Origen on John 125


Now He is called the light of men and the true light and the light of the word, because He brightens and irradiates the higher parts of men, or, in a word, of all reasonable beings. And similarly it is from and because of the energy with which He causes the old deadness to be put aside and that which is par excellence life to be put on, so that those who have truly received Him rise again from the dead, that He is called the resurrection. And this He does not only at the moment at which a man says, "We are buried with Christ through baptism and have risen again with Him," but much rather when a man, having laid off all about him that belongs to death, walks in the newness of life which belongs to Him, the Son, while here. We always "carry about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus," and thus we reap the vast advantage, "that the life of the Lord Jesus might be made manifest in our bodies."


But that progress too, which is in wisdom and which is found by those who seek their salvation in it to do for them what they require both in respect of exposition of truth in the divine word and in respect of conduct according to true righteousness, it lets us understand how Christ is the way. In this way we have to take nothing with us, neither wallet nor coat; we must travel without even a stick, nor must we have shoes on our feet. For this road is itself sufficient for all the supplies of our journey; and every one who walks on it wants nothing. He is clad with a garment which is fit for one who is setting out in response to an invitation to a wedding; and on this road he cannot meet anything that can annoy him. "No one," Solomon says, "can find out the way of a serpent upon a rock." I would add, or that of any other beast. Hence there is no need of a staff on this road, on which there is no trace of any hostile creature, and the hardness of which, whence also it is called rock (petra), makes it incapable of harbouring anything hurtful.


Further, the Only-begotten is the truth, because He embraces in Himself according to the Father's will the whole reason of all things, and that with perfect clearness, and being the truth communicates to each creature in proportion to its worthiness. And should any one enquire whether all that the Father knows, according to the depth of His riches and His wisdom and His knowledge, is known to our Saviour also, and should he, imagining that he will thereby glorify the Father, show that some things known to the Father are unknown to the Son, although He might have had an equal share of the apprehensions of the unbegotten God, we must remind him that it is from His being the truth that He is Saviour, and add that if He is the truth complete, then there is nothing true which He does not know; truth must not limp for the want of the things which, according to those persons, are known to the Father only. Or else let it be shown that some things are known to which the name of truth does not apply, but which are above the truth.


It is clear also that the principle of that life which is pure and unmixed with any other element, resides in Him who is the first-born of all creation, taking from which those who have a share in Christ live the life which is true life, while all those who are thought to live apart from this, as they have not the true light, have not the true life either.


But as one cannot be in the Father or with the Father except by ascending from below upwards and coming first to the divinity of the Son, through which one may be led by the hand and brought to the blessedness of the Father Himself, so the Saviour has the inscription "The Door." And as He is a lover of men, and approves the impulse of human souls to better things, even of those who do not hasten to reason (the Logos), but like sheep have a weakness and gentleness apart from all accuracy and reason, so He is the Shepherd. For the Lord saves men and beasts, and Israel and Juda are sowed with the seed not of men only but also of beasts.


In addition to these titles we must consider at the outset of our work that of Christ, and we must also consider that of King, and compare these two so as to find out the difference between them. Now it is said in the forty-fourth Psalm, "Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity, whence Thou art anointed (Christ) above Thy fellows." His loving righteousness and hating iniquity were thus added claims in Him; His anointing was not contemporary with His being nor inherited by Him from the first. Anointing is a symbol of entering on the kingship, and sometimes also on the priesthood; and must we therefore conclude that the kingship of the Son of God is not inherited nor congenital to Him? But how is it conceivable that the First-born of all creation was not a king and became a king afterwards because He loved righteousness, when, moreover, He Himself was righteousness? We cannot fail to see that it is as a man that He is Christ, in respect of His soul, which was human and liable to be troubled and sore vexed, but that He is conceived as king in respect of the divine in Him. I find support for this in the seventy-first Psalm, which says, "Give the king Thy judgment, O God, and Thy righteousness to the king's Son, to judge Thy people in righteousness and Thy poor in judgment." This Psalm, though addressed to Solomon, is evidently a prophecy of Christ, and it is worth while to ask to what king the prophecy desires judgment to be given by God, and to what king's Son, and what king's righteousness is spoken of. I conceive, then, that what is called the King is the leading nature of the First-born of all creation, to which judgment is given on account of its eminence; and that the man whom He assumed, formed and moulded by that nature, according to righteousness, is the King's Son. I am the more led to think that this is so, because the two beings are here brought together in one sentence, and are spoken of as if they were not two but one. For the Saviour made both one, that is, He made them according to the prototype of the two which had been made one in Himself before all things. The two I refer to human nature, since each man's soul is mixed with the Holy Spirit, and each of those who are saved is thus made spiritual. Now as there are some to whom Christ is a shepherd, as we said before, because of their meek and composed nature, though they are less guided by reason; so there are those to whom He is a king, those, namely, who are led in their approach to religion rather by the reasonable part of their nature. And among those who are under a king there are differences; some experience his rule in a more mystic and hidden and more divine way, others in a less perfect fashion. I should say that those who, led by reason, apart from all agencies of sense, have beheld incorporeal things, the things which Paul speaks of as "invisible," or "not seen," that they are ruled by the leading nature of the Only-begotten, but that those who have only advanced as far as the reason which is conversant with sensible things, and on account of these glorify their Maker, that these also are governed by the Word, by Christ. No offence need be taken at our distinguishing these notions in the Saviour; we draw the same distinctions in His substance.


It is plain to all how our Lord is a teacher and an interpreter for those who are striving towards godliness, and on the other hand a master of those servants who have the spirit of bondage to fear, who make progress and hasten towards wisdom, and are found worthy to possess it. For "the servant knoweth not what the master wills," since he is no longer his master, but has become his friend. The Lord Himself teaches this, for He says to hearers who were still servants: "You call Me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am," but in another passage, "I call you no longer servants, for the servant knoweth not what is the will of his master, but I call you friends," because "you have continued with Me in all My temptations." They, then, who live according to fear, which God exacts from those who are not good servants, as we read in Malachi, "If I am a Master, where is My fear?" are servants of a master who is called their Saviour.


None of these testimonies, however, sets forth distinctly the Saviour's exalted birth; but when the words are addressed to Him, "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee," this is spoken to Him by God, with whom all time is to-day, for there is no evening with God, as I consider, and there is no morning, nothing but time that stretches out, along with His unbeginning and unseen life. The day is to-day with Him in which the Son was begotten, and thus the beginning of His birth is not found, as neither is the day of it.


To what we have said must be added how the Son is the true vine. Those will have no difficulty in apprehending this who understand, in a manner worthy of the prophetic grace, the saying: "Wine maketh glad the heart of man." For if the heart be the intellectual part, and what rejoices it is the Word most pleasant of all to drink which takes us off human things, makes us feel ourselves inspired, and intoxicates us with an intoxication which is not irrational but divine, that, I conceive, with which Joseph made his brethren merry, then it is very clear how He who brings wine thus to rejoice the heart of man is the true vine. He is the true vine, because the grapes He bears are the truth, the disciples are His branches, and they, also, bring forth the truth as their fruit. It is somewhat difficult to show the difference between the vine and bread, for He says, not only that He is the vine, but that He is the bread of life. May it be that as bread nourishes and makes strong, and is said to strengthen the heart of man, but wine, on the contrary, pleases and rejoices and melts him, so ethical studies, bringing life to him who learns them and reduces them to practice, are the bread of life, but cannot properly be called the fruit of the vine, while secret and mystical speculations, rejoicing the heart and causing those to feel inspired who take them in, delighting in the Lord, and who desire not only to be nourished but to be made happy, are called the juice of the true vine, because they flow from it.


Further, we have to ask in what sense He is called in the Apocalypse the First and the Last, and how, in His character as the First, He is not the same as the Alpha and the beginning, while in His character as the Last He is not the same as the Omega and the end. It appears to me, then, that the reason able beings which exist are characterized by many forms, and that some of them are the first, some the second, some the third, and so on to the last. To pronounce exactly, however, which is the first, what kind of a being the second is, which may truly be designated third, and to carry this out to the end of the series, this is not a task for man, but transcends our nature. We shall yet venture, such as we are, to stand still a little at this point, and to make some observations on the matter. There are some gods of whom God is god, as we hear in prophecy, "Thank ye the God of gods," and "The God of gods hath spoken, and called the earth." Now God, according to the Gospel, "is not the God of the dead but of the living." Those gods, then, are living of whom God is god. The Apostle, too, writing to the Corinthians, says: "As there are gods many and lords many," and so we have spoken of these gods as really existing. Now there are, besides the gods of whom God is god, certain others, who are called thrones, and others called dominions, lordships, also, and powers in addition to these. The phrase, "above every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come," leads us to believe that there are yet others besides these which are less familiar to us; one kind of these the Hebrews called Sabai, from which Sabaoth was formed, who is their ruler, and is none other than God. Add to all these the reasonable being who is mortal, man. Now the God of all things made first in honour some race of reasonable beings; this I consider to be those who are called gods, and the second order, let us say, for the present, are the thrones, and the third, undoubtedly, the dominions. And thus we come down in order to the last reasonable race, which, perhaps, cannot be any other than man. The Saviour accordingly became, in a diviner way than Paul, all things to all, that He might either gain all or perfect them; it is clear that to men He became a man, and to the angels an angel. As for His becoming man no believer has any doubt, but as to His becoming an angel, we shall find reason for believing it was so, if we observe carefully the appearances and the words of the angels, in some of which the powers of the angels seem to belong to Him. In several passages angels speak in such a way as to suggest this, as when "the angel of the Lord appeared in a flame of fire. And he said. I am the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob." But Isaiah also says: "His name is called Angel of Great Counsel." The Saviour, then, is the first and the last, not that He is not what lies between, but the extremities are named to show that He became all things. Consider, however, whether the last is man, or the things said to be under the earth, of which are the demons, all of them or some. We must ask, too, about those things which the Saviour became which He speaks of through the prophet David, "And I became as a man without any to help him, free among the dead." His birth from the Virgin and His life so admirably lived showed Him to be more than man, and it was the same among the dead. He was the only free person there, and His soul was not left in hell. Thus, then, He is the first and the last. Again, if there be letters of God, as such there are, by reading which the saints may say they have read what is written on the tablets of heaven, these letters, by which heavenly things are to be read, are the notions, divided into small parts, into Alpha and so on to Omega, the Son of God. Again, He is the beginning and the end, but He is this not in all His aspects equally. For He is the beginning, as the Proverbs teach us, inasmuch as He is wisdom; it is written: "The Lord rounded Me in the beginning of His ways. for His works." In the respect of His being the Logos He is not the beginning. "The Word was in the beginning." Thus in His aspects one comes first and is the beginning, and there is a second after the beginning, and a third, and so on to the end, as if He had said, I am the beginning. inasmuch as I am wisdom, and the second, perhaps, inasmuch as I am invisible, and the third in that I am life, for "what was made was life in Him." One who was qualified to examine and to discern the sense of Scripture might, no doubt, find many members of the series; I cannot say if he could find them all. "The beginning and the end" is a phrase we usually apply to a thing that is a completed unity; the beginning of a house is its foundation and the end the parapet. We cannot but think of this figure. since Christ is the stone which is the head of the corner, to the great unity of the body of the saved. For Christ the only-begotten Son is all and in all, He is as the beginning in the man He assumed, He is present as the end in the last of the saints, and He is also in those between, or else He is present as the beginning in Adam, as the end in His life on earth, according to the saying: "The last Adam was made a quickening spirit." This saying harmonizes well with the interpretation we have given of the first and the last.


In what has been said about the first and the last, and about the beginning and the end, we have referred these words at one point to the different forms of reasonable beings, at another to the different conceptions of the Son of God. Thus we have gained a distinction between the first and the beginning, and between the last and the end, and also the distinctive meaning of Alpha and Omega. It is not hard to see why he is called "the Living and the Dead," and after being dead He that is alive for evermore. For since we were not helped by His original life, sunk as we were in sin, He came down into our deadness in order that, He having died to sin, we, bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus. might then receive that life of His which is for evermore. For those who always carry about in their body the dying of Jesus shall obtain the life of Jesus also, manifested in their bodies.


The texts of the New Testament, which we have discussed, are things said by Himself about Himself. Isaiah, however, He said that His mouth had been set by His Father as a sharp sword, and that He was hidden under the shadow of His hand, made like to a chosen shaft and kept close in the Father's quiver, called His servant by the God of all things, and Israel, and Light of the Gentiles. The mouth of the Son of God is a sharp sword, for "The word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart." And indeed He came not to bring peace on the earth, that is, to corporeal and sensible things, but a sword, and to cut through, if I may say so, the disastrous friendship of soul and body, so that the soul, committing herself to the spirit which was against the flesh, may enter into friendship with God. Hence, according to the prophetic word, He made His mouth as a sword, as a sharp sword. Can any one behold so many wounded by the divine love, like her in the Song of Songs, who complained that she was wounded: "I am wounded with love," and find the dart that wounded so many souls for the love of God, in any but Him who said, "He hath made Me as a chosen shaft."


Again, let any one consider how Jesus was to His disciples, not as He who sits at meat, but as He who serves, and how though the Son of God He took on Him the form of a servant for the sake of the freedom of those who were enslaved in sin, and he will be at no loss to account for the Father's saying to Him: "Thou art My servant," and a little further on: "It is a great thing that thou shouldst be called My servant." For we do not hesitate to say that the goodness of Christ appears in a greater and more divine light, and more according to the image of the Father, because "He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," than if He had judged it a thing to be grasped to be equal with God, and had shrunk from becoming a servant for the salvation of the world. Hence He says, desiring to teach us that in accepting this state of servitude He had received a great gift from His Father: "And My God shall be My strength. And He said to Me, It is a great thing for Thee to be called My servant." For if He had not become a servant, He would not have raised up the tribes of Jacob, nor have turned the heart of the diaspora of Israel, and neither would He have become a light of the Gentiles to be for salvation to the ends of the earth. And it is no great thing for Him to become a servant, even if it is called a great thing by His Father, for this is in comparison with His being called with an innocent sheep and with a lamb. For the Lamb of God became like an innocent sheep being led to the slaughter, that He may take away the sin of the world. He who supplies reason (logos) to all is made like a lamb which is dumb before her shearer, that we might be purified by His death, which is given as a sort of medicine against the opposing power, and also against the sin of those who open their minds to the truth. For the death of Christ reduced to impotence those powers which war against the human race, and it set free from sin by a power beyond our words the life of each believer. Since, then, He takes away sin until every enemy shall be destroyed and death last of all, in order that the whole world may be free from sin, therefore John points to Him and says: "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." It is not said that He will take it away in the future, nor that He is at present taking it, nor that He has taken it, but is not taking it away now. His taking away sin is still going on, He is taking it away from every individual in the world, till sin be taken away from the whole world, and the Saviour deliver the kingdom prepared and completed to the Father, a kingdom in which no sin is left at all, and which, therefore, is ready to accept the Father as its king, and which on the other hand is waiting to receive all God has to bestow, fully, and in every part, at that time when the saying is fulfilled, "That God may be all in all." Further, we hear of a man who is said to be coming after John, who was made before him and was before him. This is to teach us that the man also of the Son of God, the man who was mixed with His divinity, was older than His birth from Mary. John says he does not know this man, but must he not have known Him when he leapt for joy when yet a babe unborn in Elisabeth's womb, as soon as the voice of Mary's salutation sounded in the ears of the wife of Zacharias? Consider, therefore, if the words "I know Him not" may have reference to the period before the bodily existence. Though he did not know Him before He assumed His body, yet he knew Him when yet in his mother's womb, and perhaps he is here learning something new about Him beyond what was known to him before, namely, that on whomsoever the Holy Spirit shall descend and abide on him, that is he who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He knew him from his mother's womb, but not all about Him. He did not know perhaps that this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire, when he saw the Spirit descending and abiding on Him. Yet that He was indeed a man, and the first man, John did not know.


But none of the names we have mentioned expresses His representation of us with the Father, as He pleads for human nature, and makes atonement for it; the Paraclete, and the propitiation, and the atonement. He has the name Paraclete in the Epistle of John: "If any man sin, we have a Paraclete with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." And He is said in the same epistle to be the atonement for our sins. Similarly, in the Epistle to the Romans, He is called a propitiation: "Whom God set forth to be a propitiation through faith." Of this proportion there was a type in the inmost part of the temple, the Holy of Holies, namely, the golden mercy-seat placed upon the two cherubim. But how could He ever be the Paraclete, and the atonement, and the propitiation without the power of God, which makes an end of our weakness, flows over the souls of believers, and is administered by Jesus, who indeed is prior to it and Himself the power of God, who enables a man to say: "I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengtheneth me." Whence we know that Simon Magus, who gave himself the title of "The power of God, which is called great," was consigned to perdition and destruction, he and his money with him. We, on the contrary, who confess Christ as the true power of God, believe that we share with Him, inasmuch as He is that power, all things in which any energy resides.


We must not, however, pass over in silence that He is of right the wisdom of God, and hence is called by that name. For the wisdom of the God and Father of all things does not apprehend His substance in mere visions, like the phantasms of human thoughts. Whoever is able to conceive a bodiless existence of manifold speculations which extend to the rationale of existing things, living and, as it were, ensouled, he will see how well the Wisdom of God which is above every creature speaks of herself, when she says: "God created me the beginning of His ways, for His works." By this creating act the whole creation was enabled to exist, not being unreceptive of that divine wisdom according to which it was brought into being; for God, according to the prophet David, made all things in wisdom. But many things came into being by the help of wisdom, which do not lay hold of that by which they were created: and few things indeed there are which lay hold not only of that wisdom which con cerns themselves, but of that which has to do with many things besides, namely, of Christ who is the whole of wisdom. But each of the sages, in proportion as he embraces wisdom, partakes to that extent of Christ, in that He is wisdom; just as every one who is greatly gifted with power, in proportion as he has power, in that proportion also has a share in Christ, inasmuch as He is power. The same is to be thought about sanctification and redemption; for Jesus Himself is made sanctification to us and redemption. Each of us is sanctified with that sanctification, and redeemed with that redemption. Consider, moreover, if the words "to us," added by the Apostle, have any special force. Christ, he says, "was made to us of God, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." In other passages, he speaks about Christ as being wisdom, without any such qualification, and of His being power, saying that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, though we might have conceived that He was not the wisdom of God or the power of God, absolutely, but only for us. Now, in respect of wisdom and power, we have both forms of the statement, the relative and the absolute; but in respect of sanctification and redemption, this is not the case. Consider, therefore, since "He that sanctifies and they that are sanctified are all of one," whether the Father is the sanctification of Him who is our sanctification, as, Christ being our head, God is His head. But Christ is our redemption because we had become prisoners and needed ransoming. I do not enquire as to His own redemption, for though He was tempted in all things as we are, He was without sin, and His enemies never reduced Him to captivity.


Having expiscated the "to us" and the "absolutely"--santification and redemption being "to us" and not absolute, wisdom and redemption both to us and absolute--we must not omit to enquire into the position of righteousness in the same passage. That Christ is righteousness relatively to us appears clearly from the words: "Who was made to us of God wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption." And if we do not find Him to be righteousness absolutely as He is the wisdom and the power of God absolutely, then we must enquire whether to Christ Himself, as the Father is santification, so the Father is also righteousness. There is, we know, no unrighteousness with God; He is a righteous and holy Lord, and His judgments are in righteousness, and being righteous, He orders all things righteously.

The heretics drew a distinction for purposes of their own between the just and the good. They did not make the matter very clear, but they considered that the demiurge was just, while the Father of Christ was good. That distinction may, I think, if carefully examined, be applied to the Father and the Son; the Son being righteousness, and having received powers to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man and will judge the world in righteousness, but the Father doing good to those who have been disciplined by the righteousness of the Son. This is after the kingdom of the Son; then the Father will manifest in His works His name the Good, when God becomes all in all. And perhaps by His righteousness the Saviour prepares everything at the fit times, and by His word, by His ordering, by His chastisements, and, if I may use such an expression, by His spiritual healing aids, disposes all things to receive at the end the goodness of the Father. It was from His sense of that goodness that He answered him who addressed the Only-begotten with the words "Good Master," and said, "Why callest thou Me good? None is good but one, God, the Father." This we have treated of elsewhere, especially in dealing with the question of the greater than the demiurge; Christ we have taken to be the demiurge, and the Father the greater than He. Such great things, then, He is, the Paraclete, the atonement, the propitiation, the sympathizer with our weaknesses, who was tempted in all human things, as we are, without sin; and in consequence He is a great High-Priest, having offered Himself as the sacrifice which is offered once for all, and not for men only but for every rational creature. For without God He tasted death for every one. In some copies of the Epistle to the Hebrews the words are "by the grace of God." Now, whether He tasted death for every one without God. He died not for men only but for all other intellectual beings too, or whether He tasted death for every one by the grace of God, He died for all without God, for by the grace of God He tasted death for every one. It would surely be absurd to say that He tasted death for human sins and not for any other being besides man which had fallen into sin, as for example for the stars. For not even the stars are clean in the eyes of God, as we read in Job, "The stars are not clean in His sight," unless this is to be regarded as a hyperbole. Hence he is a great High-Priest, since He restores all things to His Father's kingdom, and arranges that whatever defects exist in each part of creation shall be filled up so as to be full of the glory of the Father. This High-Priest is called, from some other notion of him than those we have noticed, Judas, that those who are Jews secretly may take the name of Jew not froth Judah, son of Jacob, but from Him, since they are His brethren, and praise Him for the freedom they have attained. For it is He who sets them free, saving them from their enemies on whose backs He lays His hand to subdue them. When He has put under His feet the opposing power, and is alone in presence of His Father, then He is Jacob and Israel; and thus as we are made light by Him, since He is the light of the world, so we are made Jacob since He is called Jacob, and Israel since He is called Israel.


Now He receives the kingdom from the king whom the children of Israel appointed, beginning the monarchy not at the divine command and without even consulting God. He therefore fights the battles of the Lord and so prepares peace for His Son, His people, and this perhaps is the reason why He is called David. Then He is called a rod; such He is to those who need a harder and severer discipline, and have not submitted to the love and gentleness of God. On this account, if He is a rod, He has to "go forth;" He does not remain in Himself, but appears to go beyond His earlier state. Going forth, then, and becoming a rod, He does not remain a rod, but after the rod He becomes a flower that rises up, and after being a rod He is made known as a flower to those who, by His being a rod, have met with visitation. For "God will visit their iniquities with a red," that is, Christ. But "His mercy He will not take from him," for He will have mercy on him, for on whom the Son has mercy the Father has mercy also. An interpretation may be given which makes Him a rod and a flower in respect of different persons, a rod to those who have need of chastisement, a flower to those who are being saved; but I prefer the account of the matter given above. We must add here, however, that, perhaps, looking to the end, if Christ is a rod to any man He is also a flower to him, while it is not the case that he who receives Him as a flower must also know Him as a rod. And yet as one flower is more perfect than another and plants are said to flower, even though they bring forth no perfect fruit, so the perfect receive that of Christ which transcends the flower. Those, on the other hand, who have known Him as a rod will partake along with it, not in His perfection, but in the flower which comes before the fruit. Last of all, before we come to the word Logos, Christ was a stone, set at naught by the builders but placed on the head of the corner, for the living stones are built up as on a foundation on the other stones of the Apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself our Lord being the chief corner-stone, because He is a part of the building made of living stones in the land of the living; therefore He is called a stone. All this we have said to show how capricious and baseless is the procedure of those who, when so many names are given to Christ, take the mere appellation "the Word," without enquiring, as in the case of His other titles, in what sense it is used; surely they ought to ask what is meant when it is said of the Son of God that He was the Word, and God, and that He was in the beginning with the Father, and that all things were made by Him.

Origen on John 125