Archive for the ‘Exegesis’ Category

Church Fathers on Predestination

St. Justin Martyr ca. 100-165


But lest some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever happens, happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered acc…ording to the merit of each man’s actions. Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be. But that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble, we thus demonstrate. We see the same man making a transition to opposite things. Now, if it had been fated that he were to be either good or bad, he could never have been capable of both the opposites, nor of so many transitions. But not even would some be good and others bad, since we thus make fate the cause of evil, and exhibit her as acting in opposition to herself; or that which has been already stated would seem to be true, that neither virtue nor vice is anything, but that things are only reckoned good or evil by opinion; which, as the true word shows, is the greatest impiety and wickedness. But this we assert is inevitable fate, that they who choose the good have worthy rewards, and they who choose the opposite have their merited awards. For not like other things, as trees and quadrupeds, which cannot act by choice, did God make man: for neither would he be worthy of reward or praise did he not of himself choose the good, but were created for this end; nor, if he were evil, would he be worthy of punishment, not being evil of himself, but being able to be nothing else than what he was made. (First Apology, Chapter XLIII [complete]; ANF, Vol. I)

Mathetes ca. 130 a.d.

He did not, as one might have imagined, send to men any servant, or angel, or ruler, or any one of those who bear sway over earthly things, or one of those to whom the government of things in the heavens has been entrusted, but the very Creator and Fashioner of all things— by whom He made the heavens— by whom he enclosed the sea within its proper bounds— whose ordinances all the stars faithfully observe— from whom the sun has received the measure of his daily course to be observed — whom the moon obeys, being commanded to shine in the night, and whom the stars also obey, following the moon in her course; by whom all things have been arranged, and placed within their proper limits, and to whom all are subject— the heavens and the things that are therein, the earth and the things that are therein, the sea and the things that are therein— fire, air, and the abyss— the things which are in the heights, the things which are in the depths, and the things which lie between. This [messenger] He sent to them. Was it then, as one might conceive, for the purpose of exercising tyranny, or of inspiring fear and terror? By no means, but under the influence of clemency and meekness. As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Saviour He sent Him, and as seeking to persuade, not to compel us; for violence has no place in the character of God. As calling us He sent Him, not as vengefully pursuing us; as loving us He sent Him, not as judging us. For He will yet send Him to judge us, and who shall endure His appearing?(Letter to Diognetus Chap. VII)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215 a.d.


Now the followers of Basilides regard faith as natural, as they also refer it to choice, representing it as finding ideas by intellectual comprehension without demonstration; while the followers of Valentinus assign faith to us, the simple, but will have it that knowledge springs up in their own selves, who are savd by nature through the advantage of a germ of superior excellence, saying that it is as far removed from faith as the spiritual is from the animal. Further, the followers of Basilides say that faith as well as choice is proper according to every interval; and that in consequence of the supramundane selection mundane faith accompanies all nature, and that the free gift of faith is comformable to the hope of each. Faith, then, is no longer the result of free choice, if it is a natural advantage. (Stromata, II, III)




Valentinian, in a homily, writes in these words: “Ye are originally immortal, and children of eternal life, and ye would have death distributed to you, that ye may spend and lavish it, and that death may die in you and by you; for when we dissolve the world, and are not yourselves dissolved, ye have dominion over creation and all corruption.” For he also, similarly with Basilides, supposes a class saved by nature, and that this different race has come hither to us from above for the abolition of death, and that the origin of death is the work of the Creator of the world. (Stromata, IV, XIII)

Tertullian ca. 160-220 a.d.

Cain and Abel, and Seth, who were in a certain sense the sources of the human race, become the fountain-heads of just as many qualities of nature and essential character. The material nature, which had become reprobate for salvation, they assign to Cain; the animal nature, which was poised between divergent hopes, they find in Abel; the spiritual, preordained for certain salvation, they store up in Seth.In this way also they make a twofold distinction among souls, as to their property of good and evil— according to the material condition derived from Cain, or the animal from Abel. Men’s spiritual state they derive over and above the other conditions, from Seth adventitiously, not in the way of nature, but of grace, in such wise that Achamoth infuses it among superior beings like rain into good souls, that is, those who are enrolled in the animal class. Whereas the material class— in other words, those souls which are bad souls they say, never receive the blessings of salvation, for that nature they have pronounced to be incapable of any change or reform in its natural condition. This grain, then, of spiritual seed is modest and very small when cast from her hand, but under her instruction increases and advances into full conviction, as we have already said; and the souls, on this very account, so much excelled all others, that the Demiurge, even then in his ignorance, held them in great esteem. For it was from their list that he had been accustomed to select men for kings and for priests; and these even now, if they have once attained to a full and complete knowledge of these foolish conceits of theirs, since they are already naturalized in the fraternal bond of the spiritual state, will obtain a sure salvation, nay, one which is on all accounts their due. For this reason it is that they neither regard works as necessary for themselves, nor do they observe any of the calls of duty, eluding even the necessity of martyrdom on any pretence which may suit their pleasure. (Against the Valentinians, XXIX-XXX)


Melito of Sardis died ca. 180 a.d.


There is, therefore, nothing to hinder you from changing your evil manner of life, because you are a free man. (David Bercot, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs p. 286).

St. Irenaeus of Lyons ca. 2nd cent-202 a.d.


This expression, ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not,’ set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free (agent) from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will (toward us) is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves…


If then it were not in our power to do or not to do these things, what reason had the apostle, and much more the Lord Himself, to give counsel to do some things and to abstain from others? But because man is possessed of free-will from the beginning, and God is possessed of free-will in whose likeness man was created, advice is always given to him to keep fast the good, which thing is done by means of obedience to God. (Against Heresies XXXVII)


For He who makes the chaff and He who makes the wheat are not different persons, but one and the same, who judges them, that is, separates them. But the wheat and the chaff, being inanimate and irrational, have been made such by nature. But man, being endowed with reason, and in this respect like to God, having been made free in his will, and with power over himself, is himself the cause to himself, that sometimes he becomes wheat, and sometimes chaff. Wherefore also he shall be justly condemned because, having been created a rational being, he lost the true rationality, and living irrationally, opposed the righteousness of God, serving all lusts; as says the prophet, “Man, being in honor, did not understand: he was assimilated to senseless beasts, and made like to them.”(Against Heresies, book 4, chapter 4, paragraph 3)


Theophilus of Antioch ca. 2nd century a.d.


But some one will say to us, Was man made by nature mortal? Certainly not. Was he, then, immortal? Neither do we affirm this. But one will say, Was he, then, nothing? Not even this hits the mark. He was by nature neither mortal nor immortal. For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God. Again, if He had made him mortal, God would seem to be the cause of his death. Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did He make him, but, as we have said above, capable of both; so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God; but if, on the other hand, he should turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he should himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power over himself. That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption. (To Autolycus XXVII)

Origen ca.185-254 a.d.


Let us begin, then, with those words which were spoken to Pharaoh, who is said to have been hardened by God, in order that he might not let the people go; and, along with his case, the language of the apostle also will be considered, where he says, Therefore He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. For it is on these passages chiefly that the heretics rely, asserting that salvation is not in our own power, but that souls are of such a nature as must by all means be either lost or saved; and that in no way can a soul which is of an evil nature become good, or one which is of a virtuous nature be made bad. (De Principiis Book III, Chapter I: On the Freedom of the Will VIII)

St. Anthony the Great ca. 251-356 a.d.


Wherefore having already begun and set out in the way of virtue, let us strive the more that we may attain those things that are before. And let no one turn to the things behind, like Lot’s wife, all the more so that the Lord has said, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and turning back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven. And this turning back is nought else but to feel regret, and to be once more worldly-minded. But fear not to hear of virtue, nor be astonished at the name. For it is not far from us, nor is it without ourselves, but it is within us, and is easy if only we are willing. That they may get knowledge, the Greeks live abroad and cross the sea, but we have no need to depart from home for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, nor to cross the sea for the sake of virtue. For the Lord aforetime has said, The kingdom of heaven is within you . Wherefore virtue has need at our hands of willingness alone, since it is in us and is formed from us. For when the soul has its spiritual faculty in a natural state virtue is formed. And it is in a natural state when it remains as it came into existence. And when it came into existence it was fair and exceeding honest. For this cause Joshua, the son of Nun, in his exhortation said to the people, Make straight your heart unto the Lord God of Israel Josh. 24:23, and John, Make your paths straight Matt. 3:3 . For rectitude of soul consists in its having its spiritual part in its natural state as created. But on the other hand, when it swerves and turns away from its natural state, that is called vice of the soul. Thus the matter is not difficult. If we abide as we have been made, we are in a state of virtue, but if we think of ignoble things we shall be accounted evil. If, therefore, this thing had to be acquired from without, it would be difficult in reality; but if it is in us, let us keep ourselves from foul thoughts. And as we have received the soul as a deposit, let us preserve it for the Lord, that He may recognise His work as being the same as He made it. (The Life of St. Anthony Chap. XX written by St. Athanasius the Great)

St. Methodius of Olympus ca.260-martyred 311 a.d.


Now those who decide that man is not possessed of free-will, and affirm that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate . . . are guilty of impiety toward God Himself, making Him out to be the cause and author of human evils. (The Banquet of the Ten Virgins XVI)


Arnobius of Sicca ca. 253-327 a.d.

I reply: does not He free all alike who invites all alike? Or does He thrust back or repel any one from the kindness of the Supreme who gives to all alike the power of coming to Him? To all, He says, the fountain of life is open, and no one is hindered or kept back from drinking…


Nay, my opponent says, if God is powerful, merciful, willing to save us, let Him change our dispositions, and compel us to trust in His promises. This then, is violence, not kindness nor the bounty of the Supreme God, but a childish and vain strife in seeking to get the mastery. For what is so unjust as to force men who are reluctant and unworthy, to reverse their inclinations; to impress forcibly on their minds what they are unwilling to receive, and shrink from… (Against the Heathen:LXIV-LXV)


Archelaus ca. 277 a.d.

For all creatures that God made, He made very good, and He gave to every individual the sense of free-will in accordance with which standard He also instituted the law of judgment. To sin is ours, and that we sin not is God’s gift, as our will is constituted to choose either to sin or not to sin. (The Acts of the Disputation with Manes)


St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 312-386 a.d.


Next to the knowledge of this venerable and glorious and all-holy Faith, learn further what you yourself art: that as man you are of a two-fold nature, consisting of soul and body; and that, as was said a short time ago, the same God is the Creator both of soul and body. Know also that you have a soul self-governed, the noblest work of God, made after the image of its Creator : immortal because of God that gives it immortality; a living being, rational, imperishable, because of Him that bestowed these gifts: having free power to do what it wills. For it is not according to your nativity that you sin, nor is it by the power of chance that you commit fornication, nor, as some idly talk, do the conjunctions of the stars compel you to give yourself to wantonness. Why do you shrink from confessing your own evil deeds, and ascribe the blame to the innocent stars? Give no more heed, pray, to astrologers; for of these the divine Scripture says, Let the stargazers of the heaven stand up and save you, and what follows: Behold, they all shall be consumed as stubble on the fire, and shall not deliver their soul from the flame Isa. 47:13.


And learn this also, that the soul, before it came into this world, had committed no sin, but having come in sinless, we now sin of our free-will. Listen not, I pray you, to any one perversely interpreting the words, But if I do that which I would not Rom. 7:16: but remember Him who says, If you be willing, and hearken unto Me, you shall eat the good things of the land: but if you be not willing, neither hearken unto Me, the sword shall devour you, etc. Isa. 1:19-20: and again, As you presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification. Rom. 6:19 Remember also the Scripture, which says, Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge Rom. 1:28: and, That which may be known of God is manifest in them Rom. 1:19; and again, their eyes they have closed. Matt. 13:15 Also remember how God again accuses them, and says, Yet I planted you a fruitful vine, wholly true: how are you turned to bitterness, thou the strange vine Jer. 2:21?


The soul is immortal, and all souls are alike both of men and women; for only the members of the body are distinguished. There is not a class of souls sinning by nature, and a class of souls practising righteousness by nature : but both act from choice, the substance of their souls being of one kind only, and alike in all. I know, however, that I am talking much, and that the time is already long: but what is more precious than salvation? Are you not willing to take trouble in getting provisions for the way against the heretics? And will you not learn the bye-paths of the road, lest from ignorance thou fall down a precipice? If your teachers think it no small gain for you to learn these things, should not thou the learner gladly receive the multitude of things told you?


The soul is self-governed: and though the devil can suggest, he has not the power to compel against the will. He pictures to you the thought of fornication: if you will, you accept it; if you will not, you reject. For if you were a fornicator by necessity, then for what cause did God prepare hell? If you were a doer of righteousness by nature and not by will, wherefore did God prepare crowns of ineffable glory? The sheep is gentle, but never was it crowned for its gentleness: since its gentle quality belongs to it not from choice but by nature. (Catechetical Lectures IV)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 300-379 a.d.

If the origin of our virtues and of our vices is not in ourselves, but is the fatal consequence of our birth, it is useless for legislators to prescribe for us what we ought to do, and what we ought to avoid; it is useless for judges to honour virtue and to punish vice. The guilt is not in the robber, not in the assassin: it was willed for him; it was impossible for him to hold back his hand, urged to evil by inevitable necessity. Those who laboriously cultivate the arts are the maddest of men. The labourer will make an abundant harvest without sowing seed and without sharpening his sickle. Whether he wishes it or not, the merchant will make his fortune, and will be flooded with riches by fate. As for us Christians, we shall see our great hopes vanish, since from the moment that man does not act with freedom, there is neither reward for justice, nor punishment for sin. Under the reign of necessity and of fatality there is no place for merit, the first condition of all righteous judgment. But let us stop. You who are sound in yourselves have no need to hear more, and time does not allow us to make attacks without limit against these unhappy men. (Hexaemeron – Homily VI, Chap VII)

St. Simeon, Bishop of Ctesiphon (died ca. 341 a.d.)


The goal of human freedom is not in freedom itself, nor is it in man, but in God. By giving man freedom, God has yielded to man a piece of His divine authority, but with the intention that man himself would voluntarily bring it as a sacrifice to God, a most perfect offering.


St. Jerome ca. 347-420 a.d.


It is in vain that you misrepresent me and try to convince the ignorant that I condemn free-will. Let him who condemns it be himself condemned. We have been created endowed with free-will; still it is not this which distinguishes us from the brutes. For human free-will, as I said, depends upon the help of God and needs His aid moment by moment, a thing which you and yours do not choose to admit. Your position is that once a man has free-will he no longer needs the help of God. It is true that freedom of the will brings with it freedom of decision. Still man does not act immediately on his free-will but requires God’s aid who Himself needs no aid. (Letters CXXXIII)


But when we are concerned with grace and mercy, free-will is in part void; in part, I say, for so much depends upon it, that we wish and desire, and give assent to the course we choose. But it depends on God whether we have the power in His strength and with His help to perform what we desire, and to bring to effect our toil and effort. (Against the Pelagians Book III, 10)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 347-407 a.d.

John 6:44 No man can come unto Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw Him.


The Manichæans spring upon these words, saying, that nothing lies in our own power; yet the expression shows that we are masters of our will. For if a man comes to Him, says some one, what need is there of drawing? But the words do not take away our free will, but show that we greatly need assistance. And He implies not an unwilling comer, but one enjoying much succor. Then He shows also the manner in which He draws; for that men may not, again, form any material idea of God, He adds,


John 6:46 Not that any man has seen God, save He which is of God, He has seen the Father.


How then, says some one, does the Father draw? This the Prophet explained of old, when he proclaimed beforehand, and said,


John 6:45 They shall all be taught of God. (Isa. 54:13)


Do you see the dignity of faith, and that not of men nor by man, but by God Himself they shall learn this? And to make this assertion credible, He referred them to their prophets. If then ‘all shall be taught of God,’ how is it that some shall not believe? Because the words are spoken of the greater number. Besides, the prophecy means not absolutely all, but all that have the will. For the teacher sits ready to impart what he has to all, and pouring forth his instruction unto all. (On the Gospel of John, Homily 46)

Rom. 9:20-2l Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why have You made me thus? Hath not the potter power, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?


Here it is not to do away with free-will that he says this, but to show, up to what point we ought to obey God. For in respect of calling God to account, we ought to be as little disposed to it as the clay is. For we ought to abstain not from gainsaying or questioning only, but even from speaking or thinking of it at all, and to become like that lifeless matter, which follows the potter’s hands, and lets itself be drawn about anywhere he may please. And this is the only point he applied the illustration to, not, that is, to any enunciation of the rule of life, but to the complete obedience and silence enforced upon us. (On the Epistle to the Romans, Homily XVI)

St. Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430 a.d.

He who made you without your consent does not justify you without your consent. He made you without your knowledge, but He does not justify you without your willing it. (Sermons, 169, 3; Jurgens, III, 29)


Free will is not taken away because it is assisted, but is assisted in order that it not be taken away. (Ep 152, 2, 10)


If grace does not exist, how does he save the world? If there is no free will, how does he judge the world? (Ep 214, 2)


Someone says to me: “Since we are acted upon, it is not we who act.” I answer, “No, you both act and are acted upon; and if you are acted upon by the good, you act properly. For the spirit of God who moves you, by so moving, is your Helper. The very term helper makes it clear that you yourself are doing something.” (Sermons 156, 11; Jurgens, III, 28)


. . . It is not the case, therefore, that because God foreknew what would be in the power of our wills, there is for that reason nothing in the power of our wills. For he who foreknew this did not foreknow nothing. Moreover, if He who foreknew what would be in the power of our wills did not foreknow nothing, but something, assuredly, even though He did foreknow, there is something in the power of our wills. Therefore we are by no means compelled, either, retaining the prescience of God, to take away the freedom of the will, or, retaining the freedom of the will, to deny that He is prescient of future things, which is impious. But we embrace both. We faithfully and sincerely confess both. The former, that we may believe well; the latter, that we may live well. For he lives ill who does not believe well concerning God. Wherefore, be it far from us, in order to maintain our freedom, to deny the prescience of Him by whose help we are or shall be free.


Consequently, it is not in vain that laws are enacted, and that reproaches, exhortations, praises, and vituperations are had recourse to; for these also He foreknew, and they are of great avail, even as great as He foreknew that they would be of. Prayers, also, are of avail to procure those things which He foreknew that He would grant to those who offered them; and with justice have rewards been appointed for good deeds, and punishments for sins. For a man does not therefore sin because God foreknew that he would sin. Nay, it cannot be doubted but that it is the man himself who sins when he does sin, because He, whose foreknowledge is infallible, foreknew not that fate, or fortune, or something else would sin, but that the man himself would sin, who, if he wills not, sins not. But if he shall not will to sin, even this did God foreknow. (City of God, Book V, Chapter X; NPNF 1, Vol. II)

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435 a.d.

And so these are somehow mixed up and indiscriminately confused, so that among many persons, which depends on the other is involved in great questionings, i.e., does God have compassion upon us because we have shown the beginning of a good will, or does the beginning of a good will follow because God has had compassion upon us? For many believing each of these and asserting them more widely than is right are entangled in all kinds of opposite errors. For if we say that the beginning of free will is in our own power, what about Paul the persecutor, what about Matthew the publican, of whom the one was drawn to salvation while eager for bloodshed and the punishment of the innocent, the other for violence and rapine? But if we say that the beginning of our free will is always due to the inspiration of the grace of God, what about the faith of Zaccheus, or what are we to say of the goodness of the thief on the cross, who by their own desires brought violence to bear on the kingdom of heaven and so prevented the special leadings of their vocation? But if we attribute the performance of virtuous acts, and the execution of God’s commands to our own will, how do we pray: Strengthen, O God, what You have wrought in us; and The work of our hands establish Thou upon us? We know that Balaam was brought to curse Israel, but we see that when he wished to curse he was not permitted to. Abimelech is preserved from touching Rebecca and so sinning against God. Joseph is sold by the envy of his brethren, in order to bring about the descent of the children of Israel into Egypt, and that while they were contemplating the death of their brother provision might be made for them against the famine to come: as Joseph shows when he makes himself known to his brethren and says: Fear not, neither let it be grievous unto you that you sold me into these parts: for for your salvation God sent me before you; and below: For God sent me before that you might be preserved upon the earth and might have food whereby to live. Not by your design was I sent but by the will of God, who has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his house, and chief over all the land of Egypt. And when his brethren were alarmed after the death of his father, he removed their suspicions and terror by saying: Fear not: Can you resist the will of God? You imagined evil against me but God turned it into good, that He might exalt me, as you see at the present time, that He might save much people. And that this was brought about providentially the blessed David likewise declared saying in the hundred and fourth Psalm: And He called for a dearth upon the land: and broke all the staff of bread. He sent a man before them: Joseph was sold for a slave. These two then; viz., the grace of God and free will seem opposed to each other, but really are in harmony, and we gather from the system of goodness that we ought to have both alike, lest if we withdraw one of them from man, we may seem to have broken the rule of the Church’s faith: for when God sees us inclined to will what is good, He meets, guides, and strengthens us: for At the voice of your cry, as soon as He shall hear, He will answer you; and:  Call upon Me, He says, in the day of tribulation and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me. And again, if He finds that we are unwilling or have grown cold, He stirs our hearts with salutary exhortations, by which a good will is either renewed or formed in us.


For we should not hold that God made man such that he can never will or be capable of what is good: or else He has not granted him a free will, if He has suffered him only to will or be capable of evil, but neither to will or be capable of what is good of himself. And, in this case how will that first statement of the Lord made about men after the fall stand: Behold, Adam has become as one of us, knowing good and evil? Gen. 3:22 For we cannot think that before, he was such as to be altogether ignorant of good. Otherwise we should have to admit that he was formed like some irrational and insensate beast: which is sufficiently absurd and altogether alien from the Catholic faith. Moreover as the wisest Solomon says: God made man upright, i.e., always to enjoy the knowledge of good only, But they have sought out many imaginations, for they came, as has been said, to know good and evil. Adam therefore after the fall conceived a knowledge of evil which he had not previously, but did not lose the knowledge of good which he had before. Finally the Apostle’s words very clearly show that mankind did not lose after the fall of Adam the knowledge of good: as he says: For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things of the law, these, though they have not the law, are a law to themselves, as they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to these, and their thoughts within them either accusing or else excusing them, in the day in which God shall judge the secrets of men. Rom. 2:14-16 And with the same meaning the Lord rebukes by the prophet the unnatural but freely chosen blindness of the Jews, which they by their obstinacy brought upon themselves, saying: Hear you deaf, and you blind, behold that you may see. Who is deaf but My servant? And blind, but he to whom I have sent My messengers? Isa.42:18-19 And that no one might ascribe this blindness of theirs to nature instead of to their own will, elsewhere He says: Bring forth the people that are blind and have eyes: that are deaf and have ears; and again: having eyes, but you see not; and ears, but you hear not. The Lord also says in the gospel: Because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not neither do they understand. Matt. 13:13 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: Hearing you shall hear and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see and shall not see. For the heart of this people is waxed fat, and their ears are dull of hearing: and they have closed their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart, and be turned and I should heal them. Isa. 6:9-10 Finally in order to denote that the possibility of good was in them, in chiding the Pharisees, He says: But why of your own selves do you not judge what is right? Lk. 12:57 And this he certainly would not have said to them, unless He knew that by their natural judgment they could discern what was fair. Wherefore we must take care not to refer all the merits of the saints to the Lord in such a way as to ascribe nothing but what is evil and perverse to human nature: in doing which we are confuted by the evidence of the most wise Solomon, or rather of the Lord Himself, Whose words these are; for when the building of the Temple was finished and he was praying, he spoke as follows: And David my father would have built a house to the name of the Lord God of Israel: and the Lord said to David my father: Whereas you have thought in your heart to build a house to My name, you have well done in having this same thing in your mind. Nevertheless you shall not build a house to My name. 1 Kings 8:17-19 This thought then and this purpose of king David, are we to call it good and from God or bad and from man? For if that thought was good and from God, why did He by whom it was inspired refuse that it should be carried into effect? But if it is bad and from man, why is it praised by the Lord? It remains then that we must take it as good and from man. And in the same way we can take our own thoughts today. For it was not given only to David to think what is good of himself, nor is it denied to us naturally to think or imagine anything that is good. It cannot then be doubted that there are by nature some seeds of goodness in every soul implanted by the kindness of the Creator: but unless these are quickened by the assistance of God, they will not be able to attain to an increase of perfection, for, as the blessed Apostle says: Neither is he that plants anything nor he that waters, but God that gives the increase. 1 Cor. 3:7 But that freedom of the will is to some degree in a man’s own power is very clearly taught in the book termed the Pastor, where two angels are said to be attached to each one of us, i.e., a good and a bad one, while it lies at a man’s own option to choose which to follow. And therefore the will always remains free in man, and can either neglect or delight in the grace of God. For the Apostle would not have commanded saying: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, had he not known that it could be advanced or neglected by us. But that men might not fancy that they had no need of Divine aid for the work of Salvation, he subjoins: For it is God that works in you both to will and to do, of His good pleasure. Phil. 2:12-13 And therefore he warns Timothy and says: Neglect not the grace of God which is in you; and again: For which cause I exhort you to stir up the grace of God which is in you. Hence also in writing to the Corinthians he exhorts and warns them not through their unfruitful works to show themselves unworthy of the grace of God, saying: And we helping, exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain: 2 Cor. 6:1 for the reception of saving grace was of no profit to Simon doubtless because he had received it in vain; for he would not obey the command of the blessed Peter who said: Repent of your iniquity, and pray God if haply the thoughts of your heart may be forgiven you; for I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity. Acts 8:22-23 It prevents therefore the will of man, for it is said:  My God will prevent me with His mercy; and again when God waits and for our good delays, that He may put our desires to the test, our will precedes, for it is said: And in the morning my prayer shall prevent You; and again: I prevented the dawning of the day and cried; and: My eyes have prevented the morning. For He calls and invites us, when He says: All the day long I stretched forth My hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people; Rom. 10:21 and He is invited by us when we say to Him: All the day long I have stretched forth My hands unto You. He waits for us, when it is said by the prophet: Wherefore the Lord waits to have compassion upon us; Isa. 30:18 and He is waited for by us, when we say: I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me; and: I have waited for your salvation, O Lord. He strengthens us when He says: And I have chastised them, and strengthened their arms; and they have imagined evil against me; Hos. 7:15 and He exhorts us to strengthen ourselves when He says: Strengthen the weak hands, and make strong the feeble knees. Isa. 35:3 Jesus cries: If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink; John 7:37 the prophet also cries to Him: I have laboured with crying, my jaws have become hoarse: my eyes have failed, while I hope in my God. The Lord seeks us, when He says: I sought and there was no man. I called, and there was none to answer; Songs 5:6 and He Himself is sought by the bride who mourns with tears: I sought on my bed by night Him whom my soul loved: I sought Him and found Him not; I called Him, and He gave me no answer.  Songs 3:1


And so the grace of God always co-operates with our will for its advantage, and in all things assists, protects, and defends it, in such a way as sometimes even to require and look for some efforts of good will from it that it may not appear to confer its gifts on one who is asleep or relaxed in sluggish ease, as it seeks opportunities to show that as the torpor of man’s sluggishness is shaken off its bounty is not unreasonable, when it bestows it on account of some desire and efforts to gain it. And none the less does God’s grace continue to be free grace while in return for some small and trivial efforts it bestows with priceless bounty such glory of immortality, and such gifts of eterna bliss. For because the faith of the thief on the cross came as the first thing, no one would say that therefore the blessed abode of Paradise was not promised to him as a free gift, nor could we hold that it was the penitence of King David’s single word which he uttered: I have sinned against the Lord, and not rather the mercy of God which removed those two grievous sins of his, so that it was vouchsafed to him to hear from the prophet Nathan: The Lord also has put away your iniquity: you shall not die. 2 Sam. 12:13 The fact then that he added murder to adultery, was certainly due to free will: but that he was reproved by the prophet, this was the grace of Divine Compassion. Again it was his own doing that he was humbled and acknowledged his guilt; but that in a very short interval of time he was granted pardon for such sins, this was the gift of the merciful Lord. And what shall we say of this brief confession and of the incomparable infinity of Divine reward, when it is easy to see what the blessed Apostle, as he fixes his gaze on the greatness of future remuneration, announced on those countless persecutions of his? for, says he, our light affliction which is but for a moment works in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 2 Cor 4:17 of which elsewhere he constantly affirms, saying that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us. Rom. 8:18 However much then human weakness may strive, it cannot come up to the future reward, nor by its efforts so take off from Divine grace that it should not always remain a free gift. And therefore the aforesaid teacher of the Gentiles, though he bears his witness that he had obtained the grade of the Apostolate by the grace of God, saying: By the grace of God I am what I am, yet also declares that he himself had corresponded to Divine Grace, where he says: And His Grace in me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: and yet not I, but the Grace of God with me. 1 Cor. 15:10 For when he says: I laboured, he shows the effort of his own will; when he says: yet not I, but the grace of God, he points out the value of Divine protection; when he says: with me, he affirms that it cooperates with him when he was not idle or careless, but working and making an effort. (Conferences XI, XII, XIII)

Prosper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455 a.d.


We must confess that God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Secondly, there can be no doubt that all who actually come to the knowledge of the truth and to salvation, do so not in virtue of their own merits but of the efficacious help of divine grace. Thirdly, we must admit that human understanding is unable to fathom the depths of God’s judgements, and we ought not to inquire why He who wishes all men to be saved does not in fact save all.  (The Call of All Nations, 2.1)

St. Faustus of Riez ca. 407-493 a.d.


We assert that whoever is lost is lost by his own volition, but that he could have obtained salvation by grace had he cooperated with it. On the other hand, whoever, by means of [this] cooperation attains perfection may, of his own fault, his own negligence, fall and lose it and [become] lost. Certainly we exclude all personal boasting, for we declare that all that we have has been gratuitously received from God’s hand” (Epistle to Lucidus, LIII:683).

St. Vincent of Lerins ca. 445 a.d.


But some one will say, What proof have we that the Devil is wont to appeal to Holy Scripture? Let him read the Gospels wherein it is written, “Then the Devil took Him (the Lord the Saviour) and set Him upon a pinnacle of the Temple, and said unto Him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee, that they may keep thee in all thy ways: In their hands they shall bear thee up, lest perchance thou dash thy foot against a stone.” What sort of treatment must men, insignificant wretches that they are, look for at the hands of him who assailed even the Lord of Glory with quotations from Scripture? “If thou be the Son of God,” saith be, “cast the, self down.” Wherefore? “For,” saith he, “it is written.” It behoves us to pay special attention to this passage and bear it in mind, that, warned by so important an instance of Evangelical authority, we may be assured beyond doubt, when we find people alleging passages from the Apostles or Prophets against the Catholic Faith, that the Devil speaks through their mouths. For as then the Head spoke to the Head, so now also the members speak to the members, the members of the Devil to the members of Christ, misbelievers to believers, sacrilegious to religious, in one word, Heretics to Catholics.


But what do they say? “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down;” that is,. If thou wouldst be a son of God, and wouldst receive the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven, cast thyself down; that is, cast thyself down from the doctrine and tradition of that sublime Church, which is imagined to be nothing less than the very temple of God. And if one should ask one of the heretics who gives this advice, How do you prove? What ground have you, for saying, that I ought to cast away the universal and ancient faith of the Catholic Church? he has the answer ready, “For it is written;” and forthwith he produces a thousand testimonies, a thousand examples, a thousand authorities from the Law, from the Psalms, from the apostles, from the Prophets, by means of which, interpreted on a new and wrong principle, the unhappy soul may be precipitated from the height of Catholic truth to the lowest abyss of heresy. Then, with the accompanying promises, the heretics are wont marvellously to beguile the incautious. For they dare to teach and promise, that in their church, that is, in the conventicle of their communion, there is a certain great and special and altogether personal grace of God, so that whosoever pertain to their number, without any labour, without any effort, without any industry, even though they neither ask, nor seek, nor knock, have such a dispensation from God, that, borne up by angel hands, that is, preserved by the protection of angels, it is impossible they should ever dash their feet against a stone, that is, that they should ever be offended. (Commonitory Chap. XXVI)


St. Maximus ca. 580-662 a.d.

After quite some time, three men of high rank, Theodosius, Bishop of Caesarea in Bithynia, and the patricians Paul and Theodosius, were sent by Constans and Patriarch Peter to win over the saint. They were joined by the Bishop of Bizye, and alternately flattered and threatened Maximus, testing his faith and posing various questions. They began by introducing themselves, then requested Maximus to sit down. Bishop Theodosius asked, “How are you faring, my lord Abba Maximus?”


“Exactly as God knew I would before the ages,” replied the saint. “He foreordained the circumstances of my life, which is guarded by providence.”


“How can that be?” objected Theodosius. “Did God foreknow and actually foreordain our deeds from eternity?”


The saint said, “He foreknew our thoughts, words, and deeds, which nevertheless remain within our power to control; and He foreordained what befalls us. The latter is not subject to our control, but to the divine will.”


“Explain more exactly what is in our power, and what is not,” requested Bishop Theodosius.

“My lord, you know all this,” answered Saint Maximus. “You only ask to try your servant.”


The Bishop admitted, “Truly, I do not know. I wish to understand what we can control and what we cannot, and how God foresaw one and foreordained the other.”


The venerable Maximus explained, “We do not directly control whether blessings will be showered upon us or chastisements will befall us, but our good and evil deeds most certainly depend on our will. It is not ours to choose whether we are in health or sickness, but we make determinations likely to lead to one or the other. Similarly, we cannot simply decide that we shall attain the kingdom of heaven or be plunged into the fire of Gehenna, but we can will to keep the commandments or transgress them.” (The Life of Our Holy Monastic Father Maximus the Confessor and Martyr)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749 a.d.

We ought to understand that while God knows all things beforehand, yet He does not predetermine all things. For He knows beforehand those things that are in our power, but He does not predetermine them. For it is not His will that there should be wickedness nor does He choose to compel virtue. So that predetermination is the work of the divine command based on fore-knowledge. But on the other hand God predetermines those things which are not within our power in accordance with His prescience. For already God in His prescience has prejudged all things in accordance with His goodness and justice.


Bear in mind, too, that virtue is a gift from God implanted in our nature, and that He Himself is the source and cause of all good, and without His co-operation and help we cannot will or do any good thing, But we have it in our power either to abide in virtue and follow God, Who calls us into ways of virtue, or to stray from paths of virtue, which is to dwell in wickedness, and to follow the devil who summons but cannot compel us. For wickedness is nothing else than the withdrawal of goodness, just as darkness is nothing else than the withdrawal of light While then we abide in the natural state we abide in virtue, but when we deviate from the natural state, that is from virtue, we come into an unnatural state and dwell in wickedness. (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book II, Chap XXX)

St. Symeon the New Theologian 942-1022 a.d.:


You say, “What is the cause that one is hardened, and another readily moved to compunction?” Listen! It springs from the will, in the latter case a good will, in the former an evil one. It springs also from the thoughts, in the former case evil thoughts, in the latter from the opposite; and similarly from actions, in the former case actions contrary to God, in the latter godly ones. Examine, if you wish, all who have ever lived and you will find that it from these three causes only that many who were good became evil, and many who were evil became good. To recount them from the beginning, why did Lucifer fall (cf. Is. 14:12)? Was it not by consenting to evil in will and thought? Why did Cain become a fratricide (Gen. 4:8)? Was it not by his evil will? He preferred himself to his creator and followed after evil thoughts and so became abandoned to envy and committed muder. Why did Saul seek to apprehend and kill David whom he formerly honored as himself and greatly loved as benefactor (cf. 1 Sam. 18:24ff.)? Was it by nature or an evil will? Obviously it was out of ill will. No one is born evil by nature, since God did not create evil works but things that were very good (Gen. 1:31) …Thus it is not, as some think, by nature but by will that every man becomes either humble, and apt for compunction, or hard-hearted, hardened, and insensitive. (Symeon the New Theologian, The Discourses. The Classics of Western Spirituality, trans. C.J. deCatanzaro. Chap IV [On Tears of Penitence] pp. 71-72, 73)

St. Thephan the Recluse 1815–1894 a.d.


“What is the relationship between the Divine provision and our free will?”


Answer: The fact that the Kingdom of God is “taken by force” presupposes personal effort. When the Apostle Paul says, “it is not of him that willeth,” this means that one’s efforts do not produce what is sought. It is necessary to combine them: to strive and to expect all things from grace. It is not one’s own efforts that will lead to the goal, because without grace, efforts produce little; nor does grace without effort bring what is sought, because grace acts in us and for us through our efforts. Both combine in a person to bring progress and carry him to the goal. (God’s) foreknowledge is unfathomable. It is enough for us with our whole heart to believe that it never opposes God’s grace and truth, and that it does not infringe man’s freedom. Usually this resolves as follows: God foresees how a man will freely act and makes dispositions accordingly. Divine determination depends on the life of a man, and not his life upon the determination. (An Explanation of Certain Texts of Holy Scripture, as quoted in Johanna Manley’s The Bible and the Holy Fathers for Orthodox: Daily Scripture Readings and Commentary for Orthodox Christians, pg. 609.)

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Dear Brothers and Sisters! “You are my son, this day I have begotten you” with this passage from Psalm 2 the Church begins the liturgy of this holy night. She knows that this passage originally formed part of the coronation rite of the kings of Israel.

The king, who in himself is a man like others, becomes the “Son of God” through being called and installed in his office. It is a kind of adoption by God, a decisive act by which he grants a new existence to this man, drawing him into his own being.

The reading from the prophet Isaiah that we have just heard presents the same process even more clearly in a situation of hardship and danger for Israel: “To us a child is born, to us a son is given. The government will be upon his shoulder” (Is 9:6).

Installation in the office of king is like a second birth. As one newly born through God’s personal choice, as a child born of God, the king embodies hope. On his shoulders the future rests. He is the bearer of the promise of peace.

On that night in Bethlehem this prophetic saying came true in a way that would still have been unimaginable at the time of Isaiah. Yes indeed, now it really is a child on whose shoulders government is laid. In him the new kingship appears that God establishes in the world. This child is truly born of God.

It is God’s eternal Word that unites humanity with divinity. To this child belong those titles of honor which Isaiah’s coronation song attributes to him: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is 9:6). Yes, this king does not need counselors drawn from the wise of this world. He bears in himself God’s wisdom and God’s counsel.

In the weakness of infancy, he is the mighty God and he shows us God’s own might in contrast to the self-asserting powers of this world. Truly, the words of Israel’s coronation rite were only ever rites of hope which looked ahead to a distant future that God would bestow. None of the kings who were greeted in this way lived up to the sublime content of these words.

In all of them, those words about divine sonship, about installation into the heritage of the peoples, about making the ends of the earth their possession (Ps 2:8) were only pointers towards what was to come as it were signposts of hope indicating a future that at that moment was still beyond comprehension.

Thus the fulfillment of the prophecy, which began that night in Bethlehem, is both infinitely greater and in worldly terms smaller than the prophecy itself might lead one to imagine. It is greater in the sense that this child is truly the Son of God, truly “God from God, light from light, begotten not made, of one being with the Father.”

The infinite distance between God and man is overcome. God has not only bent down, as we read in the Psalms; he has truly “come down,” he has come into the world, he has become one of us, in order to draw all of us to himself. This child is truly Emmanuel God-with-us. His kingdom truly stretches to the ends of the earth.

He has truly built islands of peace in the world-encompassing breadth of the holy Eucharist. Wherever it is celebrated, an island of peace arises, of God’s own peace. This child has ignited the light of goodness in men and has given them strength to overcome the tyranny of might.

This child builds his kingdom in every generation from within, from the heart. But at the same time it is true that the “rod of his oppressor” is not yet broken, the boots of warriors continue to tramp and the “garment rolled in blood” (Is 9:4f) still remains. So part of this night is simply joy at God’s closeness.

We are grateful that God gives himself into our hands as a child, begging as it were for our love, implanting his peace in our hearts. But this joy is also a prayer: Lord, make your promise come fully true. Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots.

Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end. Fulfill the prophecy that “of peace there will be no end” (Is 9:7). We thank you for your goodness, but we also ask you to show forth your power. Establish the dominion of your truth and your love in the world the “kingdom of righteousness, love and peace.”

“Mary gave birth to her first-born son” (Lk 2:7). In this sentence Saint Luke recounts quite soberly the great event to which the prophecies from Israel’s history had pointed. Luke calls the child the “first-born.” In the language which developed within the sacred Scripture of the Old Covenant, “first-born” does not mean the first of a series of children.

The word “first-born” is a title of honor, quite independently of whether other brothers and sisters follow or not. So Israel is designated by God in the Book of Exodus (4:22) as “my first-born Son,” and this expresses Israel’s election, its singular dignity, the particular love of God the Father.

The early Church knew that in Jesus this saying had acquired a new depth, that the promises made to Israel were summed up in him. Thus the Letter to the Hebrews calls Jesus “the first-born,” simply in order to designate him as the Son sent into the world by God (cf. 1:5-7) after the ground had been prepared by Old Testament prophecy.

The first-born belongs to God in a special way and therefore he had to be handed over to God in a special way as in many religions and he had to be ransomed through a vicarious sacrifice, as Saint Luke recounts in the episode of the Presentation in the Temple. The first-born belongs to God in a special way, and is as it were destined for sacrifice.

In Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross this destiny of the first-born is fulfilled in a unique way. In his person he brings humanity before God and unites man with God in such a way that God becomes all in all. Saint Paul amplified and deepened the idea of Jesus as firstborn in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians: Jesus, we read in these letters, is the first-born of all creation the true prototype of man, according to which God formed the human creature.

Man can be the image of God because Jesus is both God and man, the true image of God and of man. Furthermore, as these letters tell us, he is the first-born from the dead. In the resurrection he has broken down the wall of death for all of us. He has opened up to man the dimension of eternal life in fellowship with God.

Finally, it is said to us that he is the first-born of many brothers. Yes indeed, now he really is the first of a series of brothers and sisters: the first, that is, who opens up for us the possibility of communing with God. He creates true brotherhood not the kind defiled by sin as in the case of Cain and Abel, or Romulus and Remus, but the new brotherhood in which we are God’s own family.

This new family of God begins at the moment when Mary wraps her first-born in swaddling clothes and lays him in a manger. Let us pray to him: Lord Jesus, who wanted to be born as the first of many brothers and sisters, grant us the grace of true brotherhood.

Help us to become like you. Help us to recognize your face in others who need our assistance, in those who are suffering or forsaken, in all people, and help us to live together with you as brothers and sisters, so as to become one family, your family. At the end of the Christmas Gospel, we are told that a great heavenly host of angels praised God and said: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2:14).

The Church has extended this song of praise, which the angels sang in response to the event of the holy night, into a hymn of joy at God’s glory “we praise you for your glory.” We praise you for the beauty, for the greatness, for the goodness of God, which becomes visible to us this night. The appearing of beauty, of the beautiful, makes us happy without our having to ask what use it can serve.

God’s glory, from which all beauty derives, causes us to break out in astonishment and joy. Anyone who catches a glimpse of God experiences joy, and on this night we see something of his light. But the angels’ message on that holy night also spoke of men: “Peace among men with whom he is pleased.” The Latin translation of the angels’ song that we use in the liturgy, taken from Saint Jerome, is slightly different: “peace to men of good will.”

The expression “men of good will” has become an important part of the Church’s vocabulary in recent decades. But which is the correct translation? We must read both texts together; only in this way do we truly understand the angels’ song. It would be a false interpretation to see this exclusively as the action of God, as if he had not called man to a free response of love.

But it would be equally mistaken to adopt a moralizing interpretation as if man were so to speak able to redeem himself by his good will. Both elements belong together: grace and freedom, God’s prior love for us, without which we could not love him, and the response that he awaits from us, the response that he asks for so palpably through the birth of his son.

We cannot divide up into independent entities the interplay of grace and freedom, or the interplay of call and response. The two are inseparably woven together. So this part of the angels’ message is both promise and call at the same time. God has anticipated us with the gift of his Son.

God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways. He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need. He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness into which it had strayed. God does not allow himself to be confounded by our sin.

Again and again he begins afresh with us. But he is still waiting for us to join him in love. He loves us, so that we too may become people who love, so that there may be peace on earth. Saint Luke does not say that the angels sang. He states quite soberly: the heavenly host praised God and said: “Glory to God in the highest” (Lk 2:13f.).

But men have always known that the speech of angels is different from human speech, and that above all on this night of joyful proclamation it was in song that they extolled God’s heavenly glory. So this angelic song has been recognized from the earliest days as music proceeding from God, indeed, as an invitation to join in the singing with hearts filled with joy at the fact that we are loved by God. Cantare amantis est, says Saint Augustine: singing belongs to one who loves.

Thus, down the centuries, the angels’ song has again and again become a song of love and joy, a song of those who love. At this hour, full of thankfulness, we join in the singing of all the centuries, singing that unites heaven and earth, angels and men. Yes, indeed, we praise you for your glory. We praise you for your love. Grant that we may join with you in love more and more and thus become people of peace. Amen.


Copyright Vatican Publishing House

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I have been reading Pope Benedict the XVI’s God Is Near Us as of late. It is primarily a study of Eucharistic theology, but he has some gleanings on the Advent that he sees in the Lukan account: the Holy Family represent the Temple of God (in Luke 1:26-38).

Luke presents the miracle in Trinitarian language: The Son is called “Son of the Most High God”, and the Holy Spirit falls upon Mary through the miraculous conception. So, all three members of the God-Head are mentioned in the Lukan text, as Pope Bend. XVI points out (p.17).

What is more intriguing than this is the temple motif that he believes that Luke employs: Mary is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (think back to the Holy Cloud that rested upon the tent of meetings; EX 40:34). Next, Joseph is seen as a type of High Priest, he is given charge over the Divine Mystery and to the service of Mary (Temple). And finally God himself, the Logos dwells within Mary (the Christ child).

So in short, you have Mary as a type of the Temple in which the Logos dwells, and Joseph is given priestly duties to her and the Messiah.

This chapter is a must read in the book (even if you don’t always agree with his conclusions). His exegesis is great, and it would be more beneficial to read him to help fill in the gaps of my review.


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The book of Revelation is crammed full of biblical imagery/themes/motifs. I was commissioned by one of my professors, Dr. Daniel Streett, to compile a list of possible “Exodus motifs” in the Apocalypse. This is by no means an exhaustive list, yet I think it will give some direction to those interested in the subject.

Exodus Motif in Revelation

-Rev. 1:5 “freed us from our sins by His blood”: This seem to have correlation with the Exodus. We find Israel in bondage to Egypt and the LORD intercedes through Moses and Aaron starting in Exodus 6. Blood is used to cover the doors on Passover (12) and Moses sprinkles the Tabernacle.

-Rev. 1:6 “ A kingdom, priests to His God”: This is drawn from Ex. 19:5-6. What God had set in motion again at in Egypt, has apparently come to fruition or is coming in the dominion of Jesus and his subjects. This seems to be one of the major themes of the book. See Rev. 2:26, 3:21, 5:10, 20:4,6, and Heb. 10:19-22 and 1 Pet. 2:5-9.

-Rev. 1:12 “Seven Golden Lampstands” (and at many other points in the prophecy): Though not necessarily an Ex. Motif, it is in Ex. 25:37 in the Temple instructions.

-Rev. 2:7 “Eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the paradise of God”: This draws from the Edenic Imagery in Gen. 2:9, yet is seem that the paradise that the Hebrews where heading to in the land of Canaan was a type of Eden.

-Rev. 2:17 “to the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna”: Ex. 16:33-35 God commands them to store some of the heavenly bread in a Jar. This seems to be in mind.

-Rev. 3:5 “blot his name out of the book of life”: Exodus 33:32 has this phrase. It is in reference to Israel’s apostasy with the Golden Calf.

-Rev. 4:1 “Like a trumpet, said come up here”: This seems to be related to Ex. 19, where Moses went up on Sinai to receive the Law. In Ex 19:19, we also see the voice “like a trumpet”. I wonder if theses two phrase would evoke Sinai imagery in a Hebrew’s mind?

-Rev. 7:15-17: these OT prophecies (Isa 4, 49, Ps 121, 23, etc) evoke Exodus imagery, particularly in verse 16 and 17. V.16 has a “pillar of fire” correlation to Isa. 4, and the promises of their feeding and rest seem to be linked to the rest and abundance in the Promised Land. Hence, a leaving of the wilderness.

Plague Correlation

Rev. 8:7 “Hail and fire, mixed with blood”: Ex. 9:23

Rev. 8:8 “the sea became blood”” Ex. 7:17-19

Rev. 8:10-11 “Wormwood”: Possible correlation with Ex 7

Rev. 8:12 “Darkness”: Ex 10:21-22

Rev. 9:3-5 “locusts”: Ex. 10:4

Rev 9:11 “Abaddon/Apollyon”: This may be a reference back to the Destroyer in Ex. 12:23

Rev. 9:20 “Those who were not killed by theses plagues did not repent”: The same happened in the plague narrative in Exodus.

-The Two Witnesses in Chap. 11: One has a definite Mosaic quality, “the power to turn water into blood” and “unleash any kind of plague” (11:6). Egypt (v.8)

-Rev. 12:14 “wings of the great eagle”: We most likely see this eagle in Ex. 19:4, where God brings Israel unto himself. Note, that she flies into the “Wilderness”, which most likely alludes back to the wilderness people.

-Rev 15: The plague language is used again, yet we also see some variation of the Song of Moses sung verses 3-4, which is pulled somewhat from Ex. 15. I examined the Exodus song, but it did not seem to match up correctly.

-Rev. 16: 1-2 we see a bowl poured out that causes sores upon the people. This is from Ex 9

-Rev. 16:3-6 There are two bowls poured out that blood the water. This is drawn from Ex. 7.

-Rev. 16:10 Once again we see a plague of darkness, an allusion back to Ex. 10.

-Rev. 16:20-21 “great hailstones”:Ex 9:23-25

-Rev. 20:6 “Priests of God and Christ”: Hearkens back to Ex. 19. This seems to be a physical reign with Christ, unlike the spiritual reign we now have.

-Chapter 21: The new earth seems to be like Eden. And we will see that even more prevalent in Rev. 22

-Rev. 22: This chapter has many prophetic allusions to the new Earth: v.1 “river of the water of life” (Gen 2:10, Ps 46, Ezek. 47, Joel 3, John 4). Rev. 22:2 “tree of life” (Gen. 2, 3, and Ezek. 47). This chapter has very prominent Edenic language, yet I think that the promised land in the Exodus is very much a return to Eden. Yet, this return to Eden in Rev. 22 and 21 is eschatological and final.

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“Matthew’s Gospel asserts repeatedly that the world belongs not to Rome at Jupiter’s behest, but to God. God’s sovereign purposes are being asserted over Rome’s.” –Warren Carter [1]

What does it mean when Kingdom Language is employed in the biblical texts? We gloss over passages such as “the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15), but this language should raise at least to fundamental questions: 1. What is the Kingdom of God? 2. What is the Gospel?

1. What is the Kingdom of God?

The Kingdom of God is a concept deeply rooted in the Old Testament. We see God’s sovereignty displayed over all creation in the creation narrative (Genesis 1-2, and probably the Noahic flood should be included), his power of the evil Pharaoh in the Exodus, his covenant with Israel, and the Davidic kingdom, to list a brief few.

When we come to the New Testament we once again have a Pagan god ruling over Yahweh’s portion. We have a Caesar sitting over the kingdom of David. The Romans and their customs have been put upon Yahweh’s people. So when John comes on the scene preaching the Kingdom of God, we should not think primarily in the spiritual sense, but literally. Yahweh’s reign is at hand, and the rulers should fear and the Israelites should repent of their apostasy.

Ladd says this about the Kingdom of God, “If the Kingdom is the rule of God, then every aspect of the Kingdom must be derived from the the character and action of God. The presence of the Kingdom is to be understood from the nature of God’s present activity; and the future of the Kingdom is the redemptive manifestation of His kingly rule at the end of the age.”[2]

So, it would be safe to say, that the kingdom of God is God’s universal reign over every aspect of His creation. We also see that all of the OT kingdom concepts find their fulfillment in Messiah Jesus’ reign and with the reign of His holy church.

2. What is the Gospel?

This question requires some clarity to help us see past the modern perception. We think that the Gospel is to repent and believe in the person and work of Jesus. The problem is that the Gospel is not that. Euangelion, the word that gospel (or good news) finds it root in, is actually a term used to proclaim a victory or accomplishment (this used often in the Greek and Roman world, after they have conquered a city, etc.). So, when we hear the term gospel we should probably think more about the good news of an important victory, rather than personal conversion. Moreover, the Euangelion (good news of victory or accomplishment) would be proclaimed the keryx: “A keryx may be a town crier, an auctioneer, a herald, or anyone who lifts up his voice and claims public attention to some definite thing he has to announce [3].” This was very common in the secular world, so we must understand the meaning of gospel/good news/Euangelion in this light.

That still leaves the question though,what is the Gospel (particularly the one proclaimed by the church)? Carson rightly asserts, “Thus the gospel is not, in the first instance, the call to repentance and faith; rather, the gospel is the joyous news that grounds the call to repentance and faith. This good news is that the long-awaited kingdom, the kingdom of God, is dawning [4].” So, the Gospel is the joyous news of the Kingdom, that is the reason for man’s repentance and belief in the person and work of Jesus.

Understanding this, helps us see the need of repentance, and only then can we correctly proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. Thus, that leaves us with one last question.

3. What is the content/facts/demands of our Gospel?

Finally, if we want to stand in the line of the apostles, we must proclaim all of the following to preach the kerygma (preaching of the Apostles):

The prophecies are fulfilled, and the new Age is inaugurated by the coming of Christ.
He was born of the seed of David.
He died according to the Scriptures, to deliver us out of the present evil age.
He was buried.
He rose on the third day according to the Scriptures.
He is exalted at the right hand of God, as Son of God and Lord of quick and dead.
He will come again as Judge and Saviour of men
. [5]

Works cited:

[1] Carter, Warren. The Roman Empire and the New Testament. p.93

[2] Ladd, George Eldon. New Testament Theology. p. 79

[3] Dodd, C.H. The Apostolic Preaching and it Development. Chapter 1

[4] Carson, D.A. The Biblical Gospel. p.2

[5] Dodd, C.H. The Apostolic Preaching and it Development. Chapter 1

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Exegesis of Luke 3.1-6

Luke 3.1-6: John’s Ministry Was Paving the Way for the True King and His kingdom

Michael K. Templin

1In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” Luke 3.1-6 (ESV)


1The Gospel of Luke is the longest and most comprehensive Gospel, and I have also found it to be very political as well. The passage I am examining is Luke 3.1-14. Luke uses the political/religious situation in Rome and Israel as a backdrop for his account in chapter 3.1-2a, starting with Caesar and ending with Annas and Caiaphas (High-Priests). Then in v.2b he shows that God has interacted with John the Baptist, and from that interaction John takes on the role of the forerunner of the King, which was spoken of in Isaiah 40. From that point on, his prophetic ministry was inaugurated and put into action out in the wilderness of the Jordan (v.3). John’s ministry consisted preparing the way of the Lord and preaching a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. In his ministry he will not only call people out of their sins in preparation for a new Empire, but will pave the path for the King’s entrance into the present politico-religious reality, in which salvation will be established through God.

Historical Context

Like I stated previously, Luke was written with the backdrop of the Roman Empire. The account makes this very clear, as Rome is a common theme in the gospel. Most scholarship dates the Lukan account within the mid to late 60s AD.2 If this is the case, Luke would have been written under reign of Nero Caesar who ruled from 54 to 68 AD, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.3 the Gospel’s first audience was the “most excellent Theophilus”, who it was written to. Many have speculated that this man himself was someone in power (Most Excellent was and is today used for some one of prestige and power). The passage that I have chosen (Luke 3.1-6) was taking place during a time of much political and Religious turmoil. For one you had a Roman ruling Israel, when YHWH’s Anointed was supposed to be their king ( (2 Samuel 7:8-16), but all of that was about to change.

Luke 3.1

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar”

Tiberius Caesar was the King of Rome from 14 to 37 AD.4 So, this would put this specific passage in the time frame of either 28 or 29 AD. Tiberius reigned after the famed Augustus Caesar. He was also the “Princept (Prince) of Peace”, the “Son of God”, and “King of the World.”5 This is very interesting when we see these same titles being attributed to Jesus of Nazareth, when they are used for the Caesars.

Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea”

Pilate was Prefect of Judea from 26 to 36 AD.6 He would have governed the province in Palestine from the Herodian built Caesarea Maritime, on the Mediterranean coast.7 Early critical scholarship claimed that this man was a creation of the early Christians, but archeology at Caesarea Maritime has validated his existence, which gives further credit to the gospel accounts.

and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene”

Herod was the son of Herod the Great, the hated king of of Israel. He ruled in the regions of Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 29 AD (thus further validating the date of the crucifixion in 29 AD).8 The text also claims that he was tetrarch, “to rule a fourth part of a region, eventually used of a ruler whose rank and authority were lower than a king”9 Philip ruled a minor territory, Trachonitis, which is south of Damascus until his death in 34 AD.10 Iturea on the other hand was centered in Lebanon. Finally, we come to Lysanias. He poses a bit of a problem though, for we are not to certain about anything concerning Lysanias.11 Abilene was directly west of Damascus.12

Luke 3.2

during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas”

Annas was High Priest from 6 to 15 AD, which is before the time of Caiaphas’ Priesthood and John the Baptist’s ministry. This posses a problem since Caiaphas would have been High Priest (18-37 AD) during the time frame of the narrative, but Green handles it well, “His (Annas) near-dynastic control of the office would have signified his overpowering influence”.13 So, it is primarily because of his mighty influence that he is mentioned, not because there were two High Priests. In the Jewish world the High Priest would be unrivaled with power and prestige during this time, they were the ones who “controlled” the Temple of YHWH.14

the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

It is here, that I believe Luke makes a sharp contrast between the rulers and religious leaders in vs.1-2a with John who had received the word of God. John of course is the cousin of Jesus, whom was prophesied of by Gabriel to his father Zechariah, was promised the Holy Spirit, and given a task to bring the wicked hearts of the unjust, and the children of Israel back to the Lord in anticipation of their coming King (Luke 1). So Luke sets up chapter 3 with the political and religious state of the World (Rome) and Israel, building upon the background of this new king (Jesus) and his Spirit-filled forerunner John the Baptizer, whom he established in chap. 1 and 2. Thus what the narrative promised, has come to fruition in Chap 3 and verse 2a. There are a few question we must ask the text at this point:

What is the word of God?

First and foremost, I think this is his prophetic call in which we see him start in v.3-6.. Preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (v.3). And of course preparing the King’s highway, IE his Isaianic mission (Is 40.3-5). Nolland believes this is also a reference to the OT concept of the Spirit of God coming upon a person (Num 24.2, Judg 3.10, and 1 Kings 19.23-24).15

Who is John? Explained above.

The Son of Zechariah?

I do not find it surprising that Luke includes Zechariah in the account. First of all Luke includes him at the beginning of v.5 of chap of 1. The text claims that Zechariah is a priest in the division of Abidja, his wife Elizabeth was from the lineage of Aaron, they were blameless and righteous before God, he had been miraculously visited by an angel (Gabriel) promising him a son though they were both barren,he was punished for his disbelief (made mute) and then miraculously received his voice back when the time of John had come. With all of this baggage Zechariah and Elizabeth would be quite famous in the Jewish world, thus his name before John could be used as a credential.

in the wilderness?

The wilderness here is clearly the Judean wilderness around the river Jordan. Dr. Nolland believes this is significant because its a unique location for the prophets call, and the location identifies John with his echatological ministry for the renewal of Israel.16 As pointed out by a student at Criswell, the 12 stones from the Jordon (Josh 4.20) might be a parallel to this passage, especially when John says, “For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” in v.8.17 Also, a major position is that John had in some way aligned himself with the wilderness dwelling Essene community, a sect of Jewish separatist who were awaiting their “Teacher of Righteousness”18. This could be an explanation for the fact that Luke positions John in wilderness prior to his reception of the word of God. Yet, the text could easily answer the question of the wilderness, with the fact that it is where John’s baptism is to take place (v.3), and where Jesus was to be tempted by Satan (chap. 4). Of course we must also keep an Exodus theme in our minds when reading the text, because first century Jews would have clearly associated the Jordan wilderness with this theme.

Luke 3.3

And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”

First of all we must address the question of baptism. What was it? From my studies in Jewish history, I have ran into the fact that baptism was prior to John and even in some sense is practiced in non-messianic Jewish culture to this day. It is simply the covering of a person with water or a ritual bath, also called a mikvah. Joel Green summarized a three-fold explanation of this passage, “First John’s baptism is necessarily qualified as a repentance-baptism, so that his proclamation and baptism are inseparably connected. He thus follows biblical precedent in insisting on the correlation of cleansing and moral rectitude. Second, his emphasis on repentance signal his understanding that the status quo of his socio-historical environment has been found wanting. As such, his message constitutes a prophetic appeal for people to turn their backs on previous loyalties and align themselves with God’s purpose. Third, by definition the forgiveness of sins has a profound communal dimension; as sin is the means by which persons exclude themselves from community…so forgiveness marks their restoration”19 This idea truly flows well with the narrative: a restoration of the community of God by the forgiveness of sins, and a realignment/new Loyalty to God.

As we saw earlier, Luke placed John in contrast with the corrupt ruling and religious powers of the world (vs. 1-3). I also think it it is note worthy to mention that John was in the wilderness prior to the word of God coming upon him, which is very important when you step back and analyze the Essene community who had also shifted their loyalty back to God and had withdrawn from the corruption of the Roman controlled Jerusalem. If John was a part of their community, he too would have been doing the same thing. Thus with his calling to baptize, we are seeing people leave their former loyalties: whether to Caesar, a corrupted Jewish religion, or even paganism, and aligning themselves with God in preparation of the true King Jesus’ coming reign.

Luke 3.4a

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet”

We now see John take on the role of the messianic “forerunner” in Isaiah. The text Luke is about to quote is Isaiah 40.3-5. I find it interesting that the Essenes had already adopted this text as their mission,20so this might further tighten the relationship with John and their community. Whether or not it does, it does seem to show us that this Isaianic passage has some sort of apocalyptic or eschatological value to the people in first century Judaism.

Luke 3.4b-6

Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Nolland believes that the use of this text is drawing a picture of the eschatological coming of Jesus.21I think he is definitly on to something. You have John who is out is the wilderness drawing people out to join him, and he is preparing the straight and perfect path for the Messiah. I think it is also relevant, keeping with the seemingly political undercurrent flowing through Luke that this is the King’s Highway that is being prepared, “ετοιμασατε την οδον κυριου (prepare(ing) the way of the Kyrios or Lord)”. In its original context there is no doubt that the Lord here would have been seen as the covenant God of Israel, but we see a deeper meaning in the Greco-Roman world were the Kyrios (Lord) is king Caesar! I personally think there are two key theological aspects to the usage of this passage: 1. This future King Jesus has been elevated or will be elevated to the level of God Almighty. 2. There is a new king (Jesus) who trumps Caesar’s reign and all the community, even the employees of Caesar are coming out to John (3.12-14) to take part in this new King’s reign. Green further validates my point by claiming, “by Lord we now understand this as Jesus”22

This text also has eschatological salvation in mind as well, “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God”. So with this coming king that John was paving the way for, all flesh would see the salvation of God. So, we are now seeing the bigger picture: Rome and corrupt Israel are the current situation, yet the word of God came upon John as was promised, he is calling men from from their sinful loyalties to current evil system by a baptism of repentance unto a new allegiance with this coming king (that was promised earlier in the narrative), and what John is doing is preparing the King’s highway, on which the Kyrios will come fourth and establish his reign as God’s anointed King. This is a beautiful picture of the reversal of evil with goodness, and a picture of a coming redemption! Green notes that, “John’s ministry may have been more narrowly directed towards Israel, but it is part of God’s larger project of bringing redemption to all humanity”23


The point of the text is clear: John the baptist was set apart supernaturally for a ministry that began the reconciliation of the world to their future King. The current agenda of Caesar and his puppets that ruled not only the world, but Jerusalem the footstool of God and the residing place of the throne of David, was being attacked by the baptizing of John. John called people out of that dying strong-hold and baptized them to set them apart for the immanent coming of the Lord, that Isaiah had spoken of. So, not only was John’s ministry political, but it was eschatological. John’s calling was the gateway for the Gospel of God and Kingdom of God that we see all through out the gospels: through which Jesus the “Messiah, King of the World, King of the Jews, Son of David, Prince of Peace, Kyrios and God”, would bring redemption to mankind and also the fall of Rome (kingdom of Satan) for a better kingdom (Kingdom of God), one that is everlasting!

So repent of your sins, turn your allegiance to God, and trust in Jesus. That is what is applicable for today. The Kingdom of God is in our midst! Are you apart of it?


Bovon, Francois, Luke 1 A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 1.1-9.50 (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Augsburg Frotress, 2002).

Green, Joel B., The Gospel of Luke (NICNT; Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1997).

Gundry, Robert H., A Survey of the New Testament Third Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994)

Heibert, D. Edmond, An Introduction to the New Testament (Waynesboro: Gabriel Publishing, 2003).

Nolland, John, Luke 1-9:20 (Word Biblical Commentary; Dallas: Word, 1989)

Wright, N.T., The New Testament and the People of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God; London: SPCK, 1992)

1Hiebert p. 124

2Hiebert p. 138-9

3Gundry List the dates of the Caesars on p.30 and 31

4Gundry p. 30

5Kirk Spencer “Lecture on the Ancient World”

6Nolland p. 139

7Kirk Spencer “Lecture on the Ancient World”

8Nolland p.139

9Green p.168

10Nolland p.139

11Bovon p.120

12Nolland p.140

13Green p.169

14Green p.169

15Nolland p.140

16Nolland p.140

17Michael Cooper

18N.T. Wright p.203 to 209

19Green p. 170-171

20Bovon p.121

21Nolland p.171

22Green p.171

23Nolland p.171

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The Doxology of Jude

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 24-25 NIV

In the epistle of Jude, a letter supposedly written by Jude the brother of Christ (Mark 6.3. Matt 13.55), yet from the text all we really gather is that he is a Ιησου Χριστου δουλος (slave of Jesus Christ) , and the αδελφος δε Ιακωβου (brother of Jakob/James). So, setting that and the many other textual-critical issues aside (I will be addressing these thing thoroughly, when I start my commentary on Jude in the next few weeks) as of now, I want to shed light on one of the most beautiful doxologies in all of scripture, which is in an often “forgotten” book of the bible.

In Jude you have one of the many doxologies in the new testament. Many letters end in a benediction, but Jude ends like a liturgical sermon. My goal here today is not exposition or exegesis, but just to warm your heart with a beautiful declaration of the glory of Christ, and the promise of His power to preserve his chosen. Please read and worship our Lord…hope you are blessed!

Blessings in Christ, the One who can keep you from falling, and present you before his glory without blemish,


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