46. Which of you convicteth me of sin? And if I speak truth, why
do you not believe me? 47. He who is of God heareth the words of God; you
hear them not, because you are not of God. 48. The Jews therefore answered,
and said to him, Do we not say well, that thou art a Samaritan, and hast
a devil? 49. Jesus answered, I have not a devil, but I honor my Father,
and you have dishonored me. 50. But I seek not my own glory; there is one
who seeketh it, and judgeth of it. 1
46. Which of you? This question proceeds from perfect confidence;
for, knowing that they could not justly bring any reproach against him,
he glories over his enemies, as having obtained a victory. And yet he does
not say that he is free from their slanders; for, though they had no reason
for reproaching, still they did not cease to pour out slanders on Christ;
but he means that no crime dwells in him. And such is the import of the
Greek word ejle>gcein, as the Latins use coarguere, (to convict,) when
a person is held convicted of the fact. Which of you Convicteth me of sin?
Yet those who think that Christ here asserts his complete innocence, because
he alone surpassed all men, so far as he was the Son of God, are mistaken.
For this defense must be restricted to what belongs to the passage, as
if he had asserted that nothing could be brought forward to show that he
was not a faithful servant of God. In like manner Paul also glories that
he is not conscious of any crime (1 Corinthians 4:4;) for that does not
extend to the whole life, but is only a defense of his doctrine and apostleship.
It is away from the subject, therefore, to speculate, as some do, about
the perfection of righteousness which belongs to the Son of God alone;
since the only object which he has in view is, to give authority to his
ministry, as appears more clearly from what follows; for he again adds
immediately afterwards, If I speak truth, why do you not believe me? From
which we infer that Christ is rather defending his doctrine than his person.
47. He who is of God. As he has a full right to take this for
granted, that he is the ambassador of the heavenly Father, and that he
discharges faithfully the office which has been committed to him, he kindles
into greater indignation against them; for their impiety was no longer
concealed, since they were so obstinate in rejecting the word of God. He
had showed that they could not bring forward any thing which he had not
taught as from the mouth of God. He concludes, therefore, that they have
nothing in common with God, for they do not hear the words of God; 2 and,
without saying any thing about himself, he charges them with being at war
with God. Besides, we are taught by this passage, that there is not a more
evident sign of a reprobate mind, than when one cannot endure the doctrine
of Christ, even though, in other respects, it shone with angelic sanctity;
as, on the contrary, if we embrace that doctrine cheerfully, we have what
may be called a visible seal of our election. For he who has the word enjoys
God himself; but he who rejects it excludes himself from righteousness
and life. Wherefore, there is nothing which we ought to fear so much as
to fall under that dreadful sentence.
48. Do we not say well? They show more and more how greatly they
are stupified by Satan; for, though they are fully convicted, still they
are enraged, and are not ashamed to show that they are utterly desperate.
3 Besides, though they bring a double reproach against Christ, still they
wish to do nothing more than to say in a few words, that he is a detestable
man, and that he is actuated by a wicked spirit. The Jews reckoned the
Samaritans to be apostates and corrupters of the Law; and therefore, whenever
they wished to stamp a man with infamy, they called him a Samaritan. Having
no crime more heinous, therefore, to reproach Christ with, they seize at
random, and without judgment, this vulgar taunt. To express it in a few
words, we see that with effrontery they curse him, as men are wont to do
when, infuriated like enraged dogs, they cannot find any thing to say.
49. I have not a devil. He passes by the first charge, and clears
himself only of the second. Some think that he did so, because he disregarded
the insult offered to his person, and undertook only the defense of the
doctrine. But they are mistaken, in my opinion; for it is not probable
that the Jews were so ingenious in distinguishing between the life and
the doctrine of the Lord Jesus. 4 Besides, the dislike of this name arose,
as we have said, from this circumstance, that the Samaritans, being perverse
and degenerate observers of the Law, had debased it by many superstitions
and corruptions, and had polluted the whole worship of God by foreign inventions.
Augustine flies to allegory, and says that Christ did not refuse to be
called a Samaritan, because he is a true guardian of his flock. But Christ's
intention appears to me to have been different; for since the two reproaches
cast upon him had the same object, by refuting the one, he refutes the
other; and, indeed, if the matter be duly considered, they insulted him
more grievously by calling him a Samaritan than by calling him a demoniac.
But, as I have already said, Christ satisfies himself with a simple refutation,
which he draws from what is contrary, when he asserts that he labors to
promote the honor of his Father; for he who duly and sincerely honors him
must be guided by the Spirit of God, and must be a faithful servant of
You have dishonored me. This clause may be explained, as if it
were a complaint of Christ, that he does not receive the honor due to him
on account of his promoting the glory of God. But I think that he looks
much higher, and connects the glory of the Father with his own, in this
manner. "I claim nothing for myself which does not tend to the glory of
God; for his majesty shines in me, his power and authority dwells in me;
and therefore, when you treat me so disdainfully, you pour contempt on
God himself." He immediately adds, therefore, that God will revenge this
insult. For they might have alleged that he was ambitious, if he had not
testified that it was not from any personal feelings of a carnal nature
that he cared about the honor or contempt showed to himself, but so far
as the honor or contempt of God is concerned. Besides, though we are at
a great distance from Christ, let every man be fully convinced that, if
he be sincerely desirous to promote the glory of God, he will find that
God has secured for him abundant commendation; for we shall always find
that saying to be true, Those who honor me, I will render honorable, (1
If men not only despise, but even load him with reproaches, let him calmly
wait till the day of the Lord come.
1 "Il y a qui la cherche, et qui en juge."
2 "Ils n'oyent point les paroles de Dieu."
3 "Neantmoins, ils sont enragez, et n'ont pointe honte
de se monstrer du tout desesperez."
4 "Du Seigneur Jesus."
51. Verily, verily, I say to you, If any man keep my word, he shall
never see death. 52. The Jews said therefore to him, Now we know that thou
hast the devil, 1 Abraham is dead, and the Prophets, and thou sayest, If
any man keep my word, he shall never taste of death. 53. Art thou greater
than our father Abraham, who is dead? The Prophets also are dead. Whom
makest thou thyself? 54. Jesus answered, If I glorify myself, my glory
is nothing; it is my Father who glorifieth me, of whom you say that he
is your God. 55. And you know him not, but I know him; and if I say that
I do not know him, I shall be a liar like you; but I know him, and keep
51. Verily, verily, I say to you. Christ unquestionably knew
that some persons in that multitude were curable, and that others of them
were not opposed to his doctrine. For this reason, he intended to terrify
the wicked whose malice was desperate, but to do so in such a manner as
to leave ground of consolation for the good, or to draw to him those who
were not yet ruined. Whatever dislike of the word of God, therefore, may
be entertained by the greatest part of men, yet the faithful teacher ought
not to be wholly employed in reproving the wicked, but ought also to impart
the doctrine of salvation to the children of God, and endeavor to bring
them to sound views, if there be any of them who are not perfectly incurable.
In this passage, therefore, Christ promises eternal life to his disciples,
but demands disciples who shall not only prick up their ears, like asses,
or profess with the mouth that they approve of his doctrine, but who shall
keep his doctrine as a precious treasure. He says that they shall never
see death; for, when faith quickens the soul of a man, death already has
its sting extracted and its venom removed, and so cannot inflict a deadly
52. Now we know. The reprobate persist in their stupidity, and
are not moved by promises any more than by threatenings; so that they can
neither be led nor drawn to Christ. Some think that they slanderously torture
his words, by using the expression, taste of death, which Christ had not
used; but this appears to me to be groundless. I rather think that both
of the phrases, to taste of death and to see death, were used by the Hebrews
in the same sense; namely, to die. But they are false interpreters in this
respect, that they apply the spiritual doctrine of Christ to the body.
No believer shall see death, because believers, having been born again
of incorruptible seed, (1 Peter 1:23,) live even when they die; because,
united to Christ their Head, they cannot be extinguished by death; because
death is to them a passage into the heavenly kingdom; because
the Spirit, dwelling in them, is life on account of righteousness, (Romans
until he swallow up all that remains of death. But those men, being
carnal, cannot perceive any deliverance from death, unless it appear manifestly
in the body. And it is a disease too common in the world, that the greatest
part of men care almost nothing about the grace of Christ, because they
judge of it only by their carnal perception. That the same thing may not
happen to us, we must arouse our minds, that they may discern spiritual
life in the midst of death.
53. Art thou greater than our father Abraham? This is another
offense, that they endeavor to obscure the glory of Christ by the splendor
of Abraham and of the saints. But as all the stars are thrown into the
shade by the brightness of the sun, so all the glory that is to be found
in all the saints must fade away before the incomparable brightness of
Christ. They act unjustly and absurdly, therefore, in contrasting the servants
with the Lord; and they even act improperly towards Abraham and the Prophets,
by abusing their name in opposition to Christ. But this wickedness has
prevailed in almost every age, and prevails even in the present day, that
wicked men, by mangling the works of God, make him appear to be contrary
to himself. God glorified himself by the Apostles and Martyrs; the Papists
frame idols for themselves out of the Apostles and Martyrs, that they may
occupy the place of God; and do they not, in this manner, manufacture engines
out of the very favors of God, to destroy his power? For how little remains
for God or for Christ, if the saints have all that the Papists so lavishly
bestow upon them! Wherefore, we ought to know that the whole order of the
Kingdom of God is destroyed, unless Prophets, Apostles, and all that can
be called Saints, be placed far below Christ, that he alone may hold the
highest rank. And, indeed, we cannot speak of the Saints more respectfully
than when we place them below Christ. But the Papists, though they may
deceive the ignorant by boasting that they are faithful admirers of the
Saints, offer an insult both to God and to them, because, by assigning
to them a lofty station, they reduce Christ to a level with them. And,
indeed, they are doubly in the wrong, because they prefer the Saints to
Christ in doctrine; and because, by clothing themselves with the spoils
of Christ, they deprive him of almost all his power.
54. If I glorify myself. Before replying to that unjust comparison,
he begins by saying that he does not seek his own glory, and thus meets
their slander. If it be objected, that Christ also glorified himself, the
answer is easy, that he did so, not as man, but by the direction and authority
of God. For here, as in many other passages, he distinguishes between himself
and God, by way of concession. In short, he declares that he desires no
glory whatever but what has been given him by the Father. We are taught
by these words that, when God glorifies his Son, he will not permit the
world to hate or despise him 2 with impunity.
Meanwhile, those voices sounding from heaven, Kiss the Son, (Psalm 2:12,)
Let all the angels worship him, (Hebrews 1:6,) Let every knee bow to him,
(Philippians 2:10,) Hear ye him, (Matthew 17:5,) Let the Gentiles seek
him, (Romans 15:11,) and Let all flesh be humbled, ought greatly to encourage
believers to render honor and reverence to Christ. We are also reminded
by these words, that all the honor which men procure for themselves is
trivial and worthless. How blind then is ambition, when we labor so earnestly
about nothing! Let, us continually keep before our eyes that saying of
Paul, Not he who commendeth himself is approved, but whom God commendeth,
(2 Corinthians 10:18.)
Besides, as we are destitute of the glory of God, let us learn to glory
in Christ alone, so far as by his grace he makes us partakers of his glory.
Of whom you say that he is your God. He pulls off from them the
false mask of the name of God which they were accustomed to employ. "I
know," he says, "how presumptuously you boast that you are the people of
God; but it is a false title, for you know not God." Hence also we learn
what is the true and lawful 3 profession of faith. It is that which proceeds
from true knowledge. And whence comes that knowledge, but from the word?
Consequently, all who boast of the name of God without the word of God
are mere liars. Yet to their audacity Christ opposes the assurance of his
conscience; and thus all the servants of God ought to be prepared in their
hearts to be satisfied with this alone, that God is on their side, though
the whole world should rise against him. Thus anciently the Prophets and
Apostles had invincible courage and magnanimity, which stood firm against
the dreadful attacks of the whole world, because they knew by whom they
were sent. But when solid knowledge of God is wanting, there is nothing
to support us.
And if I shall say that I know him. By this clause, Christ testifies
that the necessity of his office constrains him to speak, because silence
would be a treacherous denim of the truth. This is a remarkable statement,
that God reveals himself to us for this purpose, that we may confess before
men the faith which we have in our hearts, when it is needful. For it ought
powerfully to strike terror into our minds, that they who act hypocritically
to please men, and either deny the truth of God or disfigure it by wicked
glosses, not only are gently reproved, but are sent back to the children
of the devil.
1 "Que tu as le diable."
2 "En haine et mespris."
3 "La vraye et legitimo profession."
56. Your father Abraham exulted to see my day; and he saw it and
rejoiced. 57. The Jews then said to him, Thou art not yet fifty years old,
and hast thou seen Abraham? 58. Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I tell
you, before Abraham was, I am. 59. Then they took up stones to throw at
him; but Jesus concealed himself, and went out of the temple.
56. Your father Abraham. He grants to them, in words only, what
he formerly took from them, that Abraham is their father. But he shows
how idle is the objection drawn from the name of Abraham. "He had no other
object," says he, "during his whole life, than to see my kingdom flourish.
He longed for me when I was absent, you despise me when I am present."
What Christ here asserts concerning Abraham alone, applies to all the saints.
But this doctrine has greater weight in the person of Abraham, because
he is the father of the whole Church. Whoever then desires to be reckoned
in the number of the godly, let him rejoice, as he ought to do, in the
presence of Christ, for which Abraham ardently longed.
Exulted to see my day. The word exult expresses a vehement zeal
1 and ardent affection. We must now supply the contrast. Though the knowledge
of Christ was still so obscure, Abraham was inflamed by so strong a desire,
that he preferred the enjoyment of it to everything that was reckoned desirable.
How base then is the ingratitude of those who despise and reject him, when
he is plainly offered to them? The word day does not, in this passage,
denote eternity, (as Augustine thought,) but the time of Christ's kingdom,
when he appeared in the world clothed with flesh, to fulfill the office
But a question now arises, How did Abraham behold, even with the eyes
of faith, the manifestation of Christ? For this appears not to agree with
another statement of Christ,
Many kings and prophets desired to see the things which you see, and
yet did not see them, (Luke 10:24.)
I reply, faith has its degrees in beholding Christ. Thus the ancient
prophets beheld Christ at a distance, as he had been promised to them,
and yet were not permitted to behold him present, as he made himself familiarly
and completely visible, when he came down from heaven to men.
Again, we are taught by these words that, as God did not disappoint
the desire of Abraham, so he will not now permit any one to breathe after
Christ, without obtaining some good fruit which shall correspond to his
holy desire. The reason why he does not grant the enjoyment of himself
to many is -- the wickedness of men; for few desire him. Abraham's joy
testifies that he regarded the knowledge of the kingdom of Christ as an
incomparable treasure; and the reason why we are told that he rejoiced
to see the day of Christ is, that we may know that there was nothing which
he valued more highly. But all believers receive this fruit from their
faith, that, being satisfied with Christ alone, in whom they are fully
and completely happy and blessed, their consciences are calm and cheerful.
And indeed no man knows Christ aright, unless he gives him this honor of
relying entirely upon him.
Others explain it to mean, that Abraham, being already dead, enjoyed
the presence of Christ, when he appeared to the world; and so they make
the time of desiring and the time of seeing to be different. And indeed
it is true, that the coming of Christ was manifested to holy spirits after
death, of which coming they were held in expectation during the whole of
their life; but I do not know if so refined an exposition agrees with Christ's
57. Thou art not yet fifty years old. They endeavor to refute
Christ's saying, by showing that he had asserted what was impossible, when
he who was not yet fifty years of age makes himself equal to Abraham, who
died many centuries before. Though Christ was not yet thirty-four years
of age, yet they allow him to be somewhat older, that they may not appear
to be too rigid and exact in dealing with him; as if they had said, "Thou
certainly wilt not make thyself so old, though thou wert to boast that
thou art already fifty years of age." Consequently, those who conjecture
that he looked older than he actually was, or that the years mentioned
in this passage are not solar years, in either case labor to no purpose.
The notion of Papias, who says that Christ lived more than forty years,
cannot at all be admitted.
58. Before Abraham was. As unbelievers judge only from the appearance
of the flesh, Christ reminds them that he has something greater and higher
than human appearance, which is hidden from the senses of the flesh, and
is perceived only by the eyes of faith; and that, in this respect, he might
be seen by the holy fathers, before he was manifested in the flesh. But
he uses different verbs. Before Abraham was, 2 or, Before Abraham was born,
3 I am. 4. But by these words he excludes himself from the ordinary rank
of men, and claims for himself a power more than human, 5 a power heavenly
and divine, the perception of which reached from the beginning of the world
through all ages.
Yet these words may be explained in two ways. Some think that this applies
simply to the eternal Divinity of Christ, and compare it with that passage
in the writings of Moses, I am what I am, (Exodus 3:14.) But I extend it
much farther, because the power and grace of Christ, so far as he is the
Redeemer of the world, was common to all ages. It agrees therefore with
that saying of the apostle, Christ yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,
(Hebrews 13:8.) For the context appears to demand this interpretation.
He had formerly said that Abraham longed for his day with vehement desire;
and as this seemed incredible to the Jews, he adds, that he himself also
existed at that time. The reason assigned will not appear sufficiently
strong, if we do not understand that he was even then acknowledged to be
the Mediator, by whom God was to be appeased. And yet the efficacy which
belonged, in all ages, to the grace of the Mediator depended on his eternal
Divinity; so that this saying of Christ contains a remarkable testimony
of his Divine essence.
We ought also to observe the solemn form of an oath, Verily, verily.
Nor do I disapprove of the opinion of Chrysostom, that the present tense
of the verb is emphatic; for he does not say, I was, but I am; by which
he denotes a condition uniformly the same from the beginning to the end.
And he does not say, Before Abraham was, but, Before Abraham was made;
which implies that Abraham had a beginning.
59. Then they took up stones. There is reason to believe that
they did this, as if Christ ought to be stoned according to the injunction
of the Law, (Leviticus 24:16.) Hence we infer how great is the madness
of inconsiderate zeal; for they have no ears to know the cause, but they
have hands ready to commit murder. I have no doubt that Christ rescued
himself by his secret power, but yet under the appearance of a low condition;
for he did not intend to make a clear display of his Divinity without leaving
something for human infirmity. Some copies have the words, And so Jesus
passed through the midst of them; which Erasmus justly considers to have
been borrowed from the Gospel by Luke 4:30. It deserves notice also, that
the wicked priests and scribes, after having banished Christ, in whom
dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead, |(Colossians 2:9,) retain
possession of the outward temple; but they are greatly deceived, when they
think that they have a temple in which God does not dwell. Such is the
course now pursued by the Pope and his followers. After having banished
Christ, and in this manner profaned the Church, they foolishly glory in
the false disguise of a Church.
1 "Un vehement zele."
2 "Avant qu'Abraham fust."
3 "Priusquam Abraham nasceretur."
4 pri<n Abraa<m gene>sqai, ejgw> eijmi. Our Author's
idea, to which he merely alludes, appears to be that, instead of saying,
ejgw< ejgeno>mnh, or, ejgw< gi>nomai, Christ purposely said, ejgw>
eijmi, because the verb eijmi~, standing contrasted with gene>sqai, would
convey the idea of underived existence. -- Ed.
5 "Une vertu plus qu'humaine."