Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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ST. JOHN - Chapter 8

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John viii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1, &c.[1] The last verse of the foregoing chapter, and the eleven verses that follow in this, are not found in the greater part of our present Greek copies, yet they are in some manuscripts and so are retained in the Protestant translation. We read nothing of them in the commentaries of St. Chrysostom or St. Cyril; but St. Jerome (lib. ii. con. Pelag. tom. 4, part 2, p. 521. Ed. Ben.) says, they were found in many both Latin and Greek copies. St. Ambrose (Ep. 52.) says this passage, of the woman taken in adultery, was always famous in the Church. St. Augustine expounds them, tract. in Joan, &c. (Witham)

Ver. 6. Wrote with his finger, as one that was musing about something else. (Witham)

Ver. 7. We cannot with any propriety reprehend or condemn faults in others, if we ourselves be guilty of the same, or other great faults, St. Cyril, in Joan. --- See annotations on Matthew vii, ver. 1.

Ver. 9. Went out one by one,[2] confounded, and as it is in the ordinary Greek copies, convicted by their own conscience. (Witham)

Ver. 11. Hence we may see how impious is the doctrine of those who say that God is the author of sin. Christ did not say to the woman: I do not condemn thy sin; or, go and live now as thou pleasest, I will free thee from all punishment due to any sin thou shalt commit: but he only said, Go, and from henceforth sin no more: thus preserving his amiable virtue of clemency, and still not encouraging vice. (St. Augustine)

Ver. 14. Although I give testimony (or witness) of myself, my testimony is true. He gives them the reason, ver. 16; because he is not alone, but the Father (who also beareth witness) is also with him. (Witham)

Ver. 15. You judge, and also bear testimony concerning other men, according to the flesh, and according to outward shew and appearances only. I judge no one in this manner. And whatever judgment I pass, or if I give testimony, my testimony is true, as coming also from the Father, with whom I am one in nature, though a distinct person: and two, according to the law, are enough to give evidence. (Witham) --- You judge according to the flesh, &c. Because you do not understand the ways of God, and think you only see in me the person of man; therefore I seem to you to be arrogant, bearing witness of myself. Man indeed, who wishes alone to bear testimony of himself, is arrogant, and not to be believed, because all men are frail and liable to be deceived; but light and truth itself can neither deceive nor be deceived. (St. Augustine)

Ver. 16. I am not alone. Christ does not here say that he is the Father and he is the Son, he only says that he is not alone, but that the Father is with him, plainly distinguishing the two Persons. The Father is truly the Father, and the Son truly the Son, not one elder or greater than the other, but both entirely equal in all perfections. One in substance, co-eternal, and of one perfect equality. (St. Augustine)

Ver. 19. Where is thy Father? They knew well enough by other discourses, that he had called and declared God to be his Father; but they had a mind to make him own it again, that they might accuse him as guilty of blasphemy. --- Neither me do you know, nor my Father: you will not own me to have been always his Son, nor him to have been always my Father, but did you know me to be his Son, always proceeding from him, you would know my Father also, and know him as my Father from all eternity. (Witham) --- As in common conversation we often say, "when you have seen one, you have seen the other;" when two persons or things seem perfectly alike as to outward appearances, so here Christ says, If you did know me, you would know my Father also: not that the Father is the Son, or the Son the Father, but because the Father is like the Son. (St. Augustine) --- Here might the Arians, and all who maintain that Christ is a mere creature, blush; for if he were a creature, how can any one who knows him likewise know God? Therefore is Christ consubstantial with the Father, for he who knows the Son, knows the Father also. (Theophylactus)

Ver. 21. I go my way, and you shall seek me, &c. See the foregoing chapter, ver. 34. (Witham)

Ver. 23. I am not of this world: he speaks of his divine person, as the words evidently shew. (Witham)

Ver. 25. Who art thou? Jesus said to them: The beginning,[3] who also speak to you. This text and the construction of it is obscure, both in the Latin and in the Greek. St. Augustine and some of the Latin Fathers, expound it in this manner: I am the beginning of all things, who now being made man, speak to you. But this does not seem the construction, if we consult the Greek text; (where the beginning is not in the nominative, but in the accusative case) and therefore St. Augustine having considered more attentively the Greek, thinks that something must be understood, as believe me to be the beginning: he looks upon this to be the sense and the construction, as being connected with what was said two verses before; to wit, if you believe not that I am he, the true Messias, you shall die in your sins. "That they might," says St. Augustine (tract. 38, num. 11, p. 560) "know what they were to believe," he made them this answer, as if he had said: believe me to be the beginning, the cause, the author of all things, who am now become man, and speak to you. Other later interpreters are of opinion that the beginning is here a Grecism, and signifies that same as at first, or from the beginning. The sense therefore and construction may be, I am, what I said and told you at first, and from the beginning; that is, I am your Messias, the true Son of God, sent into the world, &c. (Witham) --- The Pharisees, indignant at the liberty with which Jesus spoke to them, demand of him in a rage, Who art thou, to speak to us in this imperious manner, to say that we shall die in our sins? Jesus answered them, that he was the Beginning, Author, Creator, and Ruler of all things. This is the more orthodox and more becoming interpretation. Or, I am, in the first place, what I have already told you; viz. (ver. 12.) I am the light of the world; he that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life. Or, it may mean, I am what I have always from the beginning told you. I am the Son of God, the Messias, &c. (Calmet)

Ver. 26. And the things I have heard from him, &c. For Christ, to hear from his Father, to see, &c. is the same as to proceed from him, to be of the same nature and substance. See chap. v, ver. 19. (Witham)

Ver. 27. Now they, &c. Some of the more ignorant among the Jews understood not Christ when he clearly enough signified that he was equal to God, and of one and the same nature; but at other times they that heard him, perceived it very well; and so, in this place, they were for stoning him to death. (Witham)

Ver. 28. When you shall have lifted up, &c. That is, have put me to the death of the cross; (see John iii. 14. and xii. 32.) you, that is, many of you, shall know, and believe in me, as your Messias. (Witham)

Ver. 31. If you persevere in the true faith, and in the observance of my words, you shall be my disciples indeed. It is not sufficient to believe; you must likewise do what my words command you to do: nor will it be sufficient to have the true faith for a time; you must persevere in that faith to the end. (St. Augustine, Ven. Bede, St. Chrysostom, Theophylactus, Euthymius, &c.) --- Faith alone without perseverance, or abiding in God's commandments, will not suffice. (Bristow)

Ver. 32. And the truth shall make you free. They were affronted at these words, as if he hinted they were slaves, and not a free people. They tell him, therefore, that they were never slaves to any one. They can only pretend this of themselves: for, their forefathers were slaves to the Egyptians, to the Babylonians, &c. and besides they were now the subjects, if not slaves, to the Romans. But Christ speaks of the worst of slaveries, and tells them the such as live in sin, are slaves to sin. (Witham)

Ver. 35. Now the servant abideth not in the house for ever, nor has a right to live in that manner as a son and a child of the family has to live in his father's house. A slave or servant, though he live ever so long in his master's house, his condition is quite different from that of a son of the family: and thus Christ puts them in mind that though they be of the race of Abraham, and in that sense can pretend to be his children, yet having made themselves slaves to sin, and remaining in that sin, by which they refuse to believe in him, their Messias, they are not the spiritual children of Abraham, nor can they inherit the promises made to Abraham, till, by the grace of Christ, they believe in him, and become his adoptive children. (Witham)

Ver. 36. Man never was without free-will; but, having the grace of Christ, his will is truly made free from the servitude of sin. (St. Augustine, tract. 41. in Joan.)

Ver. 37. You. That is, many of you, seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you; that is, is not rightly understood, nor received by you: you reject my doctrine, and are displeased with it. (Witham)

Ver. 38. The things that you have seen with your father. That is, you follow the suggestions of the devil, whom, (ver. 44.) in plain terms, he calls their father. (Witham)

Ver. 39. Not only faith but good works make men children of Abraham. See James, chap. ii.

Ver. 41. We are not born of fornication; we have one Father, God. These Jews perceived that Christ had hinted that they were not the true and faithful sons of Abraham; and therefore they replied in this manner. But Christ answered, if God was your Father, if you were his dutiful children, you would also believe in me, and love me; for I have proceeded from him, and am come from him, his true Son: and now sent into the world by him. But you cannot hear my word, because you will not, by your own wilful obstinate blindness. (Witham)

Ver. 44. You are of your father, the devil, and have made yourselves his slaves. --- He was a murderer from the beginning of the world, having brought both a corporal and a spiritual death by sin, upon all mankind. --- He abode not in the truth, in the ways of truth and obedience to God. --- He is a liar, and the father thereof: that is, the father of lies. I speak truth, being truth itself. (Witham) -- St. Augustine compares heretics, who drive Christians out of the Church, to the devil, who was the cause of our first parents' banishment from paradise. (Cont. lit. Petil. lib. ii. chap. 13.)

Ver. 51. He shall not see death, he shall not die, for ever. That is, he shall not incur an eternal death, as they who die in sin: but they understood his words of the death of the body. (Witham) --- You accuse me of being possessed with a devil, because I preach to you a doctrine far different from what you are accustomed to hear; but I speak nothing but the truth; I give honour to my Father, I execute his orders; and the words I now speak to you, are the words of eternal life. Whoever observes them shall not die. Moses promised a long life to those who observed what was commanded in the old law, and offered them as their reward goods and temporal prosperity. But I now offer you an eternal life. Believe my words, keep them, and observe my ordinances, and you shall not feel the death of the soul, the second, eternal, and most miserable of deaths. (Calmet)

Ver. 56. Abraham, your father, rejoiced that he might see my day, my entrance into this world, my incarnation, my birth, my manifestation in Israel, my death and passion. (St. IrenŠus, Origen, St. Cyril, &c.) --- He waited with impatience for the deliverance of the whole world. He saw it, and was glad. He saw it in spirit, for God revealed it to him. He saw it approaching in the birth of his son Isaac, and in the miraculous deliverance of his dear son, when he was commanded to offer him in sacrifice to the Lord. The vivacity of his faith made him, as it were, present at the time of my birth, though then so far off. (St. Chrysostom, Leont., Theophylactus, Euthymius) --- It is not unlikely that this patriarch, and the others who were with him, detained in limbo, were apprised of the incarnation and coming of the Messias, which would fill them with an effusion of inexpressible joy. (St. Chrysostom) --- Christ here teaches us two things. 1. That he was before Abraham. 2. That the Jews were not true sons of Abraham, now treating so rudely him, who, even before his coming, had given the patriarch so much joy. (Calmet)

Ver. 58. Before Abraham was made, I am.[4] Christ here speaks of his eternal existence as God. St. Augustine shews this by these very words, I am. He does not say, before Abraham was made, I was made: because, as the Son of God, he never was made: but I am, which shews his eternal divine nature. (Witham)


[1] Ver. 1. In multis Latinis et GrŠcis codicibus invenitur. S. Hierom.[St. Jerome] See the Greek edition of the New Testament, at Amsterdam, ex officina Westeniana, an. 1711, in notis Criticis in fin, p. 17.

[2] Ver. 9. Apo tes suneideseos, elegchomenoi.

[3] Ver. 25. Principium qui et loquor vobis. St. Augustine reads, quia loquor vobis, as we find in some Greek manuscripts and in St. Cyril, p. 511. In the common copies wer read, ten archen, oti kai lalo umin. And as ten archen is in the accusative case, so we may take principium; and to be taken adverbially, to signify the same as prim¨m, Ó principio, imprimis. Maldonatus is of the same opinion, as well as many others, and brings examples to shew that ten archen (i.e. kata ten archen) is often taken for prim¨m: and so the sense will be, I am what I told you from the beginning, i.e. the Messias, and this I now tell you again. We may also take notice, that the Greek construction is hard to be accounted for, ten archen oti, not os, qui, nor e, to agree with arche.

[4] Ver. 58. Abraham fieret, ego sum; prin Abraam genesthai, ego eimi. St. Augustine, (tract. xliii. in Joan. num. 17. p. 588.) intellige, fieret ad creaturam, sum vero pertinere ad divinam substantiam: non dixit, antequam Abraham esset, ego eram, ... neque dixit, ego factus sum ... agnoscite creatorem, discernite creaturam.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

The woman taken in adultery. Christ justifies his doctrine.

1 And Jesus went to Mount Olivet.

2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him, and sitting down he taught them.

3 And the Scribes and Pharisees bring to him a woman taken in adultery: and they set her in the midst,

4 And said to him: Master, this woman was even now taken in adultery.

5 *Now Moses in the law commanded us to stone such a one. But what sayest thou?

6 And this they said, tempting him, that they might accuse him. But Jesus, stooping down, wrote with his finger on the ground.

7 When therefore they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said to them: *He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

8 And again stooping down, he wrote on the ground.

9 But they hearing this, went out one by one, beginning from the eldest: and Jesus alone remained, and the woman standing in the midst.

10 Then Jesus lifting up himself, said to her: Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee?

11 She said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.

12 Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying: *I am the light of the world: he that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

13 The Pharisees, therefore, said to him: Thou givest testimony of thyself: thy testimony is not true.

14 Jesus answered, and said to them: Although I give testimony of myself, my testimony is true: for I know whence I came and whither I go: but you know not whence I come, or whither I go.

15 You judge according to the flesh: I judge not any man:

16 And if I do judge, my judgment is true, because I am not alone: but I and the Father that sent me.

17 And in your law it is written, *that the testimony of two men is true.

18 I am one that give testimony of myself: and the Father that sent me, giveth testimony of me.

19 They said, therefore, to him: Where is thy Father? Jesus answered: Neither me do you know, nor my Father: if you did know me, you would know my Father also.

20 These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, teaching in the temple: and no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.

21 Then Jesus said to them again: I go, and you shall seek me, and you shall die in your sin. Whither I go, you cannot come.

22 The Jews, therefore, said: Will he kill himself, because he said: Whither I go, you cannot come?

23 And he said to them: You are from beneath, I am from above. You are of this world, I am not of this world.

24 Therefore, I said to you, that you shall die in your sins: for if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sin.

25 They said, therefore, to him: Who art thou? Jesus said to them: The beginning, who also speak to you.

26 I have many things to speak, and to judge of you. But he that sent me is *true: and the things I have heard from him, the same I speak in the world.

27 Now they did not understand that he called God his father.

28 Jesus, therefore, said to them: When you shall have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as the Father hath taught me, these things I speak:

29 And he that sent me is with me, and he hath not left me alone: for I do always the things that please him.

30 When he spoke these things, many believed in him.

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews that believed him: If you continue in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed:

32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

33 They answered him: We are the seed of Abraham, and we have never been slaves to any man: how sayest thou, You shall be free?

34 Jesus answered them: Amen, amen, I say unto you: *that whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin.

35 Now the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the son abideth for ever.

36 If, therefore, the son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.

37 I know that you are the children of Abraham: but you seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.

38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and you do the things that you have seen with your father.

39 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.

40 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.

41 You do the works of your father. They said then to him: We are not born of fornication: we have one Father, God.

42 Jesus therefore said to them: If God were your father, verily you would love me. For I proceeded and came from God: for I came not of myself, but he sent me.

43 Why do you not know my speech? Because you cannot hear my word.

44 *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 abode 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.

45 But if I say the truth, you believe me not.

46 Which of you shall convince me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me?

47 *He that is of God, heareth the words of God. Therefore, you hear them not, because you are not of God.

48 The Jews, therefore, answered, and said to him: Do we not say well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?

49 Jesus answered: I have not a devil: but I honour my Father, and you have dishonoured me.

50 But I seek not my own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

51 Amen, amen, I say to you, if any man keep my word, he shall not see death for ever.

52 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.

53 Art thou greater than our father, Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets are dead. Whom dost thou make thyself?

54 Jesus answered: If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing: it is my Father that glorifieth me, whom you say that he is your God.

55 And you have not known him, but I know him: And if I should say that I know him not, I should be like to you, a liar. But I know him, and keep his word.

56 Abraham, your father, rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad.

57 The Jews then said to him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

58 Jesus said to them, Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am.

59 Then they took up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.



5: Leviticus xx. 10.

7: Deuteronomy xvii. 7.

12: 1 John i. 3.

17: Deuteronomy xvii. 6. and xix. 15.; Matthew xviii. 16.; 2 Corinthians xiii. 1.; Hebrews x. 28.

26: Romans iii. 4.

34: Romans vi. 15. and 16.; 2 Peter ii. 19.

44: 1 John iii. 8.

47: 1 John iv. 6.