Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

To: All

From: 1 John 2:18-21

Not Listening to Heretics


[1] Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that Antichrist is coming,
so now many Antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour.
[19] They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us,
they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that
they all are not of us. [20] But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you
all know. [21] I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because
you know it, and know that no lie is of the truth.

*********************************************************************************************
Commentary:

18-27. This passage covers one of the main themes in St John’s letters — the fi-
delity of Christians being tested by the heretics. The style, replete with contrasts
and parallelisms, makes what he has to say very lively.

First he describes the circumstances these Christians find themselves in: the
presence of heretics leads one to think that the Antichrist predicted by our Lord
(cf. Mt 24:5-24 and par.) has come already and the “last hour” (v. 18) has begun.
He goes on to unmask those who are cast in the role of Antichrist, and contrasts
them with true believers: 1) they are not of us (v. 19), whereas you know the truth
(vv. 20-21); 2) the heretics are impostors who deny the basic truth that Jesus is
the Christ (vv. 22-23), whereas you “abide” in the Father and in the Son (vv. 24-
25); 3) they arrogantly present themselves as teachers, but the anointing “abides”
in you and you have no need of spurious teachers (vv. 26-27).

The repetition of the word “abide” stresses the need to keep the teaching of the
Church intact. The faithful have a right to practise their faith in peace, and it is
part of the mission of pastors to strengthen them in the faith, as St John is doing
here. When introducing his “Creed of the People of God”, Pope Paul VI said: “It
is true that the Church always has a duty to try to obtain a deeper understanding
of the unfathomable mysteries of God (which are so rich in their saving effects)
and to present them in ways even more suited to the successive generations.
However, in fulfilling this inescapable duty of study and research, it must do eve-
rything it can to ensure that Christian teaching is not damaged. For if that hap-
pened, many devout souls would become confused and perplexed — which unfor-
tunately is what is happening at present” (”Homily”, 30 June 1968).

18. “The last hour”: this expression was probably familiar to the early Christians,
who had a lively desire to see the second coming of Christ. As many passages
in the New Testament indicate, the fullness of time already began with the Incar-
nation and the Redemption brought about by Christ (cf. Gal 4:4; Eph 1:10; Heb
9:26). From that point onwards, until the end of the world, we are in the last
times, the last earthly stage of salvation history: hence the urgency Christians
should feel about their own holiness and the spread of the Gospel. “To prevent
anyone dragging his feet,” St Augustine urges, “listen: ‘children, it is the last
hour’, go on, run, grow; it is the last hour. It may be an extended one, but it is
the last hour” (”In Epist. Ioann. ad Parthos”, 3, 3). This eschatological sense of
the last times, which the prophets announced long before (cf., Is 2:2; Jer 23:20;
49:26), is also to be found in the Fourth Gospel (cf. e.g., Jn 2:4; 5:28; 17:1).

“The Antichrist”: one of the signs of “the last hour” foretold by our Lord and the
Apostles is the feverish activity of false prophets (cf. Mt 24: 11-24; Acts 20:29-
30; 2 Thess 2:2ff; 2 Tim 4:Iff; 2 Pet 3:3). Although this term is only to be found
in the letters of St John (1 Jn 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 Jn 7), the “antichrist’s” features
are similar to those of the “man of lawlessness”, “the enemy” St Paul speaks
about (cf. 2 Thess 2:1-12) and the “beasts” of the Apocalypse (cf., e.g., Rev 11:
7; 13:1 ff); the distinguishing mark they all share is their brutal opposition to
Christ, his teaching and his followers. It is difficult to say whether the Antichrist
is an individual or a group. In St John’s letters, the latter seems to be the case:
it is a reference to all those who oppose Christ (the “many antichrists”) who
have been active since the start of Christianity and will continue to be so until
the end of time.

19. “They were not of us”: St John unmasks the antichrists; they could not have
led the faithful astray had they not come from the community; but they were on-
ly pretending to be Christians — wolves in sheep’s clothing (cf. Mt 7:15), “false
brethren” (Gal 2:4) — and that is how they are able to sow confusion. Our Lord
himself warned that both wheat and cockle would grow side by side in the King-
dom of God (cf. Mt 13:24-30); the sad fact that this is happening should not
cause Christians to doubt the holiness of the Church. As St Augustine explains:
“Many who are not of us receive, along with us, the sacraments; they receive
Baptism with us, they receive with us what they know the faithful receive — the
blessing, the Eucharist and the other holy sacraments; they receive communion
from the same altar as we do, but they are not of us. Temptation reveals this to
be so; when temptation overtakes them, they flee as if borne away by the wind,
because they are not wheat. When winnowing begins on the threshing floor of
the Lord on the day of judgment, they will all fly away; remember that” (”In Epist.
Ioann. ad Parthos”, III, 5).

20. “Anointed by the Holy One”: it is difficult to say exactly what this means (cf.
also v. 27); St John says that this anointing has the effect of countering the work
of the Antichrist. He may be referring to the sacrament of Baptism or that of Con-
firmation, or both, where anointing with chrism is part of the sacramental rite. In
any case he is referring to the action of the Father and of the Son through the
Holy Spirit on the soul of the Christian who has received these sacraments: this
explains why the anointing “instructs” Christians “to know everything” (v. 27;
RSV alternate reading).

“The Holy One”: St John uses this expression to describe God the Father (cf.,
e.g., Rev 6:10; Jn 17:11), God the Son (cf. Jn 6:69; Rev 3:7), or simply God,
without specifying which Person. The last-mentioned use was very common
among Jews of the time, to refer to the one true God.

“You all know”: not only about the anointing but about Christian teaching in ge-
neral. Some important manuscripts, which the Sistine-Clementine Vulgate fol-
lows, read: “You know all” (cf. RSV alternate reading). Both readings are com-
plementary, for the Apostle is stressing that Christians do not need to listen to
teachings other than those of the Church: they are being guided by the Holy
Spirit, who gives them sureness of faith. The Second Vatican Council quotes
this text when teaching about the “supernatural appreciation of the faith [”sen-
sus fidei”] of all the faithful”: “The whole body of the faithful, who have an anoin-
ting that comes from the Holy One (cf. 1 Jn 2:20 and 27), cannot err in matters
of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of the
faith of the whole people, when, ‘from the bishops to the last of the faithful’ they
manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals” (”Lumen Gentium”,
12).

*********************************************************************************************
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.


3 posted on 12/30/2013 9:02:53 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies ]


To: All

From: John 1:1-18

Prologue


[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word
was God. [2] He was in the beginning with God; [3] all things were made through
him, and without him was not anything made that was made. [4] In him was life,
and the life was the light of men. [5] The light shines in the darkness, and the
darkness has not overcome it.

[6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. [7] He came for
testimony to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. [8] He
was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.

[9] The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. [10] He
was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him
not. [11] He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. [12]
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become
children of God; [13] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor
of the will of man, but of God.

[14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we
have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the father. [15] (John bore
witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me
ranks before me, for he was before me.’”) [16] And from his fullness have we all
received, grace upon grace. [17] For the law was given through Moses; grace
and truth came through Jesus Christ. [18] No one has ever seen God; the only
Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.

*******************************************************************************************
Commentary:

1-18. These verses form the prologue or introduction to the Fourth Gospel; they
are a poem prefacing the account of Jesus Christ’s life on earth, proclaiming
and praising his divinity and eternity. Jesus is the uncreated Word, God the
Only-begotten, who takes on our human condition and offers us the opportunity
to become sons and daughters of God, that is, to share in God’s own life in a
real and supernatural way.

Right through his Gospel St John the Apostle lays special emphasis on our
Lord’s divinity; his existence did not begin when he became man in Mary’s vir-
ginal womb: before that he existed in divine eternity as Word, one in sub-
stance with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This luminous truth helps us under-
stand everything that Jesus says and does as reported in the Fourth Gospel.

St John’s personal experience of Jesus’ public ministry and his appearances
after the Resurrection were the material on which he drew to contemplate
God’s divinity and express it as “the Word of God”. By placing this poem as
a prologue to his Gospel, the Apostle is giving us a key to understand the
whole account which follows, in the same sort of way as the first chapters of
the Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke initiate us into the contemplation of
the life of Christ by telling us about the virgin birth and other episodes to do
with his infancy; in structure and content, however, they are more akin to the
opening passages of other NT books, such as Col 1:15-20, Eph 1:13-14 and
1 Jn 1-4.

The prologue is a magnificent hymn in praise of Christ. We do not know whe-
ther St John composed it when writing his Gospel, or whether he based it on
some existing liturgical hymn; but there is no trace of any such text in other
early Christian documents.

The prologue is very reminiscent of the first chapter of Genesis, on a number
of scores: 1) the opening words are the same: “In the beginning...”; in the Gos-
pel they refer to absolute beginning, that is, eternity, whereas in Genesis they
mean the beginning of Creation and time; 2) there is a parallelism in the role of
the Word: in Genesis, God creates things by his word (”And God said ...”); in
the Gospel we are told that they were made through the Word of God; 3) in Ge-
nesis, God’s work of creation reaches its peak when he creates man in his own
image and likeness; in the Gospel, the work of the Incarnate Word culminates
when man is raised — by a new creation, as it were — to the dignity of being a
son of God.

The main teachings in the prologue are: 1) the divinity and eternity of the Word;
2) the Incarnation of the Word and his manifestation as man; 3) the part played
by the Word in creation and in the salvation of mankind; 4) the different ways
in which people react to the coming of the Lord — some accepting him with
faith, others rejecting him; 5) finally, John the Baptist bears witness to the
presence of the Word in the world.

The Church has always given special importance to this prologue; many Fa-
thers and ancient Christian writers wrote commentaries on it, and for centuries
it was always read at the end of Mass for instruction and meditation.

The prologue is poetic in style. Its teaching is given in verses, which combine
to make up stanzas (vv. 1-5; 6-8; 9-13; 14-18). Just as a stone dropped in a
pool produces ever widening ripples, so the idea expressed in each stanza
tends to be expanded in later verses while still developing the original theme.
This kind of exposition was much favored in olden times because it makes it
easier to get the meaning across — and God used it to help us go deeper into
the central mysteries of our faith.

1. The sacred text calls the Son of God “the Word.” The following comparison
may help us understand the notion of “Word”: just as a person becoming con-
scious of himself forms an image of himself in his mind, in the same way God
the Father on knowing himself begets the eternal Word. This Word of God is
singular, unique; no other can exist because in him is expressed the entire
essence of God. Therefore, the Gospel does not call him simply “Word”, but
“the Word.” Three truths are affirmed regarding the Word — that he is eternal,
that he is distinct from the Father, and that he is God. ‘’Affirming that he exis-
ted in the beginning is equivalent to saying that he existed before all things”
(St Augustine, “De Trinitate”, 6, 2). Also, the text says that he was with God,
that is, with the Father, which means that the person of the Word is distinct
from that of the Father and yet the Word is so intimately related to the Father
that he even shares his divine nature: he is one in substance with the Father
(cf. “Nicean Creed”).

To mark the Year of Faith (1967-1968) Pope Paul VI summed up this truth con-
cerning the most Holy Trinity in what is called the “Creed of the People of God”
(n. 11) in these words: “We believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Son
of God. He is the eternal Word, born of the Father before time began, and one
in substance with the Father, “homoousios to Patri”, and through him all things
were made. He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit,
and was made man: equal therefore to the Father according to his divinity, and
inferior to the Father according to his humanity and himself one, not by some
impossible confusion of his natures, but by the unity of his person.”

“In the beginning”: “what this means is that he always was, and that he is eter-
nal. [...] For if he is God, as indeed he is, there is nothing prior to him; if he is
creator of all things, then he is the First; if he is Lord of all, then everything
comes after him — created things and time” (St John Chrysostom, “Hom. on St
John”, 2, 4).

3. After showing that the Word is in the bosom of the Father, the prologue goes
on to deal with his relationship to created things. Already in the Old Testament
the Word of God is shown as a creative power (cf. Is 55:10-11), as Wisdom pre-
sent at the creation of the world (cf. Prov 8:22-26). Now Revelation is extended:
we are shown that creation was caused by the Word; this does not mean that
the Word is an instrument subordinate and inferior to the Father: he is an active
principle along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The work of creation is an
activity common to the three divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity: “the Father
generating, the Son being born, the Holy Spirit proceeding; consubstantial, co-
equal, co-omnipotent and co-eternal; one origin of all things: the creator of all
things visible and invisible, spiritual and corporal.” (Fourth Lateran Council, “De
Fide Catholica”, Dz-Sch, 800). From this can be deduced, among other things,
the hand of the Trinity in the work of creation and, therefore, the fact that all
created things are basically good.

4. The prologue now goes on to expound two basic truths about the Word — that
he is Life and that he is Light. The Life referred to here is divine life, the primary
source of all life, natural and supernatural. And that Life is the light of men, for
from God we receive the light of reason, the light of truth and the light of glory,
which are a participation in God’s mind. Only a rational creature is capable of
having knowledge of God in this world and of later contemplating him joyfully in
heaven for all eternity. Also the Life (the Word) is the light of men because he
brings them out of the darkness of sin and error (cf. Is 8:23; 9:1-2; Mt 4:15-16;
Lk 1:74). Later on Jesus will say: “I am the light of the world; he who follows
me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12; cf. 12:46).

Vv. 3 and 4 can be read with another punctuation, now generally abandoned but
which had its supporters in ancient times: “All things were made through him,
and without him nothing was made; in so far as anything was made in him, he
was the life and the life was the light of men.” This reading would suggest that
everything that has been created is life in the Word, that is, that all things re-
ceive their being and activity, their life, through the Word: without him they can-
not possibly exist.

5. “And the darkness has not overcome it”: the original Greek verb, given in
Latin as “comprehenderunt”, means to embrace or contain as if putting one’s
arms around it — an action which can be done with good dispositions (a friendly
embrace) or with hostility (the action of smothering or crushing someone). So
there are two possible translations: the former is that given in the Navarre
Spanish, the latter that in the RSV. The RSV option would indicate that Christ
and the Gospel continue to shine among men despite the world’s opposition,
indeed overcoming “it”, as Jesus later says: “Be of good cheer: I have over-
come the world” (Jn 16:33; cf. 12:31; 1 Jn 5:4). Either way, the verse expres-
ses the darkness’ resistance to, repugnance for, the light. As his Gospel pro-
ceeds, St John explains further about the light and darkness: soon, in vv. 9-11,
he refers to the struggle between them; later he will describe evil and the po-
wers of the evil one, as a darkness enveloping man’s mind and preventing him
from knowing God (cf. Jn 12:15-46; 1 Jn 5:6).

St Augustine (”In Ioann. Evang.”, 1, 19) comments on this passage as follows:
“But, it may be, the dull hearts of some cannot yet receive this light. Their sins
weigh them down, and they cannot discern it. Let them not think, however, that,
because they cannot discern it, therefore it is not present with them. For they
themselves, because of their sins, are darkness. Just as if you place a blind
person in the sunshine, although the sun is present to him, yet he is absent
from the sun; in the same way, every foolish man, every unrighteous man, every
ungodly man, is blind in heart. [...] What course then ought such a one to take?
Let him cleanse the eyes of his heart, that he may be able to see God. He will
see Wisdom, for God is Wisdom itself, and it is written: ‘Blessed are the clean
of heart, for they shall see God.’” There is no doubt that sin obscures man’s
spiritual vision, rendering him unable to see and enjoy the things of God.

6-8. After considering the divinity of the Lord, the text moves on to deal with his
incarnation, and begins by speaking of John the Baptist, who makes his appea-
rance at a precise point in history to bear direct witness before man to Jesus
Christ (Jn 1:15, 19-36; 3:22ff). As St Augustine comments: “For as much as he
[the Word Incarnate] was man and his Godhead was concealed, there was sent
before him a great man, through whose testimony He might be found to be more
than man” (”In Ioann. Evang.”, 2, 5).

All of the Old Testament was a preparation for the coming of Christ. Thus, the
patriarchs and prophets announced, in different ways, the salvation the Messiah
would bring. But John the Baptist, the greatest of those born of woman (cf. Mt
11:11), was actually able to point out the Messiah himself; his testimony marked
the culmination of all the previous prophecies.

So important is John the Baptist’s mission to bear witness to Jesus Christ that
the Synoptic Gospels stage their account of the public ministry with John’s
testimony. The discourses of St Peter and St Paul recorded in the Acts of the
Apostles also refer to this testimony (Acts 1:22; 10:37; 12:24). The Fourth Gos-
pel mentions it as many as seven times (1:6, 15, 19, 29, 35; 3:27; 5:33). We
know, of course, that St John the Apostle was a disciple of the Baptist before
becoming a disciple of Jesus, and that it was precisely the Baptist who showed
him the way to Christ (cf. 1 :37ff).

The New Testament, then, shows us the importance of the Baptist’s mission,
as also his own awareness that he is merely the immediate Precursor of the
Messiah, whose sandals he is unworthy to untie (cf. Mk 1:7): the Baptist stres-
ses his role as witness to Christ and his mission as preparer of the way for the
Messiah (cf. Lk 1:15-17; Mt 3: 3-12). John the Baptist’s testimony is undimi-
nished by time: he invites people in every generation to have faith in Jesus, the
true Light.

9. “The true light...” [The Spanish translation of this verse is along these lines:
“It was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world.”] The
Fathers, early translations and most modern commentators see “the Word” as
being the subject of this sentence, which could therefore be translated as “the
Word was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world...”.
Another interpretation favored by many modern scholars makes “the light” the
subject, in which case it would read “the true light existed, which enlightens...”.
Either way, the meaning is much the same.

“Coming into the world”: it is not clear in the Greek whether these words refer
to “the light”, or to “every man”. In the first case it is the Light (the Word) that
is coming into this world to enlighten all men; in the second it is the men who,
on coming into this world, on being born, are enlightened by the Word; the
RSV and the new Vulgate opt for the first interpretation.

The Word is called “the true light” because he is the original light from which
every other light or revelation of God derives. By the Word’s coming, the world
is fully lit up by the authentic Light. The prophets and all the other messengers
of God, including John the Baptist, were not the true light but his reflection,
attesting to the Light of the Word.

Apropos the fullness of light which the Word is, St John Chrysostom asks: “If
he enlightens every man who comes into the world, how is it that so many have
remained unenlightened? For not all, to be sure, have recognized the high dignity
of Christ. How, then, does he enlighten every man? As much as he is permitted
to do so. But if some, deliberately closing the eyes of their minds, do not wish
to receive the beams of this light, darkness is theirs. This is not because of the
nature of the light, but is a result of the wickedness of men who deliberately
deprive themselves of the gift of grace (Hom. on St. John, 8, 1).

10. The Word is in this world as the maker who controls what he has made (cf.
St Augustine, “In Ioann. Evang.”, 2, 10). In St John’s Gospel the term “world”
means “all creation, all created things (including all mankind)”: thus, Christ
came to save all mankind: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only
Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For
God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world
might be saved through him” (Jn 3:16-17). But insofar as many people have
rejected the Light, that is, rejected Christ, “world” also means everything op-
posed to God (cf. Jn 17:14-15). Blinded by their sins, men do not recognize
in the world the hand of the Creator (cf. Rom 1:18-20; Wis 13:1-15): “they be-
come attached to the world and relish only the things that are of the world”
(St John Chrysostom, “Hom. on St John”, 7). But the Word, “the true light”,
comes to show us the truth about the world (cf. Jn 1:3; 18:37) and to save us.

11. “His own home, his own people”: this means, in the first place, the Jewish
people, who were chosen by God as his own personal “property”, to be the
people from whom Christ would be born. It can also mean all mankind, for man-
kind is also his: he created it and his work of redemption extends to everyone.
So the reproach that they did not receive the Word made man should be under-
stood as addressed not only to the Jews but to all those who rejected God de-
spite his calling them to be his friends: “Christ came; but by a mysterious and
terrible misfortune, not everyone accepted him. [...] It is the picture of humani-
ty before us today, after twenty centuries of Christianity. How did this happen?
What shall we say? We do not claim to fathom a reality immersed in myste-
ries that transcend us — the mystery of good and evil. But we can recall that
the economy of Christ, for its light to spread, requires a subordinate but neces-
sary cooperation on the part of man — the cooperation of evangelization, of the
apostolic and missionary Church. If there is still work to be done, it is all the
more necessary for everyone to help her” (Paul VI, General Audience, 4 De-
cember 1974).

12. Receiving the Word means accepting him through faith, for it is through
faith that Christ dwells in our hearts (cf. Eph 3:17). Believing in his name means
believing in his Person, in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. In other words,
“those who believe in his name are those who fully hold the name of Christ, not
in any way lessening his divinity or his humanity” (St Thomas Aquinas, “Com-
mentary on St John, in loc.”).

“He gave power [to them]” is the same as saying “he gave them a free gift” —
sanctifying grace — “because it is not in our power to make ourselves sons of
God” (”ibid.”). This gift is extended through Baptism to everyone, whatever his
race, age, education etc. (cf. Acts 10:45; Gal 3:28). The only condition is that
we have faith.

“The Son of God became man”, St Athanasius explains, “in order that the sons
of men, the sons of Adam, might become sons of God. [...] He is the Son of
God by nature; we, by grace” (”De Incarnatione Contra Arrianos”). What is re-
ferred to here is birth to supernatural life: in which “Whether they be slaves or
freemen, whether Greeks or barbarians or Scythians, foolish or wise, female or
male, children or old men, honorable or without honor, rich or poor, rulers or
private citizens, all, he meant, would merit the same honor. [...] Such is the
power of faith in him; such the greatness of his grace” (St John Chrysostom,
“Hom. on St John”, 10, 2).

“Christ’s union with man is power and the source of power, as St John stated
so incisively in the prologue of his Gospel: ‘(The Word) gave power to become
children of God.’ Man is transformed inwardly by this power as the source of a
new life that does not disappear and pass away but lasts to eternal life (cf. Jn
4:14)” (Bl. John Paul II, “Redemptor Hominis”, 18).

13. The birth spoken about here is a real, spiritual type of generation which is
effected in Baptism (cf. 3:6ff). Instead of the plural adopted here, referring to the
supernatural birth of men, some Fathers and early translations read it in the sin-
gular: “who was born, not of blood...but of God”, in which case the text would
refer to the eternal generation of the Word and to Jesus’ generation through the
Holy Spirit in the pure womb of the Virgin Mary. Although the second reading is
very attractive, the documents (Greek manuscripts, early translations, referen-
ces in the works of ecclesiastical writers, etc.) show the plural text to be the
more usual, and the one that prevailed from the fourth century forward. Besides,
in St John’s writings we frequently find reference to believers as being born of
God (cf. Jn 3:3-6; 1 Jn 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18).

The contrast between man’s natural birth (by blood and the will of man) and his
supernatural birth (which comes from God) shows that those who believe in Je-
sus Christ are made children of God not only by their creation but above all by
the free gift of faith and grace.

14. This is a text central to the mystery of Christ. It expresses in a very con-
densed form the unfathomable fact of the incarnation of the Son of God.
“When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman”
(Gal 4:4).

The word “flesh” means man in his totality (cf. Jn 3:6; 17:2; Gen 6:3; Ps 56:5);
so the sentence “the Word became flesh” means the same as “the Word be-
came man.” The theological term “incarnation” arose mainly out of this text.
The noun “flesh” carries a great deal of force against heresies which deny that
Christ is truly man. The word also accentuates that our Savior, who dwelt
among us and shared our nature, was capable of suffering and dying, and it
evokes the “Book of the Consolation of Israel” (Is 40:1-11), where the fragility
of the flesh is contrasted with the permanence of the Word of God: “The grass
withers, the flower fades; but the Word of our God will stand for ever” (Is 40:8).
This does not mean that the Word’s taking on human nature is something pre-
carious and temporary.

“And dwelt among us”: the Greek verb which St John uses originally means “to
pitch one’s tent”, hence, to live in a place. The careful reader of Scripture will
immediately think of the tabernacle, or tent, in the period of the exodus from
Egypt, where God showed his presence before all the people of Israel through
certain sights of his glory such as the cloud covering the tent (cf., for example,
Ex 25:8; 40:34-35). In many passages of the Old Testament it is announced
that God “will dwell in the midst of the people” (cf., for example, Jer 7:3; Ezek
43:9; Sir 24:8). These signs of God’s presence, first in the pilgrim tent of the
Ark in the desert and then in the temple of Jerusalem, are followed by the most
wonderful form of God’s presence among us — Jesus Christ, perfect God and
perfect Man, in whom the ancient promise is fulfilled in a way that far exceeded
men’s greatest expectations. Also the promise made through Isaiah about the
“Immanuel” or “God-with-us” (Is 7:14; cf. Mt 1:23) is completely fulfilled through
this dwelling of the Incarnate Son of God among us. Therefore, when we devout-
ly read these words of the Gospel “and dwelt among us” or pray them during
the Angelus, we have a good opportunity to make an act of deep faith and gra-
titude and to adore our Lord’s most holy human nature.

“Remembering that ‘the Word became flesh’, that is, that the Son of God be-
came man, we must become conscious of how great each man has become
through this mystery, through the Incarnation of the Son of God! Christ, in fact,
was conceived in the womb of Mary and became man to reveal the eternal love
of the Creator and Father and to make known the dignity of each one of us”
(Bl. John Paul II, “Angelus Address” at Jasna Gora Shrine, 5 June 1979).

Although the Word’s self-emptying by assuming a human nature concealed in
some way his divine nature, of which he never divested himself, the Apostles
did see the glory of his divinity through his human nature: it was revealed in the
transfiguration (Lk 9:32-35), in his miracles (Jn 2:11; 11:40), and especially in
his resurrection (cf. Jn 3:11; 1 Jn 1:1) The glory of God, which shone out in the
early tabernacle in the desert and in the temple at Jerusalem, was nothing but
an imperfect anticipation of the reality of God’s glory revealed through the holy
human nature of the Only-begotten of the Father. St John the Apostle speaks
in a very formal way in the first person plural: “we have beheld his glory”, be-
cause he counts himself among the witnesses who lived with Christ and, in
particular, were present at his transfiguration and saw the glory of his resur-
rection.

The words “only Son” (”Only-begotten”) convey very well the eternal and unique
generation of the Word by the Father. The first three Gospels stressed Christ’s
birth in time; St John complements this by emphasizing his eternal generation.

The words “grace and truth” are synonyms of “goodness and fidelity”, two attri-
butes which, in the Old Testament, are constantly applied to Yahweh (cf., e.g.,
Ex 34:6; Ps 117; Ps 136; Osee 2:16-22): so, grace is the expression of God’s
love for men, the way he expresses his goodness and mercy. Truth implies per-
manence, loyalty, constancy, fidelity. Jesus, who is the Word of God made
man, that is, God himself, is therefore “the only Son of the Father, full of grace
and truth”; he is the “merciful and faithful high priest” (Heb 2:17). These two
qualities, being good and faithful, are a kind of compendium or summary of
Christ’s greatness. And they also parallel, though on an infinitely lower level,
the quality essential to every Christian, as stated expressly by our Lord when
he praised the “good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21).

As Chrysostom explains: “Having declared that they who received him were
‘born of God’ and ‘become sons of God,’ he then set forth the cause and rea-
son for this ineffable honor. It is that ‘the Word became flesh’ and the Master
took on the form of a slave. He became the Son of Man, though he was the
true Son of God, in order that he might make the sons of men children of God
(”Hom. on St John”, 11,1).

The profound mystery of Christ was solemnly defined by the Church’s Magi-
sterium in the famous text of the ecumenical council of Chalcedon (in the year
451): “Following the holy Fathers, therefore, we all with one accord teach the
profession of faith in the one identical Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We declare
that he is perfect both in his divinity and in his humanity, truly God and truly
man, composed of body and rational soul; that he is consubstantial with the
Father in his divinity, consubstantial with us in his humanity, like us in every
respect except for sin (cf. Heb 4:15). We declare that in his divinity he was be-
gotten in this last age of Mary the Virgin, the Mother of God, for us and for our
salvation” (Dz-Sch, n. 301).

15. Further on (cf. Jn 1:19-36) the Gospel tells us more about John the Bap-
tist’s mission as a witness to the messiahship and divinity of Jesus. Just as
God planned that the Apostles should bear witness to Jesus after the resur-
rection, so he planned that the Baptist would be the witness chosen to pro-
claim Jesus at the very outset of his public ministry (cf. note on Jn 1:6-8).

16. “Grace upon grace”: this can be understood, as it was by Chrysostom and
other Fathers, as “grace for grace”, the Old Testament economy of salvation gi-
ving way to the new economy of grace brought by Christ. It can also mean (as
the RSV suggests) that Jesus brings a superabundance of gifts, adding on, to
existing graces, others — all of which pour out of the one inexhaustible source,
Christ, who is for ever full of grace. “Not by sharing with us, says the Evange-
list, does Christ possess the gift, but he himself is both fountain and root of all
virtues. He himself is life, and light, and truth, not keeping within himself the
wealth of these blessings, but pouring it forth upon all others, and even after the
outpouring still remaining full. He suffers loss in no way by giving his wealth to
others, but, while always pouring out and sharing these virtues with all men, he
remains in the same state of perfection” (St John Chrysostom, “Hom. on St
John”, 14, 1).

17. Here, for the first time in St John’s Gospel, the name of Jesus Christ ap-
pears, identified with the Word of whom John has been speaking.

Whereas the Law given by Moses went no further than indicate the way man
ought follow (cf. Rom 8:7-10), the grace brought by Jesus has the power to
save those who receive it (cf. Rom 7:25). Through grace “we have become
dear to God, no longer merely as servants, but as sons and friends” (Chry-
sostom, “Hom. on St John”, 14, 2).

On “grace and truth” see note on Jn 1:14.

18. “No one has ever seen God”: in this world men have never seen God other
than indirectly: all that they could contemplate was God’s “glory”, that is the
aura of his greatness: for example, Moses saw the burning bush (Ex 3:6); Eli-
jah felt the breeze on Mount Horeb — the “still small voice” (RSV) — (1 Kings 19:
11-13). But in the fullness of time God comes much closer to man and reveals
himself almost directly, for Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God
(cf. Col 1:15), the maximum revelation of God in this world, to such an extent
that he assures us that “he who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
“The most intimate truth which this revelation gives us about God and the sal-
vation of man shines forth in Christ, who is himself both the mediator and the
sum total of Revelation” (Vatican II, “Dei Verbum”, 2).

There is no greater revelation God could make of himself than the incarnation
of his eternal Word. As St John of the Cross puts it so well: “In giving to us, as
he has done, his Son, who is his only Word, he has spoken to us once and for
all by his own and only Word, and has nothing further to reveal” (”Ascent of
Mount Carmel”, Book II, chap. 22).

“The only Son”: the RSV note says that “other ancient authorities read “God”
(for Son); the Navarre Spanish has “the Only-begotten God” and comments as
follows: some Greek manuscripts and some translations give “the Only-begot-
ten Son” or “the Only-begotten”. “The Only-begotten God” is preferable be-
cause it finds best support in the codices. Besides, although the meaning
does not change substantially, this translation has a richer content because
it again explicitly reveals Christ’s divinity.

*******************************************************************************************
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.


4 posted on 12/30/2013 9:03:47 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies ]

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article


FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson