Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 9: 9.13.12 Origen - Gospel of John - Book 6 Part 3

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Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 9: 9.13.12 Origen - Gospel of John - Book 6 Part 3

TOPIC: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 9 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 9.13.12 Origen - Gospel of John - Book 6 Part 3

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Commentaries of Origen (Cont.)

Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of John. (Cont.)

Sixth Book. (Cont.)

18.of the Testimony in Mark. What Is Meant by the Saviour’s Shoes and by Untying His Shoe-Latchets.

Now let us consider what is stated by Mark. Mark’s account of John’s preaching agrees with the other. The words are, “There cometh after me He that is mightier than I,” which amounts to the same thing as “He that cometh after me is mightier than I.” There is a difference, however, in what follows, “The latchets of His shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” For it is one thing to bear a person’s shoes, - they must, it is evident, have been untied already from the feet of the wearer, - and it is another thing to stoop down and untie the latchet of his shoes. And it follows, since believers cannot think that either of the Evangelists made any mistake or misrepresentation, that the Baptist must have made these two utterances at different times and have meant them to express different things. It is not the case, as some suppose, that the reports refer to the same incident and turned out differently because of a loose-ness of memory as to some of the facts or words. Now it is a great thing to bear the shoes of Jesus, a great thing to stoop down to the bodily features of His mission, to that which took place in some lower region, so as to contemplate His image in the lower sphere, and to untie each difficulty connected with the mystery of His incarnation, such being as it were His shoe-latchets. For the fetter of obscurity is one as the key of knowledge also is one; not even He who is greatest among those born of women is sufficient of Himself to loose such things or to open them, for He who tied and locked at first, He also grants to whom He will to loose His shoe-latchet and to unlock what He has shut. If the passage about the shoes has a mystic meaning we ought not to scorn to consider it. Now I consider that the inhumanisation when the Son of God assumes flesh and bones is one of His shoes, and that the other is the descent to Hades, whatever that Hades be, and the journey with the Spirit to the prison. As 368 to the descent into Hades, we read in the sixteenth Psalm, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades,” and as for the journey in prison with the Spirit we read in Peter in his Catholic Epistle, (1Pe_3:18-20) “Put to death,” he says, “in the flesh, but quickened in the Spirit; in which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which at one time were disobedient, when the long-suffering of God once waited in the days of Noah while the ark was a preparing.” He, then, who is able worthily to set forth the meaning of these two journeys is able to untie the latchet of the shoes of Jesus; he, bending down in his mind and going with Jesus as He goes down into Hades, and descending from heaven and the mysteries of Christ’s deity to the advent He of necessity made with us when He took on man as His shoes. Now He who put on man also put on the dead, for (Rom_14:9) “for this end Jesus both died and revived, that He might be Lord both of dead and living.” This is why He put on both living and dead, that is, the inhabitants of the earth and those of Hades, that He might be the Lord of both dead and living. Who, then, is able to stoop down and untie the latchet of such shoes, and having untied them not to let them drop, but by the second faculty he has received to take them up and bear them, by bearing the meaning of them in his memory?

19. Luke and John Suggest That One May Loose the Shoe-Latchets of the Logos Without Stooping Down.

We must not, however, omit to ask how it comes that Luke and John give the speech without the phrase “to stoop down.” He, perhaps, who stoops down may be held to unloose in the sense which we have stated. On the other hand, it may be that one who fixes his eyes on the height of the exaltation of the Logos, may find the loosing of those shoes which when one is seeking them seem to be bound, so that He also looses those shoes which are separable from the Logos, and beholds the Logos divested of inferior things, as He is, the Son of God.

20. The Difference Between Not Being “Sufficient” and Not Being “Worthy.”

John records that the Baptist said he was not worthy, Mark that he was not sufficient, and these two are not the same. One who was not worthy might yet be sufficient, and one who was worthy might not be sufficient. For even if it be the case that gifts are bestowed to profit withal and not merely according to the proportion of faith, yet it would seem to be the part of a God who loves men and who sees before what harm must come from the rise of self-opinion or conceit, not to bestow sufficiency even on the worthy. But it belongs to the goodness of God by conferring bounties to conquer the object of His bounty, taking in advance him who is destined to be worthy, and adorning him even before he becomes worthy with sufficiency, so that after his sufficiency he may come to be worthy; he is not first to be worthy and then to anticipate the giver and take His gifts before the time and so arrive at being sufficient. Now with the three the Baptist says he is not sufficient, while in John he says he is not worthy. But it may be that he who formerly declared that he was not sufficient became sufficient afterwards, even though perhaps he was not worthy, or again that while he was saying he was not worthy, and was in fact not worthy, he arrived at being worthy, unless one should say that human nature can never come to perform worthily this loosing or this bearing, axed that John, therefore, says truly that he never became sufficient to loose the latchets of the Saviour’s shoes, nor worthy of it either. However much we take into our minds there are still left things not yet understood; for, as we read in the wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach, (Sirach 18:7) “When a man hath done, then he beginneth, and when he leaveth off, then he shall he doubtful.”

21.The Fourth Gospel Speaks of Only One Shoe, the Others of Both. The Significance of This.

As to the shoes, too, which are spoken of in the three Gospels, we have a question to consider; we must compare them with the single shoe named by the disciple John. “I am not worthy,” we read there, “to untie the latchet of His shoe.” Perhaps he was conquered by the grace of God, and received the gift of doing that which of himself he would not have been worthy to do, of untying, namely, the latchet of one of the shoes, namely, after he had seen the Saviour’s sojourn among men, of which he bears witness. But he did not know the things which were to follow, namely, whether Jesus was to come to that place also, to which he was to go after being beheaded in prison, or whether he was to look for another; and hence he alludes enigmatically to that doubt which was afterwards cleared 369 up to us, and says, “I am not worthy to untie His shoe-latchet.” If any one considers this to be a superfluous speculation, he can combine in one the speech about the shoes and that about the shoe, as if John said, I am by no means worthy to loose His shoestring, not even at the beginning, the string of one of His shoes. Or the following may be a way to combine what is said in the Four. If John understands about Jesus sojourn here, but is in doubt about the future, then he says with perfect truth that he is not worthy to loose the latchet of His shoes; for though he loosed that of one shoe, he did not loose both. And on the other hand, what he says about the latchet of the shoe is quite true also; since as we saw he is still in doubt whether Jesus is He that was to come, or whether another is to be looked for, in that other region.

22. How the Word Stands in the Midst of Men Without Being Known of Them.

As for the saying, “There standeth one among you whom you know not,” we are led by it to consider the Son of God, the Word, by whom all things were made, since He exists in substance throughout the underlying nature of things, being the same as wisdom. For He permeated, from the beginning, all creation, so that what is made at any time should be made through Him, and that it might be always true of anything soever, that “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made;” and this saying also, “By wisdom didst thou make them all.” Now, if He permeates all creation, then He is also in those questioners who ask, “Why baptizest thou, if thou art not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” In the midst of them stands the Word, who is the same and steadfast, being everywhere established by the Father. Or the words, “There standeth among you,” may he understood to say, In the midst of you men, because you are reasonable beings, stands He who is proved by Scripture to be the sovereign principle in the midst of every body, and so to be present in your heart. Those, therefore, who have the Word in the midst of them, but who do not consider His nature, nor from what spring and principle He came, nor how He gave them the nature they have,51 these, while having Him in the midst of them, know Him not. But John knew Him: for the words, “Whom you know not,” used in reproach to the Pharisees, show that he well knew the Word whom they did not know. And the Baptist, therefore, knowing Him, saw Him coming after himself, who was now in the midst of them, that is to say, dwelling after him and the teaching he gave in his baptism, in those who, according to reason or the Word, submitted to that purifying rite. The word “after,” however, has not the same meaning here as it has when Jesus commands us to come “after” Him; for in this case we are bidden to go after Him, so that, treading in His steps, we may come to the Father; but in the other case, the meaning is that after the teachings of Johnsince “He came in order that all men through Him might believe”, the Word dwells with those who have prepared themselves, purified as they are by the lesser words for the perfect Word. Firstly, then, stands the Father, being without any turning or change; and then stands also His Word, always carrying on His work of salvation, and even when He is in the midst of men, not comprehended, and not even seen. He stands, also, teaching, and inviting all to drink from His abundant spring, for (Joh_7:37) “Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.”

23. Heracleon’s View of This Utterance of John the Baptist, and Interpretation of the Shoe of Jesus.

But Heracleon declares the words, “There standeth one among you,” to be equivalent to “He is already here, and He is in the world and in men, and He is already manifest to you all.” By this He does away with the meaning which is also present in the words, that the Word had permeated the whole world. For we must say to him, When is He not present, and when is He not in the world? Does not this Gospel say, “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.” And this is why those to whom the Logos is He “whom you know not,” do not know Him: they have never gone out of the world, but the world does not know Him. But at what time did He cease to be among men? Was He not in Isaiah, when He said, (Isa_61:1) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me,” and (Isa_65:1) “I became manifest to those who sought me not.” Let them say, too, if He was not in David when he said, not from himself, (Psa_2:6) “But I was established by Him a 370 king in Zion His holy hill,” and the other words spoken in the Psalms in the person of Christ. And why should I go over the details of this proof, truly they are hard to be numbered, when I can show quite clearly that He was always in men? And that is enough to show Heracleon’s interpretation of “There standeth in the midst of you,” to be unsound, when he says it is equivalent to “He is already here, and He is in the world and in men.” We are disposed to agree with him when he says that the words, “Who cometh after me,” show John to be the forerunner of Christ, for he is in fact a kind of servant running before his master. The words, however, “Whose shoe-latchet I am not worthy to unloose,” receive much too simple an interpretation when it is said that “in these words the Baptist confesses that he is not worthy even of the least honourable ministration to Christ.” After this interpretation he adds, not without sense, “I am not worthy that for my sake He should come down from His greatness and should take flesh as His footgear, concerning which I am not able to give any explanation or description, nor to unloose the arrangement of it.” In understanding the world by his shoe, Heracleon shows some largeness of mind, but immediately after he verges on impiety in declaring that all this is to be understood of that person whom John here has in his mind. For he considers that it is the demiurge of the world who confesses by these words that he is a lesser person than the Christ; and this is the height of impiety. For the Father who sent Him, He who is the God of the living as Jesus Himself testifies, of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, and He who is greater than heaven and earth for the reason that He is the Maker of them, He also alone is good and is greater than He who was sent by Him. And even if, as we said, Heracleon’s idea was a lofty one, that the whole world was the shoe of Jesus, yet I think we ought not to agree with him. For how can it be harmonized with such a view, that “Heaven is My throne and the earth My footstool,” a testimony which Jesus accepts as said of the Father? (Mat_5:34, Mat_5:35) “Swear not by heaven,” He says, “for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet.” How, if he takes the whole world to be the shoe of Jesus, can he also accept the text, (Jer_23:24) “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” saith the Lord. It is also worth while to enquire, whether as the Word and wisdom permeated the whole world, and as the Father was in the Son, the words are to be understood as above or in this way, that He who first of all was girded about with the whole creation, in addition to the Son’s being in Him, granted to the Saviour, as being second after Him and being God the Word, to pervade the whole creation. To those who have it in them to take note of the uninterrupted movement of the great heaven, how it carries with it from East to West so great a multitude of stars, to them most of all it will seem needful to enquire what that force is, how great and of what nature, which is present in the whole world. For to pronounce that force to be other than the Father and the Son, that perhaps might be inconsistent with piety.

24.The Name of the Place Where John Baptized Is Not Bethany, as in Most Copies, But Bethabara. Proof of This. Similarly “Gergesa” Should Be Read for “Gerasa,” in the Story of the Swine. Attention Is to Be Paid to the Proper Names in Scripture, Which Are Often Written Inaccurately, and Are of Importance for Interpretation.

“These things were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.” (Joh_1:28) We are aware of the reading which is found in almost all the copies, “These things were done in Bethany.” This appears, moreover, to have been the reading at an earlier time; and in Heracleon we read “Bethany.” We are convinced, however, that we should not read “Bethany,” but “Bethabara.” We have visited the places to enquire as to the footsteps of Jesus and His disciples, and of the prophets. Now, Bethany, as the same evangelist tells us, (Joh_11:1, Joh_11:18) was the town of Lazarus, and of Martha and Mary; it is fifteen stadia from Jerusalem, and the river Jordan is about a hundred and eighty stadia distant from it. Nor is there any other place of the same name in the neighbourhood of the Jordan, but they say that Bethabara is pointed out on the banks of the Jordan, and that John is said to have baptized there. The etymology of the name, too, corresponds with the baptism of him who made ready for the Lord a people prepared for Him; for it yields the meaning “House of preparation,” while Bethany means “House of obedience.” Where else was it fitting that he should baptize, who was sent as a messenger before the face of the Christ, to prepare 371 His way before Him, but at the House of preparation? And what more fitting home for Mary, who chose the good part, (Luk_10:41, Luk_10:42) which was not taken away from her, and for Martha, who was cumbered for the reception of Jesus, and for their brother, who is called the friend of the Saviour, than Bethany, the House of obedience? Thus we see that he who aims at a complete understanding of the Holy Scriptures must not neglect the careful examination of the proper names in it. In the matter of proper names the Greek copies are often incorrect, and in the Gospels one might be misled by their authority. The transaction about the swine, which were driven down a steep place by the demons and drowned in the sea, is said to have taken place in the country of the Gerasenes. (Mat_8:28, Mat_8:32; Mar_5:1, Mar_5:13; Luk_8:26-37) Now, Gerasa is a town of Arabia, and has near it neither sea nor lake. And the Evangelists would not have made a statement so obviously and demonstrably false; for they were men who informed themselves carefully of all matters connected with Judaea. But in a few copies we have found, “into the country of the Gadarenes;” and, on this reading, it is to be stated that Gadara is a town of Judaea, in the neighbourhood of which are the well-known hot springs, and that there is no lake there with overhanging banks, nor any sea. But Gergesa, from which the name Gergesenes is taken, is an old town in the neighbourhood of the lake now called Tiberias, and on the edge of it there is a steep place abutting on the lake, from which it is pointed out that the swine were cast down by the demons. Now, the meaning of Gergesa is “dwelling of the casters-out,” and it contains a prophetic reference to the conduct towards the Saviour of the citizens of those places, who “besought Him to depart out of their coasts.” The same inaccuracy with regard to proper names is also to be observed in many passages of the law and the prophets, as we have been at pains to learn from the Hebrews, comparing our own copies with theirs which have the confirmation of the versions, never subjected to corruption, of Aquila and Theodotion and Symmachus. We add a few instances to encourage students to pay more attention to such points. One of the sons of Levi, (Gen_46:11; Exo_6:16) the first, is called Geson in most copies, instead of Gerson. His name is the same as that of the first-born of Moses; (Exo_2:22) it was given appropriately in each case, both children being born, because of the sojourn in Egypt, in a strange land. The second son of Juda, (Gen_38:4) again, has with us the name Annan, but with the Hebrews Onan, “their labour.” Once more, in the departures of the children of Israel in Numbers, (Num_33:6) we find, “They departed from Sochoth and pitched in Buthan;” but the Hebrew, instead of Buthan, reads Aiman. And why should I add more points like these, when any one who desires it can examine into the proper names and find out for himself how they stand? The place-names of Scripture are specially to be suspected where many of them occur in a catalogue, as in the account of the partition of the country in Joshua, and in the first Book of Chronicles from the beginning down to, say, the passage about Dan,52 and similarly in Ezra. Names are not to be neglected, since indications may be gathered from them which help in the interpretation of the passages where they occur. We cannot, however, leave our proper subject to examine in this place into the philosophy of names.

25. Jordan Means “Their Going Down.” Spiritual Meanings and Application of This.

Let us look at the words of the Gospel now before us. “Jordan” means “their going down.” The name “Jared” is etymologically akin to it, if I may say so; it also yields the meaning “going down;” for Jared was born to Maleleel, as it is written in the Book of Enoch - if any one cares to accept that book as sacred - in the days when the sons of God came down to the daughters of men. Under this descent some have supposed that there is an enigmatical reference to the descent of souls into bodies, taking the phrase “daughters of men” as a tropical expression for this earthly tabernacle. Should this be so, what river will “their going down” be, to which one must come to be purified, a river going down, not with its own descent, but “theirs,” that, namely, of men, what but our Saviour who separates those who received their lots from Moses from those who obtained their own portions through Jesus Joshua? His current, flowing in the descending stream, makes glad, as we find in the Psalms, (Psa_46:4) the city of God, not the visible Jerusalem - for it has no river beside it - but the blameless Church of God, built 372 on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus our Lord being the chief corner-stone. Under the Jordan, accordingly, we have to understand the Word of God who became flesh and tabernacled among us, Jesus who gives us as our inheritance the humanity which He assumed, for that is the head corner-stone, which being taken up into the deity of the Son of God, is washed by being so assumed, and then receives into itself the pure and guileless dove of the Spirit, bound to it and no longer able to fly away from it. For “Upon whomsoever,” we read, “thou shall see the Spirit descending and abiding upon Him, the same is He that baptizeth with the Holy Spirit.” Hence, he who receives the Spirit abiding on Jesus Himself is able to baptize those who come to him in that abiding Spirit. But John baptizes beyond Jordan, in the regions verging on the outside of Judaea, in Bethabara, being the forerunner of Him who came to call not the righteous but sinners, and who taught that the whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. For it is for forgiveness of sins that this washing is given.

26.The Story of Israel Crossing Jordan Under Joshua Is Typical of Christian Things, and Is Written for Our Instruction.

Now, it may very well be that some one not versed in the various aspects of the Saviour may stumble at the interpretation given above of the Jordan; because John says, “I baptize with water, but He that cometh after me is stronger than I; He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” To this we reply that, as the Word of God in His character as something to be drunk is to one set of men water, and to another wine, making glad the heart of man, and to others blood, since it is said, (Joh_6:53) “Except ye drink My blood, ye have no life in you,” and as in His character as food He is variously conceived as living bread or as flesh, so also He, the same person, is baptism of water, and baptism of Holy Spirit and of fire, and to some, also, of blood. It is of His last baptism, as some hold, that He speaks in the words, (Luk_12:50) “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?” And it agrees with this that the disciple John speaks in his Epistle (1Jo_5:8) of the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, as being one. And again He declares Himself to be the way and the door, but clearly He is not the door to those to whom He is the way, and He is no longer the way to those to whom He is the door. All those, then, who are being initiated in the beginning of the oracles of God, and come to the voice of him who cries in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” the voice which sounds beyond Jordan at the house of preparation, let them prepare themselves so that they may be in a state to receive the spiritual word, brought home to them by the enlightenment of the Spirit. As we are now, as our subject requires, bringing together all that relates to the Jordan, let us look at the “river.” God, by Moses, carried the people through the Red Sea, making the water a wall for them on the right hand and on the left, and by Joshua He carried them through Jordan. Now, Paul deals with this Scripture, and his warfare is not according to the flesh of it, for he knew that the law is spiritual in a spiritual sense. And he shows us that he understood what is said about the passage of the Red Sea; for he says in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, (1Co_10:1-4) “I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, how that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of the spiritual rock which followed them, and the rock was Christ.” In the spirit of this passage let us also pray that we may receive from God to understand the spiritual meaning of Joshua’s passage through Jordan. Of it, also, Paul would have said, “I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, that all our fathers went through Jordan, and were all baptized into Jesus in the spirit and in the river.” And Joshua, who succeeded Moses, was a type of Jesus Christ, who succeeds the dispensation through the law, and replaces it by the preaching of the Gospel. And even if those Paul speaks of were baptized in the cloud and in the sea, there is something harsh and salt in their baptism. They are still in fear of their enemies, and crying to the Lord and to Moses, saying, (Exo_14:11) “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou brought us forth to slay us in the wilderness? Why hast thou dealt thus with us, to bring us forth out of Egypt?” But the baptism to Joshua, which takes place in quite sweet and drinkable water, is in many ways superior to that earlier one, religion having by this time grown clearer and assuming a becoming 373 order. For the ark of the covenant of the Lord our God is carried in procession by the priests and levites, the people following the ministers of God, it, also, accepting the law of holiness. For Joshua says to the people, (Jos_3:5) “Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow; the Lord will do wonders among you.” And he commands the priests to go before the people with the ark of the covenant, wherein is plainly showed forth the mystery of the Father’s economy about the Son, which is highly exalted by Him who gave the Son this office; “That at the name of Jesus (Phi_2:9-11) every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This is pointed out by what we find in the book called Joshua, (Jos_3:7) “In that day I will begin to exalt thee before the children of Israel.” And we hear our Lord Jesus saying to the children of Israel, (Jos_3:9, Jos_3:10) “Come hither and hear the words of the Lord your God. Hereby ye shall know that the living God is in among you;” for when we are baptized to Jesus, we know that the living God is in us. And, in the former case, they kept the passover in Egypt, and then began their journey, but with Joshua, after crossing Jordan on the tenth day of the first month they pitched their camp in Galgala; for a sheep had to be procured before invitations could be issued to the banquet after Joshua’s baptism. Then the children of Israel, since the children of those who came out of Egypt had not received circumcision, were circumcised by Joshua with a very sharp stone; the Lord declares that He takes away the reproach of Egypt on the day of Joshua’s baptism, when Joshua purified the children of Israel. For it is written: (Jos_5:9) “And the Lord said to Joshua, the son of Nun, This day have I taken away the reproach of Egypt from off you.” Then the children of Israel kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month, with much greater gladness than in Egypt, for they ate unleavened bread of the corn of the holy land, and fresh food better than manna. For when they received the land of promise God did not entertain them with scantier food, nor when such a one as Joshua was their leader do they get inferior bread. This will be plain to him who thinks of the true holy land and of the Jerusalem above. Hence it is written in this same Gospel: (Joh_6:49) “Your fathers did eat bread in the wilderness, and are dead; he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” For the manna, though it was given by God, yet was bread of travel, bread supplied to those still under discipline, well fitted for those who were under tutors and governors. And the new bread Joshua managed to get from corn they cut in the country, in the land of promise, others having laboured and his disciples reaping, - that was bread more full of life, distributed as it was to those who, for their perfection, were able to receive the inheritance of their fathers. Hence, he who is still under discipline to that bread may receive death as far as it is concerned, but he who has attained to the bread that follows that, eating it, shall live for ever. All this has been added, not, I conceive, without appropriateness, to our study of the baptism at the Jordan, administered by John at Bethabara.

27. Of Elijah and Elisha Crossing the Jordan.

Another point which we must not fail to notice is that when Elijah was about to be taken up in a whirlwind, as if to heaven, (2Ki_2:8, 2Ki_2:11) he took his mantle and wrapped it together and smote the water, which was divided hither and thither, and they went over both of them, that is, he and Elisha. His baptism in the Jordan made him fitter to be taken up, for, as we showed before, Paul gives the name of baptism to such a remarkable passage through the water. And through this same Jordan Elisha receives, through Elijah, the gift he desired, saying, “Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” What enabled him to receive this gift of the spirit of Elijah was, perhaps, that he had passed through Jordan twice, once with Elijah, and the second time, when, after receiving the mantle of Elijah, he smote the water and said, “Where is the God of Elijah, even He? And he smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither.”

28. Naaman the Syrian and the Jordan. No Other Stream Has the Same Healing Power.

Should any one object to the expression “He smote the water,” on account of the conclusion we arrived at above with respect to the Jordan, that it is a type of the Word who descended for us our descending, we rejoin that with the Apostle the rock is plainly said to be Christ, and that it is 374 smitten twice with the rod, so that the people may drink of the spiritual rock which follows them. The “smiting” in this new difficulty is that of those who are fond of suggesting something that contradicts the conclusion even before they have learned what the question is which is in hand. From such God sets us free, since, on the one hand, He gives us to drink when we are thirsty, and on the other He prepares for us, in the immense and trackless deep, a road to pass over, namely, by the dividing of His Word, since it is by the reason which distinguishes divides that most things are made plain to us. But that we may receive the right interpretation about this Jordan, so good to drink, so full of grace, it may be of use to compare the cleansing of Naaman the Syrian from his leprosy, and what is said of the rivers of religion of the enemies of Israel. It is recorded of Naaman (2Ki_5:9, 2Ki_5:10) that he came with horse and chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash seven times in the Jordan, and thy flesh shall come again unto thee, and thou shalt be cleansed.” Then Naaman is angry; he does not see that our Jordan is the cleanser of those who are impure from leprosy, from that impurity, and their restorer to health; it is the Jordan that does this, and not the prophet; the office of the prophet is to direct to the healing agency. Naaman then says, not understanding the great mystery of the Jordan, “Behold, I said that he will certainly come out to me, and will call upon the name of the Lord his God, and lay his hand upon the place, and restore the leper.” For to put his hand on the leprosy (Mat_8:2, Mat_8:3) and cleanse it is a work belonging to our Lord Jesus only; for when the leper appealed to Him with faith, saying, “If Thou wilt Thou canst make me clean,” He not only said, “I will, be thou clean,” but in addition to the word He touched him, and he was cleansed from his leprosy. Naaman, then, is still in error, and does not see how far inferior other rivers are to the Jordan for the cure of the suffering; he extols the rivers of Damascus, Arbana, and Pharpha, saying, “Are not Arbana and Pharpha, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Shall I not wash in them and be clean?” For as none is good (Mat_19:17; Mar_10:18; Luk_18:19) but one, God the Father, so among rivers none is good but the Jordan, nor able to cleanse from his leprosy him who with faith washes his soul in Jesus. And this, I suppose, is the reason why the Israelites are recorded to have wept when they sat by the rivers of Babylon and remembered Zion; those who are carried captive, on account of their wickedness, when they taste other waters after sacred Jordan, are led to remember with longing their own river of salvation. Therefore it is said of the rivers of Babylon, “There we sat down,” clearly because they were unable to stand, “and wept.” And Jeremiah rebukes those who wish to drink the waters of Egypt, and desert the water which comes down from heaven, and is named from its so coming down - namely, the Jordan. He says, (Jer_2:18) “What hast thou to do with the way of Egypt, to drink the water of Geon, and to drink the water of the river,” or, as it is in the Hebrew, “to drink the water of Sion.” Of which water we have now to speak.

29. The River of Egypt and Its Dragon, Contrasted with the Jordan.

But that the Spirit in the inspired Scriptures is not speaking mainly of rivers to be seen with the eyes, may be gathered from Ezekiel’s prophecies against Pharaoh, king of Egypt: (Eze_29:3-5) “Behold I am against thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great dragon, seated in the midst of rivers, who sayest, Mine are the rivers, and I made them. And I will put traps in thy jaws, and I will make the fishes of the river to stick to thy fins, and I will bring thee up from the midst of thy river, and all the fish of the river, and I will cast thee down quickly and all the fish of the river; thou shalt fall upon the face of thy land, and thou shalt not be gathered together, and thou shalt not be adorned.” For what real bodily dragon has ever been reported as having been seen in the material river of Egypt? But consider if the river of Egypt be not the dwelling of the dragon who is our enemy, who was not even able to kill the child Moses. But as the dragon is in the river of Egypt, so is God in the river which makes glad the city of God; for the Father is in the Son. Hence those who come to wash themselves in Him put away the reproach of Egypt, and become more fit to be restored. They are cleansed from that foulest leprosy, receive a double portion of spiritual gifts, and are made ready to receive the Holy Spirit, since the spiritual dove does not light on any other stream. Thus we have considered in a way more worthy of the sacred 375 subject the Jordan and the purification that is in it, and Jesus being washed in it, and the house of preparation. Let us, then, draw from the river as much help as we require.


51 Reading αὐτοὺς.

52 The name “Saul” or “David” should probably stand here. 1Ch_10:1-14, where the genealogies give place to narrative.