Christ, the Beginning of Creation – Part IV

Christ, the Beginning of Creation – Part IV

by Fr. Maximilian M. Dean

[To see the full article on one page visit Appendix: Christ the Beginning]

“Principium, qui et loquor vobis!” (Jn 8:25)

The Evangelist recounts that Jesus, after having forgiven the woman caught in adultery, gave witness to Himself. He even says to them: “if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sin” (Jn 8:24 – the Latin is stronger: si enim non credideritis quia ego sum moriemini in peccato vestro – literally, if you do not believe that I AM you will die in your sin). At this the Pharisees counter by asking: “Who art Thou?” And He responds to them: [I AM…] “The beginning, who also speak unto you” (This is the translation of the Douay-Rheims Bible which most accurately reflects the Greek:  τὴν ἀρχὴν ὅ τι καὶ λαλῶ ὑμῖν  and Latin: Principium, qui et loquor vobis). His response is a profound and mysterious revelation of Himself which has no equal.

Augustine, when He comments on this, says: “They respond… ‘Who art Thou?’ By saying to us: ‘if you do not believe that I AM,’ you have not added who you are. You have to tell us who You are if you want us to believe… ‘I AM,’ He says, ‘The Beginning, who also speak unto you.’ Believe that I am the Beginning, if you do not want to die in your sins.”[1] The Seraphic Doctor states: “Before all else He is the Creator, hence Jesus calls Himself: the Beginning, that is, I am the creative Principal/Beginning; from Him all things have received their existence, as is said in the first Chapter [of John’s Gospel]: ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ from which follows: ‘All things were made through Him’ (1:1,3).”[2]

Therefore, it is Jesus Himself who maintains that He is the creative Beginning/Principal [Latin: Principium – Greek: tèn archèn – τὴν ἀρχὴν]. With this self revelation Christ has consigned to us the key to grasping the most authentic and profound meaning of the Prologue: I, the Word made flesh who am speaking with you, am the Beginning in which everything was created.

Augustine confirms this: “The world was created before man, and therefore man is part of the world. But Christ existed before and the world came after Him. Christ was before the world, but before Christ nothing existed because ‘in the beginning was the Word’; and ‘All things were made through Him’ (Jn 1:1,3).”[3]

For the Jews Jesus was demanding a great act of faith because He was not speaking to them abstractly, or in a metaphysical mode, but rather He was linking Himself concretely with the first words of the Hebrew Scriptures which begins with: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָֽרֶץ – “In the beginning God created” (Gen 1:1). That Jesus was referring to the first words of Genesis can also be solidly established from other Gospel passages where, for example, He says: “You search the Scriptures, because in them you think that you have life everlasting. And it is they that bear witness to Me… For if you believed Moses you would believe in Me also, for he wrote of Me” (Jn 5:39,46). And along the road to Emmaus St. Luke recounts: “And beginning then with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things referring to Himself” (Lk 24:27).

The words of Messiah – the Christ – narrated in Psalm 39 are worthy of our reflection. The Messiah says: “In capite libri scriptum est di Me,” that is, “In the head of the book it is written of Me” (v.8). The “head of the book” means the beginning of the Torah or Pentateuch where we read, “In the beginning God created.” From this Psalm and its interpretation in the Scripture itself (cfr. Heb 1:5-10),[4] Christ tells us that the first lines of Genesis spoke of Him.[5]

To be continued…

[1] Augustine, work cited., 38, n.11 (p.646-647); cfr. Also De civitate Dei, XI, n.32 (PL 41, 345).

[2] Bonaventure, work cited, I, VIII, n.35 (p.401).

[3] Augustine, work cited, 38, n.4 (p.639).

[4] That these are the words of Christ there can be no doubt as the Holy Spirit Himself confirms this in the Letter to the Hebrews 10:5-10.

[5] Cfr. Jerome (pseudo), Brevarium in Psalmos, 39 (PL 26, 1002): Caput libri V. T. tale sumit exordium ‘In principio fecit…’ (Gn 1,1), id est in Christo Domino”.