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Origen - Commentary on the Gospel of John - Book VI

“Grace and Truth Came Through Jesus Christ.” These Words Belong to the Baptist, Not the Evangelist. What the Baptist Testifies by Them.

3. "Grace and Truth Came Through Jesus Christ." These Words Belong to the Baptist, Not the Evangelist. What the Baptist Testifies by Them.

We have lingered rather long over these discussions, but there is a reason for it. There are many who, under the pretence of glorifying the advent of Christ, declare the Apostles to be wiser than the fathers or the prophets; and of these teachers some have invented a greater God for the later period, while some, not venturing so far, but moved, according to their own account of the matter, by the difficulty connected with doctrine, cancel the whole of the gift conferred by God on the fathers and the prophets, through Christ, through whom all things were made. If all things were made through Him, clearly so must the splendid revelations have been which were made to the fathers and prophets, and became to them the symbols of the sacred mysteries of religion. Now the true soldiers of Christ must always be prepared to do battle for the truth, and must never, so far as lies with them, allow false convictions to creep in. We must not, therefore, neglect this matter. It may be said that John's earlier testimony to Christ is to be found in the words, "He who cometh after me exists before me, for He was before me," and that the words, "For of His fulness we all received, and grace for grace," are in the mouth of John the disciple. Now, we must show this exposition to be a forced one, and one which does violence to the context; it is rather a strong proceeding to suppose the speech of the Baptist to be so suddenly and, as it were, inopportunely interrupted by that of the disciple, and it is quite apparent to any one who can judge, in whatever small degree, of a context, that the speech goes on continuously after the words, "This is He of whom I spoke, He that cometh after me exists before me, for He was before me." The Baptist brings a proof that Jesus existed before him because He was before him, since He is the first-born of all creation; he says, "For of His fulness all we received." That is the reason why he says, "He exists before me, for He was before me." That is how I know that He is first and in higher honour with the Father, since of His fulness both I and the prophets before me received the more divine prophetic grace instead of the grace we received at His hands before in respect of our election. That is why I say, "He exists before me, for He was before me," because we know what we have received from His fulness; namely, that the law was given through Moses, not by Moses, while grace and truth not only were given but came into existence [4824] through Jesus Christ. For His God and Father both gave the law through Moses, and made grace and truth through Jesus Christ, that grace and truth which came to man. If we give a reasonable interpretation to the words, "Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ," we shall not be alarmed at the possible discrepancy with them of that other saying, "I am the way and the truth and the life." If it is Jesus who says, "I am the truth," then how does the truth come through Jesus Christ, since no one comes into existence through himself? We must recognize that this very truth, the essential truth, which is prototypal, so to speak, of that truth which exists in souls endowed with reason, that truth from which, as it were, images are impressed on those who care for truth, was not made through Jesus Christ, nor indeed through any one, but by God;--just as the Word was not made through any one which was in the beginning with the Father;--and as wisdom which God created the beginning of His ways was not made through any one, so the truth also was not made through any one. That truth, however, which is with men came through Jesus Christ, as the truth in Paul and the Apostles came through Jesus Christ. And it is no wonder, since truth is one, that many truths should flow from that one. The prophet David certainly knew many truths, as he says, [4825] "The Lord searcheth out truths," for the Father of truth searches out not the one truth but the many through which those are saved who possess them. And as with the one truth and many truths, so also with righteousness and righteousnesses. For the very essential righteousness is Christ, "Who was made to us of God wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption." But from that righteousness is formed the righteousness which is in each individual, so that there are in the saved many righteousnesses, whence also it is written, [4826] "For the Lord is righteous, and He loved righteousnesses." This is the reading in the exact copies, and in the other versions besides the Septuagint, and in the Hebrew. Consider if the other things which Christ is said to be in a unity admit of being multiplied in the same way and spoken of in the plural. For example, Christ is our life as the Saviour Himself says, [4827] "I am the way and the truth and the life." The Apostle, too, says, [4828] "When Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." And in the Psalms again we find, [4829] "Thy mercy is better than life;" for it is on account of Christ who is life in every one that there are many lives. This, perhaps, is also the key to the passage, [4830] "If ye seek a proof of the Christ that speaketh in me." For Christ is found in every saint, and so from the one Christ there come to be many Christs, imitators of Him and formed after Him who is the image of God; whence God says through the prophet, [4831] "Touch not my Christs." Thus we have explained in passing the passage which we appeared to have omitted from our exposition, viz.: "Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ;" and we have also shown that the words belong to John the Baptist and form part of his testimony to the Son of God.