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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol IX:
Epistle to Gregory and Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John.: Chapter XXIII

Early Church Fathers  Index     

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

But Heracleon declares the words, “There standeth one among you,” to be equivalent to “He is already here, and He is in the world and in men, and He is already manifest to you all.”  By this He does away with the meaning which is also present in the words, that the Word had permeated the whole world.  For we must say to him, When is He not present, and when is He not in the world?  Does not this Gospel say, “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.”  And this is why those to whom the Logos is He “whom you know not,” do not know Him:  they have never gone out of the world, but the world does not know Him.  But at what time did He cease to be among men?  Was He not in Isaiah, when He said, 4916 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me,” and 4917 “I became manifest to those who sought me not.”  Let them say, too, if He was not in David when he said, not from himself, 4918 “But I was established by Him a p. 370 king in Zion His holy hill,” and the other words spoken in the Psalms in the person of Christ.  And why should I go over the details of this proof, truly they are hard to be numbered, when I can show quite clearly that He was always in men?  And that is enough to show Heracleon’s interpretation of “There standeth in the midst of you,” to be unsound, when he says it is equivalent to “He is already here, and He is in the world and in men.”  We are disposed to agree with him when he says that the words, “Who cometh after me,” show John to be the forerunner of Christ, for he is in fact a kind of servant running before his master.  The words, however, “Whose shoe-latchet I am not worthy to unloose,” receive much too simple an interpretation when it is said that “in these words the Baptist confesses that he is not worthy even of the least honourable ministration to Christ.”  After this interpretation he adds, not without sense, “I am not worthy that for my sake He should come down from His greatness and should take flesh as His footgear, concerning which I am not able to give any explanation or description, nor to unloose the arrangement of it.”  In understanding the world by his shoe, Heracleon shows some largeness of mind, but immediately after he verges on impiety in declaring that all this is to be understood of that person whom John here has in his mind.  For he considers that it is the demiurge of the world who confesses by these words that he is a lesser person than the Christ; and this is the height of impiety.  For the Father who sent Him, He who is the God of the living as Jesus Himself testifies, of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, and He who is greater than heaven and earth for the reason that He is the Maker of them, He also alone is good and is greater than He who was sent by Him.  And even if, as we said, Heracleon’s idea was a lofty one, that the whole world was the shoe of Jesus, yet I think we ought not to agree with him.  For how can it be harmonized with such a view, that “Heaven is My throne and the earth My footstool,” a testimony which Jesus accepts as said of the Father? 4919   “Swear not by heaven,” He says, “for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet.”  How, if he takes the whole world to be the shoe of Jesus, can he also accept the text, 4920 “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” saith the Lord.  It is also worth while to enquire, whether as the Word and wisdom permeated the whole world, and as the Father was in the Son, the words are to be understood as above or in this way, that He who first of all was girded about with the whole creation, in addition to the Son’s being in Him, granted to the Saviour, as being second after Him and being God the Word, to pervade the whole creation.  To those who have it in them to take note of the uninterrupted movement of the great heaven, how it carries with it from East to West so great a multitude of stars, to them most of all it will seem needful to enquire what that force is, how great and of what nature, which is present in the whole world.  For to pronounce that force to be other than the Father and the Son, that perhaps might be inconsistent with piety.



Isa. lxi. 1.


Isa. lxv. 1.


Ps. ii. 6.


Matt. 5:34, 35.


Jer. xxiii. 24.

Next: Chapter XXIV

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