|Holy Trinity Church, London|
Photo: George P Landow
Today's concluding section of St John 8 continues Jesus' discussion on the recognition of the truth of who he is, provides a warning about the reality of the devil, and concludes with another attempt to stone him for blasphemy in claiming to be God.
The New Advent page with the Greek, Latin and English can be found here. You can hear the Latin read here (from 4.06) and the Greek here.
37 Scio quia filii Abrahæ estis: sed quæritis me interficere, quia sermo meus non capit in vobis. 38 Ego quod vidi apud Patrem meum, loquor: et vos quæ vidistis apud patrem vestrum, facitis. 39 Responderunt, et dixerunt ei: Pater noster Abraham est. Dicit eis Jesus: Si filii Abrahæ estis, opera Abrahæ facite. 40 Nunc autem quæritis me interficere, hominem, qui veritatem vobis locutus sum, quam audivi a Deo: hoc Abraham non fecit. 41 Vos facitis opera patris vestri. Dixerunt itaque ei: Nos ex fornicatione non sumus nati: unum patrem habemus Deum. 42 Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Si Deus pater vester esset, diligeretis utique et me; ego enim ex Deo processi, et veni: neque enim a meipso veni, sed ille me misit. 43 Quare loquelam meam non cognoscitis? Quia non potestis audire sermonem meum. 44 Vos ex patre diabolo estis: et desideria patris vestri vultis facere. Ille homicida erat ab initio, et in veritate non stetit: quia non est veritas in eo: cum loquitur mendacium, ex propriis loquitur, quia mendax est, et pater ejus. 45 Ego autem si veritatem dico, non creditis mihi. 46 Quis ex vobis arguet me de peccato? si veritatem dico vobis, quare non creditis mihi? 47 Qui ex Deo est, verba Dei audit. Propterea vos non auditis, quia ex Deo non estis.48 Responderunt ergo Judæi, et dixerunt ei: Nonne bene dicimus nos quia Samaritanus es tu, et dæmonium habes? 49 Respondit Jesus: Ego dæmonium non habeo: sed honorifico Patrem meum, et vos inhonorastis me. 50 Ego autem non quæro gloriam meam: est qui quærat, et judicet.51 Amen, amen dico vobis: si quis sermonem meum servaverit, mortem non videbit in æternum. 52 Dixerunt ergo Judæi: Nunc cognovimus quia dæmonium habes. Abraham mortuus est, et prophetæ; et tu dicis: Si quis sermonem meum servaverit, non gustabit mortem in æternum. 53 Numquid tu major es patre nostro Abraham, qui mortuus est? et prophetæ mortui sunt. Quem teipsum facis? 54 Respondit Jesus: Si ego glorifico meipsum, gloria mea nihil est: est Pater meus, qui glorificat me, quem vos dicitis quia Deus vester est, 55 et non cognovistis eum: ego autem novi eum. Et si dixero quia non scio eum, ero similis vobis, mendax. Sed scio eum, et sermonem ejus servo. 56 Abraham pater vester exsultavit ut videret diem meum: vidit, et gavisus est. 57 Dixerunt ergo Judæi ad eum: Quinquaginta annos nondum habes, et Abraham vidisti? 58 Dixit eis Jesus: Amen, amen dico vobis, antequam Abraham fieret, ego sum. 59 Tulerunt ergo lapides, ut jacerent in eum: Jesus autem abscondit se, et exivit de templo.
 I know that you are the children of Abraham: but you seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.  I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and you do the things that you have seen with your father.  They answered, and said to him: Abraham is our father. Jesus saith to them: If you be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham.  But now you seek to kill me, a man who have spoken the truth to you, which I have heard of God. This Abraham did not.  You do the works of your father. They said therefore to him: We are not born of fornication: we have one Father, even God.  Jesus therefore said to them: If God were your Father, you would indeed love me. For from God I proceeded, and came; for I came not of myself, but he sent me:  Why do you not know my speech? Because you cannot hear my word.  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he stood not in the truth; because truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.  But if I say the truth, you believe me not. Which of you shall convince me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me?  He that is of God, heareth the words of God. Therefore you hear them not, because you are not of God.  The Jews therefore answered, and said to him: Do not we say well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?  Jesus answered: I have not a devil: but I honour my Father, and you have dishonoured me.  But I seek not my own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Amen, amen I say to you: If any man keep my word, he shall not see death for ever.  The Jews therefore said: Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest: If any man keep my word, he shall not taste death for ever.  Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets are dead. Whom dost thou make thyself?  Jesus answered: If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father that glorifieth me, of whom you say that he is your God.  And you have not known him, but I know him. And if I shall say that I know him not, I shall be like to you, a liar. But I do know him, and do keep his word.  Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad.  The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?  Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am.  They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
This passage articulates a theme picked up in more depth by St Paul, namely that the Jews think they are free, but in fact they are enslaved by sin and the law:
AUG. The Jews had asserted they were free, because they were Abraham's seed. Our Lord replies, I know that you are Abraham's seed; as if to say, I know that you are the sons of Abraham, but according to the flesh, not spiritually and by faith. So He adds, But you seek to kill Me.
CHRYS. He says this, that they might not attempt to answer, that they had no sin. He reminds them of a present sin; a sin which they had been meditating for some time past, and which was actually at this moment in their thoughts: putting out of the question their general course of life. He thus removes them by degrees out of their relationship to Abraham, teaching them not to pride themselves so much upon it: for that, as bondage and freedom were the consequences of works, so was relationship. And that they might not say, We do so justly, He adds the reason why they did so; Because My word has no place in you.
The reality of evil:
CHRYS. Our Lord, having already cut off the Jews from relationship to Abraham, overthrows now this far greater claim, to call God their Father, You are of your father the devil.
AUG. The Jews then were children of the devil by imitation, not by birth: And the lusts of your father you will do, our Lord says. You are his children then, because you have such lusts, not because you are born of him: for you seek to kill Me, a man that has told you the truth: and he envied man, and killed him: he was a murderer from the beginning; i.e. of the first man on whom a murder could be committed: man could not he slain, before man was created. The devil did not go, girt with a sword, against man: he sowed an evil word, and slew him. Do not suppose therefore that you are not guilty of murder, when you suggest evil thoughts to your brother. The very reason why you rage against the flesh, is that you cannot assault the soul.
ORIGEN. Consider too, it was not one man only that he killed, but the whole human race, inasmuch as in Adam all die; so that he is truly called a murderer from the beginning.
CHRYS. He does not say, his works, but his lusts you will do, meaning that both the devil and the Jews were bent on murder, to satisfy their envy. And stood not in the truth. He shows whence sprang their continual objection to Him, that He was not from God.
AUG. But it will be objected perhaps, that if from the beginning of his existence, the devil stood not in the truth, he was never in a state of blessedness with the holy angels, refusing, as he did, to be subject to his Creator, and therefore false and deceitful; unwilling at the cost of pious subjection to hold that which by nature he was; and attempting in his pride and loftiness to simulate that which he was not. This opinion is not the same with that of the Manichaeans, that the devil has his own peculiar nature, derived as it were from the opposite principle of evil. This foolish sect does not see that our Lord says not, Was alien from the truth, but Stood not in the truth, meaning, fell from the truth. And thus they interpret John, The devil sins from the beginning, not seeing that if sin is natural, it is no sin. But what do the testimonies of the prophets reply? Isaiah, setting forth the devil under the figure of the prince of Babylon, says, How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! Ezekiel says, You have been in Eden, the garden of God. Which passages, as they cannot be interpreted in any other way, show that we must take the word, He stood not in the truth, to mean, that he was in truth, but did not remain in it; and the other, that the devil sins from the beginning, to mean, that he was a sinner not from the beginning of his creation, but from the beginning of sin. For sin began in him, and he was the beginning of sin.
Our Lord's divinity:
GREG. The carnal minds of the Jews are intent on the flesh only; they think only of His age in the flesh: Then said the Jews to Him, you are not fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? that is to say, Many ages have passed since Abraham died; and how then could he see your day? For they took His words in a carnal sense.
THEOPHYL. Christ was then thirty-three years old. Why then do they not say, You are not yet forty years old, instead of fifty? A needless question this: they simply spoke as chance led them at the time. Some however say that they mentioned the fiftieth year on account of its sacred character, as being the year of jubilee, in which they redeemed their captives, and gave up the possessions they had bought.
GREG. Our Savior mildly draws them away from their carnal view, to the contemplation of His Divinity; Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am. Before is a particle of past time, am, of present. Divinity has no past or future, but always the present; and therefore He does not say, Before Abraham was, I was: but, Before Abraham was, I am: as it is in Exodus, I am that I am. Before and after might be said of Abraham with reference to different periods of his life; to be, in the present, is said of the truth only.
ALCUIN. He fled, because His hour was not yet come; and because He had not chosen this kind of death.
The consequences of rejecting Christ:
AUG. So then, as a man, He flies from the stones; but woe to them, from whose stony hearts God flies.
BEDE. Mystically, a man throws a stone at Jesus, as often as he harbors an evil thought, and if he follows it up, so far as lies in him, he kills Jesus.
GREG. What does our Lord mean by hiding Himself, but that the truth is hidden to them, who despise His words. The truth flies the company of an unhumbled soul. His example shows us, that we should in all humility rather retreat from the wrath of the proud, when it rises, than resist it, even though we might be able.