107. Tertio accipiendo tenebras errores sive ignorantias, quibus totus mundus ante adventum Christi plenus erat, secundum quod dicit apostolus: eratis aliquando tenebrae.
107. Third, we can take darkness for the error or ignorance which filled the whole world before the coming of Christ, you were at one time darkness (Eph 5:8).
Dicit ergo quod lux, idest Verbum Dei incarnatum, in tenebris lucet, idest hominibus mundi, erroris et ignorantiae tenebris obscuratis. Lc. I, 79: illuminare his qui in tenebris et in umbra mortis sedent; et Is. IX, 2: populus qui sedebat in tenebris, vidit lucem magnam. Et tenebrae eum non comprehenderunt, idest non vicerunt. Quia quantumcumque homines peccatis obscurati, invidia excaecati, superbia tenebrosi, contra Christum pugnaverunt, ut patet ex Evangelio, exprobrando scilicet, iniurias et contumelias inferendo, et tandem occidendo, non tamen eum comprehenderunt; idest non vicerunt eum obscurando, quin eius claritas per totum mundum fulgeret. Sap. VII, 29: luci comparata invenitur prior: illi enim succedit nox, sapientiam autem, idest Filium Dei incarnatum, non vincit malitia, Iudaeorum scilicet et haereticorum; quia, ut dicitur Sap. X, 12, certamen forte dedit illi, ut vinceret, et sciret quoniam omnium potentior est sapientia.
And so he says that the light, i.e., the incarnate Word of God, shines in the darkness, i.e., upon the men of the world, who are blinded by the darkness or error and ignorance. To enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Luke 1:79), the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light (Isa 9:2). And the darkness did not comprehend it, i.e., did not overcome him. For in spite of the number of men darkened by sin, blinded by envy, shadowed over by pride, who have struggled against Christ, as is plain from the Gospel, by upbraiding him, heaping insults and calumnies upon him, and finally killing him, nevertheless they did not comprehend it, i.e., gain the victory of so obscuring him that his brightness would not shine throughout the whole world. Wisdom says, compared to light, she takes precedence, for night supplants it, but wisdom, that is, the incarnate Son of God, is not overcome by wickedness (Wis 7:30), that is, of the Jews and of heretics, because it says, she gave him the prize for his stern struggle that he might know that wisdom is mightier than all else (Wis 10:12).
The testimony of John
1:6 Fuit homo missus a Deo, cui nomen erat Ioannes: [n. 109]
1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. [n. 109]
1:7 hic venit in testimonium, ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine, ut omnes crederent per illum. [n. 115]
1:7 He came as a witness, that he might bear witness to the light, so that through him all men might believe. [n. 115]
1:8 Non erat ille lux, sed ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine. [n. 118]
1:8 He was not the light, but that he might bear witness to the light. [n. 118]
108. Supra Evangelista egit de Verbi divinitate; in parte vero ista incipit agere de Verbi incarnatione:
108. Above, the Evangelist considered the divinity of the Word; here he begins to consider the incarnation of the Word.
et circa hoc duo facit.
And he does two things concerning this:
Primo agit de teste Verbi incarnati seu praecursore;
first, he treats of the witness to the incarnate Word, or the precursor;
secundo de adventu Verbi, ibi erat lux vera.
second, of the coming of the Word, at he was the true light (John 1:9).
Circa primum duo facit.
As to the first, he does two things:
Primo describit praecursorem in testimonium venientem;
first, he describes the precursor who comes to bear witness;
secundo ostendit eum ad salvandum insufficientem, ibi non erat ille lux.
second, he shows that he was incapable of the work of our salvation, at he was not the light.
Praecursorem autem describit quadrupliciter.
He describes the precursor in four ways.
Primo a naturae conditione, cum dicit fuit homo;
First, according to his nature, there was a man.
secundo ab auctoritate, cum dicit missus a Deo;
Second, as to his authority, sent from God.
tertio ab officii idoneitate, cum dicit cui nomen erat Ioannes;
Third, as to his suitability for the office, whose name was John.
quarto ab officii dignitate, ibi hic venit.
Fourth, as to the dignity of his office, he came as a witness.
109. Considerandum autem est circa primum, quod statim cum Evangelista incipit de aliquo temporali, mutat modum loquendi. Cum enim supra loqueretur de aeternis, utebatur hoc verbo erat, quod est praeteriti imperfecti, ostendens per hoc, aeterna interminata esse; nunc vero, cum loquitur de temporalibus, utitur hoc verbo, fuit, ad ostendendum quod temporalia sic praeterierunt quod tamen terminantur.
109. We should note with respect to the first that, as soon as the Evangelist begins speaking of something temporal, he changes his manner of speech. When speaking above of eternal things, he used the word was, which is the past imperfect tense; and this indicates that eternal things are without end. But now, when he is speaking of temporal things, he uses there was; this indicates temporal things as having taken place in the past and coming to an end there.
110. Dicit ergo fuit homo; per quod in principio excludit perversam opinionem haereticorum, contra conditionem seu naturam Ioannis, qui, propter id quod Dominus, Matth. c. XI, 10, dicit de Ioanne: hic est de quo scriptum est: ecce mitto angelum meum ante faciem meam, et etiam Mc. I, 2 dicitur de ipso, opinati sunt quod Ioannes fuisset natura angelus. Quod excludens Evangelista dicit fuit homo, natura, non angelus. Eccle. c. VI, 10: scitur quod sit homo, et quod non possit contra fortiorem se in iudicio contendere.
110. And so he says, there was a man. This excludes at the very start the incorrect opinion of certain heretics who were in error on the condition or nature of John. They believed that John was an angel in nature, basing themselves on the words of the Lord, I send my messenger before you, who will prepare your way (Matt 11:10); and the same thing is found elsewhere (Mark 1:2). But the Evangelist rejects this, saying, there was a man by nature, not an angel. The nature of man is known, and that he cannot contend in judgment with one who is stronger than himself (Eccl 6:10).
Convenienter autem homo ad homines mittitur, per quem homines magis alliciuntur, utpote per sibi similem; unde dicitur Hebr. c. VII, 28: lex enim homines constituit sacerdotes infirmitatem habentes. Poterat enim Deus homines gubernare per angelos; sed maluit per homines, ut ipsorum exemplo magis instruerentur. Et ideo Ioannes homo fuit, et non angelus.
Now it is fitting that a man be sent to men, for men are more easily drawn to a man, since he is like themselves. So it says, the law appoints men, who have weakness, priests (Heb 7:28). God could have governed men through angels, but he preferred men so that we could be more instructed by their example. And so John was a man, and not an angel.
111. Ex auctoritate quidem describitur, cum dicit missus a Deo.
111. John is described by his authority when it says, sent from God.
Equidem, licet Ioannes natura non fuerit angelus, fuit tamen officio, quia missus a Deo. Proprium enim angelorum officium est quod a Deo mittantur, et sint nuntii Dei; Hebr. I, 14: omnes sunt administratorii spiritus in ministerium missi, unde ‘angelus’ nuntius interpretatur. Possunt ergo homines, qui a Deo ad aliquid annuntiandum mittuntur, angeli dici, iuxta illud Aggaei I, 13: dixit Aggaeus, nuntius Domini ex nuntiis Domini.
Indeed, although John was not an angel in nature, he was so by his office, because he was sent from God. For the distinctive office of angels is that they are sent by God and are messengers of God. All are ministering spirits, sent to serve (Heb 1:14). Hence it is that ‘angel’ means messenger. And so men who are sent by God to announce something can be called angels. Haggai the messenger of the Lord (Hag 1:13).
Requiritur autem ad hoc quod aliquis testimonium de Deo perhibeat, quod sit a Deo missus; iuxta illud Rom. X, 15: quomodo praedicabunt nisi mittantur? Et quia cum a Deo mittuntur, non sua quaerunt, sed quae Iesu Christi II Cor. IV, 5: non enim praedicamus nosmetipsos, sed Iesum Christum: qui vero mittitur a seipso, non a Deo, sua quaerit, vel quae sunt hominis, non autem quae Christi, ideo hic dicitur fuit homo missus a Deo: ut intelligas quia non annuntiavit nisi divinum, non humanum.
If someone is to bear witness to God, it is necessary that he be sent by God. How can they preach unless they are sent? (Rom 10:15). And since they are sent by God, they seek the things of Jesus Christ, not their own. We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:5). On the other hand, one who sends himself, and is not sent by God, seeks his own things or those of man, and not the things of Christ. And so he says here, there was a man sent from God, so that we would understand that John proclaimed something divine, not human.
112. Nota autem, quod tripliciter invenimus aliquos missos a Deo. Scilicet per internam inspirationem, sicut Is. XLVIII, 16: et nunc misit me Dominus, et spiritus eius; quasi dicat: per interiorem spiritus inspirationem sum a Deo missus. Item, per expressam et apertam iussionem sive corporalem, sive imaginariam. Et sic iterum missus est Isaias; unde dicit ibid. VI, 8: audivi vocem Domini dicentis: quem mittam, et quis ibit nobis? Et dixi: ecce ego, mitte me. Item, per praelati iniunctionem, qui gerit in hoc personam Dei; II Cor. II, 10: nam et ego, si quid donavi propter vos in persona Christi. Et inde est quod qui mittuntur a praelato, mittuntur a Deo, sicut missi fuerunt ab Apostolo Barnabas et Timotheus.
112. Note that there are three ways in which we see men sent by God. First, by an inward inspiration. And now the Lord God has sent me, and his spirit (Isa 48:16). As if to say: I have been sent by God through an inward inspiration of the spirit. Second, by an expressed and clear command, perceived by the bodily senses or the imagination. Isaiah was also sent in this way; and so he says, and I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘here I am! Send me’ (Isa 6:8). Third, by the order of a prelate, who acts in the place of God in this matter. I have pardoned in the person of Christ for your sake (2 Cor 2:10). This is why those who are sent by a prelate are sent by God, as Barnabas and Timothy were sent by the Apostle.
Cum autem dicitur hic fuit homo missus a Deo, intelligendum est per interiorem inspirationem; vel etiam forte per exteriorem iussionem a Deo eum missum fuisse. Infra: qui misit me, ipse dixit: super quem videris spiritum descendentem et manentem super eum, hic est qui baptizat in Spiritu Sancto.
When it is said here, there was a man sent from God, we should understand that he was sent by God through an inward inspiration, or perhaps even by an outward command. He who sent me to baptize with water had said to me: he upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon him, it is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33).
113. Per hoc etiam quod dixit fuit homo missus a Deo, non est intelligendum, sicut quidam haeretici ponebant, credentes animas hominum ante corpus fuisse cum angelis ab initio creatas, et mitti animam cuiuscumque, quando nascitur, ad corpus; et quod Ioannes sit missus ad vitam, idest eius anima ad corpus; sed quod fuit missus a Deo ad officium baptizandi et praedicandi.
113. We should not understand, there was a man sent from God, as some heretics did, who believed that from the very beginning human souls were created without bodies along with the angels, and that one’s soul is sent into the body when he is born, and that John was sent to life, i.e., his soul was sent to a body. Rather, we should understand that he was sent by God to baptize and preach.
114. Ex idoneitate vero commendatur, cum dicit cui nomen erat Ioannes.
114. John’s fitness is given when he says, whose name was John.
Ad officium namque testimonii requiritur idoneitas: nam nisi testis sit idoneus, qualitercumque mittatur ab alio, non est sufficiens testimonium eius. Homo autem efficitur idoneus ex gratia Dei; I Cor. XV, 10: gratia Dei sum id quod sum; II Cor. III, 6: qui idoneos nos fecit ministros Novi Testamenti. Satis ergo congrue Evangelista idoneitatem praecursoris insinuat ex eius nomine, dicens cui nomen erat Ioannes, quod interpretatur in quo est gratia. Quod quidem nomen non fuit frustra sibi impositum, sed ex divina praeordinatione, et antequam nasceretur, ut patet Lc. I, 13: et vocabis nomen eius Ioannem, dixit angelus ad Zachariam. Unde potest dicere illud Is. XLIX, 1: Dominus ab utero vocavit me; et Eccl. VI, 10: qui futurus est, iam vocatum est nomen eius. Quod etiam ostendit Evangelista ex modo loquendi, cum dicit erat, quantum ad Dei praeordinationem.
One must be qualified for the office of bearing witness, because unless a witness is qualified, then no matter in what way he is sent by another, his testimony is not acceptable. Now a man becomes qualified by the grace of God. By the grace of God I am what I am (1 Cor 15:10); who has made us fit ministers of a New Covenant (2 Cor 3:6). So, the Evangelist appropriately implies the precursor’s fitness from his name when he says, whose name was John, which is interpreted, in whom is grace. This name was not given to him meaninglessly, but by divine preordination and before he was born: you will name him John (Luke 1:13), as the angel said to Zechariah. Hence he can say: the Lord called me from the womb (Isa 49:1); he who will be, his name is already called (Eccl 6:10). The Evangelist also indicates this from his manner of speaking, when he says was, as to God’s preordination.
115. Ex officii etiam dignitate describitur, cum dicit hic venit in testimonium; ubi
115. Then he is described by the dignity of his office: he came as a witness.
primo ponitur officium;
First, his office is mentioned.
secundo ratio officii, ibi ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine.
Second, the reason for his office, that he might bear witness to the light.
116. Officium autem huius est testificandi; unde dicit hic venit in testimonium.
116. Now his office is to bear witness; hence he says, he came as a witness.
Ubi notandum est quod Deus et homines, et omnia quae facit, propter se operatur; Prov. XVI, 4: universa propter semetipsum operatus est Dominus; non quidem ut aliquid ei accrescat, quia bonorum nostrorum non eget, sed ut eius bonitas manifestetur in omnibus a se factis, inquantum per ea quae facta sunt, intellecta conspiciuntur; sempiterna eius virtus, et divinitas; Rom. I, 20. Fit ergo quaelibet creatura in testimonium Dei, inquantum quaelibet creatura est testimonium quoddam divinae bonitatis. Et quidem magnitudo creaturae testimonium quoddam est divinae virtutis et omnipotentiae; pulchritudo vero divinae sapientiae. Speciali vero modo ordinantur a Deo quidam homines; et non solum naturaliter inquantum sunt, sed etiam spiritualiter per sua bona opera Deo testimonium ferunt. Unde omnes sancti viri testes sunt Dei, inquantum propter eorum bona opera Deus gloriosus apud homines efficitur; Matth. V, 16: sic luceat lux vestra coram hominibus, ut videant opera vestra bona, et glorificent Patrem vestrum qui in caelis est. Sed tamen illi, qui participant non solum dona Dei in seipsis per gratiam Dei bene operando, sed etiam diffundunt ad alios dicendo, movendo et exhortando, specialius sunt testes Dei. Is. XLIII, 7: omnem qui invocat nomen meum, in laudem meam creavi illum.
Here it should be remarked that God makes men, and everything else he makes for himself. The Lord made all things for himself (Prov 16:4). Not, indeed, to add anything to himself, since he has no need of our good, but so that his goodness might be made manifest in all of the things made by him, in that his eternal power and divinity are clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made (Rom 1:20). Thus, each creature is made as a witness to God in so far as each creature is a certain witness of the divine goodness. So, the vastness of creation is a witness to God’s power and omnipotence; and its beauty is a witness to the divine wisdom. But certain men are ordained by God in a special way, so that they bear witness to God not only naturally by their existence, but also spiritually by their good works. Hence all holy men are witnesses to God inasmuch as God is glorified among men by their good works. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:16). But those who not only share in God’s gifts in themselves by acting well through the grace of God, but also spread them to others by their teaching, influencing and encouraging others, are in a more special way witnesses to God. Everyone who calls upon my name, I have created for my glory (Isa 43:7).
Ioannes ergo venit in testimonium ad hoc, ut in alios diffunderet dona Dei, et annuntiaret laudem.
And so John came as a witness in order to spread to others the gifts of God and to proclaim his praise.