John i. 1.-"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word
[1.] When children are just brought to their learning, their teachers
do not give them many tasks in succession, nor do they set them once for
all, but they often repeat to them the same short ones, so that what is
said may be easily implanted in their minds, and they may not be vexed
at the first onset with the quantity, and with finding it hard to remember,
and become less active in picking up what is given them, a kind of sluggishness
arising from the difficulty. And I, who wish to effect the same with you,
and to render your labor easy, take by little and little the food which
lies on this Divine table, and instill it into your souls. On this account
I shall handle again the same words, not so as to say again the same things,
but to set before you only what yet remains. Come, then, let us again apply
our discourse to the introduction.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God." Why, when
all the other Evangelists had begun with the Dispensation1 ; (for Matthew
says, "The Book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David"; and
Luke too relates to us in the beginning of his Gospel the events relating
to Mary; and in like manner Mark dwells on the same narratives, from that
point detailing to us the history of the Baptist;) why, when they began
with these matters, did John briefly and in a later place hint at them,
saying, "the Word was made flesh" (ver. 14.); and, passing by everything
else, His conception, His birth, His bringing up, His growth, at once discourse
to us concerning His Eternal Generation?
I will now tell you what the reason of this is. Because the other Evangelists
had dwelt most on the accounts of His coming in the flesh, there was fear
lest some, being of grovelling minds, might for this reason rest in these
doctrines alone, as indeed was the case with Paul of Samosata. In order,
therefore, to lead away from this fondness for earth those who were like
to fall into it, and to draw them up towards heaven, with good reason he
commences his narrative from above, and from the eternal subsistence. For
while Matthew enters upon his relation from Herod the king, Luke from Tiberius
Caesar, Mark from the Baptism of John, this Apostle, leaving alone all
these things, ascends beyond all time or age.2 Thither darting forward
the imagination of his hearers to the "Was in the Beginning," not allowing
it to stay at any point, nor setting any limit, as they did in Herod, and
Tiberius, and John.
And what we may mention besides as especially deserving our admiration
is, that John, though he gave himself up to the higher doctrine,3 yet did
not neglect the Dispensation; nor were the others, though intent upon the
relation of this, silent as to the subsistence before the ages. With good
cause; for One Spirit It was that moved the souls of all; and therefore
they have shown great unanimity in their narrative. But thou, beloved,
when thou hast heard of "The Word," do not endure those who say, that He
is a work; nor those even who think, that He is simply a word. For many
are the words of God which angels execute, but of those words none is God;
they all are prophecies or commands, (for in Scripture it is usual to call
the laws of God His commands, and prophecies, words; wherefore in speaking
of the angels, he says, "Mighty in strength, fulfilling His word") (Ps.
ciii. 20), but this Word is a Being with subsistence,4 proceeding5 without
affection6 from the Father Himself. For this, as I before said, he has
shown by the term "Word." As therefore the expression, "In the beginning
was the Word," shows His Eternity, so "was in the beginning with God,"
has declared to us His Co-eternity. For that you may not, when you hear
"In the beginning was the Word," suppose Him to be Eternal, and yet imagine
the life of the Father to differ from His by some interval and longer duration,
and so assign a beginning to the Only-Begotten, he adds, "was in the beginning
with God"; so eternally even as the Father Himself, for the Father was
never without the Word, but He was always God with God, yet Each in His
How then, one says, does John assert, that He was in the world, if He
was with God? Because He was both8 with God and in the world also. For
neither Father nor Son are limited in any way. Since, if "there is no end
of His greatness" (Ps. cxlv. 3), and if "of His wisdom there is no number"
(Ps. cxlvii. 5), it is clear that there cannot be any beginning in time9
to His Essence. Thou hast heard, that "In the beginning God made the heaven
and the earth" (Gen. i. 1); what dost thou understand from this "beginning"?
clearly, that they were created before all visible things. So, respecting
the Only-Begotten, when you hear that He was "in the beginning," conceive
of him as before all intelligible things,10 and before the ages.
But if any one say, "How can it be that He is a Son, and yet not younger
than the Father? since that which proceeds from something else needs must
be later than that from which it proceeds"; we will say that, properly
speaking, these are human reasonings; that he who questions on this matter
will question on others yet more improper;11 and that to such we ought
not even to give ear. For our speech is now concerning God, not concerning
the nature of men, which is subject to the sequence and necessary conclusions
of these reasonings. Still, for the assurance of the weaker sort, we will
speak even to these points.
[2.] Tell me, then, does the radiance of the sun proceed from the substance12
itself of the sun, or from some other source? Any one not deprived of his
very senses needs must confess, that it proceeds from the substance itself.
Yet, although the radiance proceeds from the sun itself, we cannot say
that it is later in point of time than the substance of that body, since
the sun has never appeared without its rays. Now if in the case of these
visible and sensible bodies there has been shown to be something which
proceeds from something else, and yet is not after that from whence it
proceeds; why are you incredulous in the case of the invisible and ineffable
Nature? This same thing there takes place, but in a manner suitable to
That Substance13 For it is for this reason that Paul too calls Him "Brightness"
(Heb. i. 3); setting forth thereby His being from Him and His Co-eternity.
Again, tell me, were not all the ages, and every interval14 created by
Him? Any man not deprived of his senses must necessarily confess this.
There is no interval15 therefore between the Son and the Father; and if
there be none, then He is not after, but Co-eternal with Him. For "before"
and "after" are notions implying time, since, without age or time, no man
could possibly imagine these words; but God is above times and ages.
But if in any case you say that you have found a beginning to the Son,
see whether by the same reason and argument you are not compelled to reduce
the Father also to a beginning, earlier indeed, but still a beginning.
For when you have assigned to the Son a limit and beginning of existence,
do you not proceed upwards from that point, and say, that the Father was
before it? Clearly you do. Tell me then, what is the extent of the Father's
prior subsistence? For whether you say that the interval is little, or
whether you say it is great, you equally have brought the Father to a beginning.
For it is clear, that it is by measuring the space that you say whether
it is little or great; yet it would not be possible to measure it, unless
there were a beginning on either side; so that as far as you are concerned
you have given the Father a beginning, and henceforth, according to your
argument, not even the Father will be without beginning. See you that the
word spoken by the Saviour is true, and the saying everywhere discovers
its force? And what is that word? It is "He that honoreth not the Son,
honoreth not the Father." (John v. 23.)
And I know indeed that what now has been said cannot by many be comprehended,
and therefore it is that in many places we avoid16 agitating questions
of human reasonings, because the rest of the people cannot follow such
arguments, and if they could, still they have nothing firm or sure in them.
"For the thoughts of mortal men are miserable, and our devices are but
uncertain." (Wisd. ix. 14.) Still I should like to ask our objectors, what
means that which is said by the Prophet, "Before Me there was no God formed,
nor is there any after Me"? (Is. xliii. 10.) For if the Son is younger
than the Father, how, says He, "Nor is there17 any after me"? Will you
take away the being of the Only-Begotten Himself? You either must dare
this, or admit one Godhead with distinct Persons of the Father and Son.
Finally, how could the expression, "All things were made by Him," be
true? For if there is an age older than He, how can that18 which was before
Him have been made by Him? See ye to what daring the argument has carried
them, when once the truth has been unsettled? Why did not the Evangelist
say, that He was made from things that were not, as Paul declares of all
things, when he says, "Who calleth those things which be not as though
they were"; but says, "Was in the beginning"? (Rom. iv. 17.) This is contrary
to that; and with good reason. For God neither is made,19 nor has anything
older; these are words of the Greeks.20 Tell me this too: Would you not
say, that the Creator beyond all comparison excels His works? Yet since
that which is from things that were not is similar to them, where is the
superiority not admitting of comparison? And what mean the expressions,
"I am the first and I am the last" (Is. xliv. 6); and, "before Me was no
other God formed"? (Is. xliii. 10.) For if the Son be not of the same Essence,
there is another God; and if He be not Co-eternal, He is after Him; and
if He did not proceed from His Essence, clear it is that He was made. But
if they assert, that these things were said to distinguish Him from idols,
why do they not allow that it is to distinguish Him from idols that he
says, "the Only True God"? (John xvii. 3.) Besides, if this was said to
distinguish Him from idols, how would you interpret the whole sentence?
"After Me," He says, "is no other God." In saying this, He does not exclude
the Son, but that "After Me there is no idol God," not that "there is no
Son." Allowed, says he; what then? and the expression, "Before Me was no
other God formed," will you so understand, as that no idol God indeed was
formed before Him, but yet a Son was formed before Him? What evil spirit
would assert this? I do not suppose that even Satan himself would do so.
Moreover, if He be not Co-eternal with the Father, how can you say that
His Life is infinite? For if it have a beginning from before,21 although
it be endless, yet it is not infinite; for the infinite must be infinite
in both directions. As Paul also declared, when he said, "Having neither
beginning of days, nor end of life" (Heb. vii. 3); by this expression showing
that He is both without beginning and without end. For as the one has no
limit, so neither has the other. In one direction there is no end, in the
other no beginning.
[3.] And how again, since He is "Life," was there ever when He was not?
For all must allow, that Life both is always, and is without beginning
and without end, if It be indeed Life,as indeed It is. For if there be
when It is not,how can It be the life of others, when It even Itself is
"How then," says one, "does John lay down a beginning by saying, `In
the beginning was'?" Tell me, have you attended to the "In the beginning,"
and to the "was," and do you not understand the expression, "the Word was"?
What! when the Prophet says, "From everlasting22 and to everlasting Thou
art" (Ps. xc. 2), does he say this to assign Him limits? No, but to declare
His Eternity. Consider now that the case is the same in this place. He
did not use the expression as assigning limits, since he did not say, "had
a beginning," but "was in the beginning"; by the word "was" carrying thee
forward to the idea that the Son is without beginning. "Yet observe," says
he, "the Father is named with the addition of the article, but the Son
without it." What then, when the Apostle says, "The Great God, and our
Saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit. ii. 13); and again, "Who is above all, God"?
(Rom. ix. 5.) It is true that here he has mentioned the Son, without the
article; but he does the same with the Father also, at least in his Epistle
to the Philippians (c. ii. 6), he says, "Who being in the form of God,
thought it not robbery to be equal with God"; and again to the Romans,
"Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ."
(Rom. i. 7.) Besides, it was superfluous for it to be attached in that
place, when close23 above it was continually attached to "the Word." For
as in speaking concerning the Father, he says, "God is a Spirit" (John
iv. 24), and we do not, because the article is not joined to "Spirit,"
yet deny the Spiritual Nature of God; so here, although the article is
not annexed to the Son, the Son is not on that account a less God. Why
so? Because in saying "God," and again "God," he does not reveal to us
any difference in this Godhead, but the contrary; for having before said,
"and the Word was God"; that no one might suppose the Godhead of the Son
to be inferior, he immediately adds the characteristics of genuine Godhead,
including Eternity, (for "He was," says he, "in the beginning with God,")
and attributing to Him the office of Creator. For "by Him were all things
made, and without Him was not anything made that was made"; which His Father
also everywhere by the Prophets declares to be especially characteristic
of His own Essence. And the Prophets are continually busy on this kind
of demonstration, not only of itself, but when they contend against the
honor shown to idols; "Let the gods perish," says one "who have not made
heaven and earth" (Jer. x. 11): and again, "I have stretched out the heaven
with My hand" (Is. xliv. 24); and it is as declaring it to be indicative
of Divinity, that He everywhere puts it. And the Evangelist himself was
not satisfied with these words, but calls Him "Life" too and "Light." If
now He was ever with the Father, if He Himself created all things, if He
brought all things into existence, and keeps together24 all things, (for,
this he meant by "Life,") if He enlightens all things, who so senseless
as to say, that the Evangelist desired to teach an inferiority of Divinity
by those very expressions, by which, rather than by any others, it is possible
to express its equality and not differing? Let us not then confound the
creation with the Creator, lest we too hear it said of us, that "they served
the creature rather than the Creator" (Rom. i. 25); for although it be
asserted that this is said of the heavens, still in speaking of the heavens
he positively says, that we must not serve25 the creature, for it is a
[4.] Let us therefore not lay ourselves under this curse. For this the
Son of God came, that He might rid us from this service; for this He took
the form of a slave, that He might free us from this slavery; for this
He was spit upon, for this He was buffeted, for this He endured the shameful
death. Let us not, I entreat you, make all these things of none effect,
let us not go back to our former unrighteousness, or rather to unrighteousness
much more grievous; for to serve the creature is not the same thing as
to bring down the Creator, as far at least as in us lies, to the meanness
of the creature. For He continues being such as He is; as says the Psalmist,
"Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail." (Ps. cii. 27.) Let us
then glorify Him as we have received from our fathers, let us glorify Him
both by our faith and by our works; for sound doctrines avail us nothing
to salvation, if our life is corrupt. Let us then order it according to
what is well-pleasing to God, setting ourselves far from all filthiness,
unrighteousness, and covetousness, as strangers and foreigners and aliens
to the things here on earth. If any have much wealth and possessions, let
him so use them as one who is a sojourner, and who, whether he will or
not, shall shortly pass from them. If one be injured by another, let him
not be angry forever, nay rather not even for a time. For the Apostle has
not allowed us more than a single day for the venting of anger.
"Let not," says he, "the sun go down upon your wrath" (Eph. iv. 26);
and with reason; for it is matter for contentment that even in so short
a time nothing unpleasant take place; but if night also overtake us, what
has happened becomes more grievous, because the fire of our wrath is increased
ten thousand times by memory, and we at our leisure enquire into it more
bitterly. Before therefore we obtain this pernicious leisure and kindle
a hotter fire, he bids us arrest beforehand and quench the mischief. For
the passion of wrath is fierce, fiercer than any flame; and so we need
much haste to prevent the flame, and not allow it to blaze up high, for
so this disease becomes a cause of many evils. It has overturned whole
Houses, it has dissolved old companionships, and has worked tragedies not
to be remedied in a short moment of time. "For," saith one, "the sway of
his fury shall be his destruction." (Ecclus. i. 22.) Let us not then leave
such a wild beast unbridled, but put upon him a muzzle in all ways strong,
the fear of the judgment to come. Whenever a friend grieves thee, or one
of thine own family exasperates thee, think of the sins thou hast committed
against God, and that by kindness towards him thou makest that judgment
more lenient to thyself, ("Forgive," saith He, "and ye shall be forgiven")
(Luke vi. 37), and thy passion shall quickly skulk away.27
And besides, consider this, whether there has been a time when thou
wert being carried away into ferocity, and didst control thyself, and another
time when thou hast been dragged along by the passion. Compare the two
seasons, and thou shalt gain thence great improvement. For tell me, when
didst thou praise thyself? Was it when thou wast worsted, or when thou
hadst the mastery? Do we not in the first case vehemently blame ourselves,
and feel ashamed. even when none reproves us, and do not many feelings
of repentance come over us, both for what we have said and done; but when
we gain the mastery, then are we not proud, and exult as conquerors? For
victory in the case of anger is, not the requiting evil with the like,
(that is utter defeat,) but the bearing meekly to be ill treated and ill
spoken of. To get the better is not to inflict but to suffer evil. Therefore
when angry do not say, "certainly I will retaliate," "certainly I will
be revenged"; do not persist in saying to those who exhort you to gain
a victory, "I will not endure that the man mock me, and escape clear."
He will never mock thee, except when thou avengest thyself; or if he even
should mock thee he will do so as a fool. Seek not when thou conquerest
honor from fools, but consider that sufficient which comes from men of
understanding. Nay, why do I set before thee a small and mean body of spectators,
when I make it up of men? Look up straight to God: He will praise thee,
and the man who is approved by Him must not seek honor from mortals, Mortal
honor often arises from flattery or hatred of others, and brings no profit;
but the decision of God is free from this inequality, and brings great
advantage to the man whom He approves. This praise then let us follow after.
Will you learn what an evil is anger? Stand by while others are quarreling
in the forum. In yourself you cannot easily see the disgrace of the thing,
because your reason is darkened and drunken; but when you are clear from
the passion, and while your judgment is sound, view your own case in others.
Observe, I pray you, the crowds collecting round, and the angry men like
maniacs acting shamefully in the midst. For when the passion boils up within
the breast, and becomes excited and savage, the mouth breathes fire, the
eyes emit fire, all the face becomes swollen, the hands are extended disorderly,
the feet dance ridiculously, and they spring at those who restrain them,
and differ nothing from madmen in their insensibility to all these things;
nay, differ not from wild asses, kicking and biting. Truly a passionate
man is not a graceful one.
And then, when after this exceedingly ridiculous conduct, they return
home and come to themselves, they have the greater pain, and much fear,
thinking who were present when they were angry. For like raving men, they
did not then know the standers by, but when they have returned to their
right mind, then they consider, were they friends? were they foes and enemies
that looked on? And they fear alike about both; the first because they
will condemn them and give them more shame; the others because they will
rejoice at it. And if they have even exchanged blows, then their fear is
the more pressing; for instance, lest anything very grievous happen to
the sufferer; a fever follow and bring on death, or a troublesome swelling
rise and place him in danger of the worst. And, "what need" (say they)
"had I of fighting, and violence, and quarreling? Perish such things."
And then they curse the ill-fated business which caused them to begin,
and the more foolish lay on "wicked spirits," and "an evil hour," the blame
of what has been done; but these things are not from an evil hour, (for
there is no such thing as an evil hour,) nor from a wicked spirit, but
from the wickedness of those captured by the passion; they draw the spirits
to them, and bring upon themselves all things terrible. "But the heart
swells," says one, "and is stung by insults." I know it; and that is the
reason why I admire those who master this dreadful wild beast; yet it is
possible if we will, to beat off the passion. For why when our rulers insult
us do we not feel it? It is because fear counterbalances the passion, and
frightens us from it, and does not allow it to spring up at all. And why
too do our servants, though insulted by us in ten thousand ways, bear all
in silence? Because they too have the same restraint laid upon them. And
think thou not merely of the fear of God, but that it is even God Himself
who then insults thee, who bids thee be silent, and then thou wilt bear
all things meekly, and say to the aggressor, How can I be angry with thee?
there is another that restrains both my hand and my tongue; and the saying
will be a suggestion of sound wisdom, both to thyself and to him. Even
now we bear unbearable things on account of men, and often say to those
who have insulted us, "Such an one insulted me, not you." Shall we not
use the same caution in the case of God? How else can we hope for pardon?
Let us say to our soul, "It is God who holds our hands, who now insults
us; let us not be restive, let not God be less honored by us than men."
Did ye shudder at the word? I wish you would shudder not at the word only,
but at the deed. For God hath commanded us when buffeted not only to endure
it, but even to offer ourselves to suffer something worse; and we withstand
Him with such vehemence, that we not only refuse to offer ourselves to
suffer evil, but even avenge ourselves, nay often are the first to act
on the offensive,28 and think we are disgraced if we do not the same in
return. Yes, and the mischief is, that when utterly worsted we think ourselves
conquerors, and when lying undermost and receiving ten thousand blows from
the devil, then we imagine that we are mastering him. Let us then, I exhort
you, understand what is the nature29 of this victory, and this kind of
nature30 let us follow after. To suffer evil is to get the crown. If then
we wish to be proclaimed victors by God, let us not in these contests observe
the laws of heathen games, but those of God, and learn to bear all things
with longsuffering; for so we may get the better of our antagonists, and
obtain both present and promised goods, through the grace and lovingkindness
of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom to the Father and
the Holy Spirit be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, and world without
4 ou0si/a e0nupo/statoj.
8 al. "God with God."
13 to\ au0to\ dh\ tou=to e@stin ou@twj w9j e0kei/nh| ou0sia|
16 a0naballo/meqa, "put off."
17 LXX. e@stin.
18 to;, al. o9.
21 a@nwqen, "a parte ante".
22 a0po\ tou= ai0w=noj.
24 sugkrotei=, al. sugkratei=.
28 a!rxein xeirw=n a0di/kwn.
30 tro/pou to\ ei\doj.