Golden Chain 12821
12821 Jn 8,21-24
AUG. In accordance with what was just, He said that no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come; He now speaks to the Jews of His passion, as a free, and not a compulsory sacrifice on His part: Then said Jesus again to them, I go My way. Death to our Lord was a return to the place whence He had come.
BEDE. The connection of these words is such, that they might have been spoken at one place and one time, or at another place and another time: as either nothing at all, or some things, or many may have intervened.
ORIGEN. But some one will object: If this was spoken to men who persisted in unbelief, how is it He says, You shall seek Me? For to seek Jesus is to seek truth and wisdom. You will answer that it was said of His persecutors, that they sought to take Him. There are different ways of seeking Jesus. All do not seek Him for their health and profit: and only they who seek Him aright, find peace. And they are said to seek Him aright, who seek the Word which was in the beginning with God, in order that He may lead them to the Father.
AUG. You shall seek Me, then, He says, not from compassionate regret, but from hatred: for after He had departed from the eyes of men, He was sought for both by those who hated, and those who loved Him: the one wanting to persecute, the other to have His presence. And that you may not think that you shall seek Me in a good sense, I tell you, You shall die in your sin. This is to seek Christ amiss, to die in one's sin: this is to hate Him, from Whom alone comes salvation. He pronounces sentence on them prophetically, that they shall die in their sins.
BEDE Note: sin is in the singular number, your in the plural; to express one and the same wickedness in all.
ORIGEN. But I ask, as it is said below that many believed on Him, whether He speaks to all present, when He says, You shall die in your sins? No: He speaks to those only, whom He knew would not believe, and would therefore die in their sins, not being able to follow Him. Whither I go, He says, You cannot come; i.e. there where truth and wisdom are, for with them Jesus dwells. They cannot, He says because they will not: for had they wished, He could not reasonably have said, You shall die in your sin.
AUG. This He tells His disciples in another place; without saying to them, however, You, shall die in your sin, He only says Whither I go, you cannot follow Me now; not preventing, but only delaying their coming.
ORIGEN. The Word, while still present, yet threatens to depart. So long as we preserve the seeds of truth implanted in our minds, the Word of God does not depart from us. But if we fall into wickedness then He says to us, I go away; and when we seek Him, we shall not find Him, but shall die in our sin, die caught in our sin. But we should not pass over without notice the expression itself: You shall die in your sins. If you shall die be understood in the ordinary sense, it is manifest that sinners die in their sins, the righteous in their righteousness. But if we understand it of death in the sense of sin; then the meaning is, that not their bodies, but their souls were sick to death. The Physician seeing them thus grievously sick, says You shall die in your sins. And this is evidently the meaning of the words, Whither I go you cannot come. For or when a man dies in his sin, he cannot go where Jesus goes: no dead man can follow Jesus: The dead praise not You, O Lord.
AUG. They take these words, as they generally do, in a carnal sense, and ask, Will He kill Himself, because He said, Whither I go, you cannot come? A foolish question. For why? Could they not go where He went, if He killed Himself; Were they never to die themselves? Whither I go, then, He says; meaning not His departure at death, but where He went after death.
THEOPHYL. He shows here that He will rise again in glory, and sit at the right hand of God.
ORIGEN. May they not however have a higher meaning in saying this? For they had opportunities of knowing many things from their apocryphal books or from tradition. As then there was a prophetical tradition, that Christ was to be born at Bethlehem, so there may have been a tradition also respecting His death, viz. that He would depart from this life in the way which He declares, No man takes it from Me, I lay it down of Myself: So then the question, Will He kill Himself, is not to be taken in its obvious sense, but as referring to some Jewish tradition about Christ. For His saying, I go My way, shows that He had power over His own death, and departure from the body; so that these were voluntary on His part. But I chink that they bring forward this tradition which had come down to them, on the death of Christ, contemptuously, and not with any view to give Him glory. Will He kill Himself? say they: whereas, they ought to have used a loftier way of speaking, and have said, Will His soul wait His pleasure, to depart from His body? Our Lord answers, You are from beneath, i.e. you love earth; your hearts are not raised upwards,. He speaks to them as earthly men, for their thoughts were earthly.
CHRYS. As if to say, No wonder that you think as you do, seeing you are carnal, and understand nothing spiritually. I am from above.
AUG. From whom above? From the Father Himself, Who is above all. You are of this world, I am not of this world. How could He be of the world, by Whom the world was made?
BEDE. And Who was before the world, whereas they were of the world, having been created after the world had begun to exist.
CHRYS. Or He says, I am not of this world, with reference to worldly and vain thoughts.
THEOPHYL. I affect nothing worldly, nothing earthly: I could never come to such madness as to kill Myself. Apollinarius, however, falsely infers from these words, that our Lord's body was not of this world, but came down from heaven. Did the Apostles then, to whom our Lord says below, You are not of this world, derive all of them their bodies from heaven? In saying then, 1 am not of this world, He must be understood to mean, I am not of the number of you, who mind earthly things.
ORIGEN. Beneath, and, of this world, are different things. Beneath, refers to a particular place; this material world embraces a different tracts, which all are beneath, as compared with things immaterial and invisible, but, as compared with one another, some beneath, some above. Where the treasure of each is, there is his heart also. If a man then lay up treasure upon earth, he is beneath: if any man lay up treasure in heaven, he is above; yes, ascends above all hearers, attains to a most blissful end. And again, the love of this world makes a man of this world: whereas he who loves not the world, neither the things that are in the world, is not of the world. Yet is there beyond this world of sense, another world, in which are things invisible the beauty of which shall the pure in heart behold, yes, the First-born of every creature may be called the world, insomuch as He is absolute wisdom, and in wisdom all things were made. In Him therefore was the whole world, differing from the material world, in so far as the scheme divested of the matter, differs from the subject matter itself. The soul of Christ then says, I am not of this world; i.e. because it has not its conversation in this world.
AUG. Our Lord expresses His meaning in the words, You are of this world, i.e. you are sinners. All of us are born in sin; all have added by our actions to the sin in which we were born. The misery of the Jews then was, not that they had sin, but that they would die in their sin: I said; therefore to you, that you shall die in your sin. Amongst the multitude, however, who heard our Lord, there were some who were about to believe; whereas this most severe sentence had gone forth against all: You shall die in your sin; to the destruction of all hope even in those who should hereafter believe. So His next words recall the latter to hope: For if you believe not that I am He, you shall die in your sin: therefore if you believe that I am He, you shall not die in your sin.
CHRYS. For if He came in order to take away sin, and a man cannot put that off, except by washing, and cannot be baptized except he believe; it follows, that he who believers not must pass out of this life, with the old man, i.e. sin, within him: not only because he believes not, but because he departs hence, with his former sins upon him.
AUG. His saying, If you believe not that I am, without adding any thing, proves a great deal. For thus it was that God spoke to Moses, I am that I am. But how do I understand, I am that I am, and, If you believe not that I am? In this way. All excellence, of whatever kind, if it be mutable, cannot be said really to be, for there is no real to be, where there is a not to be. Analyze the idea of mutability, and you will find, was, and will be; contemplate God, and you will find is, without possibility of a past. In order to be, you must leave him behind you. So then, If you believe not that I am, means in fact, If you believe not that I am God; this being the condition, on which we shall not die in our sins. God be thanked that He says, If you believe not, not, If you understand not; for who could understand this?
ORIGEN. It is manifest, that he, who dies in his sins, though he say that he believes in Christ, does not really believe. For he who believes in His justice does not do injustice; he who believes in His wisdom, does not act or speak foolishly; in like manner with respect to the other attributes of Christ, you will find that he who does not believe in Christ, dies in his sins: inasmuch as he comes to be the very contrary of what is seen in Christ.
12825 Jn 8,25-27
AUG. Our Lord having said, You believe not that I am, you shall die in your sins; they inquire of Him, as if wishing to, know in whom they are to believe, that they might not die in their sin: Then said they to Him, Who are You? For when you said, If you believe not that I am, you did not add, who you are. But our Lord knew that these were some who would believe, and therefore after being asked, Who are You? that such might know what they should believe Him to be, Jesus said to them, The beginning, who also speak to you; not as if to say, I am the beginning, but, Believe Me to be the beginning; as is evident from the Greek, where beginning is feminine. Believe Me then to be the beginning but you die in your sins: for the beginning cannot be changed; it remains fixed in itself, and is the source of change to all things. But it is absurd to call the Son the beginning, and not the Father also. And yet there are not two beginnings, even as these are not two Gods. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son; not being either the Father, or the Son. Yet Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, one Light, one beginning. He adds, Who also speak to you, i.e. Who humbled Myself for your sakes, and condescended to those words. Therefore believe Me to be the beginning; because that you may believe this, not only am I the beginning but I also speak with you, that you may believe that I am. For if the Beginning had remained with the Father in its original nature, and not taken upon it the form of a servant, how, could men have believed in it? Would their weakly minds have taken in the spiritual Word, without the medium of sensible sound?
BEDE. In some copies we find, Who also speak to you; but it is more consistent to read for (quia), not, who (qui): in which case the meaning is: Believe Me to be the beginning, for your own sakes have I condescended to these words.
CHRYS. See here the madness of the Jews; asking after so long time, and after all His miracles and teaching, Who are You? What is Christ's answer? From the beginning I speak with you; as if to say, you do not deserve to hear any thing from Me, much less this thing, Who I am. For you speak always, to tempt Me. But I could, if I would confound and punish you: I have many things to say, and to judge of you.
AUG. Above He said, I judge no man but, I judge not, is one thing, I have to judge another. I judge not, He says, with reference to the present time. But the other, I have many things to say, and to judge of you, refers to a future judgment. And I shall be true in My judgment, because I am truth, the Son of the true One. He that sent Me is true. My Father is true, not by partaking of, but begetting truth. Shall we say that truth is greater than one who is true? It we say this, we shall begin to call the Son greater than the Father.
CHRYS. He says this, that they may not think that He allows them to talk against Him with impunity, from inability to punish them, or that He is not alive to their contemptuous designs.
THEOPHYL. Or having said, I have many things to say, and to judge of you, thus reserving His judgment for a future time, He adds, But He that sells Me is true: as If to say, Though you are unbelievers, My Father is true, Who has appointed a day of retribution for you.
CHRYS. Or thus: As My Father has sent Me not to judge the world, but to save the world, and My Father is true, I accordingly judge no man now; but speak thus for your salvation, not your condemnation: And I speak to the world those things that I have heard of Him.
ALCUIN. And do hear from the Father is the same as to be from the Father; He has the hearing from the same sense that He has the being.
AUG. The coequal Son gives glory to the Father: as if to say, I give glory to Him whose Son I am: how proudly you detract from Him, whose servant you are.
ALCUIN. They did not understand however what He meant by saying, He is true that sent Me: they understand not that He spoke to them of the Father. For they had not the eyes of their mind yet opened, to understand the equality of the Father with the Son.
12828 Jn 8,28-30
AUG. When our Lord said, He is true that sent Me, the Jews did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father. But He saw some there, who, He knew, would believe on Him after His passion. Then said Jesus to them, When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you shall know that I am. Recollect the words, I am that I am, and you will know why I say, I am. I pass over your knowledge, in order that I may fulfill My passion. In your appointed time you will know who I am; when you have lifted up the Son of man. He means the lifting up of the cross; for He was lifted up on the cross, when He hung thereon. This was to be accomplished by the hands of those who should afterwards believe, whom He is now speaking to; with what intent, but that no one, however great his wickedness and consciousness of guilt might despair, seeing even the murderers of our Lord forgiven.
CHRYS. Or the connection is this: When His miracles and teaching had failed to convert men, He spoke of the cross; When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you shall know that I am He: as if to say, you think that you have killed Me; but I say that you shall then, by the evidence of miracles, of My resurrection, and your captivity, know most especially, that I am Christ the Son of God, and that I do not act in opposition to God; But that as My Father has taught Me, I speak these things. Here He shows the likeness of His substance to the Father's; and that He says nothing beyond the Paternal intelligence. If I were contrary to God, I should not have moved His anger so much against those who did not hear Me.
AUG. Or thus: Having said, Then shall you know that I am, and in this, I am, implied the whole Trinity: lest the Sabellian error should creep in, He immediately adds, And I do nothing of Myself; as if to say, I am not of Myself; the Son is God from the Father. Let not what follows, as the Father has taught Me, I speak these things, suggest a carnal thought to any of you. Do not place as it were two men before your eyes, a Father speaking to his son, as you do when you speak to your sons. For what words could be spoken to the only Word? If the Father speaks in your hearts without sound, how does he speak to the Son? The Father speaks to the Son incorporeally, because He begat the Son incorporeally: not did He teach Him, as having begotten Him untaught; rather the teaching Him, was the begetting Him knowing. For if the nature of truth be simple, to be, in the Son, is the same as to know. As then the Father gave the Son existence by begetting, so He gave Him knowledge also.
CHRYS. He gives now a humbler turn to the discourse: And He that sent Me. That this might not be thought however to imply inferiority, He says, Is with Me. The former is His dispensation, the latter His divinity.
AUG. And though
both are together, yet one is sent, the other sends. For the mission is the incarnation; and the incarnation is of the Son only, not of the Father. He says then, He that sent Me, meaning, By whose Fatherly authority I am made incarnate. The Father however, though He sent the Son, did not withdraw from Him, as He proceeds to say: The Father has not left Me alone. For it could not be that where He sent the Son, there the Father was not, He who says, If in heaven and earth. And He adds the reason why He did not leave Him: For I do always those things that please Him; always, i.e. not from any particular beginning, but without beginning and without end. For the generation from the Father has no beginning in time.
CHRYS. Or, He means it as an answer to those who were constantly saying that He was not from God, and that because He did not keep the sabbath; I do always, He says, do those things that please Him; showing that the breaking the sabbath even was pleasing to Him. He takes care in every way to show that He does nothing contrary to the Father. And as this was speaking more after a human fashion, the Evangelist adds, As He spoke these words many believed in Him; as if to say, Do not be disturbed at hearing so humble a speech from Christ; for those who had heard the greatest doctrines from Him, and were not persuaded, were persuaded by these words of humility. These then believed on Him, yet not as they ought; but only out of joy, and approbation of His humble way of speaking. And this the Evangelist shows in his subsequent narration, which relates their unjust proceedings towards Him.
12831 Jn 8,31-36
CHRYS. Our Lord wished to try the faith of those who believed, that it might not be only a superficial belief: Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed in Him, If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed. His saying, if you continue, made it manifest what was in their hearts. He knew that some believed, and would not continue. And He makes them a magnificent promise, viz. that they shall become His disciples indeed; which words are a tacit rebuke to some who had believed and afterwards withdrawn.
AUG. We have all one Master, and are fellow disciples under Him. Nor because we speak with authority, are we therefore masters; but He is the Master of all, Who dwells in the hearts of all. It is a small thing for the disciple to come to Him in the first instance: he must continue in Him: if we continue not in Him, we shall fall. A little sentence this, but a great work; if you continue. For what is it to continue in God's word, but to yield to no temptations. Without labor, the reward would be gratis; if with, then a great reward indeed.
And you shall know the truth.
AUG. As if to say: Whereas you have now belief, by continuing, you shall have sight. For it was not their knowledge which made them believe, but rather their belief which gave them knowledge. Faith is to believe that which you see not: truth to see that which you believe? By continuing then to believe a thing, you come at last to see the thing; i.e. to the contemplation of the very truth as it is; not conveyed in words, but revealed by light. The truth is unchangeable; it is the bread of the soul, refreshing others, without diminution to itself; changing him who eats into itself; itself not changed. This truth is the Word of God, which put on flesh for our sakes, and lay hid, not meaning to bury itself, but only to defer its manifestation, till its suffering in the body, for the ransoming of the body of sin, had taken place.
CHRYS. Or, You shall know the truth, i.e. Me: for I am the truth. The Jewish was a typical dispensation; the reality you can only know from Me.
AUG. Some one might say perhaps, And what does it profit me to know the truth? So our Lord adds, And the truth shall free you; as if to say, If the truth does not delight you, liberty, will. To be freed is to be made free, as to be healed is to be made whole. This is plainer in the Greek; in the Latin we use the word free chiefly in the sense of escape of danger, relief from care, and the like.
THEOPHYL. As He said to the unbelievers alone, You shall die in your sin, so now to them who continue in the faith He proclaims absolution.
AUG. From what shall the truth free us, but from death, corruption, mutability, itself being immortal, uncorrupt, immutable? Absolute immutability is in itself eternity.
CHRYS. Men who really believed could have borne to he rebuked. But these men began immediately to show anger. Indeed if they had been disturbed at His former saying, they had much more reason to be so now. For they might argue; If He says we shall know the truth, He must mean that we do not know it now: so then the law is a lie, our knowledge a delusion. But their thoughts took no such direction: their grief is wholly worldly; they know of no other servitude, but that of this world: They answered Him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man. How say you then, we shall be made free? As if to say, They of Abraham's stock are free, and ought not to be called slaves: we have never been in bondage to any one.
AUG. Or it was not those who believed, but the unbelieving multitude that made this answer. But how could they say with truth, taking only secular bondage into account, that we have never been in bondage to any man? Was not Joseph sold? were not the holy prophets carried into captivity? Ungrateful people! Why does God remind you so continually of His having taken you out of the house of bondage if you never were in bondage? Why do you who are now talking, pay tribute to the Romans, if you never were in bondage?
CHRYS. Christ then, who speaks for their good, not to gratify their vainglory, explains His meaning to have been that they were the servants not of men, but of sin, the hardest kind of servitude, from which God only can rescue: Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin.
AUG. This asseveration is important: it is, if one may say so, His oath. Amen means true, but is not translated. Neither the Greek nor the Latin Translator have dared to translate it. It is a Hebrew word; and men have abstained from translating it, in order to throw a reverential veil over so mysterious a word: not that they wished to lock it up, but only to prevent it from becoming despised by being exposed. How important the word is, you may see from its being repeated. Verily I say to you, says Verity itself; which could not be, even though it said not verily. Our Lord however has recourse to this mode of enforcing His words, in order to rouse men from their state of sleep and indifference. Whosoever, He said, commits sin, whether Jew or Greek, rich or poor, king or beggar, is the servant of sin.
GREG. Because whoever yields to wrong desires, puts his hitherto free soul under the yoke of the evil one, and takes him for his master. But we oppose this master, when we struggle against the wickedness which has laid hold upon us, when we strongly resist habit, when we pierce sin with repentance, and wash away the spots of filth With tears.
GREG. And the more freely men follow their perverse desires, the more closely are they in bondage to them.
AUG. O miserable bondage! The slave of a human master when wearied with the hardness of his tasks, sometimes takes refuge in flight. But whither does the slave of sin flee? He takes it along with him, wherever he goes; for his sin is within him. The pleasure passes away, but the sin does not pass away: its delight goes, its sting remains behind. He alone can free from sin, who came without sin, and was made a sacrifice for sin. And thus it follows: The servant abides not in the house for ever. The Church is the house: the servant is the sinner; and many sinners enter into the Church. So He does not say, The servant is, not in the house; but, The servant abides not in the house for ever. If a time then is to come, when there shall be no servant in the house; who will there be there? Who will boast that he is pure from sin? Christ's are fearful words. But He adds, The Son abides for ever. So then Christ will live alone in His house. Or does not the word Son, imply both the body and the head? Christ purposely alarms us first, and then gives us hope. He alarms us, that we may not love sin; He gives us hope, that we may not despair of the absolution of our sin. Our hope then is this, that we shall be freed by Him who is free. He has paid the price for us, not in money, but in His own blood: If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
AUG. Not from the barbarians, but from the devil; not from the captivity of the body, but from the wickedness of the soul.
AUG. The first stage of freedom' is, the abstaining from sin. But that is only incipient, it is not perfect freedom: for the flesh still lusts against the spirit, so that you do not do the things that you would. Full and perfect freedom will only be, when the contest is over, and the last enemy, death, is destroyed.
CHRYS, Or thus: Having said that whosoever commits sin, is the servant of sin, He anticipates the answer that their sacrifices saved them, by saying, The servant abides not in the house for ever, but the Son abides ever. The house, He says, meaning the Father's house on high; in which, to draw a comparison from the world, He Himself had all the power, just as a man has all the power in his own house. Abides not, means, has not the power of giving; which the Son, who is the master of the house, has. The priests of the old law had not the power of remitting sins by the sacraments of the law; for all were sinners. Even the priests, who, as the Apostle says, were obliged to offer up sacrifices for themselves. But the Son has this power; and therefore our Lord concludes: If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed; implying that that earthly freedom, of which men boasted so much, was not true freedom.
AUG. Do not then abuse your freedom, for the purpose of sinning freely; but use it in order not to sin at all. Your will will be free, if it be merciful: you will be free, if you become the servant of righteousness.
12837 Jn 8,37-41
AUG. The Jews had asserted they were free, because they were Abraham's seed. Our Lord replies, I know that you are Abraham's seed; as if to say, I know that you are the sons of Abraham, but according to the flesh, not spiritually and by faith. So He adds, But you seek to kill Me.
CHRYS. He says this, that they might not attempt to answer, that they had no sin. He reminds them of a present sin; a sin which they had been meditating for some time past, and which was actually at this moment in their thoughts: putting out of the question their general course of life. He thus removes them by degrees out of their relationship to Abraham, teaching them not to pride themselves so much upon it: for that, as bondage and freedom were the consequences of works, so was relationship. And that they might not say, We do so justly, He adds the reason why they did so; Because My word has no place in you.
AUG. That is, has not place in your hearts, because your heart does not take it in. The word of God to the believing, is like the hook to the fish; it takes when it is taken: and that not to the injury of those who are caught by it. They are caught for their salvation, not for their destruction.
CHRYS He does not say, you do not take in My word, but My word has not room in you; showing the depth of His doctrines. But they might say; What if you speak of yourself? So He adds, I speak that which I have seen of My Father; for I have not only the Father's substance, but His truth.
AUG. Our Lord by His Father wishes us to understand God: as if to say, I have seen the truth, I speak the truth, because I am the truth. If our Lord then speaks the truth which He saw with the Father, it is Himself that He saw, Himself that He speaks; He being Himself the truth of the Father.
ORIGEN. This is proof that our Savior was witness to what was done with the Father: whereas men, to whom the revelation is made, were not witnesses.
THEOPHYL. But when you hear, I speak that which I have seen, do not think it means bodily vision, but innate knowledge, sure, and approved. For as the eyes when they see an object, see it wholly and correctly; so I speak with certainty what I know from My Father.
And, you do that which you have seen with your father.
ORIGEN. As yet He has not named their father; He mentioned Abraham indeed a little above, but now He is going to mention another father, viz. the devil: whose sons they were, in so far as they were wicked, not as being men. Our Lord is reproaching them for their evil deeds.
CHRYS. Another reading has, And do you do that which you have seen with your father; as if to say, As I both in word and deed declare to you the Father, so do you by your works show forth Abraham.
ORIGEN. Also another reading has; And, do you do what you have heard from the Father. All that was written in the Law and the Prophets they had heard from the Father. He who takes this reading, may use it to prove against them who hold otherwise, that the God who gave the Law and the Prophets, was none other than Christ's Father. And we use it too as an answer to those who maintain two original natures in men, and explain the words, My word has no place in you, to mean that these were by nature incapable of receiving the word. How could those be of an incapable nature, who had heard from the Father? And how again could they be of a blessed nature, who sought to kill our Savior, and would not receive His words. They answered and said to Him, Abraham is our father. This answer of the Jews is a great falling off from our Lord's meaning. He had referred to God, but they take Father in the sense of the father of their nature, Abraham.
AUG. As if to say, What are you going to say against Abraham? They seem to be inviting Him to say something in disparagement of Abraham; and so to give them an opportunity of executing their purpose.
ORIGEN. Our Savior denies that Abraham is their father: Jesus said to them, If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham.
AUG. And yet He says above, I know that you are Abraham's seed. So He does not deny their origin, but condemns their deeds. Their flesh was from him; their life was not.
ORIGEN. Or we may explain the difficulty thus. Above it is in the Greek, I know that you are Abraham's seed. So let us examine whether there is not a difference between a bodily seed and a child. It is evident that a seed contains in itself all the proportions of him whose seed it is, as yet however dormant, and waiting to be developed; when the seed first has changed and molded the material it meets within the woman, derived nourishment from thence and gone through a process in the womb, it becomes a child, the likeness of its begetter. So then a child is formed from the seed: but the seed is not necessarily a child. Now with reference to those who are from their works judged to be the seed of Abraham, may we not conceive that they are so from certain seminal proportions implanted in their souls? All men are not the seed of Abraham, for all have not these proportions implanted in their souls. But he who is the seed of Abraham, has yet to become his child by likeness. And it is possible for him by negligence and indolence even to cease to be the seed. But those to whom these words were addressed, were not yet cut off from hope: and therefore Jesus acknowledged that they were as yet the seed of Abraham, and had still the power of becoming children of Abraham. So He says, If you are the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham. If as the seed of Abraham, they had attained to their proper sign and growth, they would have taken in our Lord's words. But not having grown to be children, they cared not; but wish to kill the Word, and as it were break it in pieces, since it was too great for them to take in. If any of you then be the seed of Abraham, and as yet do not take in the word of God, let him not seek to kill the word; but rather change himself into being a son of Abraham, and then he will be able to take in the Son of God. Some select one of the works of Abraham, viz. that in Genesis, And Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. But even granting to them that faith is a work, if this were so, why was it not, Do the work of Abraham: using the singular number, instead of the plural? The expression as it stands is, I think, equivalent to saying, Do all the works of Abraham: i.e. in the spiritual sense, interpreting Abraham's history allegorically. For it is not incumbent on one, who would be a son of Abraham, to marry his maidservants, or after his wife's death, to marry another in his old age.
But now you seek to kill Me, a man that has told you the truth.
CHRYS. This truth, that is, that He was equal to the Father: for it was this that moved the Jews to kill Him. To show, however, that this doctrine is not opposed to the Father, He adds, Which I have heard from God.
ALCUIN. Because He Himself, Who is the truth, was begotten of God the Father, to hear, being in fact the same with to be from the Father.
ORIGEN. To kill Me, He says, a man. I say nothing now of the Son of God, nothing of the Word, because the Word cannot die; I speak only of that which you see. It is in your power to kill that which you see, and offend Him Whom you see not.
This did not Abraham.
ALCUIN. As if to say, By this you prove that you are not the sons of Abraham; that you do works contrary to those of Abraham.
ORIGEN. It might seem to some, that it were superfluous to say that Abraham did not this; for it were impossible that it should be; Christ was not born at that time. But we may remind them, that in Abraham's time there was a man born who spoke the truth, which he heard from God, and that this man's life was not sought for by Abraham. Know too that the Saints were never without the spiritual advent of Christ. I understand then from this passage, that every one who, after regeneration, and other divine graces bestowed upon him, commits sin, does by this return to evil incur the guilt of crucifying the Son of God, which Abraham did not do.
You do the works of your father.
AUG. He does not say as yet who is their father.
CHRYS. Our Lord says this with a view to put down their vain boasting of their descent; and persuade them to rest their hopes of salvation no longer on the natural relationship, but on the adoption. For this it was which prevented them from coming to Christ; viz. their thinking that their relationship to Abraham was sufficient for their salvation.
Golden Chain 12821