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Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 70

Tractate 70 (John 14:7-10)

1. The words of the holy Gospel, brethren, are rightly understood only if they are found to be in harmony with those that precede; for the premises ought to agree with the conclusion, when it is the Truth that speaks. The Lord had said before, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also: and then had added, And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know; and showed that all He said was that they knew Himself. What, therefore, the meaning was of His going to Himself by Himself—for He also lets the disciples see that it is by Him that they are to come to Him—we have already told you, as we could, in our last discourse. When He says, therefore, That where I am, there ye may be also, where else were they to be but in Himself? In this way is He also in Himself, and they, therefore, are just where He is, that is, in Himself. Accordingly, He Himself is that eternal life which is yet to be ours, when He has received us unto Himself; and as He is that life eternal, so is it in Him, that where He is there shall we be also, that is to say, in Himself. For as the Father has life in Himself, and certainly that life which He has is in no wise different from what He is Himself as its possessor, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself, inasmuch as He is the very life which He has in Himself. But shall we then actually be what He is, (namely), the life, when we shall have begun our existence in that life, that is, in Himself? Certainly not, for He, by His very existence as the life, has life, and is Himself what He has; and as the life, is in Him, so is He in Himself: but we are not that life, but partakers of His life, and shall be there in such wise as to be wholly incapable of being in ourselves what He is, but so as, while ourselves not the life, to have Him as our life, who has Himself the life on this very account that He Himself is the life. In short, He both exists unchangeably in Himself and inseparably in the Father. But we, when wishing to exist in ourselves, were thrown into inward trouble regarding ourselves, as is expressed in the words, My soul is cast down within me: and changing from bad to worse, cannot even remain as we were. But when by Him we come unto the Father, according to His own words, No man comes unto the Father but by me, and abide in Him, no one shall be able to separate us either from the Father or from Him.

2. Connecting, therefore, His previous words with those that follow, He proceeded to say, If you had known me, you should certainly have known my Father also. This conforms to His previous words, No man comes unto the Father but by me. And then He adds: And from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him. But Philip, one of the apostles, not understanding what he had just heard, said, Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us. And the Lord replied to him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet have ye not known me, Philip? He that sees me, sees also the Father. Here you see He complains that He had been so long time with them, and yet He was not known. But had He not Himself said, And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know; and on their saying that they knew it not, had convinced them that they did know, by adding the words: I am the way, and the truth, and the life? How, then, says He now, Have I been so long time with you, and have ye not known me? when, in fact, they knew both whither He went and the way, on no other grounds save that they really knew Himself? But this difficulty is easily solved by saying that some of them knew Him, and others did not, and that Philip was one of those who did not know Him; so that, when He said, And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know, He is understood as having spoken to those that knew, and not to Philip, who has it said to him, Have I been so long time with you, and have ye not known me, Philip? To such, then, as already knew the Son, was it now also said of the Father, And from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him: for such words were used because of the all-sided likeness subsisting between the Father and the Son; so that, because they knew the Son, they might henceforth be said to know the Father. Already, therefore, they knew the Son, if not all of them, those at least to whom it is said, And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know; for He is Himself the way. But they knew not the Father, and so have also to hear, If you have known me, you have known my Father also; that is, through me you have known Him also. For I am one, and He another. But that they might not think Him unlike, He adds, And from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him. For they saw His perfectly resembling Son, but needed to have the truth impressed on them, that exactly such as was the Son whom they saw,was the Father also whom they did not see. And to this points what is afterwards said to Philip, He that sees me, sees also the Father. Not that He Himself was Father and Son, which is a notion of the Sabellians, who are also called Patripassians, condemned by the Catholic faith; but that Father and Son are so alike, that he who knows one knows both. For we are accustomed to speak in this way of two who closely resemble each other, to those who are in the habit of seeing one of them, and wish to know what like the other is, so that we say, In seeing the one, you have seen the other. In this way, then, is it said He that sees me, sees also the Father. Not, certainly, that He who is the Son is also the Father, but that the Son in no respect disagrees with the likeness of the Father. For had not the Father and Son been two persons, it would not have been said, If you have known me, you have known my Father also. Such is certainly the case for no one, He says, comes unto the Father but by me: if you have known me, you have known my Father also; because it is I, who am the only way to the Father, that will lead you to Him, that He also may Himself become known to you. But as I am in all respects His perfect image, from henceforth ye know Him in knowing me; and have seen Him, if you have seen me with the spiritual eyesight of the soul.

3. Why, then, Philip, do you say, Show us the Father, and it suffices us? Have I been so long time with you, and yet have ye not known me, Philip? He that sees me, sees the Father also. If it interests you much to see this, believe at least what you see not. For how, He says, do you say, Show us the Father? If you have seen me, who am His perfect likeness, you have seen Him to whom I am like. And if you can not directly see this, do you not believe, at least, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? But Philip might say here, I see You indeed, and believe Your full likeness to the Father; but is one to be reproved and rebuked because, when he sees one who bears a likeness to another, he wishes to see that other to whom he is like? I know, indeed, the image, but as yet I know only the one without the other; it is not enough for me, unless I know that other whose likeness he bears. Show us, therefore, the Father, and it suffices us. But the Master really reproved the disciple because He saw into the heart of his questioner. For it was with the idea, as if the Father were somehow better than the Son, that Philip had the desire to know the Father: and so he did not even know the Son, because believing that He was inferior to another. It was to correct such a notion that it was said, He that sees me, sees the Father also. How do you say, Show us the Father? I see the meaning of your words: it is not the original likeness you seek to see, but it is that other you think the superior. Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? Why do you desire to dis cover some distance between those who are thus alike? Why do you crave the separate knowledge of those who cannot be separated? What, after this, He says not only to Philip, but to all of them together, must not now be thrust into a corner, in order that, by His help, it may be the more carefully expounded.

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Source. Translated by John Gibb. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701070.htm>.

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