HOLY GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST,
ACCORDING TO S. JOHN.
S. John, the evangelist, a native of Bathsaida, in Galilee, was the son of Zebedee and Salome. He was by profession a fisherman. Our Lord gave to John, and to James, his brother, the surname of Boanerges, or, sons of thunder; most probably for their great zeal, and for their soliciting permission to call fire from heaven to destroy the city of the Samaritans, who refused to receive their Master. S. John is supposed to have been called to the apostleship younger than any of the other apostles, not being more than twenty-five or twenty-six years old. The Fathers teach that he never married. Our Lord had for him a particular regard, of which he gave the most marked proofs at the moment of his expiring on the cross, by intrusting to his care his virgin Mother. He is the only one of the apostles that did not leave his divine Master in his passion and death. In the reign of Domitian, he was conveyed to Rome, and thrown into a caldron of boiling oil, from which he came out unhurt. He was afterwards banished to the island of Patmos, where he wrote his book of Revelations; and, according to some, his Gospel. Tota antiquitas in eo abundè consentit, quod Domitianus exilii Joannis auctor fuerit. Lampe. Proleg. l. i. cap. 4.
--- In his gospel, S. John omits very many leading facts and circumstances mentioned by the other three evangelists, supposing his readers sufficiently instructed in points which his silence approved. It is universally agreed, that S. John had seen and approved of the other three gospels. S. Hier. de vir. illust. Euseb. l. iii, c. 24.
--- S. Luke, says a learned author, seems to have had more learning than any other of the evangelists, and his language is more varied, copious, and pure. This superiority in style may perhaps be owing to his longer residence in Greece, and greater acquaintance with Gentiles of good education.
--- S. Denis, of Alexandria, found in the gospel of S. John, elegance and precision of language, not only in the choice and arrangement of expressions, but also in his mode of reasoning and construction. We find here, says this saint, nothing barbarous and improper, nothing even low and vulgar; insomuch, that God not only seems to have given him light and knowledge, but also the means of well clothing his conceptions. Dion. Alex. apud Euseb. l. vii, c. 25.
--- Our critics do not join with S. Denis. They generally conceive S. John, with respect to language, as the least correct of the writers of the New Testament. His style argues a great want of those advantages which result from a learned education: but this defect is amply compensated by the unexampled simplicity with which he expresses the sublimest truths, by the supernatural lights, by the depth of the mysteries, by the superexcellency of the matter, by the solidity of his thoughts, and importance of his instructions. The Holy Ghost, who made choice of him, and filled him with infused wisdom, is much above human philosophy and the art of rhetoric. He possesses, in a most sovereign degree, the talent of carrying light and conviction to the mind, and warmth to the heart. He instructs, convinces, and persuades, without the aid of art or eloquence.
--- S. John is properly compared to the eagle, because in his first flight he ascends above all sublunary objects, and does not stop till he meets the throne of the Almighty. He is so sententious, says S. Ambrose, that he gives us as many mysteries as words. De Sacram. l. iii, c. 2.
--- From Patmos our saint returned to Ephesus, where he died. Euseb. l. iii. hist. eccles.
--- It is said that the original gospel was preserved in the church of Ephesus till the seventh age, at least till the fourth; for S. Peter, of Alexandria, cites it. See Chron. Alex. and MS. fragment. de paschate apud Petav. et Usher.
--- Besides the gospel, we have of S. John three epistles and the Book of Revelations; and though other productions have been palmed on the world under the name of our evangelist, the Catholic Church only approves of those above specified. Ancient Fathers have given him the name of the Theologian: a title his gospel, and particularly the first chapter, deserves. Polycratus, bishop of Ephesus, tells us that S. John carried on his forehead a plate of gold, as priest of Jesus Christ, to honour the priesthood of the new law, in imitation of the high priests of the Jews. Polycr. apud Euseb. l. v, c. 24.
--- This gospel was written in Greek, about the end of the first hundred years from Christ's nativity, at the request of the bishops of the Lesser Asia, against the Cerinthians and the Ebionites, and those heretics, or Antichrists, as S. John calls them, (1 Ep. iv. 3.) who pretended that Jesus was a mere man, who had no being or existence before he was born of Joseph and Mary. The blasphemies of these heretics had divers abettors in the first three ages, as Carpocrates, Artemon, the two Theodotus, Paul of Samosata, Sabellius, and some others; on whom, see S. Irenæus, S. Epiphanius, S. Augustine, &c. To these succeeded, in the beginning of the fourth century, Arius, of Alexandria, and the different branches of the blasphemous Arian sect. They allowed that Jesus Christ had a being before he was born of Mary; that he was made and created before all other creatures, and was more perfect than any of them; but still that he was no more than a creature: that he had a beginning, and that there was a time when he was not: that he was not properly God, or the God, not the same God, nor had the same substance and nature, with the eternal Father and Creator of all things. This heresy was condemned by the Church in the first General Council, at Nice, ann. 325.
--- After the Arians rose up the Macedonians, who denied the divinity of the Holy Ghost; and afterwards the Nestorians, Eutychians, &c. In every age pride and ignorance have produced some heresies; for, as the Apostle says, (1 Cor. xi. 19.) there must be heresies. Towards the beginning of the sixteenth age Luther, Zuinglius, Calvin, &c. set themselves up for reformers, even of that general and Catholic faith which they found every where taught, and believed in all Christian Churches. Luther owns that he was then alone, the only one of his communion, (if so it may be called); yet none of these called in question the mysteries of the Trinity, or of the Incarnation.
--- But not many years after, came the blasphemous sect of the Socinians, so called from Lælius and Faustus Socini. These, and their followers, renewed the condemned errors of the Arians. We scarce find any thing new in the systems of these men, who would pass for somebody, like Theodas, Acts v. 36.; or who, like Simon, the magician, and first heretic, would be looked upon as great men, and great wits, by daring to be free-thinkers, and thereby bold blasphemers.
--- To do justice to Calvin, he did not think these Socinians fit to live in any Christian society: and therefore he got Michael Servetus burnt alive at Geneva, ann. 1553; and Valentinus Gentilis, one of the same sect, was beheaded at Berne, ann. 1565. I must needs say, it seems an easier matter to excuse the warm sharp zeal of Calvin, and his Swiss brethren, in persecuting to death these Socinians with sword and faggot, than to shew with what justice and equity these men could be put to death, who followed the very same principle, and the only rule of faith; i.e. Scriptures expounded by every man's private reason, or private spirit; which the pretended Reformers, all of them, maintain with as much warmth as ever, to this very day.
--- Heretics in all ages have wrested the sense of the Scriptures, to make them seem to favour their errors: and by what we see so frequently happen, it is no hard matter for men who have but a moderate share of wit and sophistry, by their licentious fancies and arbitrary expositions, to turn, change, and pervert Scripture texts, and to transform almost any thing into any thing, says Dr. Hammond, on the second chapter of S. John's Revelation. But I need not fear to say, this never appeared so visibly as in these last two hundred years; the truth of which no one can doubt, who reads the History of the Variations, written by the learned bishop of Meaux.
--- These late Reformers seem to make a great part of their religion consist in reading, or having at least the Bible in their mother-tongue. The number of translations into vulgar languages, with many considerable differences, is strangely multiplied. Every one rashly claims a right to expound them according to his private judgment, or his private spirit. And what is the consequence of this; but that as men's judgments and their private interpretations are different, so in a great measure are the articles of their creed and belief?
--- The Scriptures, in which are contained the revealed mysteries of divine faith, are, without all doubt, the most excellent of all writings: these divers volumes, written by men inspired from God, contained not the words of men, but the word of God, which can save our souls: (1 Thess. ii. 13. and James i. 21.) but then they ought to be read, even by the learned, with the spirit of humility; with a fear of mistaking the true sense, as so many have done; with a due submission to the Catholic Church, which Christ himself commanded us to hear and obey. This we might learn from the Scripture itself. The apostle told the Corinthians, that even in those days there were many who corrupted and adulterated the word of God. 2 Cor. ii. 17. S. Peter gives us this admonition: that in the Epistles of S. Paul, are some things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and the unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
--- It was merely to prevent and remedy this abuse of the best of books, that it was judged necessary to forbid the ignorant to read the Scriptures in vulgar languages, without the advice and permission of their pastors and spiritual guides, whom Christ appointed to govern his Church. Acts xx. 28. The learned University of Paris, 1525, at that time, and in those circumstances, judged the said prohibition necessary: and whosoever hath had any discourses with persons of different religions and persuasions in our kingdom, especially with Anabaptists, Quakers, and such as pretend to expound the Scriptures, either by their private reason or by the private spirit, will, I am confident, be fully convinced that the just motives of the said prohibition subsist to this very day. Ignorant men and women turn Scripture texts to the errors of their private sects, and wrest them to their own perdition; as the very best of remedies prove pernicious and fatal to those who know not their virtues, nor how to use them, and apply them.
--- They might learn from the Acts of the Apostles, (C. xv.) that as soon as a doubt and dispute was raised, whether the Gentiles converted by the apostles, were obliged to observe any of the ceremonies of the law of Moses, this first controversy about religion was not decided by the private judgment, or private spirit, even of those apostolical preachers, but by an assembly or council of the apostles and bishops, held at Jerusalem; as appears by the letter of the council sent to the Christians at Antioch. It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, &c. to us, whom Christ promised to direct by the Spirit of truth; with whom, he assured us, he would remain to the end of the world.
--- The very same method, as it is evident by the annals of Church history, hath been practised to the very time, and will be to the end of the world. It is the rule grounded on the command and promises of Christ, when he founded and established the Christian Church. All disputes about the sense of the Scriptures, and about points of the Christian belief, have been always decided by the successors of S. Peter, and the other apostles; even by general councils, when judged necessary: and they who, like Arius, obstinately refused to submit their private judgment to that of the Catholic Church, were always condemned, excommunicated, and cut off from the communion of the Church of Christ. — Nor is this rule and this submission to be understood of the ignorant and unlearned only, but also of men accomplished in all kind of learning. The ignorant fall into errors for want of knowledge, and the learned are many times blinded by their pride and self-conceit. The sublime and profound mysteries, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation of the eternal Son of God, the manner of Christ's presence in the holy sacrament, are certainly above the reach of man's weak reason and capacity; much less are they the object of our senses, which are so often deceived. Let every reader of the sacred volumes, who pretends to be a competent judge of the sense, and of the truths revealed in them, reflect on the words which he finds in Isaias: (C. lv. 8, 9) For my thoughts are not your thoughts; nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts. How then shall any one, by his private reason, pretend to judge, to know, to demonstrate, what is possible or impossible to the incomprehensible power of God?
--- A self-conceited Socinian, big with the opinion he has of his own wit and knowledge, will boldly tell us, that to say or believe that three distinct persons are one and the same God, is a manifest contradiction. Must we believe him? Or can he himself reasonably trust his own natural reason in such a mystery, against the clear testimonies of the Scripture, and the received belief of the Christian Catholic Church, in all ages? That is, against the greatest authority upon earth: whether we consider the Church as the most illustrious society and body of men; or whether we consider the same Church as under the protection of Christ and his divine promises, to teach them all truth to the end of the world. Besides this, experience itself should make the said Socinian distrust his own judgment as to such a pretended contradiction, when he finds that the brightest wits, and most subtle philosophers, after all their study and search of natural causes and effects, for so many hundred years, by the light of their reason could never yet account for the most common and obvious things in nature, such as are the parts of matter, and extension, local motion, and the production of numberless vegetables and animals, which we see happen, but know not how. See the author of a short answer to the late Dr. Clark and Mr. Whiston, concerning the divinity of the Son of God, and of the Holy Ghost. An. 1729.
--- The latest writers among the pretended Reformers hesitate not to tell us, that what the Church and its councils have declared, as to Christ's real presence in the holy sacrament, is contradicted by all our senses; as if our senses, which are so often mistaken, were the supreme and only judges of such hidden mysteries. Another tells us, that for Christ to be truly and really present in many places, in ten thousand places at once, is a thing impossible in nature and reason; and his demonstrative proof is, that he knows it to be impossible. With this vain presumption, he runs on to this length of extravagant rashness, and boldly pronounces, that should he find such a proposition in the Bible, nay, though with his eyes he should see a man raise the dead, and declare that proposition true, he could not believe it: and merely because he knows it impossible: which is no more than to say, that it does not seem possible to his weak reason. I do not find that he offers to bring any other proof, but that it is contrary to his senses, and that God cannot assert a contradiction. And why must we take it for a contradiction, only because he tells us, he knows it to be so? It was certainly the safest way for him, to bring no reasons to shew it impossible to the infinite and incomprehensible power of the Almighty: this vain attempt would only have given new occasions to his learned antagonist, the author of the Single Combat, to expose his weakness even more than he has done.
--- May not every Unitarian, every Arian, every Socinian, every Latitudinarian, every Free-thinker, tell us the same? And if this be a sufficient plea, none of them can be condemned of heresy or error. Calvin could never silence Servetus, (unless it were by lighting faggots round him) if he did but say, I know that three distinct persons cannot be one and the same God. It is a contradiction, and God cannot assert a contradiction. I know that the Son cannot be the same God with the Father. It is a contradiction, and therefore impossible. So that though I find clear texts in the Scriptures, that three give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one: though Christ, the Son of God, tells us, that he and the Father are one, or one thing; nay, though I should with my own eyes, see men raise the dead to confirm these mysteries, (as many are recorded to have done) and declare them to be revealed divine truths, I cannot believe them, because I know them to be false, to be nonsense, to be contradictions in reason and nature. The like the Free-thinker may tell us, with the Pelagians, as to the existence of original sin, that all men should become liable to eternal death for Adam's sinning; with the Manicheans, that men cannot have free will to do, or abstain from, sinful actions, and yet God know infallibly from eternity what they will do; with the Origenists, that God, who is infinite goodness itself, will not punish sinners eternally, for yielding to what the inclinations of their corrupt nature prompt them. They have the same right to tell all Christendom, that they know these pretended revealed mysteries to be nonsense, impossibilities, and contradictions. And every man's private judgment, when, with an air of confidence, he says, I know it, must pass for infallible; though he will not hear of the Catholic Church being infallible, under the promises of our Saviour, Christ.
--- But to conclude this preface, already much longer than I designed, reason itself, as well as the experience we have of our own weak understanding, from the little we know even of natural things, might preserve every sober thinking man from such extravagant presumption, pride and self-conceited rashness, as to pretend to measure God's almighty and incomprehensible power by the narrow and shallow capacity of human understanding, or to know what is possible or impossible to Him that made all things out of nothing. In fine, let not human understanding exalt itself against the knowledge of God, but bring into a rational captivity and submission every thought to the obedience of Christ. Let every one humbly acknowledge with the great S. Augustine, whose learning and capacity, modestly speaking, were not inferior to those of any of those bold and rash pretenders to knowledge, that God can certainly do more than we can understand. Let us reflect with S. Greg. Nazian. (Orat. xxxvii. p. 597. C.) that if we know not the things under our feet, we must not pretend to fathom the profound mysteries of God.† — And, in the mean time, let us pray for those who are thus tossed to and fro with every wind and blast of different doctrines, (Ephes. iv. 14.) that God, of his infinite mercy, would enlighten their weak and blinded understanding with the light of the one true faith, and bring them to the one fold of his Catholic Church. Witham.
[†] Naz. Orat. xxxvii. Mhde ta en posin eidenai dunamenoi . . . mh qeou baqesin embateuein.
Ver. 1. In the beginning was the word:† or rather, the word was in the beginning. The eternal word, the increated wisdom, the second Person of the blessed Trinity, the only begotten Son of the Father, as he is here called (v. 14.) of the same nature and substance, and the same God, with the Father and Holy Ghost. This word was always; so that it was never true to say, he was not, as the Arians blasphemed. This word was in the beginning. Some, by the beginning, expound the Father himself, in whom he was always. Others give this plain and obvious sense, that the word, or the Son of God, was, when all other things began to have a being; he never began, but was from all eternity.
--- And the word was with God; i.e. was with the Father; and as it is said, (v. 18) in the bosom of the Father; which implies, that he is indeed a distinct person, but the same in nature and substance with the Father and the Holy Ghost. This is repeated again in the second verse, as repetitions are very frequent in S. John.
--- And the word was God. This without question is the construction; where, according to the letter we read, and God was the word. Wi.
--- The Greek for the word is LogoV, which signifies not only the exterior word, but also the interior word, or thought; and in this latter sense it is taken here. V.
--- Philo Judæus, in the apostolic age, uses the word LogoV, p. 823, to personify the wisdom and the power of God. LogoV estin eikwn Qeou di ou sumpaV o KosmoV edhmiourgeito. By a similar metonymy, Jesus Christ is called the way, the truth, the life, the resurrection.
--- And the word was God. Here the eternity and the divinity of the second Person are incontrovertibly established; or, we must say that language has no longer a fixed meaning, and that it is impossible to establish any point whatever from the words of Scripture. A.
[†] V. 1. Et Deus erat Verbum, kai qeoV hn o logoV. LogoV was a word very proper to give all that should believe a right notion of the Messias, and of the true Son of God. LogoV, according to S. Jerom, (Ep. ad Paulinum. tom. iv. part 2, p. 570. Ed. Ben.) signifies divers things; as, the wisdom of the Father, his internal word or conception; and, as it were, the express image of the invisible God. Here it is not taken for any absolute divine attribute or perfection; but for the divine Son, or the second Person, as really distinct from the other two divine Persons. And that by logoV, was to be understood him that was truly God, the Maker and Creator of all things; the Jews might easily understand, by what they read adn frequently heard in the Chaldaic Paraphrase, or Targum of Jonathan, which was read to them in the time of our Saviour, Christ, and at the time when S. John wrote his gospel. In this Paraphrase they were accustomed to hear that the Hebrew word Memreth, to which corresponded in Greek, logoV, was put for him that was God: as Isaias xlv. 12. I made the earth; in this Targum, I, by my word, made the earth: Isaias xlviii. 13. My hand also hath founded the earth; in this Paraphrase, in my word I founded the earth: Gen. iii. 8. They heard the voice of the Lord God; in the Paraphrase, the voice of the word of God. See Walton, prolog. xii, num. 18, p. 86.; Maldonatus on this place; Petavius, l. vi. de Trin. c. 1.; Dr. Pearson on the Creed, p. 11.; Dr. Hammond's note on S. Luke, c. i, p. 203, &c. However, S. John shews us that he meant him who was the true God, by telling us that the world, and every thing that was made, was made by this word, or logoV; that in this word was life; that he was in the world, and was the light of the world; that he had glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, &c.
Ver. 2. The same was in the beginning with God. In the text is only, "this was in the beginning;" but the sense and construction certainly is, this word was in the beginning. Wi.
Ver. 3. All things were made by him,† and without him was made nothing that was made. These words teach us, that all created being, visible, or invisible on earth, every thing that ever was made, or began to be, were made, produced, and created by this eternal word, or by the Son of God. The same is truly said of the Holy Ghost; all creatures being equally produced, created, and preserved by the three divine Persons as, by their proper, principal, and efficient cause, in the same manner, and by the same action: not by the Son, in any manner inferior to the Father; nor as if the Son produced things only ministerially, and acted only as the minister, and instrument of the Father, as the Arians pretended. In this sublime mystery of one God and three distinct Persons, if we consider the eternal processions, and personal proprieties, the Father is the first Person, but not by any priority of time, or of dignity; all the three divine Persons being eternal, or co-eternal, equal in all perfections, being one in nature, in substance, in power, in majesty: in a word, one and the same God. The Father in no other sense is called the first Person, but because he proceeds from none, or from no other person: and the eternal Son is the second Person begotten, and proceeding from him, the Father, from all eternity, proceeds now, and shall proceed from him for all eternity; as we believe that the third divine Person, the Holy Ghost, always proceeded without any beginning, doth now proceed, and shall proceed for ever, both from the Father and the Son. But when we consider and speak of any creatures, of any thing that was made, or had a beginning, all things were equally created in time, and are equally preserved, no less by the Son, and by the Holy Ghost, than by the Father. For this reason S. John tells us again in this chapter, (v. 10.) that the world was made by the word. And our Saviour himself (Jo. v. 19.) tells us, that whatsoever the Father doth, these things also in like manner, or in the same manner, the Son doth. Again the apostle, (Heb. i. v. 2.) speaking of the Son, says, the world was made by him: and in the same chapter, (v. 10.) he applies to the Son these words, (Psalm ci. 26.) And thou, O Lord, in the beginning didst found the earth: and the heavens are the works of thy hands, &c. To omit other places, S. Paul again, writing to the Colossians, (C. i. v. 16, 17.) and speaking of God's beloved Son, as may be seen in that chapter, says, that in him all things were created, visible and invisible—all things were created in him, and by him, or, as it is in the Greek, unto him, and for him; to shew that the Son was not only the efficient cause, the Maker and Creator of all things, but also the last end of all. Which is also confirmed by the following words: And he is before all, and all things subsist in him, or consist in him; as in the Rheims and Protestant translations. I have, therefore, in this third verse, translated, all things were made by him, with all English translations and paraphrases, whether made by Catholics or Protestants; and not all things were made through him, lest through should seem to carry with it a different and a diminishing signification; or as if, in the creation of the world, the eternal word, or the Son of God, produced things only ministerially, and, in a manner, inferior to the Father, as the Arians and Eunomians pretended; against whom, on this very account, wrote S. Basil, lib. de spiritu Sto. S. Chrysostom, and S. Cyril, on this very verse; where they expressly undertake to shew that the Greek text in this verse no ways favours these heretics. The Arians, and now the Socinians, who deny the Son to be true God, or that the word God applies as properly to him as to the Father, but would have him called God, that is, a nominal god, in an inferior and improper sense; as when Moses called the god of Pharao; (Exod. vii. 1.) or as men in authority are called gods; (Psalm lxxxi. 6.) pretend, after Origen, to find another difference in the Greek text; as if, when mention is made of the Father, he is styled the God; but that the Son is only called God, or a God. This objection S. Chrysostom, S. Cyril, and others, have shewn to be groundless: that pretended significant Greek article being several times omitted, when the word God is applied to God the Father; and being found in other places, when the Son of God is called God. See this objection fully and clearly answered by the author of a short book, published in the year 1729, against Dr. Clark and Mr. Whiston, p. 64, and seq. Wi.
--- Were made, &c. Mauduit here represents the word: —"1. As a cause, or principle, acting extraneously from himself upon the void space, in order to give a being to all creatures:" whereas there was no void space before the creation. Ante omnia Deus erat solus, ipse sibi et mundus et locus, et omnia. Tert. l. cont. Prax. c. v. And S. Aug. in Ps. cxxii. says: antequam faceret Deus Sanctos, ubi habitabat? In se habitabat, apud se habitabat.
--- The creation of all things, visible and invisible, was the work of the whole blessed Trinity; but the Scriptures generally attribute it to the word; because wisdom, reason, and intelligence, which are the attributes of the Son, are displayed most in it. Calmet.
--- What wonderful tergiversations the Arians used to avoid the evidence of this text, we see in S. Austin, l. iii. de doct. Christ. c. 2; even such as modern dissenters do, to avoid the evidence of This is my Body, concerning the blessed Eucharist. B.
[†] V. 3. Omnia per ipsum facta sunt: panta di autou egeneto: all things were made by him. Let not any one pretend that di autou, in this verse signifies no more than, that all creatures were made by the Word, or Son of God, ministerially, as if he was only the instrument of the eternal Father, and in a manner inferior to that by which they were created by the Father, the chief and principal cause of all things; of whom the apostle says, ex ou ta panta, ex ipso omnia.
--- Origen, unless perhaps his writings were corrupted by the Arians, seems to have given occasion to this leptalogia, as S. Basil calls it, to groundless quibbling and squabbling about the sense of the prepositions; when he tells us, (tom. ii, in Joan. p. 55. Ed. Huetii.) the di ou never has the first place, but always the second place, meaning as to dignity: oudepote thn prwthn cwran ecei to di ou, deuteran de aei. It is like many other false and unwarrantable assertions in Origen; as when we find in the same commentary on S. John, that he says only God the Father is called o QeoV. Origen may perhaps be excused as to what he writes about di ou and ex ou, as if he spoke only with a regard to the divine processions in God, in which the Father is the first person, from whom proceeds even the eternal Son, the second person. But whatever Origen thought, or meant, whom S. Epiphanius calls the father of Arius, whose works, as then extant, were condemned in the fifth General Council; it appears that the Arians, in particular Aetius, of the Eunomian sect, pretended that ex ou had always a more eminent signification, and was only applied to the Father; the Father, said he, being the true God, the only principal efficient cause of all things; and di ou was applied to the word, or Son of God, who was not the same true God, to signify his interior and ministerial production, as he was the instrument of the Father. Aetius, without regard to other places in the Scripture, as we read in S. Basil, (l. de Sp. S. c. ii. p. 293. Ed. Morelli. an. 1637) produced these words of the apostle: (1 Cor. viii. 6.) eiV QeoV, pathr, ex ou ta panta . . . kai eiV kurioV, IhsouV CristoV; di ou panta: unus Deus, Pater, ex quo omnia, . . . et unus Dominus Jesus Christus; per quem omnia. He concluded from hence, that as the prepositions were different, so were the natures and substance of the Father and of the Son.
--- But that no settled and certain rule can be built on these prepositions, and that di ou, in this third verse of the first chapter of S. John, has no diminishing signification, so that the Son was equally the proper and principal efficient cause of all things that were made and created, we have the authority of the greatest doctors, and the most learned and exact writers of the Greek Church, who knew both the doctrine of the Catholic Church, and the rules and use of the Greek tongue.
--- S. Basil (l. de Spir. S. c. iii. et seq.) ridicules this leptologian, which, he says, had its origin from the vain and profane philosophy of the heathen writers, about the difference of causes. He denies that there is any fixed rule; and brings examples, in which di ou is applied to the Father, and ex ou to the Son.
--- S. Greg. Naz. denies this difference, (Orat. xxxvii, p. 604. Ed. Morelli. Parisiis, ann. 1630) and affirms that ex ou, and di ou, in the Scripture, are said of all the three divine Persons.
--- S. Chrysostom says the same; and brings examples, to shew it on this verse of S. John; and tells us expressly that di ou, in this verse, has no diminishing nor inferior signification: ei de to di ou nomizeiV elattwsewV einai, &c.
--- S. Cyril of Alexandria, (l. i. in Joan. p. 48.) makes the very same remark, and with the like examples. His words are: Quod si existiment (Ariani) per quem, di ou, substantiam ejus (Filii) de æqualitate cum Patre dejicere, ita ut minister sit potius quam Creator, ad se redeant insani, &c.
--- S. Ambrose, a doctor of the Latin Church, (l. ii. de Sp. S. 10. p. 212. 213. Ed. Par. an. 1586.) confutes, with S. Basil, the groundless and pretended differences of ex quo and per quem.
--- I shall only here produce that one passage in Romans, (C. xi. 36.) which S. Basil and S. Ambrose make use of, where we read: ex ipso, et per ipsum, et in ipso sunt omnia, (ex autou, kai di autou, kai eiV auton ta panta) et in ipsum omnia. Now either we expound all the three parts of this sentence, as spoken of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, (as both S. Basil and S. Ambrose understand them) and then ex ou is applied to the Son; or we understand them of the Father, and di ou is applied to the first Person: or, in fine, as S. Aug. observes, (l. i. de Trin. c. 6.) we interpret them in such a manner, that the first part be understood of the Father, the second of the Son, the third of the Holy Ghost; and then the words that immediately follow in the singular number, to him be glory for ever, shew that all the three Persons are but one in nature, one God; and to all, and to each of the three Persons, the whole sentence belongs.
--- Had I not already said more than may seem necessary on these words, I might add all the Greek bishops in the council of Florence, when they came to an union with the Latin bishops about the procession of the Holy Ghost. After many passages had been quoted out of the ancient Fathers, some of which had said that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father and the Son, ek tou patroV, kai ek tou uiou, many others had asserted that he proceeded ek tou PatroV dia tou uiou; Bessarion, the learned Grecian bishop, in a long oration, (Sess. 25.) shewed that di uiou was the same as ek tou uiou. The Fathers, said he, shew, deiknusin isodunamousan th ek thn dia. See tom. xiii. Conc. Lab. p. 435. All the others allowed this to be true, as the emperor John Paleologus observed. p. 487.) And the patriarch of Constantinople, when he was about to subscribe, declared the same: esti to dia tou uiou, tauton tw ek tou uiou. Can any one imagine that none of these learned Grecians should know the force and use of these two prepositions, in their own language?
Ver. 4. In him: i.e. in this word, or Son of God, was life; because he gives life to every living creature. Or, as Maldonatus expounds it, because he is the author of grace, which is the spiritual life of our souls.
--- And the life was the light of men, whether we expound it of a rational soul and understanding, which he gives to all men; or of the spiritual life, and those lights of graces, which he gives to Christians. Wi.
Ver. 5. And the light shineth, or did shine, in darkness. Many understand this, that the light of reason, which God gave to every one, might have brought them to the knowledge of God by the visible effects of his Providence in this world: but the darkness did not comprehend it, because men, blinded by their passions, would not attend to the light of reason. Or we may again understand it, with Maldonatus, of the lights of grace, against which obstinate sinners wilfully shut their eyes. Wi.
Ver. 7. That all men might believe through him; i.e. by John's preaching, who was God's instrument to induce them to believe in Jesus the Christ, or the Messias, their only Redeemer. Wi.
Ver. 8-9. He; that is John, was not the true light: but the word was the true light. In the translation, it is necessary to express that the word was the true light, lest any one should think that John the Baptist was this light. Wi.
Ver. 10. He was in the world, &c. Many of the ancient interpreters understand this verse of Christ as God, who was in the world from its first creation, producing and governing all things: but the blind sinful world did not know and worship him. Others apply these words to the Son of God made man; whom even God's own chosen people, the Jews, at his coming, refused to receive and believe in him. Wi.
Ver. 11. His own. This regards principally the Jews. Jesus came to them as into his own family, but they did not receive him. It may likewise be extended to the Gentiles, who had groaned so long a time in darkness, and only seemed to wait for the rising sun of justice to run to its light. They likewise did not receive him. These words, though apparently general, must be understood with restriction; as there were some, though comparatively few, of both Jews and Gentiles, who embraced the faith. Calmet.
Ver. 12. He gave to them power to be made the adoptive sons of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. They are made the children of God by believing and by a new spiritual birth in the sacrament of baptism, not of blood; (literally, not of bloods) not by the will, and desires of the flesh, not by the will of men, nor by human generation, as children are first born of their natural parents, but of God, by faith and divine grace. Wi.
Ver. 14. And the word was made flesh. This word, or Son of God, who was in the beginning, from all eternity, at the time appointed by the divine decrees, was made flesh, i.e. became man, by a true and physical union of his divine person, (from which the divine nature was inseparable) to our human nature, to a human soul, and a human body, in the womb, and of the substance, of his virgin Mother. From the moment of Christ's incarnation, as all Christians are taught to believe, he that was God from eternity, became also true man. In Jesus Christ, our blessed Redeemer, we believe one divine Person with two natures, and two wills; the one divine, the other human: by which substantial union, one and the same Person became truly both God and man; not two persons, or two sons, as Nestorius, the heretic, pretended. By this union, and a mutual communication of the proprieties of each nature, it is true to say, that the Son of God, remaining unchangeably God, was made man; and therefore that God was truly conceived and born of the virgin Mary, who, on this account, was truly the Mother of God: that God was born, suffered, and died on the cross, to redeem and save us. The word, in this manner made man, dwelt in us, or among us, by this substantial union with our human nature, not morally only, nor after such a manner, as God is said to dwell in a temple; nor as he is in his faithful servants, by a spiritual union, and communication of his divine graces; but by such a real union, that the same person is truly both God and man.
--- And we saw his glory, manifested to the world by many signs and miracles; we in particular, who were present at his transfiguration. Matt. xvii.
--- Full of grace and truth. These words, in the construction, are to be joined in this manner: the word dwelt in us, full of grace and truth; and we have seen his glory, &c. This fulness of grace in Christ Jesus, infinitely surpassed the limited fulness, which the Scripture attributes to S. Stephen, (Acts vi. 8.) or to the blessed virgin Mother: (Luke i. 28.) they are said to be full of grace, only because of an extraordinary communication and greater share of graces than was given to other saints. But Christ, even as man, had a greater abundance of divine graces: and being truly God as well as man, his grace and sanctity were infinite, as was his person.
--- As of the only begotten of the Father.† If we consider Christ in himself, and not only as he was made known to men by outward signs and miracles, S. Chrysostom and others take notice that the word as, no ways diminisheth the signification; and that the sense is, we have seen the glory of him, who is truly from all eternity the only begotten Son of the Father: who, as the Scriptures assure us, is his true, his proper Son, his only begotten, who was sent into the world, who descended from heaven, and came from the Father, and leaving the world, returned where he was before, returned to his Father. We shall meet with many such Scripture texts, to shew him to be the eternal Son of his eternal Father; or to shew that the Father was always his Father, and the Son always his Son: as it was the constant doctrine of the Catholic Church, and as such declared in the general council of Nice, that this, his only Son, was born or begotten of the Father before all ages . . . God from God, the true God from the true God. It was by denying this truth, "that the Son was the Son always, and the Father always, and from all eternity, the Father;" that the blaspheming Arius began his heresy in his letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, against his bishop of Alexandria, S. Alexander. See the letter copied by S. Epiphan. Hær. 69. p. 731. Ed. Petavii. Wi.
--- Dwelt among us. In a material body, like ours, clothed with our nature. He is become mortal, and like us in every thing, but sin and concupiscence. The Greek literally translated, is, he has pitched his tent amongst us, like a stranger and passenger, who makes no long stay in one place. The body in Scripture, is sometimes called a tent or tabernacle, in which the soul dwells, as 2 Pet. i. 14. Calmet.
[†] V. 14. Gloriam quasi Unigeniti, wV monogenouV. S. Chrys. says, the word quasi, wV, does no ways here diminish, be even confirms and increases the signification; as when we say of a king, that he carries himself like a king. To de wV entauqen ouc omoiwsewV estin, alla bebaiwsewV.
Ver. 15. Is preferred before me.† Lit. is made before me. The sense, says S. Chrys. is, that he is greater in dignity, deserves greater honour, &c. though born after me, he was from eternity. Wi.
[†] V. 15 and 27. Ante me factus est, emprosJen mou gegonen, is preferred before me: S. Chrys. says, he is lamproteroV, entimoteroV, illustrios, honorabilior.
Ver. 16. And of his fulness we all have received; not only Jews, but also all nations.
--- And grace for grace.† It may perhaps be translated grace upon grace, as Mr. Blackwall observes, and brings a parallel example in Greek out of Theognis, p. 164. It implies abundance of graces, and greater graces under the new law of Christ than in the time of the law of Moses; which exposition is confirmed by the following verse. Wi.
--- Before the coming of the Messias all men had the light of reason. The Greeks had their philosophy, the Jews the law and prophets. All this was a grace and favour bestowed by God, the author of all good. But since the word was made flesh, God has made a new distribution of graces. He has given the light of faith, and caused the gospel of salvation to be announced to all men; he has invited all nations to the faith and knowledge of the truth. Thus he has given us one grace for another; but the second is infinitely greater, more excellent, and more abundant than the first. The following verse seems to insinuate, that the evangelist means the law by the first grace, and the gospel by the second. Compare likewise Rom. i. 17. The Jews were conducted by faith to faith; by faith in God and the law of Moses, to the faith of the gospel, announced by Christ. Calmet.
[†] V. 16. Gratiam pro gratia, carin anti caritoV, gratiam; so Job, (ii. 4.) pellem pro pelle, i.e. omnem pellem.
Ver. 18. No man hath seen God. No mortal in this life by a perfect union and enjoyment of him. Nor can any creature perfectly comprehend his infinite greatness: none but his only begotten divine Son, who is in the bosom of his Father, not only by an union of grace, but by an union and unity of substance and nature; of which Christ said, (Jo. xiv. 11.) I am in the Father, and the Father in me. Wi.
Ver. 19. The Jews sent, &c. These men, who were priests and Levites, seem to have been sent and deputed by the sanhedrim, or great council at Jerusalem, to ask of John the Baptist, who was then in great esteem and veneration, whether he was not their Messias; who, as they knew by the predictions of the prophets, was to come about that time. John declared to them he was not. To their next question, if he was not Elias? He answered: he was not: because in person he was not; though our Saviour (Matt. xi. 14.) says he was Elias: to wit, in spirit and office only. Their third question was, if he was a prophet? He answered, no. Yet Christ (Matt. xi.) tells us, he was a prophet, and more than a prophet. In the ordinary acceptation only, they were called prophets who foretold things to come: John then, with truth, as well as humility, could say he was not a prophet; not being sent to foretell the coming of the Messias, but to point him out as already come, and present with the Jews. Wi.
Ver. 23. The voice of one crying in the wilderness. See Matt. iii. 3. Mark i. 3. Luke iii. 4. and Isa. xl. 3. by all which John was his immediate precursor. Wi.
Ver. 26. Hath stood. S. John, by these words, which he spoke to the priests and Levites, sent to him by the Pharisees, did not mean to tell them, that Jesus was either at the present time standing amongst them, or that he had ever been in the presence of the self same people; but they may be understood two different ways, either with regard to his divinity; and in that sense, Jesus was always by his divine presence amongst them; or in regard to his humanity; either that he lived in the same country, and among their countrymen, or, that he stood actually amongst them, because Jesus was accustomed yearly to go up to Jerusalem on the festival of the Pasch. D. Dionysius. Car.
BethaniaBethania, is about one mile and a half from Jerusalem: Bethphage was between the two. V.
Ver. 29. Behold the Lamb of God. John let the Jews know who Jesus was, by divers testimonies. 1st, By telling them he was the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin, or sins of the world, who was come to be their Redeemer, and to free mankind from the slavery of sin; 2ndly, that he was greater than he, and before him, though born after him; 3rdly, that God had revealed to him that Jesus was to baptize in the Holy Ghost; 4thly, that he saw the Spirit descending upon him from heaven, and remaining upon him; 5thly, that he was the Son of God, v. 34. Wi.
--- Who taketh away. It was only a being like Christ, in whose person the divine and human natures were united, that could effectually take away the sins of the world. As man, he was enabled to suffer; and as God, his sufferings obtained a value equal to the infinite atonement required. A.
Ver. 39. Stayed with him that day. Yet they did not continually remain with him, as his disciples, till he called them, as they were fishing. See the annotations, Matt. iv. 18. Wi.
Ver. 42. Thou art Simon, the son of Jona, or of John. Jesus, who knew all things, knew his name, and at the first meeting told him he should hereafter be called Cephas, or Petrus, a rock, designing to make him the chief or head of his whole Church. See Matt. xvi. 18. Wi.
--- Cephas is a Syriac word, its import is the same as rock or stone. And S. Paul commonly calleth him by this name: whereas others, both Greeks and Latins, call him by the Greek appellation, Peter; which signifies exactly the same thing. Hence S. Cyril saith, that our Saviour, by foretelling that his name should be now no more Simon, but Peter, did by the word itself aptly signify, that on him, as on a rock most firm, he would build his Church. Lib. ii. c. 12. in Joan.
Ver. 46. Can any thing of good come from Nazareth? Nathanael did not think it consistent with the predictions of the prophets, that the Messias, who was to be the Son of David, and to be born at Bethlehem, should be of the town of Nazareth; which he did not imagine could be the place of Jesus's birth. But when he came to Jesus, and found that he knew the truth of things done in private, and in his absence, he professed his belief in Jesus in these words: Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the king of Israel. We may here take notice, with Dr. Pearson, on the second article of the Creed, that the Jews, before the coming of Christ, were convinced that he was to be the Son of God; (though they have denied it since that time) for they interpreted, as foretold of their Messias, these words: (Psal. ii. 7.) The Lord said to me, thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee: and this is what Nathanael here confessed. The same is confirmed by the famous confession of S. Peter, (Matt. xvi. 16.) Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God; by the words of Martha, (Jo. xi. 27.) I have believed that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, who art come into the world: In fine, by the question which the Jewish priest put to our Saviour, (Matt. xxvi. 63.) I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ the Son of God. See also Jo. vi. 70. and Jo. xx. 31. Wi.
Ver. 50. Greater things than these. Greater miracles and proofs that I am the Messias, and the true Son of God. Wi.
Ver. 51. You shall see the heaven open, &c. It is not certain when this was to be fulfilled: S. Chrysostom thinks at Christ's ascension; others refer it to the day of judgment. Wi.