Chrysostom on John 15
No man hath seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him."
[1.] God will not have us listen to the words and sentences contained in the Scriptures carelessly, but with much attention. This is why the blessed David hath prefixed in many places to his Psalms the title “for understanding,”1 and hath said, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy Law.” (Ps 32,42, &c.; Ps 119,18). And after him his son again shows that we ought to “seek out wisdom as silver,2 and to make merchandise of her rather than of gold.” (Pr 2,4 and 3,14 [partially quoted]; Jn 5,39). And the Lord when He exhorts the Jews to “search the Scriptures,” the more urges us to the enquiry, for He would not thus have spoken if it were possible to comprehend them immediately at the first reading. No one would ever search for what is obvious and at hand, but for that which is wrapt in shadow, and which must be found after much enquiry; and so to arouse us to the search He calls them “hidden treasure.” (Pr 2,4 Mt 13,44). These words are said to us that we may not apply ourselves to the words of the Scriptures carelessly or in a chance way, but with great exactness. For if any one listen to what is said in them without enquiring into the meaning, and receive all so as it is spoken, according to the letter, he will suppose many unseemly things of God, will admit of Him that He is a man, that He is made of brass, is wrathful, is furious, and many opinions yet worse than these. But if he fully learn the sense that lies beneath, he will be freed from all this unseemliness. (Ap 1,15). The very text which now lies before us says, that God has a bosom, a thing proper to bodily substances, yet no one is so insane as to imagine, that He who is without body is a body. In order then that we may properly interpret the entire passage according to its spiritual meaning, let us search it through from its beginning.
“No man hath seen God at any time.” By what connection of thought does the Apostle come to say this? After showing the exceeding greatness of the gifts of Christ, and the infinite difference between them and those ministered by Moses, he would add the reasonable cause of the difference. Moses, as being a servant, was minister of lower things, but Christ being Lord and King, and the King’s Son, brought to us things far greater, being ever with the Father, and beholding Him continually; wherefore He saith, “No man hath seen God at any time.” What then shall we answer to the most mighty of voice, Esaias, when he says, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up” (Is 6,1); and to Jn himself testifying of Him, that “he said these things when he had seen His glory”? (c. 12,41). What also to Ezekiel? for he too beheld Him sitting above the Cherubim. (Ez 1 Ez 10). What to Daniel? for he too saith, “The Ancient of days did sit” (Da 7,9). What to Moses himself, saying, “Show me Thy Glory, that I may see Thee so as to know Thee.” (Ex 33,13 partly from LXX). And Jacob took his name from this very thing, being called3 “Israel”; for Israel is “one that sees God.”4 And others have seen him. How then saith John, “No man hath seen God at any time”? It is to declare, that all these were instances of (His) condescension, not the vision of the Essence itself unveiled. For had they seen the very Nature, they would not have beheld It under different forms, since that is simple, without form, or parts, or bounding lines. It sits not, nor stands, nor walks: these things belong all to bodies. But how He Is, He only knoweth. And this He hath declared by a certain prophet, saying, “I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes5 by the hands of the prophets” (Os 12,10), that is, “I have condescended, I have not appeared as I really was.” For since His Son was about to appear in very flesh, He prepared them from old time to behold the substance of God, as far as it was possible for them to see It; but what God really is, not only have not the prophets seen, but not even angels nor archangels. If you ask them, you shall not hear them answering anything concerning His Essence, but sending up,6 “Glory to God in the Highest, on earth peace, good will towards men.” (Lc 2,14). If you desire to learn something from Cherubim or Seraphim, you shall hear the mystic song of His Holiness, and that “heaven and earth are full of His glory.” (Is 6,3). If you enquire of the higher powers, you shall but find7 that their one work is the praise of God. “Praise ye Him,” saith David, “all His hosts.” (Ps 148,2). But the Son only Beholds Him, and the Holy Ghost. How can any created nature even see the Uncreated? If we are absolutely unable clearly to discern any incorporeal power whatsoever, even though created, as has been often proved in the case of angels, much less can we discern the Essence which is incorporeal and uncreated. Wherefore Paul saith, “Whom no man hath seen, nor can see.” (1Tm 6,16). Does then this special attribute8 belong to the Father only, not to the Son? Away with the thought. It belongs also to the Son; and to show that it does so, hear Paul declaring this point, and saying, that He “is the Image of the invisible God.” (Col 1,15). Now if He be the Image of the Invisible, He must be invisible Himself, for otherwise He would not be an “image.” And wonder not that Paul saith in another place, “God was manifested in the Flesh” (1Tm 3,16); because the manifestation9 took place by means of the flesh, not according to (His) Essence. Besides, Paul shows that He is invisible, not only to men, but also to the powers above, for after saying, “was manifested in the Flesh,” he adds, “was seen of angels.”
[2.] So that even to angels He then became visible, when He put on the Flesh; but before that time they did not so behold Him, because even to them His Essence was invisible.
“How then,” asks some one, “did Christ say, ‘Despise not one of these little ones, for I tell you, that their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven’? (Mt 18,10). Hath then God a face, and is He bounded by the heavens?” Who so mad as to assert this? What then is the meaning of the words? As when He saith, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5,8), He means that intellectual vision which is possible to us, and the having God in the thoughts; so in the case of angels, we must understand 10 that by reason of their pure and sleepless 11 nature they do nothing else, but always image to themselves God. And therefore Christ saith, that “No man knoweth the Father, save the Son.” (Mt 10,27). What then, are we all in ignorance? God forbid; but none knoweth Him as the Son knoweth Him. As then many 12 have seen Him in the mode of vision permitted to them, but no one has beheld His Essence, so many of us know God, but what His substance can be none knoweth, save only He that was begotten of Him. For by “knowledge” He here means an exact idea and comprehension, such as the Father hath of the Son. “As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father.” (c. 10,15).
Observe, therefore, with what fullness 13 the Evangelist speaks; for having said that “no man hath seen God at any time,” he does not go on to say, “that the Son who hath seen, hath declared Him,” but adds something beyond “seeing” by the words, “Who is in the bosom of the Father”; because, “to dwell 14 in the bosom” is far more than “to see.” For he that merely “seeth” hath not an in every way exact knowledge of the object, but he that “dwelleth in the bosom” can be ignorant of nothing. Now lest when thou hearest that “none knoweth the Father, save the Son,” thou shouldest assert that although He knoweth the Father more than all, yet He knoweth not how great He is, the Evangelist says that He dwells in the bosom of the Father; and Christ Himself declares, that He knoweth Him as much as the Father knoweth the Son. Ask therefore the gainsayer, “Tell me, doth the Father know the Son?” And if he be not mad, he will certainly answer “Yes.” Then ask again; “Doth He see and know Him with exact vision and knowledge? Doth He know clearly what He Is?” He will certainly confess this also. From this next collect the exact comprehension the Son has of the Father. For He saith, “As the Father knoweth me, even sO know I the Father” (c. 10,15); and in another place, “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God.” (c. 6,46). Wherefore, as I said, the Evangelist mentions “the bosom,” to show all this to us by that one word; that great is the affinity and nearness of the Essence, that the knowledge is nowise different, that the power is equal. For the Father would not have in His bosom one of another essence, nor would He have dared, had He been one amongst many servants, to live 15 in the bosom of his Lord, for this belongs only to a true Son, to one who has 16 much confidence towards His Father, and who is in nothing inferior to Him.
Wouldest thou learn also His eternity? Hear what Moses saith concerning the Father. When he asked what he was commanded to answer should the Jews enquire of him, “Who it was that had sent him,” he heard these words: “Say, I AM hath sent me.” (Ex 3,14). Now the expression “I AM,” 17 is significative of Being ever, and Being without beginning, of Being really and absolutely. And this also the expression, “Was in the beginning,” declares, being indicative of Being ever; so that Jn uses this word to show that the Son Is from everlasting to everlasting 18 in the bosom of the Father. For that you may not from the sameness of name, suppose that He is some one of those who are made sons by grace, first, the article is added, distinguishing Him from those by grace. But if this does not content you, if you still look earthwards, hear a name more absolute than this, “Only-Begotten.” If even after this you still look below, “I will not refuse,” says he, (St. John,) “to apply to God a term belonging to man, I mean the word ‘bosom,’ only suspect nothing degrading.” Dost thou see the lovingkindness and carefulness of the Lord? God applies 19 to Himself unworthy expressions, that even so thou mayest see through them, and have some great and lofty thought of Him; and dost thou tarry below? For tell me, wherefore is that gross and carnal word “bosom” employed in this place? Is it that we may suppose God to be a body? Away, he by no means saith so. Why then is it spoken? for if by it neither the genuineness of the Son is established, nor that God is not a body, the word, because it serves no purpose, is superfluously thrown in. Why then is it spoken? For I shall not desist from asking thee this question. Is it not very plain, that it is for no other reason but that by it we might understand the genuineness of the Only-Begotten, and His Co-eternity with the Father?
[3.] “He hath declared Him,” saith John. What hath he declared? That “no man hath seen God at any time”? That “God is one”? But this all the other prophets testify, and Moses continually 20 exclaims, “The Lord thy God is one Lord” (Dt 6,4); and Esaias, “Before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” (Is 43,10). What more then have we learned from “the Son which is in the bosom of the Father”? What from “the Only-Begotten”? In the first place, these very words were uttered by His working; in the next place, we have received a teaching that is far clearer, and learned that “God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (c. 4,24); and again, that it is impossible to see God; “that no man knoweth” Him, “save the Son” (Mt 11,27); that He is the Father of the true and Only-Begotten; and all other things that are told us of Him. But the word “hath declared” 21 shows the plainer and clearer teaching which He gave not to the Jews only but to all the world, and established. To the prophets not even all the Jews gave heed, but to the Only-Begotten Son of God all the world yielded and obeyed. So the “declaration” in this place shows the greater clearness of His teaching, and therefore also He is called “Word,” and “Angel 22 of great Counsel.” 23
Since then we have been vouchsafed a larger and more perfect teaching, God having no longer spoken by the prophets, but “having in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (He 1,1), let us show forth a conversation far higher than theirs, and suitable to the honor bestowed on us. Strange would it be that He should have so far lowered Himself, as to choose to speak to us no longer by His servants, but by His own mouth, and yet we should show forth nothing more than those of old. They had Moses for their teacher, we, Moses’ Lord. Let us then exhibit a heavenly wisdom 24 worthy of this honor, and let us have nothing to do with earth. It was for this that He brought His teaching from heaven above, that He might remove our thoughts thither, that we might be imitators of our Teacher according to our power. But how may we become imitators of Christ? By acting in everything for the common good, and not merely seeking our own. “For even Christ,” saith Paul, “pleased not Himself, but as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on Me.” (Rm 15,3 Ps 69,9). Let no one therefore seek his own. In truth, a man (really) seeks his own good when he looks to that of his neighbor. What is their good is ours; we are one body, and parts and limbs one of another. Let us not then be as though we were rent asunder. Let no one say, “such a person is no friend of mine, nor relation, nor neighbor, I have nought to do with him, how shall I approach, how address him?” Though he be neither relation nor friend, yet he is a man, who shares the same nature with thee, owns the same Lord, is thy fellow-servant, and fellow-sojourner, 25 for he is born in the same world. And if besides he partakes of the same faith, behold he hath also become a member of thee: for what friendship could work such union, as the relationship of faith? And our intimacy one with another must not be such nearness only as friends ought to show to friends, but such as is between limb and limb, because no man can possibly discover any intimacy greater than this sort of friendship and fellowship. 26 As then you cannot say, “Whence arises my intimacy and connection with this limb?” (that would be ridiculous;) so neither can you say so in the case of your brother. “We are all baptized into one body” (1Co 12,13), saith Paul. “Wherefore into one body?” That we be not rent asunder, but preserve the just proportions of that one body by our intercourse and friendship one with another.
Let us not then despise one another, lest we be neglectful of ourselves. 27 “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it.” (Ep 5,29). And therefore God hath given to us but one habitation, this earth, hath distributed all things equally, hath lighted one sun for us all, hath spread above us one roof, the sky, made one table, the earth, bear 28 food for us. And another table hath He given far better than this, yet that too is one, (those who share our mysteries understand my words,) one manner of birth He hath bestowed on all, the spiritual, we all have one country, that in the heavens, of the same cup drink we all. He hath not bestowed on the rich man a gift more abundant and more honorable, and on the poor one more mean and small, but He hath called all alike. He hath given carnal things with equal regard to all, 29 and spiritual in like manner. Whence then proceeds the great inequality of conditions in life? From the avarice and pride of the wealthy. But let not, brethren, let not this any longer be; and when matters of universal interest and more pressing necessity bring us together, let us not be divided by things earthly and insignificant: I mean, by wealth and poverty, by bodily relationship, by enmity and friendship; for all these things are a shadow, nay less substantial than a shadow, to those who possess the bond of charity from above. Let us then preserve this unbroken, and none of those evil spirits 30 will be able to enter in, who cause division in so perfect union; 31 to which may we all attain by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
1 eij" sunvesin lyBiC]m
Maschil, suvnesi", intellectus, et ut Hieron. reddit, eruditio, aliqui, erudiens, vel intellectum praestans. Lorin). in tit. Ps. 31. (32).
2 Some mss. read “silver, and search for it as treasure; He would not have said Search, &c.”
4 Augus). De Civ. Dei, lib. 16, 39).
5 lit. “been likened.”
6 al. “only singing.”
7 al. “they shall answer again.”
9 al. therefore saith (Paul), “Who was manifested in the flesh,” for the manifestation, &c.
10 al. “many say.”
12 al. “many prophets.’”
13 periousiva", al. “exactness.”
15 trevfesqai, al). strevfesqai, versari.
16 lit. “uses.”
17 lit. “He Who Is.” Another reading of the passage is, “if he were asked…and should answer, he is bidden to say that, &c.”
18 ajnavrcw" kai; aji(diw".
19 al. “allows to be applied.”
20 a]nw kai; kavtw.
22 or, “Messenger.”
23 megavlh" boulh`" a]ggelo". The LXX. version of the titles of Christ, Is 9,6.
25 oJmovskhno", “tent-fellow.”
26 al. “care.”
27 al. “let us then so care for our neighbors, as not neglecting each his own flesh.”
30 al. “passions.”
31 al. “union with Him.”
"And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?"
[1.] A Dreadful thing is envy, beloved, a dreadful thing and a pernicious, to the enviers, not to the envied. For it harms and wastes them first, like some mortal venom deeply seated in their souls; and if by chance it injure its objects, the harm it does is small and trifling, and such as brings greater gain than loss. Indeed not in the case of envy only, but in every other, it is not he that has suffered, but he that has done the wrong, who receives injury. For had not this been so, Paul would not have enjoined the disciples rather to endure wrong than to inflict it, when he says, “Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (1Co 6,7). Well he knew, that destruction ever follows, not the injured party, but the injuring. All this I have said, by reason of the envy of the Jews. Because those who had flocked from the cities to John, and had condemned their own sins, and caused themselves to be baptized, repenting as it were after Baptism, send to ask him, “Who art thou?” Of a truth they were the offspring of vipers, serpents, and even worse if possible than this. O evil and adulterous and perverse generation, after having been baptized, do ye then become vainly curious, and question about the Baptist? What folly can be greater than this of yours? How was it that ye came forth? that ye confessed your sins, that ye ran to the Baptist? How was it that you asked him what you must do? when in all this you were acting unreasonably, since you knew not the principle and purpose of his coming. Yet of this the blessed Jn said nothing, nor does he charge or reproach them with it, but answers them with all gentleness.
It is worth while to learn why he did thus. It was, that their wickedness might be manifest and plain to all men. Often did Jn testify of Christ to the Jews, and when he baptized them he continually made mention of Him to his company, and said, “I indeed baptize you with water, but there cometh One after me who is mightier than I; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” (Mt 3,11). With regard to him they were affected by a human feeling; for, tremblingly attentive1 to the opinion of the world, and looking to “the outward appearance” (2Co 10,7), they deemed it an unworthy thing that he should be subject to Christ. Since there were many things that pointed out Jn for an illustrious person. In the first place, his distinguished and noble descent; for he was the son of a chief priest. Then his conversation, his austere mode of life, his contempt of all human things; for despising dress and table, and house and food itself, he had passed his former time in the desert. In the case of Christ all was the contrary of this. His family was mean, (as they often objected to Him, saying, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren James and Joses?”) (Mt 13,55); and that which was supposed to be His country was held in such evil repute, that even Nathanael said, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (c. 1,46). His mode of living was ordinary, and His garments not better than those of the many. For He was not girt with a leathern girdle, nor was His raiment of hair, nor did He eat honey and locusts. But He fared like all others, and was present at the feasts of wicked men and publicans, that He might draw them to Him. Which thing the Jews not understanding reproached Him with, as He also saith Himself, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” (Mt 11,19). When then John continually sent them from himself to Jesus, who seemed to them a meaner person, being ashamed and vexed at this, and wishing rather to have him for their teacher, they did not dare to say so plainly, but send to him, thinking by their flattery to induce him to confess that he was the Christ. They do not therefore send to him mean men, as in the case of Christ, for when they wished to lay hold on Him, they sent servants, and then Herodians, and the like, but in this instance, “priests and Levites,” and not merely “priests,” but those “from Jerusalem,” that is, the more honorable; for the Evangelist did not notice this without a cause. And they send to ask, “Who art thou?” Yet the manner of his birth was well known to all, so that all said, “What manner of child shall this be?” (Lc 1,66); and the report had gone forth into all the hill country. And afterwards when he came to Jordan, all the cities were set on the wing, and came to him from Jerusalem, and from all Judaea, to be baptized. Why then do they2 now ask? Not because they did not know him, (how could that be, when he had been made manifest in so many ways?) but because they wished to bring him to do that which I have mentioned.
[2.] Hear then how this blessed person answered to the intention with which they asked the question, not to the question itself. When they said, “Who art thou?” he did not at once give them what would have been the direct answer, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” But what did he? He removed the suspicion they had formed; for, saith the Evangelist, being asked, “Who art thou?”
Jn 1,20. “He confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.”
Observe the wisdom of the Evangelist. He mentions this for the third time, to set forth the excellency of the Baptist, and their wickedness and folly. And Lc also says, that when the multitudes supposed him to be the Christ, he again removes their suspicion.3 This is the part of an honest servant, not only not to take to himself his master’s honor, but also to reject it4 when given to him by the many. But the multitudes arrived at this supposition from simplicity and ignorance; these questioned him from an ill intention, which I have mentioned, expecting, as I said, to draw him over to their purpose by their flattery. Had they not expected this, they would not have proceeded immediately to another question, but would have been angry with him for having given them an answer foreign to their enquiry, and would have said, “Why, did we suppose that? did we come to ask thee that?” But now as taken and detected in the fact, they proceed to another question, and say,
Jn 1,21. “What then? art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not.”
For they expected that Elias also would come, as Christ declares; for when His disciples enquired, “How then do the scribes say that Elias must first come?” (Mt 17,10) He replied, “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.” Then they ask, “Art thou that prophet? and he answered, No.” (Mt 17,10). Yet surely he was a prophet. Wherefore then doth he deny it? Because again he looks to the intention of his questioners. For they expected that some especial prophet should come, because Moses said, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet of thy brethren like unto me, unto Him shall ye harken.” (Dt 18,15). Now this was Christ. Wherefore they do not say, “Art thou a prophet?” meaning thereby one of the ordinary prophets; but the expression, “Art thou the prophet?” with the addition of the article, means, “Art thou that Prophet who was foretold by Moses?” and therefore he denied not that he was a prophet, but that he was “that Prophet.”
Jn 1,22. “Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?”
Observe them pressing him more vehemently, urging him, repeating their questions, and not desisting; while he first kindly removes false opinions concerning himself, and then sets before them one which is true. For, saith he,
Jn 1,23. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.”
When he had spoken some high and lofty words concerning Christ, as if (replying) to their opinion, he immediately betook himself to the Prophet to draw from thence confirmation of his assertion.
Jn 1,24-25. “And [saith the Evangelist] they who were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, neither Elias, neither that Prophet?”
Seest thou not without reason I said that they wished to bring him to this? and the reason why they did not at first say so was, lest they should be detected by all men. And then when he said, “I am not the Christ,” they, being desirous to conceal what they were plotting5 within, go on to “Elias,” and “that Prophet.” But when he said that he was not one of these either, after that, in their perplexity, they cast aside the mask, and without any disguise show clearly their treacherous intention, saying, “Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ?” And then again, wishing to throw some obscurity over the thing,6 they add the others also, “Elias,” and “that Prophet.” For when they were not able to trip a him by their flattery, they thought that by an accusation they could compel him7 to say the thing that was not.
What folly, what insolence, what ill-timed officiousness! Ye were sent to learn who and whence he might be, not to8 lay down laws for him also. This too was the conduct of men who would compel him to confess himself to be the Christ. Still not even now is he angry, nor does he, as might have been expected, say to them anything of this sort, “Do you give orders and make laws for me?” but again shows great gentleness towards them.
Jn 1,26-27. “I,” saith he, “baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”
[3.] What could the Jews have left to say to this? for even from this the accusation against them cannot be evaded, the decision against them admits not of pardon, they have given sentence against themselves. How? In what way? They deemed Jn worthy of credit, and so truthful, that they might believe him not only when he testified of others, but also when he spoke concerning himself. For had they not been so disposed, they would not have sent to learn from him what related to himself. Because you know that the only persons whom we believe, especially when speaking of themselves, are those whom we suppose to be more veracious than any others. And it is not this alone which closes their mouths, but also the disposition with which they had approached him; for they came forth to him at first with great eagerness, even though afterwards they altered. Both which things Christ declared, when He said, “He was a burning (and a shining) light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.” Moreover, his answer made him yet more worthy of credit. For (Christ) saith, “He that seeketh not his own glory,9 the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.” Now this man sought it not, but refers the Jews to another. And those who were sent were of the most trustworthy among them, and of the highest rank, so that they could have in no way any refuge or excuse, for the unbelief which they exhibited towards Christ. Wherefore did ye not receive the things spoken concerning Him by John? you sent men who held the first rank among you, you enquired by them, you heard what the Baptist answered, they manifested all possible officiousness, sought into every point, named all the persons you suspected him to be; and yet most publicly and plainly he confessed that he was neither “Christ,” nor “Elias” nor “that Prophet.” Nor did he stop even there, but also informed them who he was, and spoke of the nature of his own baptism, that it was but a slight and mean thing, nothing more than some water, and told of the superiority of the Baptism given by Christ; he also cited Esaias the prophet, testifying of old very long ago, and calling Christ “Lord” (Is 40,3), but giving him the names of “minister and servant.” What after this ought they to have done? Ought they not to have believed on Him who was witnessed of, to have worshiped Him, to have confessed Him to be God? For the character and heavenly wisdom of the witness showed that his testimony proceeded, not from flattery, but from truth; which is plain also from this, that no man prefers his neighbor to himself, nor, when he may lawfully give honor to himself, will yield it up to another, especially when it is so great as that of which we speak. So that Jn would not have renounced 10 this testimony (as belonging) to Christ, had He not been God. For though he might have rejected it for himself as being too great for his own nature, yet he would not have assigned it to another nature that was beneath it.
“But there standeth One among you, whom ye know not.” Reasonable it was that Christ should mingle among the people as one of the many, because everywhere He taught men not to be puffed up and boastful. And in this place by “knowledge” the Baptist means a perfect acquaintance with Him, who and whence He was. And immediately next to this he puts, “Who cometh after me”; all but saying, “Think not that all is contained in my baptism, for had that been perfect, Another would not have arisen after me to offer you a different One, but this of mine is a preparation and a clearing the way for that other. Mine is but a shadow and image, but One must come who shall add to this the reality. So that His very coming ‘after me’ especially declares His dignity: for had the first been perfect, no place would have been required for a second.” “Is 11 before me,” is more honorable, brighter. And then, lest they should imagine that His superiority was found by comparison, desiring to establish His incomparableness, he says, “Whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose”; that is, who is not simply “before me,” but before me in such a way, that I am not worthy to be numbered among the meanest of His servants. For to loose the shoe is the office of humblest service.
Now if Jn was not worthy to “unloose the latchet” (Mt 11,11), John, than whom “among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater,” where shall we rank ourselves? If he who was equal to, or rather greater than, all the world, 12 (for saith Paul, “the world was not worthy” of them—He 11,38,) declares himself not worthy to be reckoned even among the meanest of those who should minister unto Him, what shall we say, who are full of ten thousand sins, and are as far from the excellence of John, as earth from heaven.
[4.] He then saith that he himself is not “worthy so much as to unloose the latchet of His shoe”; while the enemies of the truth are mad with such a madness, as to assert 13 that they are worthy to know Him even as He knows Himself. What is worse than such insanity, what more frenized than such arrogance? Well hath a wise man said, “The beginning of pride is not to know the Lord.” 14
The devil would not have been brought down and become a devil, not being a devil before, had he not been sick of this disease. This it was that cast him out from that confidence, 15 this sent him to the pit of fire, this was the cause of all his woes. For it is enough of itself to destroy every excellence of the soul, whether it find almsgiving, or prayer, or fasting, or anything. For, saith the Evangelist, “That which is highly esteemed among men is impure before the Lord.” (Lc 16,15 —not quoted exactly). Therefore it is not only fornication or adultery that are wont to defile those who practice them, but pride also, and that far more than those vices. Why? Because fornication though it is an unpardonable sin, yet a man may plead the desire; but pride cannot possibly find any cause or pretext of any sort whatever by which to obtain so much as a shadow of excuse; it is nothing but a distortion and most grievous disease of the soul, produced from no other source but folly. For there is nothing more foolish than a proud man, though he be surrounded with wealth, though he possess much of the wisdom of this world, though he be set in royal place, though he bear about with all things that among men appear desirable.
For if the man who is proud of things really good is wretched and miserable, and loses the reward of all those things, must not he who is exalted by things that are nought, and puffs himself up because of a shadow or the flower of the grass, (for such is this world’s glory,) be more ridiculous than any, when he does just as some poor needy man might do, pining all his time with hunger, yet if ever he should chance one night to see a dream of good fortune, filled with conceit because of it?
O wretched and miserable! when thy soul is perishing by a most grievous disease, when thou art poor with utter poverty, art thou high-minded because thou hast such and such a number of talents of gold? because thou hast a multitude of slaves and cattle? Yet these are not thine; and if thou dost not believe my words, learn from the experience of those who have gone before 16 thee. And if thou art so drunken, that thou canst not be instructed even from what has befallen others, wait a little, and thou shalt know by what befalls thyself that these things avail thee nothing, when gasping for life, and master not of a single hour, not even of a little moment, thou shalt unwillingly leave them 17 to those who are about thee, and these perhaps those whom thou wouldest not. For many have not been permitted even to give directions concerning them, but have departed suddenly, 18 desiring to enjoy them, but not permitted, dragged from them, and forced to yield them up to others, giving place by compulsion to those to whom they would not. That this be not our case, let us, while we are yet in strength and health, send forward our riches hence to our own city, for thus only and in no other way shall we be able to enjoy them; so shall we lay them up in a place inviolate and safe. For there is nothing, there is nothing there that can take them from us; no death, no attested wills, 19 no successors to inheritances, 20 no false informations, no plottings against us, but he who has departed hence bearing away great wealth with him may enjoy it there for ever. Who then is so wretched as not to desire to revel in riches which are his own throughout? Let us then transfer our wealth, and remove it thither. We shall not need for such a removal asses, or camels, or carriages, or ships, (God hath relieved even us from this difficulty,) but we only want the poor, the lame, the crippled, the infirm. These are entrusted with this transfer, these convey our riches to heaven, these introduce the masters of such wealth as this to the inheritance of goods everlasting. Which may it be that we all attain through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
2 al. “these therefore.”
3 Morel, “in like manner one may see in Luke, (iii. 16,) Jn saying to those who reasoned concerning him whether he was the Christ, that “One mightier than I cometh,” and by his answer again removing such a suspicion.”
6 Morel. and ms. in Bodl. “seest thou how, disguising what they had, they add.”
8 Morel. and ms. in Bodl. “they attempt to involve him in an accusation, compelling him.”
9 al. “will ye.”
10 th;n dovxan tou` pevmyanto" aujto;n, G. T).
12 “is preferred,” E. V.
13 Morel. and ms. in Bodl. “for thus Paul speaks of the saints concerning whom he writes, ‘of whom,’ etc.”
14 Morel. and ms. in Bodl. “boldly speaking out, (ajpauqadiazomevnou",) say that, &c.”
15 (Si 10,12, LXX). ajnqrwvpou ajfistamevnou ajpo; tou` K. Eng. ver. “when one departeth.”
17 or, “received them before.”
18 al. “pass them on.”
20 ajlhqei`" diaqhvkai.
Chrysostom on John 15