Augustin on John 35
1. In the four Gospels, or rather in the four books of the one Gospel, Saint John the apostle, not undeservedly in respect of his spiritual understanding compared to the eagle, has elevated his preaching higher and far more sublimely than the other three; and in this elevating of it he would have our hearts likewise lifted up. For the other three evangelists walked with the Lord on earth as with a man; concerning His divinity they have said but little; but this evangelist, as if he disdained to walk on earth, just as in the very opening of his discourse he thundered on us, soared not only above the earth and above the whole compass of air and sky, but even above the whole army of angels and the whole order of invisible powers, and reached to Him by whom all things were made; saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.” To this so great sublimity of his beginning all the rest of his preaching well agrees; and he has spoken concerning the divinity of the Lord as none other has spoken. What he had drank in, the same he gave forth. For it is not without reason that it is recorded of him in this very Gospel, that at supper he reclined on the Lord’s bosom. From that breast then he drank in secret; but what he drank in secret he gave forth openly, that there may come to all nations not only the incarnation of the Son of God, and His passion and resurrection, but also what He was before His incarnation, the only Son of the Father, the Word of the Father, coeternal with Him that begat, equal with Him by whom He was sent; but yet in that very sending made less, that the Father might be greater.
2. Whatever, then, you have heard stated in lowly manner concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, think of that economy by which He assumed flesh; but whatever you hear, or read, stated in the Gospel concerning Him that is sublime and high above all creatures, and divine, and equal and coeternal with the Father, be sure that this which you read appertains to the form of God, not to the form of the servant. For if you hold this rule, you who can understand it (inasmuch as you are not all able to understand it, but you are all bound to trust it),-if, I say, you hold this rule, as men walking in the light, you will fight against the calumnies of heretical darkness without fear. For there have not been wanting those who, in reading the Gospel, followed only those testimonies that concern the humility of Christ, and have been deaf to those which have declared His divinity; deaf for this reason, that they may be full of evil words. There have likewise been some, who, giving heed only to those which speak of the excellency of the Lord, even though they have read of His mercy in becoming man for our sakes, have not believed the testimonies, but accounted them false and invented by men; contending that our Lord Jesus Christ was only God, not also man Some in this way, some in that: both in error. But the catholic faith, holding from both the truths which each holds and preaching the truth which each believes, has both understood that Christ is God and also believed Him to be man: for each is written and each is true. Shouldst thou assert that Christ is only God, thou deniest the medicine whereby thou wast healed: shouldst thou assert that Christ is only man, thou deniest the power whereby thou wast created. Hold therefore both. O faithful soul and catholic heart, hold both, believe both, faithfully confess both. Christ is both God and also man. How is Christ God? Equal with the Father, one with the Father. How is Christ man? Born of a virgin, taking upon Himself mortality from man, but not taking iniquity.
3 These Jews then saw the man; they neither perceived nor believed Him to be God: and you have already heard how, among all the rest, they said to Him, “Thou bearest witness of thyself; thy witness is not true.” You have also heard what He said in reply, as it was read to you yesterday, and according to our ability discussed. To-day have been read these words of His, “Ye judge after the flesh.” Therefore it is, saith He, that you say to me, “Thou bearest witness of thyself; thy witness is not true,” because you judge after the flesh, because you perceive not God; the man you see, and by persecuting the man, you offend God hidden in Him. “Ye,” then, “judge after the flesh.” Because I bear witness of myself, I therefore appear to you arrogant. For every man, when he wishes to bear commendatory witness of himself, seems arrogant and proud. Hence it is written, “Let not thy own mouth praise thee, but let thy neighbor’s” mouth praise thee.1 But this was said to man. For we are weak, and we speak to the weak. We can speak the truth, but we can also lie; although we are bound to speak the truth, still we have it in our power to lie when we will. But far be it from us to think that the darkness of falsehood could be found in the splendor of the divine light. He spoke as the light, spoke as the truth; but the light was shining in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not: therefore they judged after the flesh. “Ye,” saith He, “judge after the flesh.”
4. “I judge not any man.” Does not the Lord Jesus Christ, then, judge any man? Is He not the same of whom we confess that He rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven, there sits at the right hand of the Father, and thence shall come to judge the quick and the dead? Is not this our faith of which the apostle says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation?”2 When, therefore, we confess these things, do we contradict the Lord? We say that He shall come a judge of the quick and the dead, whilst He says Himself, “I judge not any man.” This question maybe solved in two ways: Either that we may understand this expression, “I judge not any man,” to mean, I judge not any man now; in accordance with what He says in another place, “I am not come to judge the world, But to save the world;” not denying His judgment here, but deferring it. Or, otherwise, surely that when He said, “Ye judge after the flesh,” He subjoined, “I judge not any man,” in such manner that thou shouldst understand “after the flesh” to complete the sense. Therefore let no scruple of doubt remain in our heart against the faith which we hold and declare concerning Christ as judge. Christ is come, but first to save, then to judge: to adjudge to punishment those who would not be saved; to bring them to life who, by believing, did not reject salvation. Accordingly, the first dispensation of our Lord Jesus Christ is medicinal, not judicial; for if He had come to judge first, He would have found none on whom He might bestow the rewards of righteousness. Because, therefore, He saw that all were sinners, and that none was exempt from the death of sin, His mercy had first to be craved, and afterwards His judgmentmust be executed; for of Him the psalm had sung, “Mercy and judgment will I sin to Thee, O Lord.”3 Now, He says not judgment and mercy,” for if judgment had been first, there would be no mercy; but it is mercy first, then judgment. What is the mercy first? The Creator of man deigned to become man; was made what He had made, that the creature He had made might not perish. What can be added to this mercy? And yet He has added thereto. It was not enough for Him to be made man, He added to this that He was rejected of men; it was not enough to be rejected, He was dishonored; it was not enough to be dishonored, He was put to death; but even this was not enough, it was by the death of the cross. For when the apostle was commending to us His obedience even unto death, it was not enough for him to say, “He became obedient unto death;” for it was not unto death of any kind whatever: but he added, “even the death of the cross.”4 Among all kinds of death, there was nothing worse than that death. In short, that wherein one is racked by the most intense pains is called cruciatus, which takes its name from crux, a cross. For the crucified, hanging on the tree, nailed to the wood, were killed by a slow lingering death. To be crucified was not merely to be put to death; for the victim lived long on the cross, not because longer life was chosen, but because death itself was stretched out that the pain might not be too quickly ended. He willed to die for us, yet it is not enough to say this; He deigned to be crucified, became obedient even to the death of the cross. He who was about to take away all death, chose the lowest and worst kind of death: He slew death by the worst of deaths. To the Jews who understood not, it was indeed the worst of deaths, but it was chosen by the Lord. For He was to have that very cross as His sign; that very cross, a trophy, as it were, over the vanquished devil, He was to put on the brow of believers, so that the apostle said, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.”5 Nothing was then more intolerable in the flesh, nothing is now more glorious on the brow. What does He reserve for His faithful one, when He has put such honor on the instrument of His own torture? Now is the cross no longer used among the Romans in the punishment of criminals, for where the cross of the Lord came to be honored, it was thought that even a guilty man would be honored if he should be crucified. Hence, He who came for this cause judged no man: He suffered also the wicked. He suffered unjust judgment, that He might execute righteous judgment. But it was of His mercy that He endured unjust judgment. In short, He became so low as to come to the cross; yea, laid aside His power, but published His mercy. Wherein did He lay aside His power? In that He would not come down from the cross, though He had the power to rise again from the sepulchre. Wherein did He publish His mercy? In that, when hanging on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”6 Whether, then, it be that He said, “I judge not any man,” because He had come not to judge the world, out to save the world; or, that, as I have mentioned, when He had said, “Ye judge after the flesh,” He added, “I judge not any man,” for us to understand that Christ judgeth not after the flesh, like as He was judged by men.
5. But that you may know that Christ is judge even now, hear what follows: “And if I judge, my judgment is true.” Behold, thou hast Him as thy judge, but acknowledge Him as thy Saviour, lest thou feel the judge. But why has He said that His judgment is true? “Because,” saith He, “I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.” I have said to you, brethren, that this holy Evangelist Jn soars exceedingly high: it is with difficulty that he is comprehended. But we need to remind you, beloved, of the deeper mystery of this soaring. Both in the prophet Ezekiel, and in the Apocalypse of this very John whose Gospel this is, there is mentioned a fourfold living creature, having four characteristic faces; that of a man, of an ox, of a lion, and of an eagle. Those who have handled the mysteries of Holy Scripture before us have, for the most part, understood by this living creature, or rather, these four living creatures, the four evangelists. They have understood the lion as put for king, because he appears to be, in a manner, the king of beasts on account of his strength and terrible valor. This character is assigned to Matthew, because in the generations of the Lord he followed the royal line, showing how the Lord was, along the royal line, of the seed of David. But Luke, because he begins with the priesthood of Zacharias, mentioning the father of Jn the Baptist, is designatedthe ox; for the ox was an important victim in the sacrifice of the priests. To Mc is deservedly assigned the man Christ, because neither has he said anything of the royal authority, nor did he begin with the priestly function, but only set out with the man Christ. All these have departed but little from the things of earth, that is, from those things which our Lord Jesus Christ performed on earth; of His divinity they have said very little, like men walking with Him on the earth. There remains the eagle; this is John, the preacher of sublime truths, and a contemplator with steady gaze of the inner and eternal light. It is said, indeed, that the young eagles are tested by the parent birds in this way: the young one is suspended from the talons of the male parent and directly exposed to the rays of the sun; if it looks steadily at the sun, it is recognized as a true brood; if its eye quivers, it is allowed to drop off, as a spurious brood. Now, therefore, consider how sublime are the things he ought to speak who is compared to the eagle; and yet even we, who creep on the earth, weak and hardly of any account among men, venture to handle and to expound these things; and imagine that we can either apprehend when we meditate them, or be apprehended when we speak.
6. Why have I said this? For perhaps after these words one may justly say to me: Lay aside the book then. Why dost thou take in hand what exceeds thy measure? Why trust thy tongue to it? To this I reply: Many heretics abound; and God has permitted them to abound to this end, that we may not be always nourished with milk and remain in senseless infancy. For inasmuch as they have not understood how the divinity of Christ is set forth to our acceptance, they have concluded according to their will: and by not discerning aright, they have brought in most troublesome questions upon catholic believers; and the hearts of believers began to be disturbed and to waver. Then immediately it became a necessity for spiritual men, who had not only read in the Gospel anything respecting the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, but had also understood it, to bring forth the armor of Christ against the armor of the devil, and with all their might to fight in most open conflict for the divinity of Christ against false and deceitful teachers; lest, while they were silent, others might perish. For whoever have thought either that our Lord Jesus Christ is of another substance than the Father is, or that there is only Christ, so that the same is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; whoever also have chosen to think that He was only man, not God made man, or God in such wise as to be mutable in His Godhead, or God in such wise as not to be man; these have made shipwreck from the faith, and have been cast forth from the harbor of the Church, lest by their inquietude they might wreck the ships in their company. Which thing obliged that even we, though least and as regards ourselves wholly unworthy, but in regard of His mercy set in some account among His stewards, should speak to you what either you may understand and rejoice with me, or, if you cannot yet understand, by believing it you may remain secure in the harbor.
7. I will accordingly speak; let him who can, understand; and let him who cannot understand, believe: yet will I speak what the Lord saith, “Ye judge after the flesh; I judge not any man,” either now, or after the flesh. “But even, if I judge, my judgment is true.” Why is Thy judgment true? “Because I am not alone,” saith He, “but I and the Father that sent me.” What then, O Lord Jesus? If Thou wert alone would Thy judgment be false: and is it because Thou art not alone, but Thou and the Father that sent Thee, that Thou judgest truly? How shall I answer? Let Himself answer: He saith, “My judgment is true.” Why? “Because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.” If He is with These, how has He sent Thee? And has He sent Thee, and yet is He also with Thee? Is it so that having been sent, Thou hast not departed from Him? And didst Thou come to us, and yet abode there? How is this to be believed how apprehended? To these two questions I answer: Thou sayest rightly, how is it to be apprehended; how believed, thou sayest not rightly. Rather, for that reason is it right to believe it, because it is not immediately to be apprehended; for if it were a thing to be immediately apprehended, there would be no need to believe it, because it would be seen. It is because thou dost not apprehend that thou believest; but by believing thou art made capable of apprehending. For if thou dost not believe, thou wilt never apprehend, since thou wilt remain less capable. Let faith then purify thee, that understanding may fill thee. “My judgment is true,” saith He, “because I am not alone, but I and theFather that sent me.” Therefore, O Lord our God, Jesus Christ, Thy sending is Thy incarnation. So I see, so I understand: in short, so I believe, in case it may smack of arrogance to say, so I understand. Doubtless the Lord Jesus Christ is even here; rather, was here as to His flesh, is here now as to His Godhead: He was both with the Father and had not left the Father. Hence, in that, He is said to have been sent and to have come to us, His incarnation is set forth to us, for the Father did not take flesh.
8. For there are certain heretics called Sabellians, who are also called Patripassians, who affirm that it was the Father Himself that had suffered. Do not thou so affirm, Ocatholic; for if thou wilt be a Patripassian, thou wilt not be sane. Understand, then, that the incarnation of the Son is termed the sending of the Son; and do not believe that the Father was incarnate, but do not yet believe that He departed from the incarnate Son. The Son carried flesh, the Father was with the Son. If the Father was in heaven, the Son on earth, how was the Father with the Son? Because both Father and Son were everywhere: for God is not in such manner in heaven as not to be on earth. Hear him who would flee from the judgment of God, and found not a way to flee by: “Whither shall I go,” saith he, “from Thy Spirit; and whither shall I flee from Thy face? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there.” The question was about the earth; hear what follows: “If I descend unto hell, Thou art there.”7 If, then, He is said to be present even in hell, what in the universe remains where He is not present? For the voice of God with the prophet is, “I fill heaven and earth.”8 Hence He is everywhere, who is confined by no place. Turn not thou away from Him, and He is with thee. If thou wouldst come to Him, be not slow to love; for it is not with feet but with affections thou runnest. Thou comest while remaining in one place, if thou believest and lovest. Wherefore He is everywhere; and if everywhere, how not also with the Son? Is it so that He is not with the Son, while, if thou believest, He is even with thee?
9. How, then, is His judgment true, but because the Son is true? For this He said: “And if I judge, my judgment is true; because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.” Just as if He had said, “My judgment is true,” because I am the Son of God. How dost Thou prove that Thou art the Son of God? “Because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.” Blush, Sabellian; thou hearest the Son, thou hearest the Father. Father is Father, Son is Son. He said not, I am the Father. and I the same am the Son; but He saith, “I am not alone.” Why art Thou not alone? Because the Father is with me. “I am, and the Father that sent me;” thou hearest, “I am, and He that sent me.” Lest thou lose sight of the person, distinguish the persons. Distinguish by understanding, do not separate by faithlessness; lest again, fleeing as it were Charybdis, thou rush Upon Scylla. For the whirlpool of the impiety of the Sabellians was swallowing thee, to say that the Father is the same who is Son: just now thou hast learned, “I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.” Thou dost acknowledge that the Father is Father, and that the Son is Son thou dost rightly acknowledge: but do not say the Father is greater, the Son is less; do not say, the Father is gold, the Son is silver. There is one substance, one Godhead, one co-eternity, perfect equality, no unlikeness. For if thou only believe that Christ is another, not the same person that the Father is, but yet imagine that in respect of His nature He is somewhat different from the Father, thou hast indeed escaped Charybdis, but thou hast been wrecked on the rocks of Scylla. Steer the middle course, avoid each of the two perilous sides. Father is Father, Son is Son. Thou sayest now, Father is Father, Son is Son: thou hast fortunately escaped the danger of the absorbing whirl; why wouldst thou go unto the other side to say, the Father is this, the Son that? The Son is another person than the Father is, this thou sayest rightly; but that He is different in nature, thou sayest not rightly. Certainly the Son is another person, because He is not the same who is Father and the Father is another person, because He is not the same who is Son: nevertheless, they are not different in nature, but the selfsame is both Father and Son. What means the self-same? God is one. Thou hast heard, “Because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me:” hear how thou mayest believe Father and Son; hear the Son Himself, “I and the Father are one.”9 He said not, I am the Father; or, I and the Father is one person; but when He says, “I and the Father are one,” hear both, both the one, unum, and the are, sumus, and thou shalt be delivered both from Charybdis and from Scylla. In these two words, in that He said one, He delivers thee from Arius; in that He said are, He delivers thee from Sabellius. If one, therefore not diverse; if are, therefore both Father and Son. For He would not say are of one person; but, on the other hand, He would not say one of diverse. Hence the reason why He says, “my judgment is true,” is, that thou mayest hear it briefly, because I am the Son of God. But I would have thee in such wise believe that I am the Son of God, that thou mayest understand that the Father is with me: I am not Son in such manner as to have left Him; I am not in such manner here that I should not be with Him; nor is He in such manner there as not to be with me: I have taken to me the form of a servant, yet have I not lost the form of God; therefore He saith, “I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.”
10. He had spoken of judgment; He means to speak of testimony. “In your law,” saith He, “it is written that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.” He expounded the law to them also, if they were not unthankful. For it is a great question, my brethren, and to me it certainly appears to have been ordained in a mystery, where God said, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand.”10 Is truth sought by two witnesses? Clearly it is; so is the custom of mankind: but yet it may be that even two witnesses lie. The chaste Susanna was pressed by two false witnesses: were they not therefore false because they were two? Do we speak of two or of three? A whole people lied against Christ.11 If, then, a people, consisting of a great multitude of men, was found a false witness, how is it to be understood that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand,” unless it be that in this manner the Trinity is mysteriously set forth to us, in which is perpetual stability of truth? Dost thou wish to have a good cause? Have two or three witnesses,-the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In short, when Susanna, the chaste woman and faithful wife, was pressed by two false witnesses, the Trinity supported her in her conscience and in secret: that Trinity raised up from secrecy one witness, Daniel, and convicted the two? Therefore, because it is written in your law that the witness of two men is true, receive our witness, test ye feel our judgment. “For I,” saith He, “judge not any man; but I bear witness of myself:” I defer judgment, I defer not the witness.
11. Let us, brethren, choose for ourselves God as our judge, God as our witness, against the tongues of men, against the weak suspicions of mankind. For He who is the judge disdains not to be witness, nor is He advanced in honor when He becomes judge; since He who is witness will also Himself be judge. In what way is He witness? Because He asks not another to learn from Him who thou art. In what way is He judge? Because He has the power of killing and making alive, of condemning and acquitting, of casting down into hell and of raising up into heaven, of joining to the devil and of crowning with the angels. Since, therefore, He has this power, He is judge. Now, because He requires not another witness that He may know thee; and that He who will hereafter judge thee is now seeing thee, there is no means whereby thou canst deceive Him when He begins to judge. For there is no furnishing thyself with false witnesses who can circumvent that judge when He shall begin to judge thee. This is what God says to thee: When thou despisedst, I did see it; and when thou believedst not, I did not frustrate my sentence. I delayed it, not removed it. Thou wouldst not hear what I enjoined, thou shall feel what I foretold. But if thou hearest what I enjoined, thou shall not feel the evils which I have foretold, but thou shall enjoy the good things which I have promised.
12. Let it not by any means surprise any one that He says, “My judgment is true; because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me;” whilst He has said in another place, “The Father judgeth not any man, but all judgment hath He given to the Son.” We have already discoursed on these same words of the evangelist, and we remind you now that this was not said because the Father will not be with the Son when He comes to judge, but because the Son alone will be apparent to the good and the bad in the judgment, in that form in which He suffered, and rose again, and ascended into heaven. For at that moment, indeed, as they were beholding Him ascending, the angelic voice sounded in the ears of His disciples, “So shah He come in like manner as ye have seen Him going into heaven;”12 that is, in the form of man in which He was judged, will He judge, in order that also that prophetic utterance may be fulfilled, “They shall look upon Him whom they pierced.”13 But when the righteous go into eternal life, we shall see Him as He is; that will not be the judgment of the living and the dead, but only the reward of the living.
13. Likewise, let it not surprise you that He says, “In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true,” that any man should hence suppose that this was not also the law of God, because it is not said, In the law of God: let him know that, when it is said thus, In your law, it is just as if He said, “In the law which was given to you;” given by whom, except by God? Just as we say, “Our daily bread;” and yet we say, “Give us this day.”
1 (Pr 27,2,
2 (Rm 10,10,
3 (Ps 101,1,
4 (Ph 2,8).
5 (Ga 6,14).
6 (Lc 23,34).
7 (Ps 139,7-8.
8 (Jr 23,24).
9 (Jn 10,30,
10 (Dt 19,15 Mt 18,16,
11 (Lc 23,1,
12 (Da 13,36-62 (apocryphal addition)).
13 (Ac 1,11,
1. What in the holy Gospel is spoken briefly ought not briefly to be expounded, so that what is read may he understood. The words of the Lord are few, but great; to be valued not by number, but by weight: not to be despised because they are few, but to be sought because they are great. You who were present yesterday have heard, as we discoursed according to our ability from that which the Lord said, “Ye judge after the flesh: I judge not any man. But yet if I judge, my judgment is true; because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.” Yesterday, as I have said, from these words a discourse was delivered to your ears and to your minds. When the Lord had spoken these words, they who heard,” Ye judge after the flesh,” manifested the truth of what they had heard. For they answered the Lord, as He spoke of God His Father, and said to Him, “Where is thy Father?” The Father of Christ they understood carnally, because they judged the words of Christ after the flesh. But He who spoke was openly flesh, but secretly the Word: man visible, God hidden. They saw the covering, and despised the wearer: they despised because they knew not; knew not, because they saw not; saw not, because they were blind; they were blind, because they believed not.
2. Let us see, then, what answer the Lord made to this. “Where,” say they, “is thy Father?” For we have heard thee say, “I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me:” we see thee alone, we do not see thy Father with thee; how sayest thou that thou art not alone, but that thou art with thy Father? Else show us that thy Father is with thee. And the Lord answered them: Do ye know me, that I should show you the Father? This is indeed what follows; this is what He answered in His own words, the exposition of which we have already premised. For see what He said, “Ye neither know me nor my Father: if ye knew me, ye would perhaps know my Father also.” Ye say then, “Where is thy Father?” As if already ye knew me; as if what you see were all that I am. Therefore because ye know not me, I do not show you my Father. Ye suppose me, in fact, to be a man; hence ye seek a man for my father, because “ye judge after the flesh.” But because, according to what you see, I am one thing, and another thing according to what you see not, and that I as hidden from you speak of my Father as hidden, it is requisite that you should first know me, and then ye know my Father also.
3. “For if ye knew me, ye would perhaps know my Father also.” He who knows all things is not in doubt when He says perhaps, but rebuking. Now see how this very word perhaps, which seems to be a word of doubting, may he spoken chidingly. Yea, a word expressive of doubt it is when used by man, for man doubts because he knows not; but when a word of doubting is spoken by God, from whom surely nothing is hid, it is unbelief that is reproved by that doubting, not the Godhead merely expressing an opinion. For men sometimes chidingly express doubt concerning things which they hold certain; that is, use a word of doubting, while in their heart they doubt not: just as thou wouldst say to thy slave, if thou weft angry with him, “Thou despisest me; but consider, perhaps I am thy master.” Hence also the apostle, speaking to some who despised him, says: “And I think that I also have the Spirit of God.”1 When he says, “I think,” he seems to doubt; but he is rebuking, not doubting. And in another place the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, rebuking the future unbelief of mankind, saith: “When the Son of man cometh, will He, thinkest thou, find faith on the earth?”2
4. You now, as I think, understand how the word perhaps is used here, in case any weigher of words and poiser of syllables, as if to show his knowledge of Latin, finds fault with a word which the Word of God spoke; and by blaming the Word of God, remain not eloquent, but mute. For who is there that speaks as doth the Word which was in the beginning with God? Do not consider these words as we use them, and from these wish to measure that Word which is God. Thou hearest the Word indeed, and despisest it; hear God and fear Him: “In the beginning was the Word.” Thou referrest to the usage of thy conversation, and sayest within thyself, What is a word? What mighty thing is a word? It sounds and passes away; after beating the air, it strikes the ear and is no more. Hear further: “The Word was with God;” remained, did not by sounding pass away. Perhaps thou still despisest it: “The Word was God.” With thyself, O man, a word inthy heart is a different thing from sound; but the word that is with thee, in order to pass to me, requires sound for a vehicle as it were.It takes to itself sound, mounts it as a vehicle, runs through the air, comes to me and yet does not leave thee. But the sound, in order to come to me, left thee and yet did not stay with me. Now has the word that was in thyheart also passed away with the passing sound? Thou didst speak thy thought; and, that the thought which was hid with thee might come to me, thou didst sound syllables; the sound of the syllables conveyed thy thought to my ear; through my ear thy thought descended into my heart, the intermediate sound flew away: but that word which took to itself sound was with thee before thou didst sound it, and is with me, because thou didst sound it, without quitting thee. Consider this, thou nice weigher of sounds, whoever thou be. Thou despisest the Word of God, thou who comprehendest not the word of man.
5. He, then, by whom all things were made knows all things. and yet He rebukes by doubting: “If ye knew me ye would perhaps know my Father also.” He rebukes unbelievers. He spoke a like sentence to the disciples, but there is not a word of doubting in it, because there was no occasion to rebuke unbelief. For this, “If ye knew me, ye would perhaps know my Father also,” which He said to the Jews, He said also to the disciples, when Philip asked, or rather, demanded of Him, saying, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us:” just as if he said, We already know Thee even ourselves; Thou hast been apparent to us; we have seen Thee; Thou hast deigned to choose us; we have followed Thee, have seen Thy marvels, heard Thy words of Salvation, have taken Thy precepts upon us, we hope in Thy promises: Thou hast deigned to confer much upon us by Thy very presence: but still, while we know Thee, and we do not yet know the Father, we are inflamed with desire to see Him whom we do not yet know; and thus, because we know Thee, but it is not enough until we know the Father, show us the Father and it sufficeth us. And the Lord, that they might understand that they knew not what they thought they did already know, said, “Am I so long time with you, and ye know me not, Philip, he who hath seen me hath seen the Father.”3 Has this sentence a word of doubting in it? Did He say, He that hath seen me hath perhaps seen the Father? Why not? Because it was a believer that listened to Him, not a persecutor of the faith: hence did the Lord not rebuke, but teach. “Whoso hath seen me hath seen the Father also:” and here, “If ye knew me, ye would know my Father also,” let us remove the word which indicates the unbelief of the hearers, and it is the same sentence.
6. Yesterday we commended it to your consideration, beloved, and said that the sentences of the Evangelist John, in which he narrates to us what he learned from the Lord, had not required to be discussed, were that possible, except the inventions of heretics had compelled us. Yesterday, then, we briefly intimated to you, beloved, that there are heretics who are called Patripassians, or Sabellians after their founder: these say that the same is the Father who is the Son; the names different, but the person one. When He wills, say they, He is Father; when He wills, He is Son: still He is one. There are likewise other heretics who are called Arians. They indeed confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is the only Son of the Father; the one, Father of the Son; the other, Son of the Father; that He who is Father is not Son, nor He who is Son is Father; they confess that the Son was begotten, but deny His equality. We, namely, the catholic faith, coming from the doctrine of the apostles planted in us, received by a line of succession, to be transmitted sound to posterity,-the catholic faith, I say, has, between both those parties, that is, between both errors, held the truth. In the error of the Sabellians, He is only one; the Father and Son is the same person: in the error of the Arians, the Father and the Son are indeed different persons; but the Son is not only a different person, but different in nature. Thou midway between these, what sayest thou? Thou hast shut out the Sabellian, shut out the Arian also. The Father is Father, the Son is Son; another person, not another in nature; for, “I and the Father are one,” which, so far as I could, I pressed on your thoughts yesterday. When he hears that word, we are, let the Sabellian go away confounded; when he hears the word one, let the Arian go away confounded. Let the catholic steer the bark of his faith between both, since in both he must be on his guard against shipwreck. Say thou, then, what the Gospel saith, “I and the Father are one.” Not different in nature, because one; not one person, because are.
7. A little before He said, “My judgment is true; because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me:” as if He said, The reason why my judgment is true is, because I am the Son of God, because I speak the truth, because I am truth itself. Those men, understanding Him carnally, said, “Where is thy Father?” Now hear, O Arian: “Ye neither know me, nor my Father;” because, “If ye knew me, ye would know my Father also.” What doth this mean, except “I and the Father are one”? When thou seest some person like some other,-give heed, beloved, it is a common remark; let not that appear to you difficult which you see to be customary,-when, I say, thou seest some person like another, and thou knowest the person to whom he is like, thou sayest in wonder, “How like this person is to that!” Thou wouldst not say this unless there were two. Here one who does not know the person to whom thou sayest the other is like remarks, “Is he so like him?” And thou answerest him: What, dost thou not know that person? Saith he, “No, I do not.” Immediately thou, in order to make known to him the person whom he does not know by means of the person whom he observes before him, answerest, saying, Having seen this man, thou hast seen the other. Thou didst not, surely, assert that they are one person in saying this, or that they are not two; but made such answer because of the likeness: “If thou knowest the one, thou knowest the other; for they are very like, and there is no difference whatever between them.” Hence also the Lord saith, “If ye knew me, ye would know my Father also;” not that the Son is the Father but like the Father. Let the Arian blush. Thanks be to the Lord that even the Arian is separate from the Sabellian error, and is not a Patripassian: he does not affirm that the Father assumed flesh and came to men, that the Father suffered, rose again, and somehow ascended to Himself; this he does not affirm; he acknowledges with me the Father to be Father, the Son to be Son. But, O brother, thou hast escaped that shipwreck, why go to the other? Father is Father, Son is Son; why dost thou affirm that the Son is unlike, that He is different, another substance? If He were unlike, would He say to His disciples, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father”? Would He say to the Jews, “If ye knew me, ye would know my Father also”? How would this be true, unless that other was also true, “I and the Father are one”?
8. “These words spake Jesus in the treasury, speaking in the temple:” great boldness, without fear. For He could not suffer if He did not will it, since He were not born if He did not will it. What follows then? “And no man laid hold of Him, because His hour was not yet come.” Some, again, when they hear this, believe that the Lord Christ was subject to fate, and say: Behold, Christ is held by fate! O, if thy heart were not fatuous, thou would st not believe in fate. If fate, as some understand it, is derived from fando, that is from speaking, how can the Word of God be held by fate, whilst all things that are made are in the Word itself? For God has not ordained anything which He did not know beforehand; that which was made was in His Word. The world was made; both was made and was there. How both was made and was there? Because the house which the builder rears, was previously in his art; and there, a better house, without age, without decay: however, to show forth his art, he makes a house; and so, in a manner, a house comes forth from a house; and if the house should fall, the art remains. So were all things that are made with the Word of God; because God made all things in wisdom,4 and all that He made were known to Him: for He did not learn because He made, but made because He knew. To us they are known, because they are made: to Him, if they had not been known, they would not have been made Therefore the Word went before. And what was before the Word? Nothing at all For were there anything before it, it would not have been said, “In the beginning was the Word;” but, In the beginning was the Word made. In short, what says Moses concerning the world? “In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth.” Made what was not: well, if He made what was not, what was there before? “In the beginning was the Word.” And whence came heaven and earth? “All things were made by Him.” Dost thou then put Christ under fate? Where are the fates? In heaven, sayest thou, in the order and changes of the stars. How then can fate rule Him by whom the heavens and the stars were made; whilst thy own will, if thou thinkest rightly, transcends even the stars?Or, because thou knowest that Christ’s flesh was under heaven, is that the reason why thou thinkest that Christ’s power was put under the heavens?
9. Hear, thou fool: “His hour was not yet come;” not the hour in which He should be forced to die, but that in which He would deign to be put to death. For Himself knew when He should die: He considered all things that were foretold of Him, and awaited all to be finished that was foretold to be before His suffering; that when all should be fulfilled, then should come His suffering in set order, not by fatal necessity. In short, hear that yon may prove. Among the rest that was prophesied of Him, it is also written: “They gave me gall for meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”5 How this happened, we know from the Gospel. First, they gave Him gall; He received it, tasted it, and spat it out. Thereafter, as He hung on the cross, that all that was foretold might be fulfilled, He said, “I thirst.” They took a sponge filled with vinegar, bound it to a reed, and put it to His mouth; He received it, and said, “It is finished.” What did that mean? All things which were prophesied before my death are completed, then what do I here any longer? In a word, when He said “It is finished, He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.” Did the thieves, who were nailed beside Him, expire when they would? They were held by the bonds of flesh, for they were not the creators of the flesh; fixed by nails, they were a long time tormented, because they had not lordship over their weakness. The Lord, however, when He would, took flesh in a virgin’s womb: came forth to men when He would; lived among men so long as He would; and when He would He quilted the flesh. This is the part of power, not of necessity. This hour, then, He awaited; not the fated, but the fitting and voluntary hour; that all might first be fulfilled which behoved to be fulfilled before His decease. How could he have been under necessity of fate, when He said in another place, “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power lo take it again: no man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself and take it again?”6 He showed this power when the Jews sought Him. “Whom seek ye?” saith He. “Jesus,” said they. And He answered,” I am He.” When they heard this voice, “they went back and fell to the ground.”7
10. Says one, If he had this power, why, when the Jews insulted him on the cross and said, “If he be the Son of God let him come down from the cross,” did he not come down, to show them his power by coming down? Because He was teaching us patience, therefore He deferred the demonstration of His power. For if He came down, moved as it were at their words, He would be thought to have been overcome by the sting of their insults. He did not come down; there He remained fixed, to depart when He would. For what great matter was it for Him to descend from the cross, when He could rise again from the sepulchre? Let us, then, to whom this is ministered, understand that the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, then concealed, will be made manifest in the judgment, of which it is said, “God will come manifest; our God, and He will not be silent.”8 Why is it said, “will come manifest”? Because He, our God,-namely, Christ,-came hidden, will come manifest. “And will not be silent:” why this “will not be silent”? Because at first He did keep silence. When? When He was judged; that this, too, might be fulfilled which the prophet had foretold: “As a sheep He was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before his shearer is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.”9 He would not have suffered did He not will to suffer: did He not suffer, that blood had not been shed; if that blood were not shed, the world would not be redeemed. Therefore let us give thanks to the power of His divinity, and to the compassion of His infirmity; both concerning the hidden power which the Jews did not recognize, whence it is now said to them, “Ye neither know me nor my Father,” and also concerning the flesh assumed, which the Jews did not recognize, and yet knew His lineage: whence He said to them elsewhere, “Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am.” Let us know both in Christ, both wherein He is equal to the Father and wherein the Father is greater than He. That is the Word, this is the flesh; that is God, this is man; but yet Christ is one, God and man.
1 (1Co 7,40,
2 (Lc 18,8).
3 (Jn 14,8).
4 (Ps 104,24,
5 (Ps 69,22,
6 (Jn 10,18,
7 (Jn 18,6).
8 (Ps 50,3,
9 (Is 53,7,
Augustin on John 35