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Bible Commentaries
John 20

Haydock's Catholic Bible CommentaryHaydock's Catholic Commentary

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Verse 1

As our Saviour had been interred in great haste, the holy women who had before accompanied Jesus in all his journeys, brought perfumes to embalm his sacred body again, in a manner more proper, than Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had been able to do before. St. John makes mention of Mary Magdalene only, because it was his intention to give a particular relation of all that she did: but we learn from the other evangelists, that there were three holy women at the sepulchre together, viz. Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome. (Calmet) --- This was on the first day of the week, the morrow of the sabbath. (Bible de Vence) --- Christ rose again, leaving the stone and seals still lying on the sepulchre. But as this was to be believed by others also, after the resurrection, the tomb was opened, and thus the belief of what had taken place, propagated. This it was that struck Magdalene; for as soon as she saw the stone rolled from the sepulchre, without entering, or even looking into it, she immediately ran, in the ardour fo her affection, to carry the news to the disciples. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. lxxxiv. in Joan.)

Verse 5

He saw the linen cloths lying. St. John Chrysostom takes notice, that Christ’s body being buried with myrrh, the linen would stick as fast to the body as pitch, so that it would be impossible to steal, or take away the body without the linen cloths. (Witham)

Verse 8

He saw and believed. He did not yet believe that Jesus was risen from the dead, because he was still ignorant that he was to rise from the dead. For although the apostles had so often heard their divine Master speak in the most plain terms of his resurrection, still being so much accustomed to parables, they did not understand, and imagined something else was meant by these words. (St. Augustine, tract. 120. in Joan.)

Verse 14

It may be asked, why Magdalene, after putting the question to the angels, turns around, without waiting for the answer. No doubt, as soon as she had spoken, the heavenly messengers perceived their Lord behind Mary, and by their looks and actions, gave her to understand that they beheld their Lord. This caused her immediately to look behind her. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. lxxxv. in Joan.)

Verse 15

If thou hast taken him away. Thinking him, as the evangelist remarks, to be the gardener, how comes it, that without saying whom she sought, she asks if he had taken him away? Because such was the ardour of her love, that she could not imagine any one could think of any other but him, of whom her own mind was so full. (St. Gregory, hom. xxv. in Evan.)

Verse 16

Jesus saith to her, Mary. Magdalene, now in grief and tears, knew not Jesus, till he called upon her by her name, and with his usual voice: then with joy, she cried out, Rabboni, Master. And Jesus saith to her, touch me not, &c. The meaning of which words seems to be: I am not yet leaving thee, nor ascending to the Father, so that thou mayest have time enough to embrace my feet afterwards; now go to my disciples, &c. (Witham) --- Magdalene, having inquired where he had placed him, appears to have turned towards the angels, to inquire the cause of the awe and reverence she had observed in them. Upon this, Jesus calls upon her by name, and she, turning again towards him, discovers him by his voice. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. lxxxv. in Joan.)

Verse 17

I will not leave you again; be not in a hurry to touch me; you shall all have this pleasure. I will remain with you some time, before my ascension. Announce my resurrection to my apostles. You shall see me again. This is the interpretation most modern commentators put upon this place. Others suppose, that Magdalene imagined he was risen from the dead to live with men as before, like Lazarus. He addresses these words to her to disabuse her of this notion. (Calmet)

Verse 19

And the doors were[1] shut, or being shut; and remaining still shut, his glorified body entered by penetration through the doors, as he did at his resurrection. Maldonatus take notice, that Calvin was the first that denied this, against the belief of all the ancient Fathers and interpreters, who call this a miracle of divine power. (Witham) --- The same power which could bring Christ’s whole body, entire in all its dimensions, through the doors, can, without the least question, make the same body really present in the sacrament; though both the one and the other be above our comprehension. (Challoner) --- Therefore it is a want of faith to limit the power of Christ, by the ordinary rules of place, and to deny that he can be in the blessed Sacrament, and on so many altars as he pleaseth. We do not still join the Ubiquists or Brentiani, who, quite contrary to the Zuinglians, maintain, that the humanity of Jesus Christ is in every place where his divinity is. This is contrary to faith. (Bristow)



29. Cum fores essent clausæ: januis clausis, Greek: ton thuron kekleismenon. See St. Ambrose, in Psal. cxviii.; St. Augustine, tract. 121. in Joan. De Agone Christiano, chap. 24. 4. 6. p. 257. Epist. ad Volusianum. t. 3. p. 405, where he says, demus Deum aliquid posse, quod nos fateamur investigare non posse. In talibus rebus tota ratio facti est potentia facientis. See St. Cyril on this place, lib. xii. p. 1092, 1103, and 1107. St. John Chrysostom, hom. lxxxv. p. 315. Lat. Ed. and hom. lxxxvii. Ed. Ben. p. 520, Greek: to gar outo lepton kai kouphon os kekleismenon eiselthein ton thuron. &c. See St. Jerome, ad Eustochium in Epitaph. Paulæ. t. 4. p. 685. and lib. i. cont. Jovin. t. 4. p. 178; St. Leo, serm. i. de Resurr.; St. Epiphanius, her. lxiv. p. 593. Ed. Petav. &c.

Verse 21

As the Father hath sent me. The word mission, when applied to our Saviour Christ, sometimes signifies his eternal procession from the Father, and sometimes his mission, as he was sent into the world to become man, and the Redeemer of mankind: the first mission agrees with him, as the eternal Son of God; the second, as man, or as both God and man. The mission which Christ here gives his apostles, is like this latter mission, which this great difference, that graces and divine gifts were bestowed on Christ, even as man, without measure: and the apostles had a much lesser share in both these missions. See St. Augustine, lib. iv. de Trin. chap. xix. xx. tom. 4. p. 829. and seq. (Witham) --- Jesus Christ here shews his commission, and so giveth power to his apostles to forgive sins, as when he gave them commission to preach and baptize throughout the world, he made mention of his own power. Hence, whosoever denies the apostles, and their successors, the right of preaching, baptizing, and remitting sins, must consequently deny that Christ, as man, had the power to do the same. St. Cyprian, in the 3rd century, ep. lxxiii. says: "for the Lord, in the first place, gave to St. Peter, on whom he built his Church, super quem ædificavit Ecclesiam, the power that what he loosed on earth, should be loosed also in heaven. And after his resurrection, he speaks also to his apostles, saying, as the Father sent me, &c. whose sins you shall forgive," &c. Why, on this occasion, passing over the other apostles, does Jesus Christ address Peter alone? Because he was the mouth, and chief of the apostles. (St. John Chrysostom, de Sacerd. lib. ii. chap. 1.)

Verse 22

Receive ye the Holy Ghost. It was said, (John vii. 39.) that the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not glorified. The sense must need be, that the holy Spirit was not given in that solemn manner, nor with so large an effusion of spiritual gifts and graces, till the day of Pentecost, after Christ’s ascension: but the just, at all times, from the beginning of the world, were sanctified by the grace of the Holy Ghost, as no doubt the apostles were, before this time. Now at this present, he gave them the power of forgiving sins. (Witham) --- Some say, that our Saviour did not then confer the Holy Ghost on his disciples, but only prepared them for the receiving of the Holy Ghost. But surely we may understand, that even then they received some portion of spiritual grace, the power, not indeed of raising the dead, and working other miracles, but of forgiving sins. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. lxxxv. in Joan.) --- St. Cyril of Alexandria, speaking of the remission of sins, promised in this text, asks, "How then, or why, did Christ impart to his disciples a power, which belongs to the divine Spirit, should likewise possess the power of forgiving sins, and of retaining such as they judged expedient; that Holy Spirit, according to his good pleasure, forgiving and retaining, through the ministry of men." (In Joan. lib. xii. chap. 1.)

Verse 23

Whose sins you shall forgive,[2] &c. These words clearly express the power of forgiving sins, which, as God, he gave to his apostles, and to their successors, bishops and priests, to forgive sins in his name, as his ministers, and instruments, even though they are sinners themselves. For in this, they act not by their own power, nor in their own name, but in the name of God, who as the principal cause, always remitteth sins. This is generally allowed to be done by God’s ministers in the sacrament of baptism, as to the remission of original sin; and the Catholic Church has always held the same of God’s ministers, in the sacrament of penance. (See the Protestant Common Prayer Book, in the Visitation of the Sick.) --- Whose sins you shall retain, they are retained: by which we see, that to priests is given a power to be exercised, not only by forgiving, but also by retaining; not only by absolving and loosing, but also by binding, by refusing, or deferring absolution, according to the dispositions that are found in sinners, when they accuse themselves of their sins. From hence must needs follow an obligation on the sinner’s part, to declare, and confess their sins in particular, to the ministers of God, who are appointed the spiritual judges, and physicians of their souls. A judge must know the cause, and a physician the distemper: the one to pronounce a just sentence, the other to prescribe suitable remedies. (Witham) --- See here the commission, stamped by the broad seal of heaven, by virtue of which, the pastors of Christ’s Church absolve repenting sinners upon their confession. (Challoner)



[27.] Whose sins you shall forgive, &c. See St. Cyril, lib. xii. in Joan. p. 1101, Greek: metanoousi sugginoskontes. St. John Chrysostom, hom. lxxxvi. p. 517. nov. Ed., Magna est sacerdotum dignitas, quorum remiseritis peccata, &c. See also lib. iii. de sacerd. t. 1. p. 383. nov. Ed. Ibid., noli esse incredulus, sed fidelis, Greek: kai me ginou apistos, alla pistos.


Verse 24

Thomas ... was not with them. Yet no doubt the like power of forgiving sins was given to him, either at this time or afterwards. See St. Cyril. (Witham)

Verse 25

I will not believe. St. Cyril thinks, that the grief and trouble St. Thomas was under, might partly excuse his want of belief: however, we may take notice with St. Gregory, the his backwardness in believing, was permitted for the good of Christians in general, that thereby they might be more convinced of Christ’s resurrection. (Witham) --- The doubts of St. Thomas are of greater advantage to the strengthening of our faith, than the ready belief of the rest of the apostles. For when he proceeded to touch, to assure his faith, our minds, laying aside every, even the least doubt, are firmly established in faith. (St. Gregory the Great)

Verse 27

Put in thy finger hither. Christ, to shew he knew all things, made use of the very same words in which St. Thomas had expressed his incredulous dispositions. Our blessed Redeemer would have the mark of the spear, and the prints of the nails to remain in his glorified body, to convince them it was the same body: and that they might be for ever marks of his victory and triumph over sin and the devil. The evangelist does not say, that St. Thomas went and touched Christ’s body, though it is very probable he did as he was ordered. But how could a body that entered in, when the doors were shut, be felt, or be palpable? St. John Chrysostom[2] answers, that Christ at that time permitted his body to be palpable, and to resist another body, to induce St. Thomas to believe the resurrection; and that when he pleased, his body could not be felt. In like manner, his body was either visible or invisible, as he had a will it should be. In fine, he could eat in their sight, though he stood not in need of any nourishment. See St. Augustine.

Be not incredulous, but faithful. In the Greek, be not an unbeliever, but a believer. --- My Lord, and my God; that is, I confess thee to be my Lord, and my God; and with the Greek article, to be him, that is, the Lord, and the God. (Witham)

Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on John 20". "Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hcc/john-20.html. 1859.
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