Chrysostom on John 40
"If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true; there is another that beareth witness of Me, and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of Me is true."
[1.] If any one unpracticed in the art undertake to work a mine, he will get no gold, but confounding all aimlessly and together, will undergo a labor unprofitable and pernicious: so also they who understand not the method1 of Holy Scripture, nor search out its peculiarities2 and laws, but go over all its points carelessly and in one manner, will mix the gold with earth, and never discover the treasure which is laid up in it. I say this now because the passage before us containeth much gold, not indeed manifest to view, but covered over with much obscurity, and therefore by digging and purifying we must arrive at the legitimate sense. For who would not at once be troubled at hearing Christ say, “If I testify of Myself, My witness is not true”; inasmuch as He often appeareth to have testified of Himself? For instance, conversing with the Samaritan woman He said, “I Am that speak unto thee”: and in like manner to the blind man, “It is He that talketh with thee” (c. 9,37); and rebuking the Jews, “Ye say,3 thou blasphemest, because I said I am the Son of God.” (c. 10,36). And in many other places besides He doth this. If now all these assertions be false, what hope of salvation shall we have? And where shall we find truth when Truth Itself declareth, “My witness is not true”? Nor doth this appear to be the only contradiction; there is another not less than this. He saith farther on, “Though I bear witness of Myself, yet My witness is true” (c. 8,14); which then, tell me, am I to receive, and which deem a falsehood? If we take them out thus [from the context] simply as they are said, without carefully considering the person to whom nor the cause for which they are said. nor any other like circumstances, they will both be falsehoods. For if His witness be “not true,” then this assertion is not true either, not merely the second, but the first also. What then is the meaning? We need great watchfulness, or rather the grace of God, that we rest not in the mere words; for thus the heretics err, because they enquire not into the object of the speaker nor the disposition of the hearers. If we add not these and other points besides, as times and places and the opinions of the listeners, many absurd consequences will follow.
What then is the meaning?4 The Jews were about to object to Him,“ If thou bearest witness5 concerning thyself, thy witness is not true” (c. 8,13): therefore He spake these words in anticipation; as though He had said, “Ye will surely say to Me, we believe thee not; for no one that witnesseth of himself is readily6 held trustworthy among men.” So that the “is not true” must not be read absolutely, but with reference to7 their suspicions, as though He had said, “to you it is not true”; and so He uttered the words not looking to His own dignity, but to their secret thoughts. When He saith, “My witness is not true,” He rebuketh their opinion of Him, and the objection about to be urged by them against Him; but when He saith, “Though I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true” (c. 8,14), He declareth the very nature of the thing itself, namely, that as God they ought to deem Him trustworthy even when speaking of Himself. For since He had spoken of the resurrection of the dead, and of the judgment, and that he that believeth on Him is not judged, but cometh unto life, and that He shall sit to require account of all men, and that He hath the same Authority and Power with the Father; and since He was about again otherwise to prove these things, He necessarily put their objection first. “I told you,” He saith, “that ‘as the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth them, so the Son quickeneth whom He will’; I told you that ‘the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son’; I told you that men must ‘honor the Son as they honor the Father’; I told you that ‘he that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father’; I told you that ‘he that heareth My words and believeth them shall not see death, but hath passed from death unto life’ (v. 24; not exactly quoted); that My voice shall raise the dead, some now, some hereafter; that I shall demand account from all men of their transgressions, that I shall judge righteously, and recompense those who have walked uprightly.” Now since all these were assertions, since the things asserted were important, and since no clear proof of them had as yet been afforded to the Jews but one rather8 indistinct, He putteth their objection first when He is about to proceed9 to establish His assertions, speaking somewhat in this way if not in these very words: 10 “Perhaps ye will say, thou assertest all this, but thou art not a credible witness, since thou testifiest of thyself.” First then checking their disputatious spirit by setting forth what they would say, and showing that He knew the secrets of their hearts, and giving this first proof of His power, after stating the objection He supplieth other proofs clear and indisputable, producing three witnesses to what He said, namely, the works wrought by Him, the witness of the Father, and the preaching of John. And He putteth first the less important witness of John. For after saying, “There is another that beareth witness of Me, and I know that his witness is true,” He addeth,
Jn 5,33. “Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.”
Yet if Thy witness be not true, how sayest Thou, “I know that the testimony of Jn is true, and that he hath borne witness to the truth”? and seest thou (O man) how clear it hence is, that the expression, “My witness is not true,” was addressed to their secret thoughts?
[2.] “What then,” saith some one, “if Jn bare witness partially.” 11 That the Jews might not assert this, see how He removeth this suspicion. For He said not, “Jn testified of Me,” but, “Ye first sent to John, and ye would not have sent had ye not deemed him trustworthy.” Nay, what is more, they had sent not to ask him about Christ, but about himself, and the man whom they deemed trustworthy in what related to himself they would much more deem so in what related to another. For it is, so to speak, the nature of us all not to give so much credit to those who speak of themselves as to those who speak of others; yet him they deemed so trustworthy as not to require even concerning himself any other testimony. For they who were sent said not, “What sayest thou concerning Christ?” but, “Who art thou? What sayest thou of thyself?” So great admiration felt they for the man. Now to all this Christ made allusion by saying, “Ye sent unto John.” And on this account the Evangelist hath not merely related that they sent, but is exact as to the persons sent that 12 they were Priests and of the Pharisees, not common or abject persons, nor such as might be corrupted or cheated, but men able to understand exactly what he said.
Jn 5,34. “But I receive not testimony from man.”
“Why then hast Thou brought forward that of John?” His testimony was not the “testimony of man,” for, saith he, “He that sent me to baptize with water, He said unto me.” (c. 1,33). So that John’s testimony was the testimony of God; for having learned from Him he said what he did. But that none should ask, “Whence is it clear that he learnt from God?” and stop at this, He abundantly silences them by still addressing Himself to their thoughts. For neither was it likely that many would know these things; they had hitherto given heed unto Jn as to one who spake of himself, and therefore Christ saith, “I receive not testimony from man.” And that the Jews might not ask, “And if Thou wert not about to receive the testimony of man, and by it to strengthen Thyself, why hast Thou brought forward this man’s testimony?” see how He correcteth this contradiction by what He addeth. For after saying, “I receive not testimony from man,” He hath added,
“But these things I say, that ye may be saved.”
What He saith is of this kind; “I, being God, needed not the witness of Jn which is man’s witness, yet because ye gave more heed to him, believe him more trustworthy than any, ran to him as to a prophet, (for all the city was poured forth to Jordan,) and have not believed on Me, even when working miracles, therefore I remind you of that witness of his.”
Jn 5,35. "He was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.’
That they may not reply, “What if he did speak and we received him not,” He showeth that they did receive John’s sayings: since they sent not common men, but priests and Pharisees and were willing to rejoice; 13 so much did they admire the man, and at the same time had nothing to say against his words. But the “for a season,” is the expression of one noting their levity, 14 and the fact that they soon started away from him.
Jn 5,36. “But I have greater witness than that of John.”
“For had ye been willing to admit faith according to the (natural) consequence of the facts, I would have brought you over by My works more than he by his words. But since ye will not, I bring you to John, not as needing his testimony, but because I do all ‘that ye may be saved.’ For I have greater witness than that of John, namely, that from My works; yet I do not merely consider how I may be made acceptable to you by credible evidence, but how by that (of persons) known 15 to and admired by you.” Then glancing at them and saying that they rejoiced for a season in his (John’s) light, He declared that their zeal was but temporary and uncertain. 16
(He called torch, 17 signifying that he had not light of himself, but by the grace of the Spirit; but the circumstance which caused the absolute distinction 18 between Himself and John, namely, that He was the Sun of righteousness, this He put not yet; but merely hinting as yet at this He touched 19 them sharply, by showing that from the same disposition which led them to despise John, neither could they believe in Christ. Since it was but for a season that they admired even the man whom they did admire, and who, had they not acted thus, would soon have led them by the hand to Jesus. Having then proved them altogether unworthy of forgiveness, He went on to say, “I have greater witness than that of John.” “What is that?” It is that from His works.
“For the works,” He saith, “which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do bear witness of Me that the Father sent 20 Me.”
By this He reminded them of the paralytic restored, and of many other things. The words perhaps one of them might have asserted were mere boast, and said by reason of John’s friendship towards Him, (though indeed it was not in their power to say even this of man equal to the exact practice of wisdom, 21 and on this account admired by them,) but the works could not even among the maddest of them admit this suspicion; therefore He added this second testimony, saying, “The works which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do bear witness of Me that the Father sent Me.”
[3.] In this place He also meeteth the accusation respecting the violation of the Sabbath. For since those persons argued, “How can he be from God, seeing that he keepeth not the Sabbath?” (c. 9,16), therefore He saith, “Which My Father hath given unto Me.” Yet in truth, He acted with absolute power, but in order most abundantly to show that He doth nothing contrary to the Father, therefore He hath put the expression of much inferiority. Since why did He not say, “The works which the Father hath given Me testify that I am equal to the Father”? for both of these truths were to be earned from the works, that He did nothing contrary, and that He was equal to Him who begat Him; a point which He is establishing elsewhere, where He saith, “If ye believe not Me, believe the works: that ye may know and believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me.” 22 (c. x. 38). In both respects, therefore, the works bare witness to Him, that He was equal to the Father, and that He did nothing contrary to Him. Why then said He not so, instead of leaving out the greater and putting forward this? Because to establish this was His first object. For although it was a far less thing to have it believed that He came from God, than to have it believed that God was equal with Him, (for that belonged to the Prophets also, 23 but this never,) still He taketh much pains as to the lesser point, as knowing that, this admitted, 24 the other would afterwards be easily received. So that making no mention of the more important portion of the testimony, He putteth 25 its lesser office, that by this they may receive the other also. Having effected this, He addeth,
Jn 5,37. “And the Father Himself, which hath sent Me, hath borne witness of Me.”
Where did He “bear witness of” Him? In Jordan: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3,16); hear Him. 26 Yet even this needed proof. The testimony of Jn then was clear, for they themselves had sent to him, and could not deny it. The testimony from miracles was in like manner clear, for they had seen them wrought, and had heard from him who was healed, and had believed; whence also they drew their accusation. It therefore remained to give proof to the testimony of the Father. Next in order to effect this, He added,
“Ye have neither heard His voice at any time”:
How then saith Moses, “The Lord spake, and Moses answered”? (Ex 19,19); and David, “He had heard a tongue which he knew not” (Ps 81,5); and Moses again, “Is there any such people which hath ‘heard the voice of God’?” (Dt 4,33).“Nor seen His shape.”
Yet Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, are said to have seen Him, and many others. What then is that which Christ saith now? He guideth them by degrees to a philosophical doctrine, showing that with God is neither voice nor shape, but that He is higher than such forms or sounds lilac these. For as when He saith, “Ye have not heard His voice,” He doth not mean that God doth indeed utter a voice, but one which cannot be heard; so when He saith, “Nor seen His shape,” He doth not mean that God hath a shape though one invisible, but that neither of these things belongeth to God. And in order that they might not say, “Thou art a boaster, God spake to Moses only”; (this at least they did say, “We know that God spake with Moses: as for this fellow, we know not whence He is”—c. 9,29;) on this account He spake as He did, to show that there is neither voice nor shape with God. “But why,” He saith, “name I these things? Not only have ye ‘neither heard His voice nor seen His shape,’ but it is not even in your power to l assert that of which you most boast and of which you are all most fully assured, namely, that ye have received and keep His commandments.” Wherefore He addeth,
Jn 5,38. “And ye have not His word abiding in you.”
That is, the ordinances, the commandments, the Law, and the Prophets. For even if God ordained these, still they are not with you, since ye believe not on Me. Because, if the Scriptures everywhere say 27 that it is necessary to give heed to 28 Me, and yet ye believe not, it is quite clear that His word is removed from you. Wherefore again He addeth,
“For whom He hath sent, Him ye believe not.”
Then that they may not argue, “How, if we have not heard His voice, hath He testified unto thee?” He saith,
Jn 5,39. “Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me.”
Since by these the Father gave His testimony. He gave it indeed by Jordan also and in the mount, but Christ bringeth not forward those voices; perhaps by doing so 29 He would have been disbelieved; 30 for one of them, that in the mount, they did not hear, and the other they heard indeed, but heeded not. For this reason He referreth them to the Scriptures, showing that from them cometh the Father’s 31 testimony, having first removed the old grounds on which they used to boast, either as having seen God or as having heard His voice. For as it was likely that they would disbelieve His voice, and picture to themselves what took place on Sinai, after first correcting their suspicions on these points, and showing that what had been done was a condescension, He then referreth them to the testimony of the Scriptures.
[4.] And from these too let us also, when we war against heretics, arm and fortify ourselves. For “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work” (2Tm 3,16-17); not that he may have some and not others, for such a man is not “perfect.” For tell me what profit is it, if a man pray continually, but give not liberal alms? or if he give liberal alms, but be covetous or violent? or if he be not covetous nor violent, but (is liberal) to make a show before men, and to gain the praise of the beholders? or if he give alms withexactness and according to God’s pleasure, yet be lifted up by this very thing, and be highminded ? or if he be humble and constant in fasting, but covetous, greedy of gain, 32 and nailed to earth, and one who introduceth into his soul the mother of mischief? for the love of money is the root of all evils. 33 Let us then shudder at the action, let us flee the sin; this hath made the world a waste, 34 this hath brought all things into confusion, this seduceth us from the most blessed service of Christ. “It is not possible,” 35 He saith, “to serve God and mammon.” For mammon giveth commands contradictory to those of Christ. The one saith, “Give to them that need”; the other, “Plunder the goods of the needy.” Christ saith, “Forgive them that wrong thee”; the other, “Prepare snares against those who do thee no wrong.” Christ saith, “Be merciful and kind”; mammon saith, “Be savage and cruel, and count the tears of the poor as nothing”; to the intent that he may render the Judge stern to us in that day. For then all our actions shall come 36 before our eyes, and those who have been injured and stripped by us, shutting us out from all excuse. Since if Lazarus, who received no wrong from Dives, but only did not enjoy any of his good things, stood forth at that time 37 as a bitter accuser and allowed him not to obtain any pardon, what excuse, tell me, shall they have, who, besides giving no alms of their own substance, seize that of others, and overthrow orphans’ houses? If they who have not fed Christ when He hungered have drawn such fire upon their heads, what consolation shall they enjoy who plunder what belongs not to them at all, who weave ten thousand law-suits, who unjustly grasp the property of all men? Let us then cast out this desire; and we shall cast it out if we think of those before us who did wrongfully, who were covetous and are gone. Do 38 not others enjoy their wealth and labors while they lie in punishment, and vengeance, and intolerable woes? And how can this be anything but extreme folly, to weary and vex ourselves, that living we may strain ourselves with labor, and on our departure hence undergo intolerable punishments and vengeances, when we might have enjoyed ourselves here, (for nothing so much causeth pleasure as the consciousness of almsgiving, 39 and departing to that place might have been delivered from all our woes, and obtained ten thousand blessings? For as wickedness is wont to punish those who go after it, even before (they arrive at) the pit, so also virtue, even before the (gift of) the Kingdom, provides delights for those who here practice it, making them to live in company with good hopes and continual pleasure. Therefore that we may obtain this, both here and in the life to come, let us hold fast to good works, so shall we gain the future crown; to which may we all reach 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.
1 lit). “consequence.”
3 Savile reads, “and to the Jews, How say ye,” &c).
4 al). “let us see then with what intent these words were said.”
5 su; marturei`", G. T.
6 al). “ever.”
7 al. with the addition “to their,” &c.
8 al). “in every way.”
9 oJrma`n, al). cwrei`n.
10 Morel. reads, “’all but conclusively refuting them by what He saith.”
12 al). “showing that.”
13 clause omitted in Ben.
15 al). “nearer.”
16 This passage is read variously in Ben. and ms. but without any variety of meaning.
19 al). “reaches.”
20 ajpevsteile [ajpevstalke, G. T.].
22 ejn ejmoi; oJ Path;r, kajgw; ejn aujtw`/, G. T).
23 al). “the Prophets said.”
24 al). “said.”
25 al). “deems worthy of mention,”
26 The latter words heard at the Transfiguration.
27 al). “teach.”
28 al). “believe.”
30 al). “they would have disbelieved them.”
31 al). “of the Spirit.”
33 al). “for Paul has said,” &c.
34 or, “revolted,” ajnavstaton.
35 ouj duvnasqe, G. T.
36 al). “stand.”
38 al). “shall.”
39 al). “almsgiving and a clear conscience.”
" Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of Me. And ye will not come to Me that ye might have [eternal] life."
[1.] Beloved, let us make great account of spiritual things, and not think that it is sufficient for us to salvation to pursue them anyhow. For if in things of this life a man can gain no great profit if he conduct them in an indifferent and chance way, much more will this be the case in spiritual things, since these require yet greater attention. Wherefore Christ when He referred the Jews to the Scriptures, sent them not to a mere reading, but a careful and considerate2 search; for He said not, “Read the Scriptures,” but, “Search the Scriptures.” Since the sayings relating to Him required great attention, (for they had been concealed froth the beginning for the advantage of the men of that time,) He biddeth them now dig down with care that they might be able to discover what lay in the depth below. These sayings were not on the surface, nor were they cast forth to open view, but lay like some treasure hidden very deep. Now he that searcheth for hidden things, except he seek them with care and toil, will never find the object of his search. For which cause He said, “Search the Scriptures, because in them ye think ye have eternal life.” He said not, “Ye have,” but “ye think,” showing that they gained from them nothing great or high, expecting as they did to be saved by the mere reading, without the addition of3 faith. What He saith therefore is of this kind: “Do ye not admire the Scriptures, do ye not think that they are the causes of all life? By these I confirm My claims now, for they are they which testify of Me, yet ye will not come to Me that ye may have eternal life.” It was thus with good reason that He said, “ye think,” because they would not obey, but merely prided themselves on the bare reading. Then lest owing to His very tender care He should incur among them the suspicion of vainglory, and because He desired to be believed by them, should be deemed to be seeking His own; (for He reminded them of the words of John, and of the witness of God, and of His own works, and said all He could to draw them to Him, and promised them “life”;4 ) since, I say, it was likely that many would suspect that He spake these things from a desire of glory, hear what He saith:
Jn 5,41. “I receive not honor from men.”
That is, “I need it not”: “My nature,” He saith, “is not of such a kind as to need the honor which is from men, for if the sun can receive no addition from the light of a candle, much farther am I from needing the honor which is from men.” “Why then,” asks some one, “sayest thou these things, if thou needest it not?” “That ye may be saved.” This He positively asserted above, and the same He implied here also, by saying, “that ye might have life.” Moreover, He putteth another reason:
Jn 5,42. “But I know you that ye have not the love of God in you.”
For when under pretense of loving God they5 persecuted Him because He made Himself equal with God, and He knew that they would not believe Him, lest any one should ask, “why speakest thou these words?” “I speak them,” He saith, “to convict you of this, that it is not for the love of God that ye persecute Me, if it be so that He testifieth to Me both by works and by the Scriptures. For as before this when ye deemed Me an enemy of God ye drove Me away, so now, since I have declared these things, ye ought to have hastened to Me, if ye had really loved. God. But ye love Him not. And therefore have I spoken these words, to show that you are possessed with excessive pride, that you are vainly boasting and shading over6 your own enviousness.” And the same He proveth not by these things only, but by those that should come to pass.
Jn 5,43. “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him will ye receive.”
[2.] Seest thou that He everywhere declareth that He hath been “sent,” that judgment hath been committed to Him by the Father, that He can do nothing of Himself, in order that He may cut off all excuse for their unfairness? But who is it that He here saith shall come “in his own name”? He alludeth here to Antichrist, andputteth7 an incontrovertible proof of their unfairness. “For if as loving God ye persecute Me, much more ought this to have taken place8 in the case of Antichrist. For he will neither say that he is sent by the Father, nor that he cometh according to his will, but in everything contrariwise, seizing like a tyrant what belongeth not to him, and asserting that he is the very God over all, as Paul saith, ‘Exalting himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, showing himself that he is God.’ (2Th 2,4). This is to ‘come in his own name.’ I do not so, but am come in the Name of My Father.” That they received not One who said that He was sent of God, was a sufficient proof that they loved not God; but now from the contrary of this fact, from their being about to receive Antichrist, He showeth their shamelessness.9 For when they received not One who asserteth that He was sent by God, and are about to worship one who knoweth Him not, and who saith that he is God over all, it is clear that their persecution proceeded from malice and from hating God. On this account He putteth two reasons for His words; and first the kinder one, 10 “That ye may be saved”; and, “That ye may have life”: and when they would have mocked at Him, He putteth the other which was more striking, showing that even although His hearers should not believe, yet that God was wont always to do His own works. Now Paul speaking concerning Antichrist said prophetically, that “God shall send them strong delusion,—that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”(2 Thess. 2,11, 12). Christ said not, “He shall come”; but, “if He come,” from tenderness for His hearers; and because all their obstinacy 11 was not yet complete. He was silent as to the reason of His coming; but Paul, for those who can understand, has particularly alluded to it. For it is he who taketh away all excuse from them.
Christ then putteth also the cause of their unbelief, saying,
Jn 5,44. “How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?”
Hence again He showeth that they looked not to the things of God, but that under this pretense they desired to gratify private feeling, and were so far from doing this on account of His glory, that they preferred honor from men to that which cometh from Him. How then were they likely to entertain 12 such hostility towards Him 13 for a kind of honor which they so despised, as to prefer to it the honor which cometh from men?
Having told them that they had not the love of God, and having proved it by what was doing in His case, and by what should be in the case of Antichrist, and having demonstrated that they were deprived of all excuse, He next bringeth Moses to be their accuser, going on to say,
. “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?”
What He saith is of this kind: “It is Moses 14 who has been insulted more than I 15 by your conduct towards Me, for ye have disbelieved him rather than Me.” See how in every way He hath cast them out from all excuse. “Ye said that ye loved God when ye persecuted Me; I have shown that ye did so from hatred of Him: ye say 16 that I break the Sabbath and annul the Law; I have rid Me of this slander also: ye maintain 17 that ye believe in Moses by what ye dare to do against Me; I on the contrary show that this is most to disbelieve in Moses; for so far am I from opposing the Law, that he who shall accuse you is none other than the man who gave you the Law.” As then He said of the Scriptures, in which “ye think ye have eternal life,” so of Moses also He saith, “in whom ye trust”; everywhere conquering them by their own weapons.
“And whence,” saith some one, “is it clear that Moses will accuse us, and that thou art not a boaster? What hast thou to do with Moses? Thou hast broken the Sabbath which he ordained that we should keep; how then should he accuse us? And how doth it appear that we shall believe on another who cometh in his own name? All these assertions thou makest without evidence.” Now in truth all these points are proved above. “For” (Christ would reply) “since it is acknowledged that I came from God, both by the works, by the voice of John, and by the testimony of the Father, it is evident that Moses will accuse the Jews.” For what saith he? “If a man come doing miracles and leading you to God, and truly foretelling things future, ye must hearken unto him with all readiness.” Now Christ had done all this. He wrought miracles in very truth, He drew all men to God, and (so that He 18) caused accomplishment to follow His predictions. 19
“But whence doth it appear that they will believe another?” From their hating Christ, since they who turn aside froth Him who cometh according to the will of God will, it is quite plain, receive the enemy of God. And marvel not if He now putteth forward Moses, although He said, “I receive not witness from man,” for He referreth them not to Moses, but to the Scriptures of God. However, since the Scriptures terrified them less, He bringeth round His discourse to the very person (of Moses), setting over against them their Lawgiver as their accuser, thus rendering the terror more impressive; 20 and each of their assertions He refuteth. Observe: they said that they persecuted Him through love for God, He showeth that they did so through hating God; they said that they held fast to Moses, He showeth that they acted thus because they believed not Moses. For had they been zealous for the law, they ought to have received Him who fulfilled it; if they loved God they ought to have believed One who drew them to Him, if they believed Moses they ought to have done homage to One of whom Moses prophesied. “But” (saith Christ) “if Moses is disbelieved before My coming, it is nothing unlikely that I, who am heralded by him, should be driven away by you.” As then He had shown from their conduct towards Himself that they who admired Jn (really) despised him, so now He showeth that they who thought that they believed Moses, believed him not, and turneth back on their own head all that they thought to put forward in their own behalf. “So far,” He saith, “am I from drawing you away from the Law, that I call your Lawgiver himself to be your accuser.”
That the Scriptures testified of Him He declared, but where they testify He added not; desiring to inspire them with greater awe, and to prompt them to search, and to reduce them to the necessity of questioning. For had He told them readily and without their questioning, they would have rejected the testimony; but now, if they gave any heed to His words, they needed first of all to ask, and learn from Him what that testimony was. 21 On this account He dealeth the more largely in assertions and threats, not in proofs only, that even so He may bring them over by fear of what He saith; but they even so were silent. Such a thing is wickedness; whatsoever a man say or do it is not stirred to move, but remaineth keeping its peculiar venom).
Wherefore we must cast out all wickedness from our souls, and never more contrive any deceit; for, saith one, “To the perverse God sendeth crooked paths” (Pr 21,8 LXX).; and, “The holy spirit of discipline 22 will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding.” (Sg 1,5). For nothing maketh men so foolish as wickedness; since when a man is treacherous, unfair, 23 ungrateful, (these are different forms of wickedness,) when without having been wronged he grieves another, when he weaves deceits, how shall he not exhibit an example of excessive folly? Again, nothing maketh men so wise as virtue; it rendereth them thankful and fair-minded, merciful, mild, gentle, and candid; it is wont to be the mother of all other blessings. And what is more understanding than one so disposed? for virtue is the very spring and root of prudence, just as all wickedness hath its beginning in folly. For, the insolent man and the angry become the prey of their respective passions from lack of wisdom; on which account the prophet said, “There l is no soundness in my flesh: my wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness” (Ps 38,3-4): showing that all sin hath its beginning in folly: and so the virtuous man who hath the fear of God is more understanding than any; wherefore a wise man hath said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Pr 1,7). If then to fear God is to have wisdom, and the wicked man hath not that fear, he is deprived of that which is wisdom indeed;—and deprived of that which is wisdom indeed, he is more foolish than any. And yet many admire the wicked as being able to do injustice and harm, not knowing that they ought to deem them wretched above all men, who thinking to injure others thrust the sword against themselves;—an act of extremest folly, that a man should strike himself and not even know that he doth so, but should think that he is injuring another while he is killing himself. Wherefore Paul, knowing that we slay ourselves when we smite others, saith, “Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (1Co 6,7). For the not suffering wrong consists in doing none, as also the not being ill-used in not using others ill; though this assertion may seem a riddle to the many, and to those who will not learn true wisdom. Knowing this, let us not call wretched or lament for those who suffer injury or insult, but for such who inflict these things; these are they who have been most injured, who have made God to be at war with them, and have opened the mouths of ten thousand accusers, who are getting an evil reputation in the present life, and drawing down on themselves severe punishment in the life to come. While those who have been wronged by them, and have nobly borne it all, have God favorable to them, and all to condone with, and praise, and entertain them. Such as these in the present life, shall enjoy an exceeding good report, as affording the strongest example of true wisdom, and in the life to come shall share the good things everlasting; to which may we all attain through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
1 not in G. T.
2 al). “inquisitive.”
3 al). “being destitute of.”
4 al). “and promised all those things so as to draw them to Himself.”
5 al). “they often.”
6 al). “veiling.”
7 al). “whom also He putteth.”
8 al). “ought ye to do this.”
9 al). “enviousness.”
10 al). “kindness, saying.”
11 al). “wickedness.”
13 or, “to take on them such hostility as they would have incurred by following Him.”
15 or, “before Me.”
16 al). “accuse.”
17 al). “profess.”
18 Not in all copies.
19 Not found in so many words. The command is given with this test, ; see also Dt 13,1.
20 al “more horrible.”
21 al). “to enquire even if He held His peace.”
Chrysostom on John 40