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Preface to the Gospel of John
by Blessed Theophylact

The strength of the Holy Spirit is made perfect in weakness (II Cor. 12:9): so it is written and so we believe. It is made perfect in weakness of the body, and especially in feebleness of understanding (logos) and of speech. This has been proven time and again, but nowhere so clearly as in the life of John, the great theologian and brother of Christ by grace. John was a fisherman and the son of a fisherman, not just ignorant of higher Greek and Judaic learning, but completely illiterate, as the divine Luke says in the book of Acts (4:3). His native town, Bethsaida, was lowly and obscure: a “place of fishing,” not of learning. Behold how a man like this—unlettered, unknown, and insignificant—acquired such spiritual power that he thundered forth doctrines taught by none of the other Evangelists. Their Gospels dealt with the life of Christ in the flesh and made no clear declaration of His existence before the ages. From this arose the danger that certain contemptible men, with minds fixed on the physical world and unable to comprehend anything exalted, would imagine that Christ first came into existence when He was born of Mary, and that He was not begotten of the Father before all ages. Paul of Samosata fell to exactly that temptation. Realizing this, the great John clearly set forth the spiritual begetting of Christ, without neglecting to record that the Word was made flesh (Jn 1:14). Some maintain that the Orthodox—the rightly believing Christians—asked John to write about Christ’s eternal generation in order to refute certain heretics who had already begun to teach that the Saviour was merely a man. It is also said that when the saint read the books of the other Evangelists, he marveled at the accuracy of their narratives on every point, and judged them to be sound and unbiased towards any of the apostles. But what the other Evangelists had not stated clearly, or had omitted, John clarified, developed, or added to his own Gospel, which he wrote thirty-two years after the Ascension of Christ, while living in exile on the island of Patmos. The Lord loved John more than any of the disciples, because of his simplicity, meekness and goodness, and especially because he was a virgin and pure of heart. It was on account of his purity in particular that John was entrusted with the gift of theology. Blessed are the pure in heart, the Lord says, for they shall see God (Mt 5:8); and, indeed, John delighted in mysteries which most men do not perceive.

John was related to Jesus, in the following manner. Joseph, the Betrothed of the most pure Theotokos, had seven children by his previous wife—four sons, and three daughters whose names were Martha, Esther, and Salome. John was the son of Salome; therefore, Jesus was John’s uncle. Because Salome was the daughter of Joseph—the “father of the Lord”—she was considered to be the Lord’s sister; and her son, John, the Lord’s nephew. Salome means “peaceful“; John means “the grace of her.” May every soul understand that Christ’s peace, which is offered to all men, calms the passions of the soul, and gives birth to divine grace within us. But a soul in turmoil, always battling with others and with itself, cannot be counted worthy of divine grace. Consider another marvelous thing about John. Only he is said to have three mothers: first, Salome, his natural mother; second, thunder, for he is a son of thunder (Mk 3:17), on account of his powerful proclamation of the Gospel ; and third, Mary, the Theotokos, concerning whom the Lord said to John, Behold thy mother (Jn 19:27).

And now, let us begin the explanation of John’s Gospel.

Read Selections from The Explanation | Order the English Edition
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