks according to his own nature (on his own). First, he makes this point; secondly, he explains it.
1250 The contrary of truth is falsity and a lie. The devil is contrary to the truth because he speaks a lie. Thus he says, he lies. Here we should note that, God excepted, whoever speaks on his own speaks a lie; although not everyone who speaks a lie speaks on his own. God alone, when speaking on his own, speaks the truth, for truth is an enlightenment of the intellect, and God is light itself and all are enlightened by him: "the true light that enlightens every man" (1:9). Thus he is truth itself, and no one speaks the truth except insofar as he is enlightened by him. So Ambrose says: "Every truth, by whomsoever spoken, is from the Holy Spirit." Thus the devil, when he speaks on his own, speaks a lie; man, too, when he speaks on his own, speaks a lie; but when he speaks from God, he speaks the truth: "Let God be true though every man be false" (Rom 3:4). But not every man who tells a lie speaks on his own, for sometimes he gets this from someone else, not indeed from God, who is truthful, but from him who did not stand in the truth and who first invented lying. So in a unique way when the devil tells a lie, he is speaking on his own: "I will go forth and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all prophets" (1 Kgs 22:22); "The Lord mingled" (that is, allowed to mingle) "a spirit of error in their midst" [Is 19:14].
1251 He explains this statement when he says, for he is a liar and the father of lies. The Manicheans did not understand this, and placed some kind of procreation in the evil spirits, with the devil as their father. They said that the devil "is a liar and his father." It should not be understood this way, as our Lord said that the devil is a liar and its father, the father of lies. Not everyone who lies is the father of his lie. As Augustine says, "If you have learned a lie from someone else and you repeat it, you have indeed lied, but you are not the father of that lie." But the devil, because he did not learn from someone else the lie by which he destroyed humankind as with poison, is the father of the lie, just as God is the father of truth. The devil was the first to invent the lie, namely, when he lied to the woman: "You will not die" (Gen 3:4). Just how true this statement was, was proved by the outcome.
1252 Here we should note that the book Questions of the New and Old Testament takes the words you are of your father the devil, and applies them to Cain, in the sense that one is called a devil who performs the works of the devil, and you are imitating him; hence you are of your father the devil, that is, of Cain, who did the work of the devil, and you are imitating him. Cain "Was a murderer from the beginning," because he killed his brother Abel. And he "did not stand in the truth, because there is not truth in him." This is obvious because when the Lord asked him, "Where is Abel your brother?" he said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9). Thus he is a liar. But the first explanation is better.
45 "But because [If] I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." 48 The Jews answered him, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?" 49 Jesus answered, "I have not a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it and he will be the judge."
1253 After mentioning some characteristics of the devil, he then shows that the Jews are imitating these. Our Lord ascribed two kinds of evil to the devil, murder and lying. He reproved them before for their imitation of one of these, namely, murder: "Now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth" (8:40). Then passing from this, he reproves them for turning away from the truth: first, he shows that they are turned away from the truth; secondly, he rejects a certain reason they might give for this (v 46); thirdly, he concludes to the true reason for their being turned away from the truth (v 46b).
1254 He says first: It was said that the devil is a liar and the father of lies, and you are imitating him because you do not wish to adhere to the truth. Thus he says, If I tell the truth to you you do not believe me; "If I tell you, you will not believe" (Lk 22:67); "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe me, etc…." (3:12). And Isaiah complains: "Who has believed what we have heard?" (Is 53:1).
1255 The reason which the Jews might allege for their unbelief is that Christ is a sinner, for it is not easy to believe a sinner even when he is telling the truth. Thus we read: "But to the wicked God says: 'What right have you to recite my statutes?'" (Ps 50:16). So they might have said: We do not believe you since you are a sinner.
Accordingly, he excludes this reason when he says, Which of you convicts me of sin? As if to say: You have no good reason for not believing me when I speak the truth, since you can find no sin in me: "He committed not sin; no guile was found on his lips" (1 Pt 2:22).
According to Gregory, we are invited to consider the mildness of God, who did not consider it beneath himself to show by rational grounds that he who can justify sinners by the power of his divinity is not a sinner: "If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant, when they brought a complaint against me; what then shall I do when God rises up?" (Jb 31:13). We should also honor the unique greatness of Christ's purity, for as Chrysostom says, no mere man could have confidently said, Which of you convicts me of sin? Only God, who had no sin, could say this: "Who can say, 'I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin?'" (Prv 20:9) - this is like saying: No one but God alone. "They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one," except Christ (Ps 14:3).
1256 Next, he concludes to the real reason they have turned away from the truth. First, he mentions the reason; secondly, he rejects their rejoinder (v 48). As to the first he does three things: first, he asks a question; secondly, he begins with a reasonable starting point; thirdly, he draws from his conclusion.
1257 First, he says: Since you cannot say that you do not believe me because I am a sinner, one can ask why if I tell the truth, you do not believe me, since I am not a sinner? This is like saying: If you cannot convict me, whom you hate, of sin, it is obvious that you hate me because of the truth, that is, because I say that I am the Son of God: "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion" (Prv 18:2).
1258 He then begins with a reasonable and true starting point, saying, he who is of God hears the words of God. For we read in Sirach (13:15): "Every creature loves its like." Therefore, whoever is of God, to that extent possesses a likeness to the things of God and clings to them. Thus, he who is of God gladly hears the words of God: "Every one who is of the truth hears my voice" (18:37). The word of God ought to be heard gladly by those, above all, who are of God, since it is the seed by which we are made the children of God: "He called them gods to whom the word of God came" (10:35).
1259 He draws his conclusion from this saying, the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God. This is like saying: The reason for your unbelief is not my sin, but your own wickedness; as Sirach (6:20) says: "She [Wisdom] seems very harsh to the uninstructed."
Augustine says about them that as to their nature, they are of God, indeed; but by reason of their vice and evil affection they are not of God. For this statement was made to those who were not just sinful, for this was common to all; it was made to those of whom it was foreknown that they would not believe with that faith by which they could have been set free from the chains of their sins.
1260 It should be noted, as Gregory says, that there are three degrees of being badly disposed in one's affections. Some refuse to physically hear God's precepts. Of these we read: "Like the deaf adder that stops its ear" (Ps 58:4). Others hear them physically, but they do not embrace them with the desire of their heart, since they do not have he will to obey them: "They hear what you say, but they will not do it" (Ez 33:32). Finally, there are those who joyfully receive the words of God and even weep with tears of sorrow; but after the time of crying is past and they are oppressed with troubles or allured by pleasures, they return to their sins. An example of this is given in Matthew (c 13) and Luke (c 8), where we read of the word being choked by cares and anxieties. "But the house of Israel will not listen to you; for they are not willing to listen to me" (Ez 3:7). Consequently, a sign that a person is of God is that he is glad to hear the words of God, while those who refuse to hear, either in affection or physically, are not of God.
1261 Next he rejects the rejoinder made by the Jews. First, the Evangelist mentions this rejoinder; and secondly, our Lord's rejection of it (v 49).
1262 In their response the Jews charge Christ with two things: first, that he is a Samaritan, when they say, Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan? Secondly, that he has a demon, when they add, and have a demon?
In saying, Are we not right? we can infer that they often reproached Christ this way. In fact, concerning the second, that he has a demon, we read in Matthew, "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that he casts out demons" (12:24). But this is the only place where it is recorded that they called him a Samaritan, although they probably said it often: for many of the things that were said and done about Christ and by Christ were not written in the Gospels, as it says below (21:25).
Two reasons can be given why the Jews said this about Christ. First, because the Samaritans were hateful to the people of Israel, for when the ten tribes were led into captivity, they took their land: "For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans" (4:9). Thus, because Christ reproved the Jews, they believed that he did it out of hatred, so that they regarded him as a Samaritan, an adversary, as it were. Another reason was that the Samaritans observed the Jewish rites in some things and not in others. Therefore, the Jews, seeing that Christ observed the law in some matters and broke it in others, for example, the law of the Sabbath, called him a Samaritan.
Again, there are two reasons why they said he had a demon. First, because they did not attribute the miracles he worked, and the thoughts he revealed, to a divine power in Christ; rather, they suspected that he did these things by some demonic art. Thus they said: "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that he casts out demons" (Mt 12:24). The other reason was based on the fact that his words exceeded human understanding, such as his statements that God was his Father, and that he had come down from heaven. And when uneducated people hear such things they usually regard them as diabolical. Accordingly, they believed that Christ spoke as one possessed by a demon: "Many of them said, 'he has a demon, and he is mad; why listen to him?'" (10:20). Furthermore, they said these things in an attempt to accuse him of sin, to dispute what he had said: "Which of you convicts me of sin?"
1263 Then when he says, Jesus answered: I have not a demon, our Lord rejects the response of the Jews. Now they had taxed Christ with two things, that he was a Samaritan and that he had a demon. Concerning the first, our Lord makes no apology, and this for two reasons. First, according to Origen, because the Jews always wanted to keep themselves apart from the Gentiles. But the time had now come when the distinction between Jews and Gentiles was to be removed, and everyone was to be called to the way of salvation. Accordingly, our Lord, in order to show that he had come for the salvation of all, made himself all things to all men, more so than Paul, so that he might win all (cf. 1 Cor 9:22); and so he did not deny that he was a Samaritan. The other reason was that "Samaritan" means "keeper," and because he especially is our keeper, as we read, "He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep" (Ps 121:4), so he did not deny that he was a Samaritan.
But he did deny that he had a demon, saying, I have not a demon. First, he rejects the insult; secondly, he reproves the insulters for the obstinacy (v 49b). As to the first he does two things: first, he rejects the insult; secondly, he shows that the opposite is true, I honor my Father.
1264 It should be noted with respect to the first that when correcting the Jews our Lord often spoke harshly to them: "Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees" (Mt 23:14), and many other instances are recorded in Matthew. But there is no record that our Lord spoke harsh or injurious words in answer to their harsh words or deeds against himself. Rather, as Gregory said, God accepted their insults, and did not answer with insulting words, but simply said, I have not a demon. And what does this suggests to us if not that when we are falsely attacked by our neighbor with railing words, we should keep silence, even about his abusive words, so as not to pervert our ministry of correcting in a just manner into a weapon of our anger. However, while we should not value our own goods, we should vindicate the things that are of God. As Origen says, Christ alone is capable of claiming, I have not a demon, for he has nothing, either slight or serious, of the devil in him; thus he says: "The ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me" (14:30). "What accord has Christ with Belial?" (2 Cor 6:15).
1265 He supports his stand by saying the opposite: but I honor my Father. Now the devil hinders honor being given to God; therefore, any person who seeks God's honor is a stranger to the devil. Thus, Christ, who honors his Father, that is, God, has not a demon. Furthermore, it is a proper and singular mark of Christ that he honor his Father, as we read: "A son honors his father" (Mal 1:6). And Christ is most singularly the Son of God.
1266 Next he reproves the impudence of those insulting him. First, he reproves them; secondly, he rejects the supposed reason for their reproof; and thirdly, he foretells their deserved condemnation.
1267 He says first, I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. This is like saying: I do what I ought, but you do not do what you ought. Indeed, by dishonoring me you dishonor my Father: "He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him" (5:23).
1268 But they could say: You are too severe, you are too concerned for your own glory, and so you reprove us. He rejects this, and speaking as man, says, I do not seek my own glory. For it is God alone who can seek his own glory without fault; others must seek it in God: "Let him who glories, glory in the Lord" [2 Cor 10:17]; "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing."
But does not Christ as man have glory? He does indeed, and it is great in every respect, because, although he does not seek it, nevertheless, there is One who seeks it, that is, the Father; for we read: "Thou dost crown him with glory and honor" (Ps 8:5), referring to Christ in his human nature.
1269 Not only will he seek my glory in those who accomplish works of great virtue, but he will punish and condemn those who speak against my glory thus he adds: and he will be the judge. This, however, seems to conflict with the statement above (5:22): "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son." I answer that the Father does not judge anyone apart from the Son, because even that judgment which he will make concerning the fact that you insult me, he will make through the Son. Or, one might say that judgment is sometimes taken for condemnation, and this judgment the Father has given to the Son, who alone will appear in visible form in judgment, as has been said. Sometimes, however, it is understood as meaning to distinguish one from another; and this is the way it is used here. Thus we read: "Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause" [Ps 42:1]. It is like saying: It is the Father who will distinguish my glory from yours, for he discerns that you glory in the world; and he sees the glory of his Son, whom he has anointed above his fellows and who is without sin. But you are men with sin.
51 "Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death." 52 The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and you say, 'If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.' 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be?" 54 Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God. 55 But you have not known him; I know him. If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad." 57 The Jews then said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" 58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was [came to be], I am." 59 So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
1270 Above, our Lord had promised two things to his followers: liberation from darkness and the attainment of life, saying, "He who follows me does not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (8:12). The first of these has been treated above; so we are now concerned with the second, the obtaining of life through Christ. First, he states the truth; secondly he counters its denial by the Jews (v 52).
1271 It should be noted that although Christ had been loaded down with insults and criticisms, he did not stop his teaching; indeed, after being accused of having a demon, he offers the benefits of his teachings more generously, saying: Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death. He is here giving us an example that when the malice of wicked men increases, and those that are converted are abused with insults, preaching, so far from being curtailed, should be increased: "And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words" (Ez 2:6); "…the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal. But the word of God is not fettered" (2 Tim 2:9).
In this statement our Lord does two things: he requires something, and he promises something. What he requires is that his words be kept, if any one keeps my word - for the word of Christ is the truth. Therefore, we should keep it, first of all, by faith and continual meditation: "Do not forsake her, and she will keep you" (Prv 4:6); secondly, by fulfilling it in action: "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me" (14:21).
What he promises is freedom from death; thus he says, he will never see death, that is, experience it: "They who act by me (i.e., by divine wisdom) shall not sin; they who explain me shall have life everlasting" [Sir 24:30]. Such a reward suits such merit, for life everlasting consists especially in the divine vision: "This is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent" (17:3). Now the seedbed and source of this vision comes into us by the word of Christ; "The seed is the word of God" (Lk 8:11). Therefore, just as a person who keeps the seed of some plant or tree from being destroyed succeeds in obtaining its fruit, so the person who keeps the word of God attains to life everlasting: "Keep my statutes and my ordinances by doing which a man shall live" (Lev 18:5).
1272 Next we see the opposition of the Jews being repelled. They oppose Christ in three ways: first, by accusing him of making a false statement; secondly, by their derision (v 57); and thirdly by assaulting him (v 59). As to the first, there are two things: first, they try to accuse him of presumption; secondly, Christ answers some of their retorts (v 54). As to the first they do three things: first, they insult Christ; secondly, they state a certain fact (v 52); and thirdly, they ask a question (v 53).
1273 They reproached him for lying when they said, now we know that you have a demon. They said this because the Jews knew that the inventor of sin, and especially of lying, was the devil: "I will go forth and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of his prophets" (1 Kg 22:22). It seemed to them that our Lord's statement, "If any one keeps my word, he will never see death," was an obvious lie - for since they were carnal minded, they understood of physical death what he said about spiritual and eternal death; and especially also because it was contrary to the authority of Sacred Scripture, which says, "What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?" (Ps 89:48). For these reasons they said to him: you have a demon. It was like saying: You are lying because prompted by the devil.
1274 Further, they do two things to convict him of lying: first, they mention the death of the ancients; secondly, they quote Christ's own words (v 52b). So they say: What you say, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death, is obviously false, for Abraham died, as is clear from Genesis (c 25); and the prophets died: "We must all die, we are like water split on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again" (2 Sam 14:14). But although they are dead in the bodily sense, they are not dead spiritually, for in Matthew (22:32) our Lord says: "I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob," and then he adds, "He is not God of the dead, but of the living." Thus, they were dead as to the body, but they were living in the spirit, because the Lord was speaking of, and not bodily death. Then, when they continue they wrote Christ's own words: And you say, If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death. But they were careless and evil listeners and so garbled our Lord's words and did not repeat them exactly. For our Lord had said, "he will never see death," but they quote it as "he will never taste death." However, as far as their understanding was concerned, it was all the same, because in both cases they understood that they would never experience a bodily death. But as Origen tells us, there is a real difference between seeing death and tasting death: for to see death is to experience it completely; while to taste it is to have some taste or share in death.
Now, just as it is a greater punishment to see death than to taste it, so not to taste death is more of a glory than not to see death. For the ones who do not taste death are those who are on high with Christ, i.e., who remain in an intellectual order: "There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Mt 16:28). And there are others who, if they do not see death by sinning mortally, nevertheless taste it, because they have a slight affection for earthly things. Consequently, our Lord, as it is written in the Greek, and as Origen explains it, said, he will never see death, because the person who has accepted and kept the words of Christ will not see death, even though he might taste something of it.
1275 Then they ask their question, saying, Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? They are asking, first of all, about a comparison between him and their fathers of old. But as Chrysostom says, in their carnal understanding they could have asked something higher, that is, "Are you greater than God?" For Abraham and the prophets kept God's commands, yet they died in the bodily sense. Therefore, if any one who keeps your word will never die, it seems that you are greater than God. Yet they were satisfied with their retort, because they considered him less than Abraham, in spite of the fact that we read: "There is none like thee among the gods, O Lord" (Ps 86:8); and "Who is like thee, O Lord, among the gods?" (Ex 15:11); as if to say: No one.
Secondly, they ask about his estimate of himself, i.e., who does he take himself to be? As if to say: If you are greater than them, namely, Abraham and the prophets, it seems to imply that you are of a higher nature, say an angel or God. But we do not think you are. So they do not ask, "Who are you?" but Who do you claim to be? For whatever you say in this matter, we who know will regard it as a fiction. They spoke in a similar fashion below (10:33): "We stone you for no good work but for blasphemy; because you being a man, make yourself God."
1276 Then (v 54), our Lord's answer is given. First, he answers the second question; secondly, the first question (v 56). As to the first, he Lord does three things: first, he rejects their error; secondly, he teaches them a truth which they did not know (v 54); and thirdly, he clarifies both of these things (v 55).
1277 He says: You ask me, Who do you claim to be? As if I am usurping a glory that I do not have. But this is a false assumption on your part, because I do not make myself what I am, but I have received it from the Father: for if I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. Now this could be understood of Christ according as he is the Son of God, as though saying in precise language; if I, namely, myself, glorify myself, that is, ascribe to myself a glory which the Father does not give me, my glory is nothing. For the glory of Christ according as he is God is the glory of the Word and the Son of God. But the Son has nothing except being begotten, i.e., what he has received from another [the Father] by being begotten. Therefore, assuming the impossible, if his glory were not from another, it would not be the glory of the Son.
However, it seems better to suppose that this is said of Christ according as he is man, because anyone who ascribes to himself a glory he does not have from God, has a false glory. For whatever is true is from God, and whatever is contrary to the truth is false, and consequently, nothing. Therefore, a glory which is not from God is nothing. We read of Christ: "Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest" (Heb 5:5); and "It is not the man who commends himself that is accepted, but the man whom the Lord commends" (2 Cor 10:18). Thus the error of the Jews is obvious.
1278 He sets down the truth he intends to teach and says: it is my Father who glorifies me. It is like saying: I do not glorify myself, as you think; but it is another who glorifies me, namely, my Father, whom he describes by his proper characteristic and by his nature. He describes him by his proper characteristic of fatherhood; thus he says that it is my Father and not I. As Augustine says, the Arians use this statement to injure our faith, and they claim the Father is greater than the Son, for one who glorifies is greater than the one glorified by him. If, therefore, the Father glorifies the Son, the Father is greater than the Son. Now this argument would be valid unless it were found that, conversely, the Son glorifies the Father. But the Son says: "Father, the hour has come: glorify thy Son that thy Son may glorify thee" (17:1); and "I glorified thee on earth" (17:4).
It is my Father who glorifies me, can be applied to Christ both according as he is the Son of God, and also as the Son of man. As the Son of God, the Father glorifies him with the glory of the divinity, generating him from eternity as equal to himself: as we read, "He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature … he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb 1:3); "And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:11). But as man, he had glory through an overflowing into him of the divinity, and overflowing of unique grace and glory: "We have seen his glory, the glory as of the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" [1:14].
1279 He describes the Father by his nature, that is, by his divinity, when he says, of whom you say that he is your God. But lest anyone suppose that his Father is other than God, he says that he is glorified by God: "Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself" (13:31). According to Augustine, these words are against the Manicheans, who say that the Father of Christ was not proclaimed in the Old Testament, but rather it was one of the princes of the evil angels. However, it is plain that the Jews do not say that their God is any other than the God of the Old Testament. Therefore, the God of the Old Testament is the Father of Christ and the One who glorifies him.
1280 Then he shows both these things, that is, the error of the Jews, and his own truth, when he says, but you have not known him. He shows these in two ways: first, by pointing out the ignorance of the Jews; secondly, his own knowledge (v 55).
1281 With respect to the first it should be noted that the Jews could say: You say that you are glorified by God; but his judgments are known by us, according to "He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances" (Ps 147:20). Therefore, if what you say is true, we would certainly know it; but since we do not know of it, it is obviously not true. Christ concludes saying, but you have not known him. This is like saying: It is not strange if you do not know about the glory with which my Father, who you say is your God, glorifies me, for you do not know God.
1282 This seems to conflict with the Psalm (76:1): "In Judah God is known." I answer that he was known by them as God, but not as the Father; thus he said above: "It is my Father who glorifies me" (v 54). Or, one might answer that you have not known him with affection, because you adore him in a bodily way, whereas he should be adored spiritually: "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (4:24). And there is no affection because you are reluctant to keep his commandments: "They profess to know God; but they deny him by their deeds" (Tit 1:16).
1283 But they might say: "Granted that we do not know about your glory, how do you know that you have glory from God the Father?" For this reason Christ speaks of his own knowledge, saying, I know him. First, he mentions his own knowledge; secondly, he shows the need for mentioning it; and thirdly, he explains what he said (v 55b).
1284 He says: I know that I have glory from God the Father, because I know him, namely, with that knowledge with which he knows himself; and no one else except the Son knows him: "No one knows the Father except the Son" (Mt 11:27), i.e., with a perfect and comprehensive knowledge. And because every imperfect thing derives from the perfect, all our knowledge is derived from the Word; thus Christ continues, "and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
1285 Now because some who judge in a carnal manner might attribute arrogance to Christ for saying that he knows God, he mentions why his statement is necessary. For, according to Augustine, arrogance should not be so guarded against that the truth is neglected and a lie committed. Thus Christ says: If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you. This is like saying: Just as you are lying when you say that you know him, so if I said I do not know him, whereas I do, I should be a liar like you. There is a similarity here in the fact of lying: as they lie in saying that they know him whom they do not know, so Christ would be a liar were he to say that he does not know him whom he knows. But there is a lack of similarity because they do not know him, whereas Christ does.
But could Christ say these things ["I do not know him" and "I should be a liar"]? He could, indeed, have spoken the words materially, but not so as to intend expressing a falsehood, because this could be done only by Christ's will inclining to falsehood, which was impossible, just as it was impossible for him to sin.
However, the conditional statement is true, although both antecedent and consequent are impossible.
1286 When he continues he shows that he knows the Father, But I do know him, i.e., I know the Father intellectually, with speculative knowledge. And I also know him with affective knowledge, by consenting to him with my will: thus he says, and I keep his word: "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me" (6:3).
1287 Then when he says, your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day, he gives his answer to the first question asked by the Jews: "Are you greater than our father Abraham?" He shows that he is greater for the following reason: Whoever awaits for someone as for his good and perfection is less than the one he waits for; but Abraham placed the entire hope of his perfection and good in me; therefore, he is less than I. In regard to this he says, your father Abraham, in whom you glory, rejoiced that the was to see my day; he saw it and was glad. He is stating two visions and two joys, but the second vision and its joy is mentioned first. In the first part of the statement, he first mentions the joy of exultation when he says, Abraham rejoiced, and then adds the vision, saying that he was to see my day. Then in the second part he first mentions the vision, saying, he saw, my day, and adds the joy, and was glad. Thus [taking the statement in reverse order] a joy lies between two visions, proceeding from the one and tending to the other. He is saying in effect: "He saw my day, and rejoiced that he was to see my day."
First of all, let us examine what that day is which he saw, and also what that day is which he rejoiced that he was to see. Now the day of Christ is twofold: the day of eternity, "Today I have begotten you" (Ps 2:7); and the day of his incarnation and humanity, "I must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day" (9:4). We say that Abraham saw, by faith, each day of Christ: the day of eternity and the day of the incarnation: "He believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness" (Gen 15:6). It is clear that he saw the day of eternity, for otherwise he would not have been justified by God, because as it says in Hebrews (11:6): "Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who see him." That he saw the day of the incarnation is clear from three things. First, from the oath he exacted from his servant. For he said to his servant: "Put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the Lord" (Gen 24:2). This signified, as Augustine says, that the God of heaven was to come out of his thigh. Secondly, as Gregory says, when he showed hospitality to the three angels, a symbol of the Most High Trinity. Thirdly, when he knew the passion of Christ as prefigured in the offering of the ram and of Isaac (Gen c 22). So he was glad over this vision [of faith], but he did not rest in it. Indeed, from it he rejoiced in another vision, namely, the direct face-to-face vision [of God], as though placing all his joy in this. Thus he says, Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day, - the day of my divinity and of my human nature - that is, that he was to see it by direct face-to-face vision.
1288 Then (v 57), he shows how the Jews ridiculed Christ's words: first, we have their ridicule, in an attempt to belittle what Christ said; secondly, Christ clarifies what he said in order to counteract this ridicule (v 58).
1289 Because Christ had said that Abraham rejoiced that he was to see his day, the Jews, having a carnal mind and considering only his physical age, ridiculed him and said, you are not yet fifty years old. Indeed, he was not yet fifty years old, or even forty, but closer to thirty: "And Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age" (Lk 3:23). The Jews said, you are not yet fifty years old, probably because they held the year of Jubilee in the greatest reverence and computed everything in terms of it - it was a time for freeing captives and giving up certain possessions. They were saying in effect: You have not yet lived beyond the span of a Jubilee, and have you seen Abraham? However, our Lord did not say that he saw Abraham, but that Abraham saw his day.
1290 To counteract their ridicule, our Lord answers the Jews by explaining his words, saying, Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I am. These words of our Lord mention two things about himself that are noteworthy and efficacious against the Arians. One is that, as Gregory says, he combines words of present and past time, because before signifies the past, and am signifies the present. Therefore, in order to show that he is eternal, and to indicate that his existence is an eternal existence, he does not say, "before Abraham, I was," but before Abraham, I am. For eternal existence knows neither past nor future time, but embraces all time in one indivisible [instant]. Thus it could be said: "He who is, sent me to you," and "I am who am" [Ex 3:14]. Jesus had being both before Abraham and after him, and he could approach him by showing himself in the present and be after him in the course of time.
The other point, according to Augustine, is that when speaking of Abraham, a creature, he did not say, "before Abraham was," but before Abraham came to be. Yet when speaking of himself, in order to show that he was not made as a creature is, but was eternally begotten from the essence of the Father, he does not say, "I came to be," but I am he who "in the beginning was the Word" (1:1); "Before the hills, I was brought forth" (Prv 8:25).
1291 Then (v 59), we see the attitude of the Jews towards Christ: first, their harassment of him; secondly, Christ's escape. The harassment of the Jews came from their unbelief: for the minds of unbelievers, being unable to tolerate words of eternity, or understand them, regard them as blasphemy. Therefore, according to the command of the Law, they decided to stone Christ as a blasphemer: they took up stones to throw at him. As Augustine remarks: What hardness of heart! To what could it resort except the hardness of stones? And they act in the same way who from the hardness of their own hearts, failing to understand the clearly stated truth, blaspheme the one who speaks it; for we read: "These men revile whatever they do not understand" (Jude 10).
1292 Jesus escapes from them by his own power; he continues, but Jesus hid himself - he, who, if he had wished to exercise his divine power, could have bound and delivered them to the punishment of a sudden death. Jesus hid himself for two main reasons. First, as an example to his followers to avoid those who persecute them: "When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next" (Mt 10:23). Secondly, because he had not chosen this form of death, but rather wanted to be sacrificed on the altar of the cross. He also fled because his time had not yet come. Thus, as man, he avoids their stoning. But he did not conceal himself under a rock or in a corner, but made himself invisible by his divine power and left the temple. He acted in a similar way when they wanted to throw him from the top of a hill (Lk 4:29). As Gregory says, this leads us to understand that the truth is hidden from those who disdain to follow his words. Indeed, the truth shuns a mind that it does not find to be humble: "The Lord is hiding his face from the house of Jacob" (Is 8:17). Finally, he hid himself because it was fitting that he leave them because they refused to accept correction and the truth, and that he go to the Gentiles: "Behold your house is forsaken and desolate" (Mt 23:38).