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Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 48

Tractate 48 (John 10:22-42)

1. As I have already charged you, beloved, you ought steadfastly to bear in mind that Saint John the evangelist would not have us be always nourished with milk, but fed with solid food. Still, whoever is hardly able as yet to partake of the solid food of God's word, let him find nourishment in the milk of faith; and the word which he cannot understand, let him not hesitate to believe. For faith is the deserving: understanding, the reward. In the very labor of intent application the eye of our mind struggles to get rid of the foul films of human mists, and be cleared up to the word of God. Labor, then, will not be declined if love is present; for you know that he who loves his labor is insensible to its pain. For no labor is grievous to those who love it. If cupidity on the part of the avaricious endures so great toils, what in our case will not love endure?

2. Listen to the Gospel: And it was at Jerusalem the Encœnia. Encoenia was the festival of the dedication of the temple. For in Greek kainos means new; and whenever there was some new dedication, it was called Encœnia. And now this word has come into common use; if one puts on a new coat, he is said encœniare (to renovate, or to hold an encœnia). For the Jews celebrated in a solemn manner the day on which the temple was dedicated; and it was the very feast day when the Lord spoke what has just been read.

3. It was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. Then came the Jews round about Him, and said unto Him, How long do you keep our mind in suspense? If you be the Christ, tell us plainly. They were not desiring the truth, but preparing a calumny. It was winter, and they were chill; because they were slow to approach that divine fire. For to approach is to believe: he who believes, approaches; who denies, retires. The soul is not moved by the feet, but by the affections. They had become icy cold to the sweetness of loving Him, and they burned with the desire of doing Him an injury. They were far away, while there beside Him. It was not with them a nearer approach in believing, but the pressure of persecution. They sought to hear the Lord saying, I am Christ; and probably enough they only thought of the Christ in a human way. The prophets preached Christ; but the Godhead of Christ asserted in the prophets and in the gospel itself is not perceived even by heretics; and how much less by Jews, so long as the veil is upon their heart? 2 Corinthians 3:15 In short, in a certain place, the Lord Jesus, knowing that their views of the Christ were cast in a human mould, not in the Divine, taking His stand on the human ground, and not on that where along with the assumption of humanity He also continued Divine, He said to them, What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He? Following their own opinion, they replied, Of David. For so they had read, and this only they retained; because while they read of His divinity, they did not understand it. But the Lord, to pin them down to some inquiry touching the divinity of Him whose apparent weakness they despised, answered them: How, then, does David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit on my right hand, till I put Your enemies under Your feet? If David, then, in spirit call Him Lord, how is He his son? Matthew 22:42-45 He did not deny, but questioned. Let no one think, on hearing this, that the Lord Jesus denied that He was the Son of David. Had Christ the Lord given any such denial, He would not have enlightened the blind who so addressed Him. For as He was passing by one day, two blind men, who were sitting by the wayside, cried out, Have mercy upon us, thou Son of David. And on hearing these words He had mercy on them. He stood still, healed, enlightened them; Matthew 20:30-34 for He owned the name. The Apostle Paul also says, Who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; Romans 1:3 and in his Epistle to Timothy, Remember that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, [He that is] of the seed of David, according to my gospel. 2 Timothy 2:8 For the Virgin Mary drew her origin, and hence our Lord also, from the seed of David.

4. The Jews made this inquiry of Christ, chiefly in order that, should He say, I am Christ, they might, in accordance with the only sense they attached to such a name, that He was of the seed of David, calumniate Him with aiming at the kingly power. There is more than this in His answer to them: they wished to calumniate Him with claiming to be the Son of David. He replied that He was the Son of God. And how? Listen: Jesus answered them, I tell you, and you believe not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me: but you believe not; because you are not of my sheep. You have already learned above (in Lecture XLV.) who the sheep are: be ye sheep. They are sheep through believing, sheep in following the Shepherd, sheep in not despising their Redeemer, sheep in entering by the door, sheep in going out and finding pasture, sheep in the enjoyment of eternal life. What did He mean, then, in saying to them, You are not of my sheep? That He saw them predestined to everlasting destruction, not won to eternal life by the price of His own blood.

5. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life. This is the pasture. If you recollect, He had said before, And he shall go in and out, and find pasture. We have entered by believing— we go out at death. But as we have entered by the door of faith, so, as believers, we quit the body; for it is in going out by that same door that we are able to find pasture. The good pasture is called eternal life; there no blade withers— all is green and flourishing. There is a plant commonly said to be ever-living; there only is it found to live. I will give, He says, unto them, unto my sheep, eternal life. You are on the search for calumnies, just because your only thoughts are of the life that is present.

6. And they shall never perish: you may hear the undertone, as if He had said to them, You shall perish for ever, because you are not of my sheep. No one shall pluck them out of my hand. Give still greater heed to this: That which my Father gave me is greater than all. What can the wolf do? What can the thief and the robber? They destroy none but those predestined to destruction. But of those sheep of which the apostle says, The Lord knows them that are His; 2 Timothy 2:19 and Whom He did foreknow, them He also did predestinate; and whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified; Romans 8:29-30 — there is none of such sheep as these that the wolf seizes, or the thief steals, or the robber slays. He, who knows what He gave for them, is sure of their number. And it is this that He says: No one shall pluck them out of my hand; and in reference also to the Father, That which my Father gave me is greater than all. What did the Father give to the Son that was greater than all? To be His own only-begotten Son. What, then, means gave? Was He to whom He gave previously existent, or gave He in the act of begetting? For if He previously existed to whom He gave the gift of Sonship, there was a time when He was, and was not the Son. Far be it from us to suppose that the Lord Christ ever was, and yet was not the Son. Of us such a thing may be said: there was a time when we were the sons of men, but were not the sons of God. For we are made the sons of God by grace, but He by nature, for such was He born. And yet not so, as that one may say, He did not exist till He was born; for He, who was coeternal with the Father, was never unborn. Let him who is wise understand: and whoever understands not, let him believe and be nourished, and he will come to understanding. The Word of God was always with the Father, and always the Word; and because the Word, therefore the Son. So then, always the Son, and always equal. For it is not by growth but by birth that He is equal, who was always born, the Son of the Father, God of God, coeternal of the Eternal. But the Father is not God of the Son: the Son is God of the Father; therefore in begetting the Son, the Father gave Him to be God, in begetting He gave Him to be coeternal with Himself, in begetting He gave Him to be His equal. This is that which is greater than all. How is the Son the life, and the possessor of life? What He has, He is: as for you, you are one thing, you have another. For example, you have wisdom, but are you wisdom itself? In short, because you yourself art not that which you have, should you lose what you have, you return to the state of no longer having it: and sometimes you re-acquire, sometimes you lose. As our eye has no light inherently in itself, it opens, and admits it; it shuts, and loses it. It is not thus that the Son of God is God— not thus that He is the Word of the Father; and not thus is He the Word, that passes away with the sound, but that which abides in its birth. In such a way has He wisdom that He is Himself wisdom, and makes men wise: and life, that He is Himself the life, and makes others alive. This is that which is greater than all. The evangelist John himself looked to heaven and earth when wishing to speak of the Son of God; he looked, and rose above them all. He thought on the thousands of angelic armies above the heavens; he thought, and, like the eagle soaring beyond the clouds, his mind overpassed the whole creation: he rose beyond all that was great, and arrived at that which was greater than all; and said, In the beginning was the Word. But because He, of whom is the Word, is not of the Word, and the Word is of Him, whose Word He is; therefore He says, That which the Father gave me, namely, to be His Word, His only-begotten Son, the brightness of His light, is greater than all. Therefore, No one, He says, plucks my sheep out of my hand. No one can pluck them out of my Father's hand.

7. Out of my hand, and out of my Father's hand. What is this, No one plucks them out of my hand, and No one plucks them out of my Father's hand? Have the Father and Son one hand, or is the Son Himself, shall we say, the hand of His Father? If by hand we are to understand power, the power of Father and Son is one; for their Godhead is one. But if we mean hand in the way spoken of by the prophet, And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? Isaiah 53:1 the Father's hand is the Son Himself, which is not to be so understood as if God had the human form, and, as it were, bodily members: but that all things were made by Him. For men also are in the habit of calling other men their hands, by whom they get done what they wish. And sometimes also the very work done by a man's hand is called his hand; as one is said to recognize his hand when he recognizes what he has written. Since, then, there are many ways of speaking of the hand of a man, who literally has a hand among the members of his body; how much rather must there be more than one way of understanding it, when we read of the hand of God, who has no bodily form? And in this way it is better here, by the hand of the Father and Son, to understand the power of the Father and the Son; lest, in taking here the hand of the Father as spoken of the Son, some carnal thought also about the Son Himself should set us looking for the Son as somehow to be similarly regarded as the hand of Christ. Therefore, no one plucks them out of my Father's hand; that is, no one plucks them from me.

8. But that there may be no more room for hesitation, hear what follows: I and my Father are one. Up to this point the Jews were able to bear Him; they heard, I and my Father are one, and they bore it no longer; and hardened in their own way, they had recourse to stones. They took up stones to stone Him. The Lord, because He suffered not what He was unwilling to suffer, and only suffered what He was pleased to suffer, still addresses them while desiring to stone Him. The Jews took up stones to stone Him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? And they answered, For a good work we stone you not, but for blasphemy, and because that thou, being a man, makest yourself God. Such was their reply to His words, I and my Father are one. You see here that the Jews understood what the Arians understand not. For they were angry on this account, that they felt it could not be said, I and my Father are one, save where there was equality of the Father and the Son.

9. But see what answer the Lord gave to their dull apprehension. He saw that they could not bear the brilliance of the truth, and He tempered it with words. Is it not written in your law, that is, as given to you, that I said, You are gods? And the Lord called all the Scriptures generally, the law: although elsewhere He speaks more definitely of the law, distinguishing it from the prophets; as it is said, The law and the prophets were until John; Luke 16:16 and On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:40 Sometimes, however, He divided the same Scriptures into three parts, as where He says, All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me. Luke 24:44 But now He includes the psalms also under the name of the law, where it is written, I said, You are gods. If He calls them gods, to whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken: say ye of Him, whom the Father has sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blaspheme; because I said, I am the Son of God? If the word of God came to men, that they might be called gods, how can the very Word of God, who is with God, be otherwise than God? If by the word of God men become gods, if by fellowship they become gods, can He by whom they have fellowship not be God? If lights which are lit are gods, is the light which enlightens not God? If through being warmed in a way by saving fire they are constituted gods, is He who gives them the warmth other than God? Thou approachest the light and art enlightened, and numbered among the sons of God; if you withdraw from the light, you fall into obscurity, and art accounted in darkness; but that light approaches not, because it never recedes from itself. If, then, the word of God makes you gods, how can the Word of God be otherwise than God? Therefore did the Father sanctify His Son, and send Him into the world. Perhaps some one may be saying: If the Father sanctified Him, was there then a time when He was not sanctified? He sanctified in the same way as He begot Him. For in the act of begetting He gave Him the power to be holy, because He begot Him in holiness. For if that which is sanctified was unholy before, how can we say to God the Father, Hallowed be Your name? Matthew 6:9

10. If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye will not believe me, believe the works; that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in Him. The Son says not, the Father is in me, and I in Him, as men can say it. For if we think well, we are in God; and if we live well, God is in us: believers, by participating in His grace, and being illuminated by Himself, are in Him, and He in us. But not so is it with the only-begotten Son: He is in the Father, and the Father in Him; as one who is equal is in him whose equal he is. In short, we can sometimes say, We are in God, and God is in us; but can we say, I and God are one? You are in God, because God contains you; God is in you, because you have become the temple of God: but because you are in God, and God is in you, can you say, He that sees me sees God; as the Only-begotten said, He that has seen me, has seen the Father also; and I and the Father are one? Recognize the prerogative of the Lord, and the privilege of the servant. The prerogative of the Lord is equality with the Father: the privilege of the servant is fellowship with the Saviour.

11. Therefore they sought to apprehend Him. Would they had apprehended by faith and understanding, not in wrath and murder! For now, my brethren, when I speak thus, it is the weak one wishing to apprehend what is strong, the small what is great, the fragile what is solid; and it is we ourselves— both you who are of the same matter as I am, and I myself who speak to you— who all wish to apprehend Christ. And what is it to apprehend Him? [If] you have understood, you have apprehended. But not as did the Jews: you have apprehended in order to possess, they wished to apprehend in order to make away with Him. And because this was the kind of apprehension they desired, what did He do to them? He escaped out of their hands. They failed to apprehend Him, because they lacked the hand of faith. The Word was made flesh; but it was no great task to the Word to rescue His own flesh from fleshy hands. To apprehend the Word in the mind, is the right apprehension of Christ.

12. And He went away again beyond Jordan, into the place where John at first baptized; and there He abode. And many resorted unto Him, and said, John, indeed, did no miracle. You remember what was said of John, that he was a light, and bore witness to the day. Why, then, say these among themselves, John did no miracle? John, they say, signalized himself by no miracle; he did not put devils to flight, he drove away no fever, he enlightened not the blind, he raised not the dead, he fed not so many thousand men with five or seven loaves, he walked not upon the sea, he commanded not the winds and the waves. None of these things did John, and in all he said he bore witness to this man. By lamp-light we may advance to the day. John did no miracle: but all things that John spoke of this man were true. Here are those who apprehended in a different way from the Jews. The Jews wished to apprehend one who was departing from them, these apprehended one who remained with them. In a word, what is it that follows? And many believed on Him.

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Source. Translated by John Gibb. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701048.htm>.

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