Chrysostom on John 4
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God."
[1.] When children are just brought to their learning, their teachers do not give them many tasks in succession, nor do they set them once for all, but they often repeat to them the same short ones, so that what is said may be easily implanted in their minds, and they may not be vexed at the first onset with the quantity, and with finding it hard to remember, and become less active in picking up what is given them, a kind of sluggishness arising from the difficulty. And I, who wish to effect the same with you, and to render your labor easy, take by little and little the food which lies on this Divine table, and instill it into your souls. On this account I shall handle again the same words, not so as to say again the same things, but to set before you only what yet remains. Come, then, let us again apply our discourse to the introduction.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” Why, when all the other Evangelists had begun with the Dispensation1 ; (for Matthew says, “The Book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David”; and Lc too relates to us in the beginning of his Gospel the events relating to Mary; and in like manner Mc dwells on the same narratives, from that point detailing to us the history of the Baptist;) why, when they began with these matters, did Jn briefly and in a later place hint at them, saying, “the Word was made flesh” (Jn 1,14).; and, passing by everything else, His conception, His birth, His bringing up, His growth, at once discourse to us concerning His Eternal Generation?
I will now tell you what the reason of this is. Because the other Evangelists had dwelt most on the accounts of His coming in the flesh, there was fear lest some, being of grovelling minds, might for this reason rest in these doctrines alone, as indeed was the case with Paul of Samosata. In order, therefore, to lead away from this fondness for earth those who were like to fall into it, and to draw them up towards heaven, with good reason he commences his narrative from above, and from the eternal subsistence. For while Matthew enters upon his relation from Herod the king, Lc from Tiberius Caesar, Mark from the Baptism of John, this Apostle, leaving alone all these things, ascends beyond all time or age.2 Thither darting forward the imagination of his hearers to the “Was in the Beginning,” not allowing it to stay at any point, nor setting any limit, as they did in Herod, and Tiberius, and John.
And what we may mention besides as especially deserving our admiration is, that John, though he gave himself up to the higher doctrine,3 yet did not neglect the Dispensation; nor were the others, though intent upon the relation of this, silent as to the subsistence before the ages. With good cause; for One Spirit It was that moved the souls of all; and therefore they have shown great unanimity in their narrative. But thou, beloved, when thou hast heard of “The Word,” do not endure those who say, that He is a work; nor those even who think, that He is simply a word. For many are the words of God which angels execute, but of those words none is God; they all are prophecies or commands, (for in Scripture it is usual to call the laws of God His commands, and prophecies, words; wherefore in speaking of the angels, he says, “Mighty in strength, fulfilling His word”) (Ps 103,20), but this Word is a Being with subsistence,4 proceeding5 without affection6 from the Father Himself. For this, as I before said, he has shown by the term “Word.” As therefore the expression, “In the beginning was the Word,” shows His Eternity, so “was in the beginning with God,” has declared to us His Co-eternity. For that you may not, when you hear “In the beginning was the Word,” suppose Him to be Eternal, and yet imagine the life of the Father to differ from His by some interval and longer duration, and so assign a beginning to the Only-Begotten, he adds, “was in the beginning with God”; so eternally even as the Father Himself, for the Father was never without the Word, but He was always God with God, yet Each in His proper Person.7
How then, one says, does Jn assert, that He was in the world, if He was with God? Because He was both8 with God and in the world also. For neither Father nor Son are limited in any way. Since, if “there is no end of His greatness” (Ps 145,3), and if “of His wisdom there is no number” (Ps 147,5), it is clear that there cannot be any beginning in time9 to His Essence. Thou hast heard, that “In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth” (Gn 1,1); what dost thou understand from this “beginning”? clearly, that they were created before all visible things. So, respecting the Only-Begotten, when you hear that He was “in the beginning,” conceive of him as before all intelligible things, 10 and before the ages.
But if any one say, “How can it be that He is a Son, and yet not younger than the Father? since that which proceeds from something else needs must be later than that from which it proceeds”; we will say that, properly speaking, these are human reasonings; that he who questions on this matter will question on others yet more improper; 11 and that to such we ought not even to give ear. For our speech is now concerning God, not concerning the nature of men, which is subject to the sequence and necessary conclusions of these reasonings. Still, for the assurance of the weaker sort, we will speak even to these points.
[2.] Tell me, then, does the radiance of the sun proceed from the substance 12 itself of the sun, or from some other source? Any one not deprived of his very senses needs must confess, that it proceeds from the substance itself. Yet, although the radiance proceeds from the sun itself, we cannot say that it is later in point of time than the substance of that body, since the sun has never appeared without its rays. Now if in the case of these visible and sensible bodies there has been shown to be something which proceeds from something else, and yet is not after that from whence it proceeds; why are you incredulous in the case of the invisible and ineffable Nature? This same thing there takes place, but in a manner suitable to That Substance 13 For it is for this reason that Paul too calls Him “Brightness” (He 1,3); setting forth thereby His being from Him and His Co-eternity. Again, tell me, were not all the ages, and every interval 14 created by Him? Any man not deprived of his senses must necessarily confess this. There is no interval 15 therefore between the Son and the Father; and if there be none, then He is not after, but Co-eternal with Him. For “before” and “after” are notions implying time, since, without age or time, no man could possibly imagine these words; but God is above times and ages.
But if in any case you say that you have found a beginning to the Son, see whether by the same reason and argument you are not compelled to reduce the Father also to a beginning, earlier indeed, but still a beginning. For when you have assigned to the Son a limit and beginning of existence, do you not proceed upwards from that point, and say, that the Father was before it? Clearly you do. Tell me then, what is the extent of the Father’s prior subsistence? For whether you say that the interval is little, or whether you say it is great, you equally have brought the Father to a beginning. For it is clear, that it is by measuring the space that you say whether it is little or great; yet it would not be possible to measure it, unless there were a beginning on either side; so that as far as you are concerned you have given the Father a beginning, and henceforth, according to your argument, not even the Father will be without beginning. See you that the word spoken by the Saviour is true, and the saying everywhere discovers its force? And what is that word? It is “He that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father.” (Jn 5,23).
And I know indeed that what now has been said cannot by many be comprehended, and therefore it is that in many places we avoid 16 agitating questions of human reasonings, because the rest of the people cannot follow such arguments, and if they could, still they have nothing firm or sure in them. “For the thoughts of mortal men are miserable, and our devices are but uncertain.” (Sg 9,14). Still I should like to ask our objectors, what means that which is said by the Prophet, “Before Me there was no God formed, nor is there any after Me”? (Is 43,10). For if the Son is younger than the Father, how, says He, “Nor is there 17 any after me”? Will you take away the being of the Only-Begotten Himself? You either must dare this, or admit one Godhead with distinct Persons of the Father and Son.
Finally, how could the expression, “All things were made by Him,” be true? For if there is an age older than He, how can that 18 which was before Him have been made by Him? See ye to what daring the argument has carried them, when once the truth has been unsettled? Why did not the Evangelist say, that He was made from things that were not, as Paul declares of all things, when he says, “Who calleth those things which be not as though they were”; but says, “Was in the beginning”? (Rm 4,17). This is contrary to that; and with good reason. For God neither is made, 19 nor has anything older; these are words of the Greeks. 20 Tell me this too: Would you not say, that the Creator beyond all comparison excels His works? Yet since that which is from things that were not is similar to them, where is the superiority not admitting of comparison? And what mean the expressions, “I am the first and I am the last” (Is 44,6); and, “before Me was no other God formed”? (Is 43,10). For if the Son be not of the same Essence, there is another God; and if He be not Co-eternal, He is after Him; and if He did not proceed from His Essence, clear it is that He was made. But if they assert, that these things were said to distinguish Him from idols, why do they not allow that it is to distinguish Him from idols that he says, “the Only True God”? (Jn 17,3). Besides, if this was said to distinguish Him from idols, how would you interpret the whole sentence? “After Me,” He says, “is no other God.” In saying this, He does not exclude the Son, but that “After Me there is no idol God,” not that “there is no Son.” Allowed, says he; what then? and the expression, “Before Me was no other God formed,” will you so understand, as that no idol God indeed was formed before Him, but yet a Son was formed before Him? What evil spirit would assert this? I do not suppose that even Satan himself would do so.
Moreover, if He be not Co-eternal with the Father, how can you say that His Life is infinite? For if it have a beginning from before, 21 although it be endless, yet it is not infinite; for the infinite must be infinite in both directions. As Paul also declared, when he said, “Having neither beginning of days, nor end of life” (He 7,3); by this expression showing that He is both without beginning and without end. For as the one has no limit, so neither has the other. In one direction there is no end, in the other no beginning.
[3.] And how again, since He is “Life,” was there ever when He was not? For all must allow, that Life both is always, and is without beginning and without end, if It be indeed Life,as indeed It is. For if there be when It is not,how can It be the life of others, when It even Itself is not?
“How then,” says one, “does Jn lay down a beginning by saying, ‘In the beginning was’?” Tell me, have you attended to the “In the beginning,” and to the “was,” and do you not understand the expression, “the Word was”? What! when the Prophet says, “From everlasting 22 and to everlasting Thou art” (Ps 90,2), does he say this to assign Him limits? No, but to declare His Eternity. Consider now that the case is the same in this place. He did not use the expression as assigning limits, since he did not say, “had a beginning,” but “was in the beginning”; by the word “was” carrying thee forward to the idea that the Son is without beginning. “Yet observe,” says he, “the Father is named with the addition of the article, but the Son without it.” What then, when the Apostle says, “The Great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tt 2,13); and again, “Who is above all, God”? (Rm 9,5). It is true that here he has mentioned the Son, without the article; but he does the same with the Father also, at least in his Epistle to the Philippians (Ph 2,6), he says, “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God”; and again to the Romans, “Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rm 1,7). Besides, it was superfluous for it to be attached in that place, when close 23 above it was continually attached to “the Word.” For as in speaking concerning the Father, he says, “God is a Spirit” (Jn 4,24), and we do not, because the article is not joined to “Spirit,” yet deny the Spiritual Nature of God; so here, although the article is not annexed to the Son, the Son is not on that account a less God. Why so? Because in saying “God,” and again “God,” he does not reveal to us any difference in this Godhead, but the contrary; for having before said, “and the Word was God”; that no one might suppose the Godhead of the Son to be inferior, he immediately adds the characteristics of genuine Godhead, including Eternity, (for “He was,” says he, “in the beginning with God,”) and attributing to Him the office of Creator. For “by Him were all things made, and without Him was not anything made that was made”; which His Father also everywhere by the Prophets declares to be especially characteristic of His own Essence. And the Prophets are continually busy on this kind of demonstration, not only of itself, but when they contend against the honor shown to idols; “Let the gods perish,” says one “who have not made heaven and earth” (Jr 10,11): and again, “I have stretched out the heaven with My hand” (Is 44,24); and it is as declaring it to be indicative of Divinity, that He everywhere puts it. And the Evangelist himself was not satisfied with these words, but calls Him “Life” too and “Light.” If now He was ever with the Father, if He Himself created all things, if He brought all things into existence, and keeps together 24 all things, (for, this he meant by “Life,”) if He enlightens all things, who so senseless as to say, that the Evangelist desired to teach an inferiority of Divinity by those very expressions, by which, rather than by any others, it is possible to express its equality and not differing? Let us not then confound the creation with the Creator, lest we too hear it said of us, that “they served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rm 1,25); for although it be asserted that this is said of the heavens, still in speaking of the heavens he positively says, that we must not serve 25 the creature, for it is a heathenish 26 thing.
[4.] Let us therefore not lay ourselves under this curse. For this the Son of God came, that He might rid us from this service; for this He took the form of a slave, that He might free us from this slavery; for this He was spit upon, for this He was buffeted, for this He endured the shameful death. Let us not, I entreat you, make all these things of none effect, let us not go back to our former unrighteousness, or rather to unrighteousness much more grievous; for to serve the creature is not the same thing as to bring down the Creator, as far at least as in us lies, to the meanness of the creature. For He continues being such as He is; as says the Psalmist, “Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.” (Ps 102,27). Let us then glorify Him as we have received from our fathers, let us glorify Him both by our faith and by our works; for sound doctrines avail us nothing to salvation, if our life is corrupt. Let us then order it according to what is well-pleasing to God, setting ourselves far from all filthiness, unrighteousness, and covetousness, as strangers and foreigners and aliens to the things here on earth. If any have much wealth and possessions, let him so use them as one who is a sojourner, and who, whether he will or not, shall shortly pass from them. If one be injured by another, let him not be angry forever, nay rather not even for a time. For the Apostle has not allowed us more than a single day for the venting of anger.
“Let not,” says he, “the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ep 4,26); and with reason; for it is matter for contentment that even in so short a time nothing unpleasant take place; but if night also overtake us, what has happened becomes more grievous, because the fire of our wrath is increased ten thousand times by memory, and we at our leisure enquire into it more bitterly. Before therefore we obtain this pernicious leisure and kindle a hotter fire, he bids us arrest beforehand and quench the mischief. For the passion of wrath is fierce, fiercer than any flame; and so we need much haste to prevent the flame, and not allow it to blaze up high, for so this disease becomes a cause of many evils. It has overturned whole Houses, it has dissolved old companionships, and has worked tragedies not to be remedied in a short moment of time. “For,” saith one, “the sway of his fury shall be his destruction.” (Si 1,22). Let us not then leave such a wild beast unbridled, but put upon him a muzzle in all ways strong, the fear of the judgment to come. Whenever a friend grieves thee, or one of thine own family exasperates thee, think of the sins thou hast committed against God, and that by kindness towards him thou makest that judgment more lenient to thyself, (“Forgive,” saith He, “and ye shall be forgiven”) (Lc 6,37), and thy passion shall quickly skulk away. 27
And besides, consider this, whether there has been a time when thou wert being carried away into ferocity, and didst control thyself, and another time when thou hast been dragged along by the passion. Compare the two seasons, and thou shalt gain thence great improvement. For tell me, when didst thou praise thyself? Was it when thou wast worsted, or when thou hadst the mastery? Do we not in the first case vehemently blame ourselves, and feel ashamed. even when none reproves us, and do not many feelings of repentance come over us, both for what we have said and done; but when we gain the mastery, then are we not proud, and exult as conquerors? For victory in the case of anger is, not the requiting evil with the like, (that is utter defeat,) but the bearing meekly to be ill treated and ill spoken of. To get the better is not to inflict but to suffer evil. Therefore when angry do not say, “certainly I will retaliate,” “certainly I will be revenged”; do not persist in saying to those who exhort you to gain a victory, “I will not endure that the man mock me, and escape clear.” He will never mock thee, except when thou avengest thyself; or if he even should mock thee he will do so as a fool. Seek not when thou conquerest honor from fools, but consider that sufficient which comes from men of understanding. Nay, why do I set before thee a small and mean body of spectators, when I make it up of men? Look up straight to God: He will praise thee, and the man who is approved by Him must not seek honor from mortals, Mortal honor often arises from flattery or hatred of others, and brings no profit; but the decision of God is free from this inequality, and brings great advantage to the man whom He approves. This praise then let us follow after.
Will you learn what an evil is anger? Stand by while others are quarreling in the forum. In yourself you cannot easily see the disgrace of the thing, because your reason is darkened and drunken; but when you are clear from the passion, and while your judgment is sound, view your own case in others. Observe, I pray you, the crowds collecting round, and the angry men like maniacs acting shamefully in the midst. For when the passion boils up within the breast, and becomes excited and savage, the mouth breathes fire, the eyes emit fire, all the face becomes swollen, the hands are extended disorderly, the feet dance ridiculously, and they spring at those who restrain them, and differ nothing from madmen in their insensibility to all these things; nay, differ not from wild asses, kicking and biting. Truly a passionate man is not a graceful one.
And then, when after this exceedingly ridiculous conduct, they return home and come to themselves, they have the greater pain, and much fear, thinking who were present when they were angry. For like raving men, they did not then know the standers by, but when they have returned to their right mind, then they consider, were they friends? were they foes and enemies that looked on? And they fear alike about both; the first because they will condemn them and give them more shame; the others because they will rejoice at it. And if they have even exchanged blows, then their fear is the more pressing; for instance, lest anything very grievous happen to the sufferer; a fever follow and bring on death, or a troublesome swelling rise and place him in danger of the worst. And, “what need” (say they) “had I of fighting, and violence, and quarreling? Perish such things.” And then they curse the ill-fated business which caused them to begin, and the more foolish lay on “wicked spirits,” and “an evil hour,” the blame of what has been done; but these things are not from an evil hour, (for there is no such thing as an evil hour,) nor from a wicked spirit, but from the wickedness of those captured by the passion; they draw the spirits to them, and bring upon themselves all things terrible. “But the heart swells,” says one, “and is stung by insults.” I know it; and that is the reason why I admire those who master this dreadful wild beast; yet it is possible if we will, to beat off the passion. For why when our rulers insult us do we not feel it? It is because fear counterbalances the passion, and frightens us from it, and does not allow it to spring up at all. And why too do our servants, though insulted by us in ten thousand ways, bear all in silence? Because they too have the same restraint laid upon them. And think thou not merely of the fear of God, but that it is even God Himself who then insults thee, who bids thee be silent, and then thou wilt bear all things meekly, and say to the aggressor, How can I be angry with thee? there is another that restrains both my hand and my tongue; and the saying will be a suggestion of sound wisdom, both to thyself and to him. Even now we bear unbearable things on account of men, and often say to those who have insulted us, “Such an one insulted me, not you.” Shall we not use the same caution in the case of God? How else can we hope for pardon? Let us say to our soul, “It is God who holds our hands, who now insults us; let us not be restive, let not God be less honored by us than men.” Did ye shudder at the word? I wish you would shudder not at the word only, but at the deed. For God hath commanded us when buffeted not only to endure it, but even to offer ourselves to suffer something worse; and we withstand Him with such vehemence, that we not only refuse to offer ourselves to suffer evil, but even avenge ourselves, nay often are the first to act on the offensive, 28 and think we are disgraced if we do not the same in return. Yes, and the mischief is, that when utterly worsted we think ourselves conquerors, and when lying undermost and receiving ten thousand blows from the devil, then we imagine that we are mastering him. Let us then, I exhort you, understand what is the nature 29 of this victory, and this kind of nature 30 let us follow after. To suffer evil is to get the crown. If then we wish to be proclaimed victors by God, let us not in these contests observe the laws of heathen games, but those of God, and learn to bear all things with longsuffering; for so we may get the better of our antagonists, and obtain both present and promised goods, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen).
4 oujsiva ejnupovstato".
8 al. “God with God.”
13 to; aujto; dh; tou`to e]stin ou]tw" wJ" ejkeivnh/ oujsia/ prevpon h]n.
16 ajnaballovmeqa, “put off.”
17 LXX). e]stin.
18 to;, al). oJ).
21 a]nwqen, “a parte ante”.
22 ajpo; tou` aijw`no".
24 sugkrotei`, al). sugkratei`.
28 a[rcein ceirw`n ajdivkwn.
30 trovpou to; ei\do").
" All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made."
[1.] Moses in the beginning of the history and writings of the Old Testament speaks to us of the objects of sense, and enumerates them to us at length. For, “In the beginning,” he says, “God made the heaven and the earth,” and then he adds, that light was created, and a second heaven and the stars, the various kinds of living creatures, and, that we may not delay by going through particulars, everything else. But this Evangelist, cutting all short, includes both these things and the things which are above these in a single sentence; with reason, because they were known to his hearers, and because he is hastening to a greater subject, and has instituted all his treatise, that he might speak not of the works but of the Creator, and Him who produced them all. And therefore Moses, though he has selected the smaller portion of the creation, (for he has spoken nothing to us concerning the invisible powers,) dwells on these things;1 while John, as hastening to ascend to the Creator Himself, runs by both these things, and those on which Moses was silent, having comprised them in one little saying, “All things were made by Him.” And that you may not think that he merely speaks of all the things mentioned by Moses, he adds, that “without Him was not anything made that was made.” That is to say, that of created things, not one, whether it be visible2 or intelligible3 was brought into being without the power of the Son.
For we will not put the full stop after “not anything,” as the heretics do. They, because they wish to make the Spirit created, say, “What was made, in Him was Life”; yet so what is said becomes unintelligible. First, it was not the time here to make mention of the Spirit, and if he desired to do so, why did he state it so indistinctly? For how is it clear that this saying relates to the Spirit? Besides, we shall find by this argument, not that the Spirit, but that the Son Himself, is created by Himself. But rouse yourselves, that what is said may not escape you; and come, let us read for a while after their fashion, for so its absurdity will be clearer to us. “What was made, in Him was Life.” They say that the Spirit is called “Life.” But this “Life” is found to be also “Light,” for he adds, “And the Life was the Light of men.” (Jn 1,4). Therefore, according to them the “Light of men” here means the Spirit. Well, but when he goes on to say, that “There was a man sent from God, to bear witness of that Light” (vers. 6, 7), they needs must assert, that this too is spoken of the Spirit; for whom he above called “Word,” Him as he proceeds he calls “God,” and “Life,” and “Light.” This “Word” he says was “Life,” and this “Life” was “Light.” If now this Word was Life, and if this Word and this Life became flesh, then the Life, that is to say, the Word, “was made flesh, and we beheld” Its “glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father.” If then they say that the Spirit is here called “Life,” consider what strange consequences will follow. It will be the Spirit, not the Son, that was made flesh; the Spirit will be the Only-Begotten Son.
And those who read the passage so will fall, if not into this, yet in avoiding this into another most strange conclusion. If they allow that the words are spoken of the Son, and yet do not stop or read as we do, then they will assert that the Son is created by Himself. Since, if “the Word was Life,” and “what was made in Him was Life”; according to this reading He is created in Himself and through Himself. Then after some words between, he has added, “And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father.” (Jn 1,14). See, the Holy Spirit is found, according to the reading of those who assert these things, to be also an only-begotten Son, for it is concerning Him that all this declaration is uttered by him. See when the word has swerved4 from the truth, whither it is perverted, and what strange consequences it produces!
What then, says one, is not the Spirit “Light”? It is Light: but in this place there is no mention of the Spirit. Since even God (the Father) is called “Spirit,” that is to say, incorporeal, yet God (the Father) is not absolutely meant wherever “Spirit” is mentioned. And why do you wonder if we say this of the Father? We could not even say of the Comforter, that wherever “Spirit” (is mentioned), the Comforter is absolutely meant, and yet this is His most distinctive name; still not always where Spirit (is mentioned is) the Comforter (meant). Thus Christ is called “the power of God” (1Co 1,24), and “the wisdom of God”; yet not always where “the power” and “the wisdom of God” are mentioned is Christ meant; so in this passage, although the Spirit does give “Light,” yet the Evangelist is not now speaking of the Spirit.
When we have shut them out from these strange opinions, they who take all manner of pains to withstand the truth, say, (still clinging to the same reading,) “Whatever came into existence5 by him was life, because,” says one, “whatever came into existence was life.” What then do you say of the punishment of the men of Sodom, and the flood, and hell fire, and ten thousand like things? “But,” says one, “we are speaking of the material creation.”6 Well, these too belong entirely to the material creation. But that we may out of our abundance7 refute their argument, we will ask them, “Is wood, life,” tell me? “Is stone, life?” these things that are lifeless and motionless? Nay, is man absolutely life? Who would say so? he is not pure life,8 but is capable of receiving life.
[2.] See here again, an absurdity; by the same succession of consequences we will bring the argument to such a point, that even hence you may learn their folly. In this way they assert things by no means befitting of the Spirit. Being driven from their other ground, they apply those things to men, which they before thought to be spoken worthily of the Spirit. However, let us examine the reading itself this way also. The creature is now called “life,” therefore, the same is “light,” and Jn came to witness concerning it. Why then is not he also “light”? He says that “he was not that light” (Jn 1,8), and yet he belonged to created things? How then is he not “light”? How was he “in the world, and the world was made by him”? (Jn 1,10). Was the creature in the creature, and was the creature made by the creature? But how did “the world know him not”? How did the creature not know the creature? “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” (Jn 1,12). But enough of laughter. For the rest I leave it to you to attack these monstrous reasonings, that we may not seem to have chosen9 to raise a laugh for its own sake, and waste the time without cause. For if these things are neither said of the Spirit, (and it has been shown that they are not,) nor of anything created, and yet they still hold to the same reading, that stranger conclusion than any which we before mentioned, will follow, that the Son was made by Himself. For if the Son is the true Light, and this Light was Life, and this Life was made in Him, this must needs be the result according to their own reading. Let us then relinquish this reading, and come to the recognized reading and explanation. 10
And what is that? It is to make the sentence end at “was made,” and to begin the next sentence with, “In Him was Life.” What (the Evangelist) says is this, “Without Him was not anything made that was made”; whatever created thing was made, says he, was not made without Him. See you how by this short addition he has rectified all the besetting 11 difficulties; for the saying, that “without Him was not anything made,” and then the adding, “which was made,” includes things cognizable by the intellect, 12 but excludes the Spirit. For after he had said that “all things were made by Him,” and “without Him was not anything made,” he needed this addition, lest some one should say, “If all things were made by Him, then the Spirit also was made.” “I,” he replies, “asserted that whatever was made was made by Him, even though it be invisible, or incorporeal, or in the heavens. For this reason, I did not say absolutely, ‘all things,’ but ‘whatever was made,’ that is, ‘created things,’ but the Spirit is uncreated.”
Do you see the precision of his teaching? He has alluded to the creation of material things, (for concerning these Moses had taught before him,) and after bringing us to advance from thence to higher things, I mean the immaterial and the invisible, he excepts the Holy Spirit from all creation. And so Paul, inspired by the same grace, said, “For by Him were all things created.” (Col 1,16). Observe too here again the same exactness. For the same Spirit moved this soul also. That no one should except any created things from the works of God because of their being invisible, nor yet should confound the Comforter with them, after running through the objects of sense which are known to all, he enumerates also things in the heavens, saying, “Whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers”; for the expression “whether” subjoined to each, shows to us nothing else but this, that “by Him all things were made, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”
But if you think that the expression “by” 13 is a mark of inferiority, (as making Christ an instrument,) hear him say, “Thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands.” (Ps 102,25). He says of the Son what is said of the Father in His character of Creator; which he would not have said, unless he had deemed of Him as of a Creator, and yet not subservient to any. And if the expression “by Him” is here used, it is put for no other reason but to prevent any one from supposing the Son to be Unbegotten. For that in respect of the title of Creator He is nothing inferior to the Father; hear from Himself, where He saith, “As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.” (c. 5,21). If now in the Old Testament it is said of the Son, “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth,” His title of Creator is plain. But if you say that the Prophet spoke this of the Father, and that Paul attributed to the Son what was said of the Father, even so the conclusion is the same. For Paul would not have decided that the same expression suited the Son, unless he had been very confident that between Father and Son there was an equality of honor; since it would have been an act of extremest rashness to refer what suited an incomparable Nature to a nature inferior to, and falling short of it. But the Son is not inferior to, nor falls short of, the Essence of the Father; and therefore Paul has not only dared to use these expressions concerning Him, but also others like them. For the expression “from Whom,” which you decide to belong properly to the Father alone, he uses also concerning the Son, when he says, “from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” (Col 2,19).
[3.] And he is not content with this only, he stops your mouths in another way also, by applying to the Father the expression “by whom,” which you say is a mark of inferiority. For he says, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son” (1Co 1,9): and again, “By His will” (1Co 1,1, &c).; and in another place, “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things.” (Rm 11,26). Neither is the expression “from 14 whom,” assigned to the Son only, but also to the Spirit; for the angel said to Joseph, “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” (Mt 1,20). As also the Prophet does not deem it improper to apply to the Father the expression “in whom,” 15 which belongs to the Spirit, when he says, “In 16 God we shall do valiantly.” (Ps 60,12). And Paul, “Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey, in the will of God, to come unto you.” (Rm 1,10). And again he uses it of Christ, saying, “In Christ Jesus.” (Rm 6,11 Rm 6,23, &c). In short, we may often and continually find these expressions interchanged; 17 now this would not have taken place, had not the same Essence been in every instance their subject. And that you may not imagine that the words, “All things were made by Him,” are in this case used concerning His miracles, (for the other Evangelists have discoursed concerning these;) he farther goes on to say, “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him”; (but not the Spirit, for This is not of the number of created things, but of those above all creation).
Let us now attend to what follows. Jn having spoken of the work of creation, that “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made,” goes on to speak concerning His Providence, where he saith, “In Him was Life.” That no one may doubt how so many and so great things were “made by Him,” he adds, that “In Him was Life.” For as with the fountain which is the mother of the great deeps, however much you take away you nothing lessen the fountain; so with the energy of the Only-Begotten, however much you believe has been produced and made by it, it has become no whit the less. Or, to use a more familiar example, I will instance that of light, which the Apostle himself added immediately, saying, “And the Life was the Light.” As then light, however many myriads it may enlighten, suffers no diminution of its own brightness; so also God, before commencing His work and after completing it, remains alike indefectible, nothing diminished, nor wearied by the greatness of the creation. Nay, if need were that ten thousand, or even an infinite number of such worlds be created, He remains the same, sufficient for them all not merely to produce, but also to control them after their creation. For the word “Life” here refers not merely to the act of creation, but also to the providence (engaged) about the permanence of the things created; it also lays down beforehand the doctrine of the resurrection, and is the beginning 18 of these marvelous good tidings. 19 Since when “life” has come to be with us, the power of death is dissolved; and when “light” has shone upon us, there is no longer darkness, but life ever abides within us, and death cannot overcome it. So that what is asserted of the Father might be asserted absolutely of Him (Christ) also, that “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Col 1,16-17). As Paul has shown when he says, “By Him were all things created,” and “by Him all things consist”; for which reason He has been called also “Root” (Is 11,10, as quoted Rm 15,12 Ap 22,16) and “Foundation.” 21
But when you hear that “In Him was Life,” do not imagine Him a compound Being, since farther on he says of the Father also, “As the Father hath Life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son also to have Life” (Jn 5,26); now as you would not on account of this expression say that the Father is compounded, so neither can you say so of the Son. Thus in another place he says, that “God is Light” (1Jn 1,5), and elsewhere (it is said), that He “dwelleth in light unapproachable” (1Tm 6,16); yet these expressions are used not that we may suppose a compounded nature, 22 but that by little and little we may be led up to the highest doctrines. For since one of the multitude could not easily have understood how His life was Life Impersonate, 23 he first used that humbler expression, and afterwards leads them (thus) trained to the higher doctrine. For He who had said that “He hath given Him (the Son) to have life” (Jn 5,26); the Same saith in another place, “I am the Life” (Jn 14,6); and in another, “I am the Light.” (Jn 8,12). And what, tell me, is the nature of this “light”? This kind (of light) is the object not of the senses, but of the intellect, enlightening the soul herself. And since Christ should hereafter say, that “None can come unto Me except the Father draw him” (Jn 6,44); the Apostle has in this place anticipated an objection, and declared that it is He (the Son) who “giveth light” (Jn 1,9); that although you hear a saying like this concerning the Father, you may not say that it belongs to the Father only, but also to the Son. For, “All things,” He saith, “which the Father hath are Mine.” (Jn 16,15).
First then, the Evangelist hath instructed us respecting the creation, after that he tells us of the goods relating to the soul which He supplied to us by His coming; and these he has darkly described in one sentence, when he says, “And the Life was the Light of men.” (Jn 1,4). He does not say, “was the light of the Jews,” but universally “of men”: nor did the Jews only, but the Greeks also, come to this knowledge, and this light was a common proffer made 24 to all. “Why did he not add ‘Angels,’ but said, ‘of men’?” Because at present his discourse is of the nature of men, and to them he came bearing glad tidings of good things.
“And the light shineth in darkness.” (Jn 1,5). He calls death and error, “darkness.” For the light which is the object of our senses does not shine in darkness, but apart from it; but the preaching of Christ hath shone forth in the midst of prevailing error, and made it to disappear. And He by enduring death 25 hath so overcome death, that He hath recovered those already held by it. Since then neither death overcame it, nor error, since it is bright everywhere, and shines by its proper strength, therefore he says,
“And the darkness comprehended it not.” For it cannot be overcome, and will not dwell in souls which wish not to be enlightened.
[4.] But let it not trouble thee that It took not all, for not by necessity and force, but by will and consent 26 does God bring us to Himself. Therefore do not thou shut thy doors against this light, and thou shalt enjoy great happiness. 27 But this light cometh by faith, and when it is come, it lighteth abundantly him that hath received it; and if thou displayest a pure life (meet) for it, remains indwelling within continually. “For,” He saith, “He that loveth Me, will keep My commandments; and I and My Father will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” (Jn 14,23 slightly varied). As then one cannot rightly enjoy the sunlight, unless he opens his eyes; so neither can one largely share this splendor, unless he have expanded the eye of the soul, and rendered it in every way keen of sight.
But how is this effected? Then when we have cleansed the soul from all the passions. For sin is darkness, and a deep darkness; as is clear, because men do it unconsciously and secretly. For, “every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light.” (c. 3,20). And, “It is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” (Ep 5,12). For, as in darkness a man knows neither friend nor foe, but cannot perceive any of the properties of objects; so too is it in sin. For he who desires to get more gain, makes no difference between friend and enemy; and the envious regards with hostile eyes the man with whom he is very intimate; and the plotter is at mortal quarrel with all alike. In short, as to distinguishing the nature of objects, he who commits sin is no better than men who are drunk or mad. And as in the night, wood, lead, iron, silver, gold, precious stones, seem to us all alike on account of the absence of the light which shows their distinctions; so he who leads an impure life knows neither the excellence of temperance nor the beauty of philosophy. For in darkness, as I said before, even precious stones if they be displayed do not show their luster, not by reason of their own nature, but because of the want of discernment in the beholders. Nor is this the only evil which happens to us who are in sin, but this also, that we live in constant fear: and as men walking in a moonless night tremble, though none be by to frighten them; so those who work iniquity cannot have confidence, though there be none to accuse them; but they are afraid of everything, and are suspicious, being pricked by their conscience: all to them is full of fear and distress, 28 they look about them at everything, are terrified at everything. Let us then flee a life so painful, especially since after this painfulness shall follow death; a deathless death, for of the punishment in that place there will be no end; and in this life they (who sin) are no better than madmen, in that they are dreaming of things that have no existence. They think they are rich when they are not rich, that they enjoy when they are not enjoying, nor do they properly perceive the cheat until they are freed from themadness and have shaken off the sleep. Wherefore Paul exhorts all to be sober, and to watch; and Christ also commands the same. For he who is sober and awake, although he be captured by sin, quickly beats it off; while he who sleeps and is beside himself, perceives not how he is held prisoner of it.
Let us then not sleep. This is not the season of night, but of day. Let us therefore “walk honestly 29 as in the day” (Rm 13,13); and nothing is more indecent than sin. In point of indecency it is not so bad to go about naked as in sin and wrong doing. That is not so great matter of blame, since it might even be caused by poverty; but nothing has more shame and less honor than the sinner. Let us think of those who come to the justice-hall on some account of extortion, or overreaching; 30 how base and ridiculous they appear to all by their utter shamelessness, their lies, and audacity. 31 But we are such pitiable and wretched beings, that we cannot bear ourselves to put on a garment awkwardly or awry; nay, if we see another person in this state, we set him right; and yet though we and all our neighbors are walking on our heads, we do not even perceive it. For what, say, can be more shameful than a man who goes in to a harlot? what more contemptible than an insolent, a foul-tongued or an envious man? Whence then is it that these things do not seem so disgraceful as to walk naked? Merely from habit. To go naked no one has ever willingly endured; but all men are continually venturing on the others without any fear. Yet if one came into an assembly of angels, among whom nothing of the sort has ever taken place, there he would clearly see the great ridicule (of such conduct). And why do I say an assembly of angels? Even in the very palaces among us, should one introduce a harlot and enjoy her, or be oppressed by excess of wine, or commit any other like indecency, he would suffer extreme punishment. But if it be intolerable hat men should dare such things in palaces, much more when the King is everywhere present, and observes what is done, shall we if we dare them undergo severest chastisement. Wherefore let us, I exhort you, show forth in our life much gentleness, much purity, for we have a King who beholds all our actions continually. In order then that this light may ever richly enlighten us, let us gladly accept 32 these bright beams, 33 for so shall we enjoy both the good things present and those to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom, and with whom, to the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 i.e. the visible creation.
4 ejkkulisqh, lit. “been rolled away.”
7 ejk periousiva".
9 Sav. and Ms. Bodl). proh/sqai.
11 uJformou`nta, lit. “blockading.”
12 i.e. the things of the invisible world, opposed to oJrata;.
13 Or, through dia;).
15 ejn w\/.
17 i.e. applied alike to the different Persons in the Holy Trinity.
19 Or, “Gospels,” Ac 17,28.
21 (1Co 3,11).
24 koino;n prouvkeito.
25 Lit. “having been in death.”
26 boulhvsei kai; gnwvmh/.
27 trufh`", “spiritual enjoyment.”
29 eujschmovnw", “decently.”
Chrysostom on John 4