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withstanding of far more worth and greater dignity than I am; even so much greater, that I must acknowledge myself unworthy to stoop down and unloose the latchet of his shoe: and the reason of this transcendent dignity is, from the excellency of that nature which he had before I was; for though he cometh after me, yet he was before me.'
Now as Christ was before John, which speaks a small, so was he also before Abraham, which speaks a larger, time. Jesus himself hath asserted this pre-existence to the Jews :
Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am,” (John viii. 58.) Which words, plainly and literally expounded, must evidently contain this truth. For, first, Abraham in all the Scriptures never hath any other signification than such as denotes the person called by that name ; and the question to which these words are directed by way of answer, without controversy, spake of the same person. Beside, Abraham must be the subject of that proposition, “ Abraham was;" because a proposition cannot be without a subject, and if Abraham be the predicate, there is none. Again, as we translate " Abraham was,” in a tense signifying the time past; so it is most certainly to be understood, because that which he speaks unto, is the pre-existence of Abraham, and that of long duration; so that whatsoever had concerned his present estate or future condition had been wholly impertinent to the precedent question. Lastly, The expression, “I am,” seeming something unusual or improper to signify a priority in respect of any thing past, because no present instant is before that which precedeth, but that which followeth; yet the* use of it
So Nonnus here more briefly and nus seems to have read it elpe by his plainly than usual: c. viii. v. 187. translation, v. 130. 'Αβράμ πρίν γένος έσχεν, εγώ πέλον. εις ατραπόν ήν TEP
οδεύσω So John xiv. 9. TOGOVTOV xpóvov med and the Jews' question, v. 35. TOŨ υμών ειμι, και ουκ έγνωκάς με; Ηαυe I ούτος μέλλει πορεύεσθαι, shows they been so long time with you, and yet understood it so: for this clue, though hast thou not known me? and John of a present form, is of a future Χν. 27. ότι απ' αρχής μετ' εμού έστε, signification. Hesych. Eίμι, πορεύσοbecause ye have been (or continued) uai. And so it agreeth with that with me from the beginning. Thus which follows, John viii. 21. Órov éyw Nonnus: v. 110.
υπάγω, υμείς ου δύνασθε ελθείν. If we PEę åpxəs yeyawreçölwy Inýtopeçēpywv. read ciui, as the old translation, ubi John vi. 24. Öte oủv Eldev ó öxlos ego sum, it will bave the force of [ooότι 'Ιησούς ουκ έστιν εκεί, When the μαι, and agree with the other, ίνα όπου people saw that Jesus was not there. ciui ływ, kai ópeis ñre. Howsoever, it Nor only doth St. John use thus the is clear, St. John useth the present present tense for that which is past, cipi either in relation to what is past, but as frequently for that which is to or what is to come, and is therefore come. For as before, TOOOūTOV xpóvov to be interpreted as the matter in MED' ůpớv ciui, so on the contrary, éri hand requireth. And certainly, the fuerpov xpovov MES 'uwv ciui, John vii, place now under our consideration 33, and όπου είμι εγώ, εκεί και ο διάκο- can admit no other relation but to the vos é tuos žotai, John xii. 26. xiv. 3. time already past, in which Abraham xyii. 24. Wherefore it is very indif- lived. And we find the present tense ferent whether (John vii. 34.) we read in the same manner joined with the όπου είμι εγώ, or όπου είμι. For Non- aorist elsewhere; as Psal. xc. 2. apò
sufficiently maintaineth, and the nature of the place absolutely requireth, that it should not here denote a present being, but a priority of existence, together with a continuation of it till the present time. And then the words will plainly signify thus much : 'Do you question how I could see Abraham, who am not yet fifty years old ? Verily, verily, I say unto you, before* ever Abraham, the person whom you speak of, was born, I had a real being and existence (by which I was capable of the sight of him), in which I have continued until now.' In this sense certainly the Jews understood our Saviour's answer, as pertinent to their question, but in their opinion blasphemous; and therefore " they took up stones to cast at him.” (John viii. 59.)
This literal and plain explication is yet farther necessary; because those who once recede from it, do not only wrest and pervert the place, but also invent and suggest an answer unworthy of and wholly misbecoming him that spake it. For (setting aside the addition of the light of the world, which there can be no show of reason to admit), † whether they interpret the former part ("before Abraham was") of something to come, as the calling of the Gentiles, or the latter (“I am") of a pre-existence in the divine foreknowledge and appointment; they represent Christ with a great asseveration, highly and strongly asserting that which is nothing to the purpose to which he speaks, nothing to any other purpose at all; and they propound the Jews senselessly offended and foolishly exasperated with those words, which any of them might have spoken as well as he. For the first interpretation makes our Saviour thus to speak: ‘Do you so much wonder how I should have seen Abraham,” who am not yet fifty years old ?” (John viii. 57.) Do ye imagine so great a contradiction in του όρη γενηθήναι, και πλασθήναι την ver. 12., et hinc quod Christus bis seγήν και την οικουμένην, και από αιώνος, ipsum iisdem, Ego sum, lucem mundi ÉWS ToŨ aiớvos, où el. What can be vocaverit, ver. 24. et 28. deprehendi more parallel than, apò toõ õpn yevn- potest.' Catech. Racov. Sect. iv. c. 1. Iñvai, to mpiv 'Aßpady yevéodai, and p. 57. Whereas there is no ground où el, to łyó cije; in the same man- for any such connexion. That disner, thoughi by another word: apò toŨ course of the light of the world was in õon èdpaoonvai, apò dè Trávtwv Bouvūv, the treasury, ver. 20. that which folyevvą us. Prov. viii. 25.
loweth was not, at least appeareth * So the Æthiopic Version: ‘Amen not to be so. Therefore the ellipsis dico vobis, priusquam Abraham na- of the 24th and 28th verses is not sceretur, fui ego; and the Persian: to be supplied by the 12th, but the Vere, vere vobis dico, quod non- 24th, from the 23d, éyù łk tüv ävw.Sév dum Abraham factus erat, cum ego eiul, and the 28th, either from the eram.'
same, or that which is most general, + This is the shift of the Socinians, his office, šyu ciue ó Xplotós. Again, who make this speech of Christ ellip- ver. 31. it is very probable that a new tical, and then supply it from the 12th discourse is again begun, and thereverse. “I am the light of the world." fore if there were an ellipsis in the .Quod vero ea verba, Ego sum, sint words alleged, it would have no relaad eum modum supplenda, ac si ipse tion to either of the former supplies, subjecisset iis, Ego sum lux mundi, or if to either, to the latter; but insuperius e principio ejus orationis, deed it hath to neither.
this? I tell you, and be ye most assured that what I speak unto you at this time, is most certainly and infallibly true, and most worthy of your observation, which moves me not to deliver it without this solemn asseveration (“ Verily, verily, I say unto.you”), before Abraham shall perfectly become that which was signified in his name, “ the father of many nations, (Gen. xvii. 4.) before the Gentiles shall come in, “ I am.” Nor be ye troubled at this answer, or think in this I magnify myself: for what I speak is as true of you, as it is of me; before Abraham be thus made Abraham, ye are.
Doubt ye not therefore, as ye did, nor ever make that question again, whether I “ have seen Abraham”.' The second explication makes a sense of another nature, but with the same impertinency : Do ye continue still to question, and that with so much admiration? Do you look upon my age, and ask, “ Hast thou seen Abraham ?” I confess it is more than eighteen hundred years since that patriarch died, and less than forty since I was born at Bethlehem : but look not on this computation, for before Abraham was born, I was. But mistake me not, I mean in the foreknowledge and decree of God. Nor do I magnify myself in this, for ye were so. How either of these answers should give any reasonable satisfaction to the question, or the least occasion of the Jews' exasperation, is not to be understood. And that our Saviour should speak any such impertinences as these interpretations bring forth, is not by a Christian to be conceived. Wherefore being the plain and most obvious sense is a proper and full answer to the question, and most likely to exasperate the unbelieving Jews; being those strained explications render the words of Christ, not only impertinent to the occasion, but vain and useless to the hearers of them; being our Saviour gave this answer in words of another language, most probably incapable of any such interpretations: we must adhere unto that literal sense already delivered, by which it appeareth Christ had a being, as before John, so also before Abraham (not only before Abram became Abraham, but before Abraham was Abram), and consequently that he did exist two thousand years before he was born, or conceived by the Virgin.
Thirdly, We shall extend this pre-existence to a far longer space of time, to the end of the first World, nay, to the beginning of it. For he which was before the flood, and at the creation of the World, had a being before he was conceived by the Virgin. But Christ was really before the flood, for he preached to them that lived before it; and at the creation of the World, for he created it. That he preached to those before the flood, is evident by the words of St. Peter, who saith, that Christ " was put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the Ark was a preparing.” (1 Pet. iii. 18-20.) From which words it appeareth, that Christ preached by the same Spirit, by the virtue of which he was raised from the dead: but that Spirit was not his soul, but something of a greater power. Secondly, That those to whom he preached, were such as were disobedient. Thirdly, That the time when they were disobedient, was the time before the flood, while the Ark was preparing. *
It is certain then that Christ did preach unto those persons, which in the days of Noah were disobedient, all that time “ the long-suffering of God waited,” and consequently, so long as repentance was offered. And it is as certain that he never preached to them after they died; which I shall not need here to prove, because those against whom I bring this argument deny it not. It followeth therefore, that he preached to them while they lived, and were disobedient; for in the refusing of that mercy, which was offered to them by the preaching of Christ, did their disobedience principally consist. In vain then are we taught to understand St. Peter of the pro. mulgation of the Gospel to the Gentiles after the Holy Ghost descended upon the apostles, when the words themselves refuse all relation to any such times or persons.
For all those of whom St. Peter speaks, were disobedient in the days of Noah. But none of those to whom the apostles preached, were ever disobedient in the days of Noah. Therefore, none of those to whom the apostles preached, were any of those of whom St. Peter speaks. It remaineth therefore, that the plain interpretation be acknowledged for the true, that Christ did preach unto those men which lived before the flood, even while they lived, and consequently that he was before it. For though this was not done by an immediate act of the Son of God, as if he personally had appeared on earth, and actually preached to that old World; but by the ministry of a prophet,+ by the sending of Noah, the eighth preacher of righteousness : (2 Pet. ii. 5.)f yet to do any thing by another not able to per
* 'Απειθήσασί ποτε, ότε άπαξ εξεδέ- better interpreted than they are, when χετο ή του θεού μακροθυμία εν ημέραις we translate them, but saved Noah the
eighth person, a preacher of righteous† Prophetæ ab ipso habentes do- ness. For, first, if we look upon the pum in illum prophetaverunt. Bar- Greek phrase, öydqoç Nwe, may not be nabæ Epist. c. 4. al. 5.
the eighth person, but one of eight, or f I have thus translated this place Noah with seven more; in which it of St. Peter, because it may add some signifieth not the order in which he advantage to the argument: for if was in respect of the rest, but only Noah were the eighth preacher of con-signifieth the number which were righteousness, and he were sent by with him. As when we read in the the Son of God; no inan, I conceive, Supplices of Æschylus, v. 715. will deny that the seven before him Το γάρ τεκόντων σέβας, , were sent by the same Son: and so Τρίτον τόδ' εν θεσμίοις by this we have gained the pre-exist- Δίκας γέγραπται μεγιστοτίμου, ence of another thousand years. How- we must not understand it, as if hoever, those words, ám' oydoov Nõ€ pour due to parents, were the third δικαιοσύνης κήρυκα εφύλαξε, may be commandment at Athens, but one of
form it without him, as much demonstrates the existence of the principal cause, as if he did it of himself without any intervening instrument.
The second part of the argument, that Christ made this World, and consequently had a real being at the beginning of it, the Scriptures manifestly and plentifully assure us. For the same Son, "by whom in these last days God. spake unto us, is he, by whom also he made the worlds.” (Heb. i. 2.) So that as “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God,” (Heb. xi. 3.) so must we also believe that they were made by the Son of God.* Which the apostle doth not only in the entrance of his epistle deliver, but in the sequel prove. For shewing greater things have been spoken of him than ever were attributed to any of the angels, the most glorious of all the creatures of God; amongst the rest he saith, the Scripture spake, “ Unto the Son, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever. And not only so, but also, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thine hands. They shall perish, but thou remainest : and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” (Heb. i. 8. 10–12.) Now whatsoever the the three remarkable laws left at number that man was one. After this Eleusis by Triptolemus. So Porphy- manner speak the Attic writers, esperius: paoi dè kai Tputtó/epov 'Agn- cially Thucydides. And so we may ναίοις νομοθετήσαι, και των νόμων αυ- understand St. Peter, that God preToŨ Tpɛic ēti Eevok párns ó pilocopos dé- served Noah(a preacher of righteousγει διαμένειν 'Ελευσίνι τουσδε Γονείς ness) with seven more, of which he τιμάν: θεούς καρπούς αγάλλειν· Ζώα μη deserveth to be named the first, raviveodai. De Abstinent. ab Anim. Esu, ther than the last or eighth. But, se1. iv, ad fin. Which words are thus condly, the original oydoov may possitranslated by St. Jerome, who hath bly not belong to the name or person made use of most part of that fourth of Noah, but to his title or office; and book of Porphyrius: “Xenocrates then we must translate, oydoov Nõe Philosophus de Triptolemi legibus δικαιοσύνης κήρυκα, Noah the eighth apud Athenienses tria tantum præ- preacher of righteousness. For we cepta in Templo Eleusinæ residere read at the birth of Enos, that scribit; Honorandos Parentes, Ve- began to call upon the name of the nerandos Deos, Carnibus non vescen- Lord,” Gen. iv. 26. which the ancients dum. adv. Jovinian. 1. ii. col. 528. understood peculiarly of his person: Where we see honour due to parents as the LΧΧ. ούτος ήλπισεν επικαλείthe first precept, though by Æschy, obal TÒ Övoua Kupiov toŨ Deoữ, and the lus called the third, not in respect of vulgar Latin, Iste coepit invocare nothe order, but the number. Thus men Domini. Tle Jews have a tradiDinarchus the orator: Kai tås Seuvds tion, that God sent in the sea upon Jeds als éveivog lepo TOLÒS kataotàs dé- mankind in the days of Enos, and dekatos aúrós. From whence we must stroyed many. From whence it seems not collect that the person of whom Enos was a preacher or prophet, and he speaks, was the tenth in order of so the rest that followed him; and that office, so that nine were necessa- then Noah is the eighth. rily before or above him, and many * It being in both places expressed more might be after or below him; in the same phrase by the same aubut from hence it is inferred, that thor, di' oð kai tous aiwvas étoinoev, there were ten ιεροποιοί waiting on the Heb. i. 2. πίστει νοούμεν κατηρτίσθαι Σεμνάι θεαι, and no more, of which τους αιώνας ρήματι θεού.