Lectio notes: John 5: 31-47

The Transfiuration
Bellini, c. 1487-1495

Today's section of St John's Gospel continues Jesus' defense of his mission, now responding to the accusation that he was simply a self-proclaimed Messiah, a problem of discernment that is ever relevant!

His response points to three reasons why those he was preaching to should believe in him:

  • the witness of John the Baptist;
  • the witness of the signs and miracles associated with his coming (such as the theophany at his baptism and the Transfiguration), which attested to his divine power and status; and
  • the witness of Scripture, which foretold his coming and the signs thereof.

Lectio

31 Si ego testimonium perhibeo de meipso, testimonium meum non est verum. 32 Alius est qui testimonium perhibet de me: et scio quia verum est testimonium, quod perhibet de me. 33 Vos misistis ad Joannem, et testimonium perhibuit veritati. 34 Ego autem non ab homine testimonium accipio: sed hæc dico ut vos salvi sitis. 35 Ille erat lucerna ardens et lucens: vos autem voluistis ad horam exsultare in luce ejus. 36 Ego autem habeo testimonium majus Joanne. Opera enim quæ dedit mihi Pater ut perficiam ea: ipsa opera, quæ ego facio, testimonium perhibent de me, quia Pater misit me: 37 et qui misit me Pater, ipse testimonium perhibuit de me: neque vocem ejus umquam audistis, neque speciem ejus vidistis: 38 et verbum ejus non habetis in vobis manens: quia quem misit ille, huic vos non creditis. 39 Scrutamini Scripturas, quia vos putatis in ipsis vitam æternam habere: et illæ sunt quæ testimonium perhibent de me: 40 et non vultis venire ad me ut vitam habeatis. 41 Claritatem ab hominibus non accipio. 42 Sed cognovi vos, quia dilectionem Dei non habetis in vobis.43 Ego veni in nomine Patris mei, et non accipitis me; si alius venerit in nomine suo, illum accipietis. 44 Quomodo vos potestis credere, qui gloriam ab invicem accipitis, et gloriam quæ a solo Deo est, non quæritis? 45 Nolite putare quia ego accusaturus sim vos apud Patrem: est qui accusat vos Moyses, in quo vos speratis. 46 Si enim crederetis Moysi, crederetis forsitan et mihi: de me enim ille scripsit. 47 Si autem illius litteris non creditis, quomodo verbis meis credetis?

The English:

[31] If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. [32] There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. [33] You sent to John, and he gave testimony to the truth. [34] But I receive not testimony from man: but I say these things, that you may be saved. [35] He was a burning and a shining light: and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.[36] But I have a greater testimony than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to perfect; the works themselves, which I do, give testimony of me, that the Father hath sent me. [37] And the Father himself who hath sent me, hath given testimony of me: neither have you heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. [38] And you have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him you believe not. [39] Search the scriptures, for you think in them to have life everlasting; and the same are they that give testimony of me. [40] And you will not come to me that you may have life.
[41] I receive glory not from men. [42] But I know you, that you have not the love of God in you. [43] I am come in the name of my Father, and you receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him you will receive. [44] How can you believe, who receive glory one from another: and the glory which is from God alone, you do not seek? [45] Think not that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one that accuseth you, Moses, in whom you trust. [46] For if you did believe Moses, you would perhaps believe me also; for he wrote of me. [47] But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?

You can find the Latin, Greek and English of John 5:1-18 here.  The video below provided in the first post on John 5 gives the English and Latin read verse by verse; alternatively, you can find the Latin read here (from 3.42) and the Greek here (3.59)

Study/Meditation

Modernists and rationalists seek to downplay the miraculous elements of the Gospels, and focus instead only on Christ's 'message'.  Yet these signs, so faithfully recorded and passed down to us by the cloud of witnesses down the centuries are absolutely critical to the acceptance of who Jesus is, a realization that is in turn necessary if we are truly to truly welcome him into our lives, as he instructs in this text.

Commentaries from the Catena Aurea include the following texts worth especially looking at

"ALCUIN. That He enlightens the blind, that He opens the deaf ear, looses the mouth of the dumb, casts out devils, raises the dead; these works hear witness of Christ. 

HILARY. The Only-begotten God shows Himself to be the Son, on the testimony not of man only, but of His own power. The works which He does, bear witness to His being sent from the Father. Therefore the obedience of the Son and the authority of the Father are set forth in Him who was sent. But the testimony of works not being sufficient evidence, it follows, And the Father Himself which has sent Me, has borne witness of Me. Open the Evangelic volumes, and examine their whole range: no testimony of the Father to the Son is given in any of the books, other than that He is the Son. So what a calumny is it in men now saying that this is only a name of adoption: thus making God a liar, and names unmeaning.

BEDE. By His mission we must understand His incarnation. Lastly, He shows that God is incorporeal, and cannot be seen by the bodily eye: You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape... 

CHRYS. How then says Moses, Ask - whether there has been any such thing as this great thing is: did ever people hear the voice of God, speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard and seen? Isaiah too, and many others, are said to have seen Him. So what does Christ mean here? He means to impress upon them the philosophical doctrine, that God has neither voice, or appearance, or shape; but is superior to such modes of speaking of Him. For as in saying, You have never heard His voice, He does not mean to say that He has a voice, only not an audible one to them; so when He says, Nor have even His shape, no tangible, sensible, or visible shape is implied to belong to God: but all such mode of speaking is pronounced inapplicable to God. 

ALCUIN. For it is not by the carnal ear, but by the spiritual understanding, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that God is heard. And they did not hear the spiritual voice, because they did not love or obey Him, nor saw they His shape; inasmuch as that is not to be seen by the outward eye, but by faith and love. 

CHRYS. But it was impossible for them to declare that they had received, and obeyed God's commands: and therefore He adds, You have not His word abiding in you; i.e. the commandments, the law, and the prophets; though God instituted them, you have them not. For if the Scriptures every where tell you to believe in Me, and you believe not, it is manifest that His word is gone from you: For whom He has sent, Him you believe not. 

Why does it matter?  Because on this belief depends our salvation!  Consider the following:

BEDE. That coming is put for believing we know, Come to Him, and be lightened. He adds, That you might have life; For, if the soul which sin dies, they were dead in soul and mind. And therefore He promises the life of the soul, i.e. eternal happiness...

ALCUIN. Or, I receive not honor from men: i.e. I seek not human praise; for I came not to receive carnal honor from men, but to give spiritual honor to men. I do not bring forward this testimony then, because I seek my own glory; but because I compassionate your wandering, and wish to bring you back to the way of truth. Hence what follows, But I know you that you have not the love of God in you... 

AUG. Hear John, As you have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists. But what do you dread in Antichrist, except that he will exalt his own name, and despise the name of the Lord? And what else does he do, who says, "I justify;" or those who say, Unless we are good, you must perish?" Wherefore my life shall depend on You, and my salvation shall be fastened to You. Shall I so forget my foundation? Is not my rock Christ? 

The next set of lectio notes can be found here.

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