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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. In the beginning was the word: or rather, the word was in the beginning. The eternal word, the increated wisdom, the second Person of the blessed Trinity, the only begotten Son of the Father, as he is here called (v. 14.) of the same nature and substance, and the same God, with the Father and Holy Ghost. This word was always; so that it was never true to say, he was not, as the Arians blasphemed. This word was in the beginning. Some, by the beginning, expound the Father himself, in whom he was always. Others give this plain and obvious sense, that the word, or the Son of God, was, when all other things began to have a being; he never began, but was from all eternity. — And the word was with God; i.e. was with the Father; and as it is said, (v. 18) in the bosom of the Father; which implies, that he is indeed a distinct person, but the same in nature and substance with the Father and the Holy Ghost. This is repeated again in the second verse, as repetitions are very frequent in S. John. — And the word was God. This without question is the construction; where, according to the letter we read, and God was the word. Wi. — The Greek for the word is LogoV, which signifies not only the exterior word, but also the interior word, or thought; and in this latter sense it is taken here. V. — Philo Judæus, in the apostolic age, uses the word LogoV, p. 823, to personify the wisdom and the power of God. LogoV estin eikwn Qeou di ou sumpaV o KosmoV edhmiourgeito. By a similar metonymy, Jesus Christ is called the way, the truth, the life, the resurrection. — And the word was God. Here the eternity and the divinity of the second Person are incontrovertibly established; or, we must say that language has no longer a fixed meaning, and that it is impossible to establish any point whatever from the words of Scripture. A.
Ver. 2. The same was in the beginning with God. In the text is only, "this was in the beginning;" but the sense and construction certainly is, this word was in the beginning. Wi.
Ver. 3. All things were made by him, and without him was made nothing that was made. These words teach us, that all created being, visible, or invisible on earth, every thing that ever was made, or began to be, were made, produced, and created by this eternal word, or by the Son of God. The same is truly said of the Holy Ghost; all creatures being equally produced, created, and preserved by the three divine Persons as, by their proper, principal, and efficient cause, in the same manner, and by the same action: not by the Son, in any manner inferior to the Father; nor as if the Son produced things only ministerially, and acted only as the minister, and instrument of the Father, as the Arians pretended. In this sublime mystery of one God and three distinct Persons, if we consider the eternal processions, and personal proprieties, the Father is the first Person, but not by any priority of time, or of dignity; all the three divine Persons being eternal, or co-eternal, equal in all perfections, being one in nature, in substance, in power, in majesty: in a word, one and the same God. The Father in no other sense is called the first Person, but because he proceeds from none, or from no other person: and the eternal Son is the second Person begotten, and proceeding from him, the Father, from all eternity, proceeds now, and shall proceed from him for all eternity; as we believe that the third divine Person, the Holy Ghost, always proceeded without any beginning, doth now proceed, and shall proceed for ever, both from the Father and the Son. But when we consider and speak of any creatures, of any thing that was made, or had a beginning, all things were equally created in time, and are equally preserved, no less by the Son, and by the Holy Ghost, than by the Father. For this reason S. John tells us again in this chapter, (v. 10.) that the world was made by the word. And our Saviour himself (Jo. v. 19.) tells us, that whatsoever the Father doth, these things also in like manner, or in the same manner, the Son doth. Again the apostle, (Heb. i. v. 2.) speaking of the Son, says, the world was made by him: and in the same chapter, (v. 10.) he applies to the Son these words, (Psalm ci. 26.) And thou, O Lord, in the beginning didst found the earth: and the heavens are the works of thy hands, &c. To omit other places, S. Paul again, writing to the Colossians, (C. i. v. 16, 17.) and speaking of God's beloved Son, as may be seen in that chapter, says, that in him all things were created, visible and invisible—all things were created in him, and by him, or, as it is in the Greek, unto him, and for him; to shew that the Son was not only the efficient cause, the Maker and Creator of all things, but also the last end of all. Which is also confirmed by the following words: And he is before all, and all things subsist in him, or consist in him; as in the Rheims and Protestant translations. I have, therefore, in this third verse, translated, all things were made by him, with all English translations and paraphrases, whether made by Catholics or Protestants; and not all things were made through him, lest through should seem to carry with it a different and a diminishing signification; or as if, in the creation of the world, the eternal word, or the Son of God, produced things only ministerially, and, in a manner, inferior to the Father, as the Arians and Eunomians pretended; against whom, on this very account, wrote S. Basil, lib. de spiritu Sto. S. Chrysostom, and S. Cyril, on this very verse; where they expressly undertake to shew that the Greek text in this verse no ways favours these heretics. The Arians, and now the Socinians, who deny the Son to be true God, or that the word God applies as properly to him as to the Father, but would have him called God, that is, a nominal god, in an inferior and improper sense; as when Moses called the god of Pharao; (Exod. vii. 1.) or as men in authority are called gods; (Psalm lxxxi. 6.) pretend, after Origen, to find another difference in the Greek text; as if, when mention is made of the Father, he is styled the God; but that the Son is only called God, or a God. This objection S. Chrysostom, S. Cyril, and others, have shewn to be groundless: that pretended significant Greek article being several times omitted, when the word God is applied to God the Father; and being found in other places, when the Son of God is called God. See this objection fully and clearly answered by the author of a short book, published in the year 1729, against Dr. Clark and Mr. Whiston, p. 64, and seq. Wi. — Were made, &c. Mauduit here represents the word: —"1. As a cause, or principle, acting extraneously from himself upon the void space, in order to give a being to all creatures:" whereas there was no void space before the creation. Ante omnia Deus erat solus, ipse sibi et mundus et locus, et omnia. Tert. l. cont. Prax. c. v. And S. Aug. in Ps. cxxii. says: antequam faceret Deus Sanctos, ubi habitabat? In se habitabat, apud se habitabat. — The creation of all things, visible and invisible, was the work of the whole blessed Trinity; but the Scriptures generally attribute it to the word; because wisdom, reason, and intelligence, which are the attributes of the Son, are displayed most in it. Calmet. — What wonderful tergiversations the Arians used to avoid the evidence of this text, we see in S. Austin, l. iii. de doct. Christ. c. 2; even such as modern dissenters do, to avoid the evidence of This is my Body, concerning the blessed Eucharist. B.
Ver. 4. In him: i.e. in this word, or Son of God, was life; because he gives life to every living creature. Or, as Maldonatus expounds it, because he is the author of grace, which is the spiritual life of our souls. — And the life was the light of men, whether we expound it of a rational soul and understanding, which he gives to all men; or of the spiritual life, and those lights of graces, which he gives to Christians. Wi.
Ver. 5. And the light shineth, or did shine, in darkness. Many understand this, that the light of reason, which God gave to every one, might have brought them to the knowledge of God by the visible effects of his Providence in this world: but the darkness did not comprehend it, because men, blinded by their passions, would not attend to the light of reason. Or we may again understand it, with Maldonatus, of the lights of grace, against which obstinate sinners wilfully shut their eyes. Wi.
Ver. 7. That all men might believe through him; i.e. by John's preaching, who was God's instrument to induce them to believe in Jesus the Christ, or the Messias, their only Redeemer. Wi.
Ver. 8-9. He; that is John, was not the true light: but the word was the true light. In the translation, it is necessary to express that the word was the true light, lest any one should think that John the Baptist was this light. Wi.
Ver. 10. He was in the world, &c. Many of the ancient interpreters understand this verse of Christ as God, who was in the world from its first creation, producing and governing all things: but the blind sinful world did not know and worship him. Others apply these words to the Son of God made man; whom even God's own chosen people, the Jews, at his coming, refused to receive and believe in him. Wi.
Ver. 11. His own. This regards principally the Jews. Jesus came to them as into his own family, but they did not receive him. It may likewise be extended to the Gentiles, who had groaned so long a time in darkness, and only seemed to wait for the rising sun of justice to run to its light. They likewise did not receive him. These words, though apparently general, must be understood with restriction; as there were some, though comparatively few, of both Jews and Gentiles, who embraced the faith. Calmet.
Ver. 12. He gave to them power to be made the adoptive sons of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. They are made the children of God by believing and by a new spiritual birth in the sacrament of baptism, not of blood; (literally, not of bloods) not by the will, and desires of the flesh, not by the will of men, nor by human generation, as children are first born of their natural parents, but of God, by faith and divine grace. Wi.
Ver. 14. And the word was made flesh. This word, or Son of God, who was in the beginning, from all eternity, at the time appointed by the divine decrees, was made flesh, i.e. became man, by a true and physical union of his divine person, (from which the divine nature was inseparable) to our human nature, to a human soul, and a human body, in the womb, and of the substance, of his virgin Mother. From the moment of Christ's incarnation, as all Christians are taught to believe, he that was God from eternity, became also true man. In Jesus Christ, our blessed Redeemer, we believe one divine Person with two natures, and two wills; the one divine, the other human: by which substantial union, one and the same Person became truly both God and man; not two persons, or two sons, as Nestorius, the heretic, pretended. By this union, and a mutual communication of the proprieties of each nature, it is true to say, that the Son of God, remaining unchangeably God, was made man; and therefore that God was truly conceived and born of the virgin Mary, who, on this account, was truly the Mother of God: that God was born, suffered, and died on the cross, to redeem and save us. The word, in this manner made man, dwelt in us, or among us, by this substantial union with our human nature, not morally only, nor after such a manner, as God is said to dwell in a temple; nor as he is in his faithful servants, by a spiritual union, and communication of his divine graces; but by such a real union, that the same person is truly both God and man. — And we saw his glory, manifested to the world by many signs and miracles; we in particular, who were present at his transfiguration. Matt. xvii. — Full of grace and truth. These words, in the construction, are to be joined in this manner: the word dwelt in us, full of grace and truth; and we have seen his glory, &c. This fulness of grace in Christ Jesus, infinitely surpassed the limited fulness, which the Scripture attributes to S. Stephen, (Acts vi. 8.) or to the blessed virgin Mother: (Luke i. 28.) they are said to be full of grace, only because of an extraordinary communication and greater share of graces than was given to other saints. But Christ, even as man, had a greater abundance of divine graces: and being truly God as well as man, his grace and sanctity were infinite, as was his person. — As of the only begotten of the Father. If we consider Christ in himself, and not only as he was made known to men by outward signs and miracles, S. Chrysostom and others take notice that the word as, no ways diminisheth the signification; and that the sense is, we have seen the glory of him, who is truly from all eternity the only begotten Son of the Father: who, as the Scriptures assure us, is his true, his proper Son, his only begotten, who was sent into the world, who descended from heaven, and came from the Father, and leaving the world, returned where he was before, returned to his Father. We shall meet with many such Scripture texts, to shew him to be the eternal Son of his eternal Father; or to shew that the Father was always his Father, and the Son always his Son: as it was the constant doctrine of the Catholic Church, and as such declared in the general council of Nice, that this, his only Son, was born or begotten of the Father before all ages . . . God from God, the true God from the true God. It was by denying this truth, "that the Son was the Son always, and the Father always, and from all eternity, the Father;" that the blaspheming Arius began his heresy in his letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, against his bishop of Alexandria, S. Alexander. See the letter copied by S. Epiphan. Hær. 69. p. 731. Ed. Petavii. Wi. — Dwelt among us. In a material body, like ours, clothed with our nature. He is become mortal, and like us in every thing, but sin and concupiscence. The Greek literally translated, is, he has pitched his tent amongst us, like a stranger and passenger, who makes no long stay in one place. The body in Scripture, is sometimes called a tent or tabernacle, in which the soul dwells, as 2 Pet. i. 14. Calmet.
Ver. 15. Is preferred before me. Lit. is made before me. The sense, says S. Chrys. is, that he is greater in dignity, deserves greater honour, &c. though born after me, he was from eternity. Wi.
Ver. 16. And of his fulness we all have received; not only Jews, but also all nations. — And grace for grace. It may perhaps be translated grace upon grace, as Mr. Blackwall observes, and brings a parallel example in Greek out of Theognis, p. 164. It implies abundance of graces, and greater graces under the new law of Christ than in the time of the law of Moses; which exposition is confirmed by the following verse. Wi. — Before the coming of the Messias all men had the light of reason. The Greeks had their philosophy, the Jews the law and prophets. All this was a grace and favour bestowed by God, the author of all good. But since the word was made flesh, God has made a new distribution of graces. He has given the light of faith, and caused the gospel of salvation to be announced to all men; he has invited all nations to the faith and knowledge of the truth. Thus he has given us one grace for another; but the second is infinitely greater, more excellent, and more abundant than the first. The following verse seems to insinuate, that the evangelist means the law by the first grace, and the gospel by the second. Compare likewise Rom. i. 17. The Jews were conducted by faith to faith; by faith in God and the law of Moses, to the faith of the gospel, announced by Christ. Calmet.
Ver. 18. No man hath seen God. No mortal in this life by a perfect union and enjoyment of him. Nor can any creature perfectly comprehend his infinite greatness: none but his only begotten divine Son, who is in the bosom of his Father, not only by an union of grace, but by an union and unity of substance and nature; of which Christ said, (Jo. xiv. 11.) I am in the Father, and the Father in me. Wi.
Ver. 19. The Jews sent, &c. These men, who were priests and Levites, seem to have been sent and deputed by the sanhedrim, or great council at Jerusalem, to ask of John the Baptist, who was then in great esteem and veneration, whether he was not their Messias; who, as they knew by the predictions of the prophets, was to come about that time. John declared to them he was not. To their next question, if he was not Elias? He answered: he was not: because in person he was not; though our Saviour (Matt. xi. 14.) says he was Elias: to wit, in spirit and office only. Their third question was, if he was a prophet? He answered, no. Yet Christ (Matt. xi.) tells us, he was a prophet, and more than a prophet. In the ordinary acceptation only, they were called prophets who foretold things to come: John then, with truth, as well as humility, could say he was not a prophet; not being sent to foretell the coming of the Messias, but to point him out as already come, and present with the Jews. Wi.
Ver. 23. The voice of one crying in the wilderness. See Matt. iii. 3. Mark i. 3. Luke iii. 4. and Isa. xl. 3. by all which John was his immediate precursor. Wi.
Ver. 26. Hath stood. S. John, by these words, which he spoke to the priests and Levites, sent to him by the Pharisees, did not mean to tell them, that Jesus was either at the present time standing amongst them, or that he had ever been in the presence of the self same people; but they may be understood two different ways, either with regard to his divinity; and in that sense, Jesus was always by his divine presence amongst them; or in regard to his humanity; either that he lived in the same country, and among their countrymen, or, that he stood actually amongst them, because Jesus was accustomed yearly to go up to Jerusalem on the festival of the Pasch. D. Dionysius. Car.
Ver. 29. Behold the Lamb of God. John let the Jews know who Jesus was, by divers testimonies. 1st, By telling them he was the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin, or sins of the world, who was come to be their Redeemer, and to free mankind from the slavery of sin; 2ndly, that he was greater than he, and before him, though born after him; 3rdly, that God had revealed to him that Jesus was to baptize in the Holy Ghost; 4thly, that he saw the Spirit descending upon him from heaven, and remaining upon him; 5thly, that he was the Son of God, v. 34. Wi. — Who taketh away. It was only a being like Christ, in whose person the divine and human natures were united, that could effectually take away the sins of the world. As man, he was enabled to suffer; and as God, his sufferings obtained a value equal to the infinite atonement required. A.
Ver. 39. Staid with him that day. Yet they did not continually remain with him, as his disciples, till he called them, as they were fishing. See the annotations, Matt. iv. 18. Wi.
Ver. 42. Thou art Simon, the son of Jona, or of John. Jesus, who knew all things, knew his name, and at the first meeting told him he should hereafter be called Cephas, or Petrus, a rock, designing to make him the chief or head of his whole Church. See Matt. xvi. 18. Wi. — Cephas is a Syriac word, its import is the same as rock or stone. And S. Paul commonly calleth him by this name: whereas others, both Greeks and Latins, call him by the Greek appellation, Peter; which signifies exactly the same thing. Hence S. Cyril saith, that our Saviour, by foretelling that his name should be now no more Simon, but Peter, did by the word itself aptly signify, that on him, as on a rock most firm, he would build his Church. Lib. ii. c. 12. in Joan.
Ver. 46. Can any thing of good come from Nazareth? Nathanael did not think it consistent with the predictions of the prophets, that the Messias, who was to be the Son of David, and to be born at Bethlehem, should be of the town of Nazareth; which he did not imagine could be the place of Jesus's birth. But when he came to Jesus, and found that he knew the truth of things done in private, and in his absence, he professed his belief in Jesus in these words: Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the king of Israel. We may here take notice, with Dr. Pearson, on the second article of the Creed, that the Jews, before the coming of Christ, were convinced that he was to be the Son of God; (though they have denied it since that time) for they interpreted, as foretold of their Messias, these words: (Psal. ii. 7.) The Lord said to me, thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee: and this is what Nathanael here confessed. The same is confirmed by the famous confession of S. Peter, (Matt. xvi. 16.) Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God; by the words of Martha, (Jo. xi. 27.) I have believed that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, who art come into the world: In fine, by the question which the Jewish priest put to our Saviour, (Matt. xxvi. 63.) I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ the Son of God. See also Jo. vi. 70. and Jo. xx. 31. Wi.
Ver. 50. Greater things than these. Greater miracles and proofs that I am the Messias, and the true Son of God. Wi.
Ver. 51. You shall see the heaven open, &c. It is not certain when this was to be fulfilled: S. Chrysostom thinks at Christ's ascension; others refer it to the day of judgment. Wi.