BOOK VI (1 TO 14)

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When a house is being built which is to be made as strong as possible, the building takes place in fine weather and in calm, so that nothing may hinder the structure from acquiring the needed solidity. And thus it turns out so strong and stable that it is able to withstand the rush of the flood. and the dashing of the river, and all the agencies accompanying a storm which are apt to find out what is rotten in a building and to show what parts of it have been properly put together. And more particularly should that house which is capable of sheltering the speculations of truth, the house of reason, as it were, in promise or in letters, be built at a time when God can add His free co-operation to the projector of so noble a work, when the soul is quiet and in the enjoyment of that peace which passes all understanding, when she is turned away from all disturbance and not buffeted by any billows. This, it appears to me, was well understood by the servants of the prophetic spirit and the ministers of the Gospel message; they made themselves worthy to receive that peace which is in secret from Him who ever gives it to them that are worthy and who said,(1) "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you." And look if some similar lesson is not taught under the surface with regard to David and Solomon in the narrative about the temple. David, who fought the wars of the Lord and stood firm against many enemies, his own and those of Israel, desired to build a temple for God. But God, through Nathan, prevents him from doing so, and Nathan says to him,(2) "Thou shalt not build me an house, because thou art a man of blood." But Solomon, on the other hand, saw God in a dream, and in a dream received wisdom, for the reality of the vision was kept for him who said, "Behold a greater than Solomon is here." The time was one of the profoundest peace, so that it was possible for every man to rest under his own vine and his own fig-tree, and Solomon's very name was significant of the peace which was in his days, for Solomon means peaceful; and so he was at liberty to build the famous temple of God. About the time of Ezra, also, when "truth conquers wine and the hostile king: and women,"(1) the temple of God is restored again. All this is said by way of apology to you, reverend Ambrosius. It is at your sacred encouragement that I have made up my mind to build up in writing: the tower of the Gospel; and I have therefore sate down to count the cost,(2) if I have sufficient to finish it, lest I should be mocked by the beholders, because I laid the foundation but was not able to finish the work. The result of my counting, it is true, has been that I do not possess what is required to finish it; yet I have put my trust in God, who enriches us(3) with all wisdom and all knowledge. If we strive to keep His spiritual laws we believe that He does enrich us; He will supply what is necessary so that we shall get on with our building, and shall even come to the parapet of the structure. That parapet it is which keeps from falling those who go up on the house of the Word; for people only fall off those houses which have no parapet, so that the buildings themselves are to blame for their fall and for their death. We proceeded as far as the fifth volume in spite of the obstacles presented by the storm in Alexandria, and spoke what was given us to speak, for Jesus rebuked the winds and the waves of the sea. We emerged from the storm, we were brought out of Egypt, that God delivering us who led His people forth from there. Then, when the enemy assailed us with all bitterness by his new writings, so directly hostile to the Gospel, and stirred up against us all the winds of wickedness in Egypt, I felt that reason called me rather to stand fist for the conflict, and to save the higher part in me, lest evil counsels should succeed in directing the storm so as to overwhelm my soul, rather to do this than to finish my work at an unsuitable season, before my mind had recovered its calm. Indeed, the ready writers who usually attended me brought my work to a stand by failing to appear to take down my words. But now that the many fiery darts directed against me have lost their edge, for God extinguished them, and my soul has grown accustomed to the dispensation sent me for the sake of the heavenly word, and has learned from necessity to disregard the snares of my enemies, it is as if a great calm had settled on me, and I defer no longer the continuation of this work. I pray that God will be with me, and will speak as a teacher in the porch of my soul, so that the building I have begun of the exposition of the Gospel of John may arrive at completion. May God hear my prayer and grant that the body of the whole work may now be brought together, and that no interruption may intervene which might prevent me from following the sequence of Scripture. And be assured that it is with great readiness that I now make this second beginning and enter on my sixth volume, because what I wrote before at Alexandria has not, I know not by what chance, been brought with me. I feared I might neglect this work, if I were not engaged on it at once, and therefore thought it better to make use of this present time and begin without delay the part which remains. I am not certain if the part formerly written will come to light, and would be very unwilling to waste time in waiting to see if it does. Enough of preamble, let us now attend to our text.


"And this is the witness of John."(1) This is the second recorded testimony of John the Baptist to Christ. The first begins with "This was He of whom I said, He that cometh after me," and goes down to "The only-begotten Son of God who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared him." Heracleon supposes the words, "No one has seen God at any time," etc., to have been spoken, not by the Baptist, but by the disciple. But in this he is not sound. He himself allows the words, "Of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace; for the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ," to have been spoken by the Baptist. And does it not follow that the person who received of the fulness of Christ, and a second grace in addition to that he had before, and who declared the law to have been given by Moses, but grace and truth to have come through Jesus Christ, is it not clear that this is the person who understood, from what he received from the fulness of Christ, how "no one hath seen God at any time," and how "the only-begotten who is in the bosom of the Father" had delivered the declaration about God to him and to all those who had received of His fulness? He was not declaring here for the first time Him that is in the bosom of the Father, as if there had never before been any one fit to receive what he told His Apostles. Does he not teach us that he was before Abraham, and that Abraham rejoiced and was glad to see his day? The words "Of his fulness all we received," and "Grace for grace," show, as we have already made clear, that the prophets also received their gift from the fulness of Christ and received a second grace in place of that they had before; for they also, led by the Spirit, advanced from the introduction they had in types to the vision of truth. Hence not all the prophets, but many of them,(1) desired to see the things, which the Apostles saw. For if there was a difference among the prophets, those who were perfect and more distinguished of them did not desire to see what the Apostles saw, but actually beheld them, while those who rose less fully than these to the height of the Word were filled with longing for the things which the Apostles knew through Christ. The word "saw" we have not taken in a physical sense, and the word "heard" we have taken to refer to a spiritual communication; only he who has ears is prepared to hear the words of Jesus--a thing which does not happen too frequently. There is the further point, that the saints before the bodily advent of Jesus had an advantage over most believers in their insight into the mysteries of divinity, since the Word of God was their teacher before He became flesh, for He was always working, in imitation of His Father, of whom He says, "My father worketh hitherto." On this point we may adduce the words He addresses to the Sadducees, who do not believe the doctrine of the resurrection. "Have you not read," He says,(1) "what is said by God at the Bush, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; He is not the God of the dead but of the living." If, then, God is not ashamed to be called the God of these men, and if they are counted by Christ among the living, and if all believers are sons of Abraham,(2) since all the Gentiles are blessed with faithful Abraham, who is appointed by God to be a father of the Gentiles, can we hesitate to admit that those living persons made acquaintance with the learning of living men, and were taught by Christ who was born before the daystar,(3) before He became flesh? And for this cause they lived, because they had part in Him who said, "I am the life," and as the heirs of so great promises received the vision, not only of angels, but of God in Christ. For they saw, it may be, the image of the invisible God,(4) since he who hath seen the Son hath seen the Father, and so they are recorded to have known God, and to have heard God's words worthily, and, therefore, to have seen God and heard Him. Now, I consider that those who are fully and really sons of Abraham are sons of his actions, spiritually understood, and of the knowledge which was made manifest to him. What he knew and what he did appears again in those who are his sons, as the Scripture teaches those who have ears to hear,(5) "If ye were the children of Abraham, ye would do the works of Abraham." And if it is a true proverb(6) which says, "A wise man will understand that which proceeds from his own mouth, and on his lips he will bear prudence," then we must at once repudiate some things which have been said about the prophets, as if they were not wise men, and did not understand what proceeded from their own mouths. We must believe what is good and true about the prophets, that they were sages, that they did understand what proceeded from their mouths, and that they bore prudence on their lips. It is clear indeed that Moses understood in his mind the truth (real meaning) of the law, and the higher interpretations of the stories recorded in his books. Joshua, too, understood the meaning of the allotment of the land after the destruction of the nine and twenty kings, and could see better than we can the realities of which his achievements were the shadows. It is clear, too, that Isaiah saw the mystery of Him who sat upon the throne, and of the two seraphim, and of the veiling of their faces and their feet, and of their wings, and of the altar and of the tongs. Ezekiel, too, understood the true significance of the cherubim and of their goings, and of the firmament that was above them, and of Him that sat on the throne, than all which what could be loftier or more splendid? I need not enter into more particulars; the point I aim at establishing is clear enough already, namely, that those who were made perfect in earlier generations knew not less than the Apostles did of what Christ revealed to them, since the same teacher was with them as He who revealed to the Apostles the unspeakable mysteries of godliness. I will add but a few points, and then leave it to the reader to judge and to form what views he pleases on this subject. Paul says in his Epistle to the Romans,(1) "Now, to him who is able to establish you according to my Gospel, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal, but is now made manifest by the prophetic Scriptures and the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ." For if the mystery concealed of old is made manifest to the Apostles through the prophetic writings, and if the prophets, being wise men, understood what proceeded from their own mouths, then the prophets knew what was made manifest to the Apostles. But to many it was not revealed, as Paul says,(2) "In other generations it was not made known to the sons of men as it hath now been revealed unto His holy Apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs and members of the same body." Here an objection may be raised by those who do not share the view we have propounded; and it becomes of importance to define what is meant by the word "revealed." It is capable of two meanings: firstly, that the thing in question is understood, but secondly, if a prophecy is spoken of, that it is accomplished. Now, the fact that the Gentiles were to be fellow-heirs and members of the same body, and partakers of the promise, was known to the prophets to this extent, that they knew the Gentiles were to fellow-heirs and members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ. When this should be, and why, and what Gentiles were spoken of, and how, though strangers from the covenants. and aliens to the promises, they were yet to be members of one body and sharers of the blessings; all this was known to the prophets, being revealed to them. But the things prophesied belong to the future, and are not revealed to those who know them, but do not witness their fulfilment, as they are to those who have the event before their eyes. And this was the position of the Apostles. Thus, I conceive. they knew the events no more than the fathers and the prophets did; and yet it is truly said of them that "what to other generations was not revealed was now revealed to the Apostles and prophets, that the Gentiles were fellow-heirs and members of the same body, and partakers in the promise of Christ." For, in addition to knowing these mysteries, they saw the power at work in the accomplished fact. The passage, "Many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things ye see and did not see them; and to hear the things ye hear and did not hear them," may be interpreted in the same way. They also desired to see the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, and of His coming down to carry out the design of His suffering for the salvation of many, actually put in operation. This may be illustrated from another quarter. Suppose one of the Apostles to have understood the "unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter,"(1) but not to witness the glorious bodily appearing of Jesus to the faithful. which is promised, although He desired to see it and suppose another had not only not(2) marked and seen what that Apostle marked and saw, but had a much feebler grasp of the divine hope, and yet is present at the second coming of our Saviour, which the Apostle, as in the parallel above, had desired, but had not seen. We shall not err from the truth if we say that both of these have seen what the Apostle, or indeed the Apostles, desired to see, and yet that they are not on that account to be deemed wiser or more blessed than the Apostles. In the same way, also, the Apostles are not to be deemed wiser than the fathers, or than Moses and the prophets, than those in fact who, for their virtue, were found worthy of epiphanies and of divine manifestations and of revelations of mysteries.


We have lingered rather long over these discussions, but there is a reason for it. There are many who, under the pretence of glorifying the advent of Christ, declare the Apostles to be wiser than the fathers or the prophets; and of these teachers some have invented a greater God for the later period, while some, not venturing so far, but moved, according to their own account of the matter, by the difficulty connected with doctrine, cancel the whole of the gift conferred by God on the fathers and the prophets, through Christ, through whom all things were made. If all things were made through Him, clearly so must the splendid revelations have been which were made to the fathers and prophets, and became to them the symbols of the sacred mysteries of religion. Now the true soldiers of Christ must always be prepared to do battle for the truth, and must never, so far as lies with them, allow false convictions to creep in. We must not, therefore, neglect this matter. It may be said that John's earlier testimony to Christ is to be found in the words. "He who cometh after me exists before me, for He was before me," and that the words, "For of His fulness we all received, and grace for grace," are in the mouth of John the disciple. Now, we must show this exposition to be a forced one, and one which does violence to the context; it is rather a strong proceeding to suppose the speech of the Baptist to be so suddenly and, as it were, inopportunely interrupted by that of the disciple, and it is quite apparent to any one who can judge, in whatever small degree, of a context, that the speech goes on continuously after the words, "This is He of whom I spoke, He that cometh after me exists before me, for He was before me." The Baptist brings a proof that Jesus existed before him because He was before him, since He is the first-born of all creation; he says, "For of His fulness all we received." That is the reason why he says, "He exists before me, for He was before me." That is how I know that He is first and in higher honour with the Father, since of His fulness both I and the prophets before me received the more divine prophetic grace instead of the grace we received at His hands before in respect of our election. That is why I say, "He exists before me, for He was before me," because we know what we have received from His fulness; namely, that the law was given through Moses, not by Moses, while grace and truth not only were given but came into existence(1) through Jesus Christ. For His God and Father both gave the law through Moses, and made grace and truth through Jesus Christ, that grace and truth which came to man. If we give a reasonable interpretation to the words, "Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ," we shall not be alarmed at the possible discrepancy with them of that other saying, "I am the way and the truth and the life." If it is Jesus who says, "I am the truth," then how does the truth come through Jesus Christ, since no one comes into existence through himself? We must recognize that this very truth, the essential truth, which is prototypal, so to speak, of that truth which exists in souls endowed with reason, that truth from which, as it were, images are impressed on those who care for truth, was not made through Jesus Christ, nor indeed through any one, but by God;--just as the Word was not made through any one which was in the beginning with the Father;--and as wisdom which God created the beginning of His ways was not made through any one, so the truth also was not made through any one.That truth, however, which is with men came through Jesus Christ, as the truth in Paul and the Apostles came through Jesus Christ. And it is no wonder, since truth is one, that many truths should flow from that one. The prophet David certainly knew many truths, as he says,(2) "The Lord searcheth out truths," for the Father of truth searches out not the one truth but the many through which those are saved who possess them. And as with the one truth and many truths, so also with righteousness and righteousnesses. For the very essential righteousness is Christ, "Who was made to us of God wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption." But from that righteousness is formed the righteousness which is in each individual. so that there are in the saved many righteousnesses, whence also it is written,(3) "For the Lord is righteous, and He loved righteousnesses." This is the reading in the exact copies, and in the other versions besides the Septuagint, and in the Hebrew. Consider if the other things which Christ is said to be in a unity admit of being multiplied in the same way and spoken of in the plural. For example, Christ is our life as the Saviour Himself says,(1) "I am the way and the truth and the life." The Apostle, too, says,(2) "When Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." And in the Psalms again we find,(3) "Thy mercy is better than life;" for it is on account of Christ who is life in every one that there are many lives. This, perhaps, is also the key to the passage,(4) "If ye seek a proof of the Christ that speaketh in me." For Christ is found in every saint, and so from the one Christ there come to be many Christs, imitators of Him and formed after Him who is the image of God; whence God says through the prophet,(5) "Touch not my Christs." Thus we have explained in passing the passage which we appeared to have omitted from our exposition, viz.: "Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ;" and we have also shown that the words belong to John the Baptist and form part of his testimony to the Son of God.


Now let us consider John's second testimony. Jews from Jerusalem,(6) kindred to John the Baptist, since he also belonged to a priestly race, send priests and levites to ask John who he is. In saying, "I am not the Christ," he made a confession of the truth. The words are not, as one might suppose, a negation; for it is no negation to say, in the honour of Christ, that one is not Christ. The priests and levites sent from Jerusalem, having there heard in the first place that he is not the expected Messiah, put a question about the second great personage whom they expected, namely, Elijah, whether John were he, and he says he is not Elijah, and by his "I am not" makes a second confession of the truth. And, as many prophets had appeared in Israel, and one in particular was looked for according to the prophecy of Moses, who said,(7) "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up to you of your brethren, like unto me, him shall ye hear; and it shall come to pass that every soul that shall not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people," they, therefore, ask a third question, not whether he is a prophet, but whether he is the prophet. Now, they did not apply this name to the Christ, but supposed the prophet to be a second figure beside the Christ. But John, on the contrary, who knew that He whose forerunner he was was both the Christ and the prophet thus foretold, answered "No;" whereas, if they had asked if he was a prophet, he would have answered "Yes;"(1) for he was not unconscious that he was a prophet. In all these answers John's second testimony to Christ was not yet completed; he had still to give his questioners the answer they were to take back to those who sent them, and to declare himself in the terms of the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord."


Here the enquiry suggests itself whether the second testimony is concluded, and whether there is a third, addressed to those who were sent from the Pharisees. They wished to know why he baptized, if he was neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet; and he said:(2) "I baptize with water; but there standeth one among you whom you know not, He that cometh after me, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose." Is this a third testimony, or is this which they were to report to the Pharisees a part of the second? As far as the words allow me to conjecture I should say that the word to the emissaries of the Pharisees was a third testimony. It is to be observed, however, that the first testimony asserts the divinity of the Saviour, while the second disposes of the suspicion of those who were in doubt whether John could be the Christ, and the third declares one who was already present with men although they saw Him not, and whose coming was no longer in the future. Before going on to the subsequent testimonies in which he points out Christ and witnesses to Him, let us look at the second and third, word for word, and let us, in the first place, observe that there are two embassies to the Baptist, one "from Jerusalem" from the Jews, who send priests and levites, to ask him, "Who art thou?" the second sent by the Pharisees,(3) who were in doubt about the answer which had been made to the priests and levites. Observe how what is said by the first envoys is in keeping with the character of priests and levites, and shows gentleness and a willingness to learn. "Who art thou?" they say, and "What then? art thou Elijah?" and "Art thou that prophet?" and then, "Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself?" There is nothing harsh or arrogant in the enquiries of these men; everything agrees well with the character of true and careful servants of God; and they raise no difficulties about the replies made to them. Those, on the contrary, who are sent from the Pharisees assail the Baptist, as it were, with arrogant and unsympathetic words: "Why then baptizest thou if thou be not the Christ nor Elijah nor the prophet?" This mission is sent scarcely for the sake of information, as in the former case of the priests and levites, but rather to debar the Baptist from baptizing, as if it were thought that no one was entitled to baptize but Christ and Elijah and the prophet. The student who desires to understand the Scripture must always proceed in this careful way; he must ask with regard to each speech, who is the speaker and on what occasion it was spoken. Thus only can we discern how speech harmonizes with the character of the speaker, as it does all through the sacred books.


Then the Jews sent priests and levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou And he confessed and denied not; and he confessed, I am not the Christ.(1) What legates should have been sent from the Jews to John, and where should they have been sent from? Should they not have been men held to stand by the election of God above their fellows, and should they not have come from that place which was chosen out of the whole of the earth, though it is all called good, from Jerusalem where was the temple of God? With such honour, then, do they enquire of John. In the case of Christ nothing of this sort is reported to have been done by the Jews; but what the Jews do to John, John does to Christ, sending his own disciples to ask him,(2) "Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" John confesses to those sent to him, and denies not, and he afterwards declares, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness; "but Christ, as having a greater testimony than John the Baptist, makes His answer by words and deeds, saying. "Go and tell John those things which ye do hear and see; the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them." On this passage I shall, if God permit, enlarge in its proper place. Here, however, it might be asked reasonably enough why John gives such an answer to the question put to him. The priests and levites do not ask him, "Art thou the Christ?" but "Who art thou?" and the Baptist's reply to this question should have been, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness." The proper reply to the question, "Art thou the Christ?" is, "I am not the Christ;" and to the question, "Who art thou?"--"The voice of one crying in the wilderness." To this we may say that he probably discerned in the question of the priests and levites a cautious reverence, which led them to hint the idea in their minds that he who was baptizing might be the Christ, but withheld them from openly saying so, which might have been presumptuous. He quite naturally, therefore, proceeds in the first place to remove any false impressions they might have taken up about him, and declares publicly the true state of the matter, "I am not the Christ." Their second question, and also their third, show that they had conceived some such surmise about him. They supposed that he might be that second in honour to whom their hopes pointed, namely, Elijah, who held with them the next position after Christ; and so when John had answered, "I am not the Christ," they asked, "What then? Art thou Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." They wish to know, in the third place, if he is the prophet, and on his answer," No," they have no longer any name to give the personage whose advent they expected, and they say, "Who art thou, then, that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?" Their meaning is: "You are not, you say, any of those personages whose advent Israel hopes and expects, and who you are, to baptize as you do, we do not know; tell us, therefore, so that we may report to those who sent us to get light ripen this point." We add, as it has some bearing on the context, that the people were moved by the thought that the period of Christ's advent was near. It was in a manner imminent in the years from the birth of Jesus and a little before, down to the publication of the preaching. Hence it was, in all likelihood, that as the scribes and lawyers had deduced the time from Holy Scripture and were expecting the Coming One, the idea was taken up by Theudas, who came forward as the Messiah and brought together a considerable multitude, and after him by the famous Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing.(1) Thus the coming of the Messiah was more warmly expected and discussed, and it was natural enough for the Jews to send priests and levites from Jerusalem to John, to ask him, "Who art thou?" and learn if he professed to be the Christ.


"And(2) they asked him, What then? Art thou Elijah? and he said, I am not." No one can fail to remember in this connection what Jesus says of John,(3) "If ye will receive it, this is Elijah which is to come." How, then, does John come to say to those who ask him, "Art thou Elijah?"--"I am not." And how can it be true at the same time that John is Elijah who is to come, according to the words of Malachi,(4) "And behold I send unto you Elijah the Tishbite, before the great and notable day of the Lord come, who shall restore the heart of the father to the SOD, and the heart of a man to his neighbour, lest I come, and utterly smite the earth." The words of the angel of the Lord, too, who appeared to Zacharias, as he stood at the right hand of the altar of incense, are somewhat to the same effect as the prophecy of Malachi: "And(5) thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John." And a little further on:(6) "And he shall go before His face in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for Him." As for the first point, one might say that John did not know that he was Elijah. This will be the explanation of those who find in our passage a support for their doctrine of transcorporation, as if the soul clothed itself in a fresh body and did not quite remember its former lives. These thinkers will also point out that some of the Jews assented to this doctrine when they spoke about the Saviour as if He was one of the old prophets, and had risen not from the tomb but from His birth. His mother Mary was well known, and Joseph the carpenter was supposed to be His father, add it could readily be supposed that He was one of the old prophets risen from the dead.

The same person will adduce the text in Genesis.(1) "I will destroy the whole resurrection," and will thereby reduce those who give themselves to finding in Scripture solutions of false probabilities to a great difficulty in respect of this doctrine. Another, however, a churchman, who repudiates the doctrine of transcorporation as a false one, and does not admit that the soul of John ever was Elijah, may appeal to the above-quoted words of the angel, and point out that it is not the soul of Elijah that is spoken of at John's birth, but the spirit and power of Elijah. "He shall go before him," it is said, "in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children." Now it can be shown from thousands of texts that the spirit is a different thing from the soul, and that what is called the power is a different thing from both the soul and the spirit. On these points I cannot now enlarge; this work must not be unduly expanded. To establish the fact that power is different from spirit. it will be enough to cite the text,(2) "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee." As for the spirits of the prophets, these are given to them by God, and are spoken of as being in a manner their property (slaves), as "The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets."(3) and "The spirit of Elijah rested upon Elisha."(4) Thus, it is said, there is nothing absurd in supposing that John, "in the spirit and power of Elijah," turned the hearts of the fathers to the children, and that it was on account of this spirit that he was called "Elijah who was to come." And to reinforce this view it may be argued that if the God of the universe identified Himself with His saints to such an extent as to be called the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, much more might the Holy Spirit so identify Himself with the prophets as to be called their spirit, so that when the spirit is spoken of it might be the spirit of Elijah or the spirit of Isaiah. Our churchman, to go on with his views, may further say that those who supposed Jesus to be one of the prophets risen from the dead were probably misled, partly by the doctrine above mentioned, and partly by supposing Him to be one of the prophets, and that as for this misconception that He was one of the prophets, these persons probably fell into their error from not knowing about Jesus' supposed father and actual mother, and considering that He had risen from the tombs. As for the text in Genesis about the resurrection, the churchman will rejoin with a text to an opposite effect, "God hath raised up for me another seed in place of Abel whom Cain slew;"(1) showing that the resurrection occurs in Genesis. As for the first difficulty which was raised, our churchman will meet the view of the believers in transcorporation by saying that John is no doubt, in a certain sense, as he has already shown, Elijah who is to come; and that the reason why he met the enquiry of the priests and levites with "I am not," was that he divined the object they had in view in making it. For the enquiry laid before John by the priests and levites was not intended to bring out whether the same spirit was in both, but whether John was that very Elijah who was taken up, and who now appeared according to the expectation of the Jews without being born (for the emissaries, perhaps, did not know about John's birth); and to such all enquiry he naturally answered, "I am not;" for he who was called John was not Elijah who was taken up, and had not changed his body for his present appearance. Our first scholar, whose view of transcorporation we have seen based upon our passage, may go on with a close examination of the text, and urge against his antagonist, that if John was the son of such a man as the priest Zacharias, and if he was born when his parents were both aged, contrary to all human expectation, then it is not likely that so many Jews at Jerusalem would be so ignorant about him, or that the priests and levites whom they sent would not be acquainted with the facts of his birth. Does not Luke declare(2) that "fear came upon all those who lived round about,"--clearly round about Zacharias and Elisabeth--and that "all these things were noised abroad throughout the whole hill country of Judaea"? And if John's birth from Zacharias was a matter of common knowledge, and the Jews of Jerusalem yet sent priests and levites to ask, "Art thou Elijah?" then it is clear that in saying this they assumed the doctrine of transcorporation to be true, and that it was a current doctrine of their country, and not foreign to their secret teaching. John therefore says, I am not Elijah, because he does not know about his own former life. These thinkers, accordingly, entertain an opinion which is by no means to be despised. Our churchman, however, may return to the charge, and ask if it is worthy of a prophet, who is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, who is predicted by Isaiah, and whose birth was foretold before it took place by so great an angel, one who has received of the fulness of Christ, who shares in such a grace, who knows truth to have come through Jesus Christ, and has taught such deep things about God and about the only-begotten, who is in the bosom of the Father, is it worthy of such a one to lie, or even to hesitate, out of ignorance of what he was. For with respect to what was obscure, he ought to have refrained from confessing, and to have neither affirmed nor denied the proposition put before him. If the doctrine in question really was widely current, ought not John to have hesitated to pronounce upon it, lest his soul had actually been in Elijah? And here our churchman will appeal to history, and will bid his antagonists ask experts of the secret doctrines of the Hebrews, if they do really entertain such a belief. For if it should appear that they do not, then the argument based on that supposition is shown to be quite baseless. Our churchman, however, is still free to have recourse to the solution given before, and to insist that attention be paid to the meaning with which the question was put. For if, as I showed, the senders knew John to be the child of Zacharias and Elisabeth, and if the messengers still more, being men of priestly race, could not possibly be ignorant of the remarkable manner in which their kinsman Zacharias had received his son, then what could be the meaning of their question, "Art thou Elijah?" Had they not read that Elijah had been taken up into heaven, and did they not expect him to appear? Then, as they expect Elijah to come at the consummation before Christ, and Christ to follow him, perhaps their question was meant less in a literal than in a tropical sense: Are you he who announces beforehand the word which is to come before Christ, at the consummation? To this he very properly answers, "I am not." The adversary, however, tries to show that the priests could not be ignorant that the birth of John had taken place in so remarkable a manner, because "all these things had been much spoken of in the hill country of Judaea;" and the churchman has to meet this. He does so by showing that a similar mistake was widely current about the Saviour Himself; for "some said that He was John the Baptist, others Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."(1) So the disciples told the Lord when He was in the parts of Caesarea Philippi, and questioned them on that subject. And Herod, too, said,(1) "John whom I beheaded, he is risen from the dead;" so that he appears not to have known what was said about Christ, as reported in the Gospel,(2) "Is not this the son of the carpenter, is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?" Thus in the case of the Saviour, while many knew of His birth from Mary, others were under a mistake about Him; and so in the case of John, there is no wonder if, while some knew of his birth from Zacharias, others were in doubt whether the expected Elijah had appeared in him or not. There was not more room for doubt about John, whether he was Elijah, than about the Saviour, whether He was John. Of the two, the question of the outward form of Elijah could be disposed of from the words of Scripture, though not from actual observation, for we read,(3) "He was a hairy man, and girt with a leather girdle about his loins." John's outward appearance, on the contrary, was well known, and was not like that of Jesus; and yet there were those who surmised that John had risen from the dead, and taken the name of Jesus. As for the change of name, a thing which reminds us of mysteries, I do not know how the Hebrews came to tell about Phinehas, son of Eleazar, who admittedly prolonged his life to the time of many of the judges, as we read in the Book of Judges,(4) to tell about him what I now mention. They say that he was Elijah, because he had been promised immortality (in Numbers(5)), on account of the covenant of peace granted to him because he was jealous with a divine jealousy, and in a passion of anger pierced the Midianitish woman and the Israelite, and stayed the wrath of God as it is called, as it is written, "Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them." No wonder, then, if those who conceived Phinehas and Elijah to be the same person, whether they judged soundly in this or not. for that is not now the question, considered John and Jesus also to be the same. This, then, they doubted, and desired to know if John and Elijah were the same. At another time than this, the point would certainly call for a careful enquiry, and the argument would have to be well weighed as to the essence of the soul, as to the principle of her composition, and as to her entering into this body of earth. We should also have to enquire into the distributions of the life of each soul, and as to her departure from this life, and whether it is possible for her to enter into a second life in a body or not, and whether that takes place at the same period, and after the same arrangement in each case, or not; and whether she enters the same body, or a different one, and if the same, whether the subject remains the same while the qualities are changed, or if both subject and qualities remain the same, and if the soul will always make use of the same body or will change it. Along with these questions, it would also be necessary to ask what transcorporation is, and how it differs from incorporation, and if he who holds transcorporation must necessarily hold the world to be eternal. The views of these scholars must also be taken into account, who consider that, according to the Scriptures, the soul is sown along with the body, and the consequences of such a view must also be looked at. In fact the subject of the soul is a wide one, and hard to be unravelled, and it has to be picked out of scattered expressions of Scripture. It requires, therefore, separate treatment. The brief consideration we have been led to give to the problem in connection with Elijah and John may now suffice; we go on to what follows in the Gospel.


"Art thou that prophet? And he answered No."(1) If the law and the prophets were until John,(2) what can we say that John was but a prophet? His father Zacharias, indeed, says, filled with the Holy Ghost and prophesying,(3) "And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest, for thou shalt go before the Lord to prepare His ways." (One might indeed get past this passage by laying stress on the word called: he is to be called, he is not said to be, a prophet.) And still more weighty is it that the Saviour said to those who considered John to be a prophet,(4) "But what went ye out to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet." The words, Yea, I say unto you, manifestly affirm that John is a prophet, and that is nowhere denied afterwards. If, then, he is said by the Saviour to be not only a prophet but "more than a prophet," how is it that when the priests and levites come and ask him, "Art thou the Prophet?" he answers No! On this we must remark that it is not the same thing to say, "Art thou the Prophet?" and "Art thou a prophet?" The distinction between the two expressions has already been observed, when we asked what was the difference between the God and God, and between the Logos and Logos.(1) Now it is written in Deuteronomy,(2) "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like me; Him shall ye hear, and it shall be that every soul that will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among His people," There was, therefore, an expectation of one particular prophet having a resemblance to Moses in mediating between God and the people and receiving a new covenant from God to give to those who accepted his teaching; and in the case of each of the prophets, the people of Israel recognized that he was not the person of whom Moses spoke. As, then, they doubted about John, whether he were not the Christ,(3) so they doubted whether he could not be the prophet. And there is no wonder that those who doubted about John whether he were the Christ, did not understand that the Christ and the prophet are the same person; their doubt as to John necessarily implied that they were not clear on this point. Now the difference between "the prophet" and "a prophet" has escaped the observation of most students; this is the case with Heracleon, who says, in these very words: "As, then, John confessed that he was not the Christ, and not even a prophet, nor Elijah." If he interpreted the words before us in such a way, he ought to have examined the various passages to see whether in saying that he is not a prophet nor Elijah he is or is not saying what is true. He devotes no attention, however, to these passages, and in his remaining commentaries he passes over such points without any enquiry. In the sequel, too, his remarks, of which we shall have to speak directly, are very scanty, and do not testify to careful study.

9. JOHN I. 22.

"They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?" This speech of the emissaries amounts to the following: We had a surmise what you were and came to learn if it was so, but now we know that you are not that. It remains for us, therefore. to hear your account of yourself, so that we may report your answer to those who sent us.


"He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord, as said Isaiah the prophet." As He who is peculiarly the Son of God, being no other than the Logos, yet makes use of Logos (reason)--for He was the Logos in the beginning, and was with God, the Logos of God--so John, the servant of that Logos, being, if we take the Scripture to mean what it says, no other than a voice, yet uses his voice to point to the Logos. He, then, understanding in this way the prophecy about himself spoken by Isaiah the prophet, says he is a voice, not crying in the wilderness, but "of one crying in the wilderness," of Him, namely, who stood and cried,(1) "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink." He it was. too, who said,(2) "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and all the crooked shall be made straight." For as we read in Exodus that God said to Moses,(3) "Behold I have given thee for a God to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet;" so we are to understand--the cases are at least analogous if not altogether similar--it is with the Word in the beginning, who is God, and with John. For John's voice points to that word and demonstrates it. It is therefore a very appropriate punishment that falls on Zacharias on his saying to the angel,(4) "Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife well stricken in years." For his want of faith with regard to the birth of the voice, he is himself deprived of his voice, as the angel Gabriel says to him, "Behold, thou shall be silent and not able to speak until the day that these things shall come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season." And afterwards when he had "asked for a writing tablet and written, His name is John; and they all marvelled," he recovered his voice; for "his mouth was opened immediately and his tongue, and he spake, blessing God." We discussed above how it is to be understood that the Logos is the Son of God, and went over the ideas connected with that; and a similar sequence of ideas is to be observed at this point. John came for a witness; he was a man sent from God to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe; he was that voice, then, we are to understand, which alone was fitted worthily to announce the Logos. We shall understand this aright if we call to mind what was adduced in our exposition of the texts: "That all might believe through Him," and "This is he of whom it is written, Behold I send My messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee."(1) There is fitness, too, in his being said to be the voice, not of one saying in the wilderness, but of one crying in the wilderness. He who cries, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord," also says it; but he might say it without crying it. But he cries and shouts it, that even those may hear who are at a distance from the speaker, and that even the deaf may understand the greatness of the tidings, since it is announced in a great voice; and he thus brings help, both to those who have departed from God and to those who have lost the acuteness of their hearing. This, too, was the reason why "Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink." Hence, too,(2) "John beareth witness of Him, and cried, saying," "Hence also God commands Isaiah to cry, with the voice of one saying, Cry. And I said, What shall I cry?" The physical voice we use in prayer need not be great nor startling; even should we not lift up any great cry or shout, God will yet hear us. He says to Moses,(3) "Why criest thou unto Me?" when Moses had not cried audibly at all. It is not recorded in Exodus that he did so; but Moses had cried mightily to God in prayer with that voice which is heard by God alone. Hence David also says,(4) "With my voice I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me." And one who cries in the desert has need of a voice, that the soul which is deprived of God and deserted of truth--and what more dreadful desert is there than a soul deserted of God and of all virtue, since it still goes crookedly and needs instruction--may be exhorted to make straight the way of the Lord. And that way is made straight by the man who, far from copying the serpent's crooked journey: while he who is of the contrary disposition perverts his way. Hence the rebuke directed to a man of this kind and to all who resemble him, "Why pervert ye the right ways of the Lord?"(5)


Now the way of the Lord is made straight in two fashions. First, in the way of contemplation, when thought is made clear in truth without any mixture of falsehood; and then in the way of conduct, after the sound contemplation of what ought to be done, when action is produced which harmonizes with sound theory of conduct. And that we may the more clearly understand the text, "Make straight the way of the Lord," it will be well to compare with it what is said in the Proverbs,(1) "Depart not, either to the right hand or to the left." For he who deviates in either direction has given up keeping his path straight, and is no longer worthy of regard, since he has gone apart from the straightness of the journey, for "the Lord(2) is righteous, and loves righteousness, and His face beholds straightness." Hence he who is the object of regard, and receives the benefit that comes from this oversight, says,(3) "The light of Thy countenance was shown upon us, O Lord." Let us stand, then, as Jeremiah(4) exhorts, upon the ways, and let us see and ask after the ancient ways of the Lord, and let us see which is the good way, and walk in it. Thus did the Apostles stand and ask for the ancient ways of the Lord; they asked the Patriarchs and the Prophets, enquiring into their writings, and when they came to understand these writings they saw the good way, namely, Jesus Christ, who said, "I am the way." and they walked in it. For it is a good way that leads the good man to the good father, the man who, from the good treasure of his heart, brings forth good things, and who is a good and faithful servant. This way is narrow, indeed, for the many cannot bear to walk in it and are lovers of their flesh; but it is also hard-pressed(5) by those who use violence(6) to walk in it, for it is not called afflicting, but afflicted.(5) For that way which is a living way, and feels the qualities of those who tread it, is pressed and afflicted, when he travels on it who has not taken off his shoes from off his feet.(7) nor truly realized that the place on which he stands. or indeed treads, is holy ground. And it will lead to Him who is the life, and who says, "I am the life." For the Saviour, in whom all virtues are combined, has many aspects. To him who, though by no means near the end, is yet advancing, He is the way; to him who has put off all that is dead He is the life. He who travels on this way is told to take nothing with him on it, since it provides bread and all that is necessary for life, enemies are powerless on it, and he needs no staff, and since it is holy, he needs no shoes.


The words, however, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness," etc., may be taken as equivalent to "I am He of whom the 'voice in the wilderness' is written." Then John would be the person crying, and his voice would be that crying in the wilderness, "Make straight the way of the Lord." Heracleon, discussing John and the prophets, says, somewhat slanderously, that "the Word is the Saviour; the voice, that in the wilderness which John interpreted; the sound is the whole prophetic order." To this we may reply by reminding him of the text,(1) "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle," and that which says that though a man have knowledge of mysteries, or have prophecy but wants love, he is a sounding or a tinkling cymbal.(2) If the prophetic voice be nothing but sound, how does our Lord come to refer us to it as where He says,(3) "Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they which bear witness," and(4) "If ye believed Moses, ye would believe Me," and(5) "Well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you, saying, This people honours me with their lips"? I do not know if any one can reasonably admit that the Saviour thus spoke in praise of an uncertain sound, or that there is any preparation to be had from the Scriptures to which we are referred as from the voice of a trumpet, for our war against opposing powers, should their sound give an uncertain voice. If the prophets had not love, and if that is why they were sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, then how does the Lord send us to their sound, as these writers will have it, as if we could get help from that? He asserts, indeed, that a voice, when well fitted to speech, becomes speech, as if one should say that a woman is turned into a man; and the assertion is not supported by argument. And, as if he were in a position to put forth a dogma on the subject and to get on in this way, he declares that sound can be changed in a similar way into voice, and the voice, which is changed into speech, he says, is in the position of a disciple, while sound passing into voice is in that of a slave. If he had taken any kind of trouble to establish these points we should have had to devote some attention to refuting them; but as it is, the bare denial is sufficient refutation. There was a point some way back which we deferred taking up, that, namely, of the motive of John's speeches. We may now take it up. The Saviour, according to Heracleon, calls him both a prophet and Elijah, but he himself denies that he is either of these. When the Saviour, Heracleon says, calls him a prophet and Elijah, He is speaking not of John himself, but of his surroundings; but when He calls him greater than the prophets and than those who are born of women, then He is describing the character of John himself. When John, on the other hand, is asked about himself, his answers relate to himself, not to his surroundings. This we have examined as carefully as possible, comparing each of the terms in question with the statements of Heracleon, lest he should not have expressed himself quite accurately. For how it comes that the statements that he is Elijah and that he is a prophet apply to those about him, but the statement that he is the voice of one crying in the wilderness, to himself, no attempt whatever is made to show Heracleon only gives an illustration, namely, this: His surroundings were, so to speak, his clothes, and other than himself, and when he was asked about his clothes, if he; were his clothes, he could not answer "Yes." Now that his being Elijah, who was to come, was his clothes, is scarcely consistent, so far as I can see, with Heracleon's views; it might consist, perhaps, with the exposition we ourselves gave of the words, "In the spirit and power of Elijah;" it might, in a sense, be said that this spirit of Elijah is equivalent to the soul of John. He then goes on to try to determine why those who were sent by the Jews to question John were priests and levites, and he answers by no means badly, that it was incumbent on such persons, being devoted to the service of God, to busy themselves and to make enquiries about such matters. When he goes on, however, to say that it was "because John was of the levitical tribe, this is less well considered. We raised the question ourselves above, and saw that if the Jews who were sent knew John's birth, it was not open to them to ask if he was Elijah. Then, again, in dealing with the question, "Art thou the prophet?" Heracleon does not regard the addition of the article as having any special force, and says, "They asked him if he were a prophet, wishing to know this more general fact." Again, not Heracleon alone, but, so far as I am informed, all those who diverge from our views, as if they had not been able to deal with a trifling ambiguity and to draw the proper distinction, suppose John to be greater than Elijah and than all the prophets. The words are, "Of those born of women there is none greater than John;" but this admits of two mean-lugs, that John is greater than they all, or again, that some of them are equal to him. For though many of the prophets were equal to him, still it might be true ill respect of the grace bestowed on him, that none of them was greater than he. He regards it as confirming the view that John was greater, that "he is predicted by Isaiah;" for no other of all those who uttered prophecies was held worthy by God of this distinction. This, however, is a venturesome statement anti implies some disrespect of what is called the Old Testament, and total disregard of the fact that Elijah himself was the subject of prophecy. For Elijah is prophesied by Malachi, who says,(1) "Behold, I send unto you Elijah, the Tishbite, who shall restore the heart of the father to the son." Josiah, too, as we read in third Kings,(2) was predicted by name by the prophet who came out of Judah; for he said, Jeroboam also being present at the altar, "Thus saith the Lord, Behold a son is born to David, his name is Josiah." There are some also who say that Samson was predicted by Jacob, when he said,(3) "Dan shall judge his own people, he is as one tribe in Israel," for Samson who judged Israel was of the tribe of Dan. So much by way of evidence of the rashness of the statement that John alone was the subject of prophecy, made by Heracleon in his attempted explanation of the words, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness."


And they that were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him,(4) "Why baptizest thou then, if thou art not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" Those who sent from Jerusalem the priests and levites who asked John these questions, having learned who John was not, and who he was, preserve a decent silence, as if tacitly assenting and indicating that they accepted what was said, and saw that baptism was suited to a voice crying in the wilderness for the preparing of the way of the Lord. But the Pharisees being, as their name indicates, a divided and seditious set of people, show that they do not agree with the Jews of the metropolis and with the ministers of the service of God, the priests and levites. They send envoys who deal in rebukes, and so far as their power extends debar him from baptizing; their envoys ask, Why baptizest thou, then, if thou art not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet? And if we were to stitch together into one statement what is written in the various Gospels, we should say that at this time they spoke as is here reported, but that at a later time, when they wished to received baptism, they heard the address of John:(1) "Generations of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance." This is what the Baptist says in Matthew, when he sees many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, without, it is clear, having the fruits of repentance, and pharisaically boasting in themselves that they had Abraham for their father. For this they are rebuked by John, who has the zeal of Elijah according to the communication of the Holy Spirit. For that is a rebuking word, "Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father," and that is the word of a teacher, when he speaks of those who for their stony hearts are called unbelieving stones, and says that by the power of God these stones may be changed into children of Abraham; for they were present to the eyes of the prophet and did not shrink from his divine glance. Hence his words: "I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham." And since they came to his baptism without having done fruits meet for repentance, he says to them most appropriately, "Already is the axe laid to the root of the tree; every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire." This is as much as to say to them: Since you have come to baptism without having done fruits meet for repentance, you are a tree that does not bring forth good fruit and which has to be cut down by the most sharp and piercing axe of the Word which is living and powerful and sharper than every two-edged sword. The estimation in which the Pharisees held themselves is also set forth by Luke in the passage:(1) "Two men went up to the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. And the Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." The result of this speech is that the publican goes down to his house justified rather than the Pharisee, and the lesson is drawn, that every one who exalts himself is abased. They came, then, in the character in which the Saviour's reproving words described them, as hypocrites to John's baptism, nor does it escape the Baptist's observation that they have the poison of vipers under their tongue and the poison of asps, for "the poison of asps is under their tongue,"(1) The figure of serpents rightly indicates their temper, and it is plainly revealed in their better question: "Why baptizest thou then, if thou art not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" To these I would fain reply, if it be the case that the Christ and Elijah and the prophet baptize, but that the voice crying in the wilderness has no authority to do so, "Most harshly, my friends, do you question the messenger sent before the face of Christ to prepare His way before Him. The mysteries which belong to this point are all hidden to you; for Jesus being, whether you will or not, the Christ, did not Himself baptize but His disciples, He who was Himself the prophet. And how have you come to believe that Elijah who is to come will baptize?" He did not baptize the logs upon the altar in the times of Ahab,(2) though they needed such a bath to be burned up, what time the Lord appeared in fire. No, he commands the priests to do this for him, and that not only once; for he says, "Do it a second time," upon which they did it a second time, and "Do it a third time," and they did it a third time. If, then, he did not at that time himself baptize but left the work to others, how was he to baptize at the time spoken of by Malachi? Christ, then, does not baptize with water, but His disciples. He reserves for Himself to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Now Heracleon accepts the speech of the Pharisees as distinctly implying that the office of baptizing belonged to the Christ and Elijah and to every prophet, for he uses these words, "Whose office alone it is to baptize." He is refuted by what we have just said, and especially by the consideration that he takes the word "prophet" in a general sense;(3) for he cannot show that any of the prophets baptized. He adds, not incorrectly, that the Pharisees put the question from malice, and not from a desire to learn.


We deem it necessary to compare with the expression of the passage we are considering the similar expressions found elsewhere in the Gospels. This we shall continue to do point by point to the end of this work, so that terms which appear to disagree may be shown to be in harmony, and that the peculiar meanings present in each may be explained. This we shall do in the present passage. The words, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord," are placed by John, who was a disciple, in the mouth of the Baptist. In Mark, on the other hand, the same words are recorded at the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in accordance with the Scripture of Isaiah, as thus: "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send My messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." Now the words, "Make straight the way of the Lord," added by John, are not found in the prophet. Perhaps John was seeking to compress the "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God," and so wrote, "Make straight the way of the Lord;" while Mark combined two prophecies spoken by two different prophets in different places, and made one prophecy out of them, "As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold I send My messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." The words, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness," are written immediately after the narrative of Hezekiah's recovery from his sickness,(1) while the words, "Behold I send My messenger before thy face," are written by Malachi.(2) What John does here, abbreviating the text he quotes, we find done by Mark also at another point. For while the words of the prophet are, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God," Mark writes, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." And John practises a similar abbreviation in the text, "Behold I send My messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee," when he does not add the words "before thee," as in the original. Coming now to the statement, "They were sent from the Pharisees and they asked Him,"(1) we have been led by our examination of the passage to prefix the enquiry of the Pharisees--which Matthew does not mention--to the occurrence recorded in Matthew, when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, and said to them, "Ye generations of vipers," etc. For the natural sequence is that they should first enquire and then come. And we have to observe how, when Matthew reports that there went out to John Jerusalem and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, to be baptized by him in Jordan, confessing their sins, it was not these people who heard from the Baptist any word of rebuke or refutation, but only those many Pharisees and Sadducees whom he saw coming. They it was who were greeted with the address, "Ye offspring of vipers," etc.(2) Mark, again, does not record any words of reproof as having been used by John to those who came to him, being all the country of Judaea and all of them of Jerusalem, who were baptized by him in the Jordan and confessed their sins. This is because Mark does not mention the Pharisees and Sadducees as having come to John. A further circumstance which we must mention is that both Matthew and Mark state that, in the one case, all Jerusalem and all Judaea, and the whole region round about Jordan, in the other, the whole land of Judaea and all they of Jerusalem, were baptized, confessing their sins; but when Matthew introduces the Pharisees and Sadducees as coming to the baptism, he does not say that they confessed their sins, and this might very likely and very naturally be the reason why they were addressed as "offspring of vipers." Do not suppose, reader, that there is anything improper in our adducing m our discussion of the question of those who were sent from the Pharisees and put questions to John, the parallel passages from the other Gospels too. For if we have indicated the proper connection between the enquiry of the Pharisees, recorded by the disciple John, and their baptism which is found in Matthew, we could scarcely avoid inquiring into the passages in question, nor recording the observations made on them. Luke, like Mark, remembers the passage, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness," but lie for his part treats it as follows:(1) "The word of God came unto John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. And he came into all the region round about Jordan preaching the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." Luke, however, added the continuation of the prophecy: "Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." He writes, like Mark, "Make His ways straight;" curtailing, as we saw before, the text, "Make straight the ways of our God." In the phrase, "And all the crooked shall become straight," he leaves out the "all," and the word "straight" he converts from a plural into a singular. Instead of the phrase, moreover, "The rough laud into a plain," he gives, "The rough ways into smooth ways," and he leaves out "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed," and gives what follows, "And all flesh shall see the salvation of God." These observations are of use as showing how the evangelists are accustomed to abbreviate the sayings of the prophets. It has also to be observed that the speech, "Offspring of vipers," etc., is said by Matthew to have been spoken to the Pharisees and Sadducees when coming to baptism, they being a different set of people from those who confessed their sins, and to whom no words of this kind were spoken. With Luke, on the contrary, these words were addressed to the multitudes who came out to be baptized by John, and there were not two divisions of those who were baptized, as we found in Matthew. But Matthew, as the careful observer will see, does not speak of the multitudes in the way of praise, and he probably means the Baptist's address, Offspring of vipers, etc., to be understood as addressed to them also. Another point is, that to the Pharisees and Sadducees he says, "Bring forth a fruit," in the singular, "worthy of repentance," but to the multitudes he uses the plural, "Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance." Perhaps the Pharisees are required to yield the special fruit of repentance, which is no other than the Son and faith in Him, while the multitudes, who have not even a beginning of good things, are asked for all the fruits of repentance, and so the plural is used to them. Further, it is said to the Pharisees, "Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father." For the multitudes now have a beginning, appearing as they do to be introduced into the divine Word, and to approach the truth; and thus they begin to say within themselves, "We have Abraham for our father." The Pharisees, on the contrary, are not beginning to this, but have long held it to be so. But both classes see John point to the stones aforesaid and declare that even from these children can be raised up to Abraham, rising up out of unconsciousness and deadness. And observe how it is said to the Pharisees,(1) according to the word of the prophet,(2) "Ye have eaten false fruit," and they have false fruit,--" Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire," while to the multitudes which do not bear fruit at all,(3) "Every tree which bringeth not forth fruit is hewn down." For that which has no fruit at all has not good fruit, and, therefore, it is worthy to be hewn down. But that which bears fruit has by no means good fruit, whence it also calls for the axe to lay it low. But, if we look more closely into this about the fruit, we shall find that it is impossible that that which has just begun to be cultivated, even should it not prove fruitless, should bear the first good fruits. The husbandman is content that the tree just coming into cultivation should bear him at first such fruits as it may; afterwards, when he has pruned and trained it according to his art, he will receive, not the fruits it chanced to bear at first, but good fruits. The law itself favours this interpretation, for it says(4) that the planter is to wait for three years, having the trees pruned and not eating the fruit of them. "Three years." it says, "the fruit shall be unpurified to you, and shall not be eaten, but in the fourth year all the fruit shall be holy, for giving praise unto the Lord." This explains how the word "good" is omitted from the address to the multitudes, "Every tree, therefore, which bears not fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire." The tree which goes on bearing such fruit as it did at first, is a tree which does not bear good fruit, and is, therefore, cut down, and cast into the fire, since, when the three years have passed and the fourth comes round, it does not bear good fruit, for praise unto the Lord. In thus adducing the passages from the other Gospels I may appear to be digressing, but I cannot think it useless, or without bearing on our present subject. For the Pharisees send to John, after the priests and levites who came from Jerusalem, men who came to ask him who he was, and enquire, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet? After making this enquiry they straightway come for baptism, as Matthew records, and then they hear words suited to their quackery and hypocrisy. But the words addressed to them were very similar to those spoken to the multitudes, and hence the necessity to look carefully at both speeches, and to compare them together. It was while we were so engaged that various points arose in the sequence of the matter, which we had to consider. To what has been said we must add the following. We find mention made in John of two orders of persons sending: the one, that of the Jews from Jerusalem sending priests and levites; the other, that of the Pharisees who want to know why he baptizes. And we found that, after the enquiry, the Pharisees present themselves for baptism. May it not be that the Jews, who had sent the earlier mission from Jerusalem, received John's words before those who sent the second mission, namely, the Pharisees, and hence arrived before them? For Jerusalem and all Judaea, and, in consequence, the whole region round about Jordan, were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins; or, as Mark says. "There went out to him the whole land of Judaea, and all they of Jerusalem, and were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." Now, neither does Matthew introduce the Pharisees and Sadducees, to whom the words, "Offspring of vipers," etc., are addressed; nor does Luke introduce the multitudes who meet with the same rebuke, as confessing their sins. And the question may be raised how, if the whole city of Jerusalem, and the whole of Judaea, and the whole region round about Jordan, were baptized of John in Jordan, the Saviour could say,(1) "John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, and ye say he hath a devil;" and how could He say to those who asked Him,(1) "By what authority doest thou these things? I also will ask you one word, which if ye tell me, I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or of men? And they reason, and say, If we shall say, From heaven, He will say, Why did ye not believe him?" The solution of the difficulty is this. The Pharisees, addressed by John, as we saw before, with his "Offspring of vipers," etc., came to the baptism, without believing in him, probably because they feared the multitudes, and, with their accustomed hypocrisy towards them, deemed it right to undergo the washing, so as not to appear hostile to those who did so. Their belief was, then, that he derived his baptism from men, and not from heaven, but, on account of the multitude, lest they should be stoned, they are afraid to say what they think. Thus there is no contradiction between the Saviour's speech to the Pharisees and the narratives in the Gospels about the multitudes who frequented' John's baptism. It was part of the effrontery of the Pharisees that they declared John to have a devil, as, also, that they declared Jesus to have performed His wonderful works by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.

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