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Nonnus of Nisibis, Commentary on the Gospel of Saint John

Nonnus of Nisibis, Commentary on the Gospel of Saint John

Translation of the Armenian Text with Introduction and Commentary by Robert W. Thomson
  • Book Info
    Nonnus of Nisibis, Commentary on the Gospel of Saint John
    Book Description:

    A new English translation of the first text translated from Arabic to Armenian for research and classroom use

    Robert W. Thomson translates this ninth-century commentary defending the miaphysite theological position of the Armenian church against the chalcedonian position of the Greek Byzantine church. Nonnus's exegesis of the gospel falls in the context of trends in Eastern Christian biblical exposition, primarily the Syrian tradition. Therefore, Thomson emphasizes the parallels in Syriac commentaries on the book of John, noting also earlier Greek writers whose works were influential in Syria. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the Armenian church and church history.


    Introductory material on the text's history, manuscript traditions, and theological importanceTranslation of the Armenian text and commentaryBibliography covering the Armenian, Greek, Syriac, and Arabic texts as well as secondary sources

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-988-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Robert W. Thomson
  3. Transcription
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Series Editor’s Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    James T. Robinson

    In the Islamic world, from the ninth to the thirteenth century, there was a burgeoning of interest in the Bible. It was in Islamic Tiberias that the first critical edition of the Hebrew Bible—the Masoretic text—was produced, yet this is only one of many achievements during this extraordinarily productive era. In Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, North Africa, and Spain Jews, Christians, and Samaritans produced multiple, often competing translations of the Bible into Arabic. They also penned hundreds of linear, verse-by-verse, word-by-word commentaries, written from multiple perspectives and representing different traditions. This focus on the Bible generated a...

  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xlvi)

    By the year 800 the church in Armenia had long since broken communion with the Greek Byzantine church, primarily over the nature of Christ as defined by the Council of Chalcedon (“one person in two natures, human and divine”), and had forged its own independent identity in matters liturgical, doctrinal, canonical, and historiographical. Although the Council of Chalcedon—the fourth of the councils called ecumenical since they involved the whole empire, theoikoumenē—had been held back in 451, the Eastern Christian world remained in turmoil over its christological definition for more than two centuries thereafter. In Armenia the process...

  7. Translation of the Armenian Text with Commentary

    • Nanay the Syrian Teacher: Introduction to the Commentary on John the Evangelist
      (pp. 1-8)

      There is nothing more desirable than the fulfillment of friends’ intense wishes, thereby to strengthen all the more the bond of divine love, and to draw into ourselves the immeasurable profit that derives from it, in accordance with the commandment:Love hides a multitude of sins(1 Pet 4:8). Now, if one undertakes a friend’s request that is an impossible task, see what doubts and grief he raises even for his friend. If anyone indicates to his friend that he will travel to the ends of India on a quest for the glittering topaz, or will attempt the depths of...

    • John 1
      (pp. 9-36)

      At the beginning of our discourse we must indicate the exceeding wisdom of the evangelist, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, how in the introduction he expounds the uncreatednessiof the Son by saying in his preliminary words:In the beginningiiwas the Word. What by this way did he reveal, save to show that the Word existed at the beginning of time, when God predetermined to create heaven and earth and the creatures in them; and not in accordance with the history of Moses, in the beginning creatures were to receive the origin of their existence and the Word...

    • John 2
      (pp. 37-48)

      These things we described previously, the third day not being placed in proper order, but as the fifth.iBut because the other evangelists described it remembering the days, and John explains the reasons omitted by them of the individual days, we have placed it a little earlier.The mother of Jesus was there, so that she might show that the summons to the wedding was not a haphazard event but one of God’s¹ providential administration. The going to the wedding is an indication of such humility that the high-minded never show to their servants. But [it was] in order to...

    • John 3
      (pp. 49-72)

      He indicates his coming to Jerusalem. This is the one who offered so much myrrh and aloes at the time of the burial for the care of Christ’s body.iNow his coming at night was because of fear of the Jews.

      If you confess me, he says, as a true teacher and instructor sent from God and a teacher,ias you say, and for that reason you came so that I might make the truth known to you, whereby you will be able to approach God, it is necessary for you to learn as follows: that you must confess me...

    • John 4
      (pp. 73-96)

      He said this concerning the calumniating³ Jews, who continually tried to fabricate some charges against him and to move the Sadduceesiand all the people to hatred of the Savior, just as later they came and offered false witness.

      Why did he leave Judea? Not through fear of the Sadducees; for unless he himself had wished, they would never have been able to harm him. It is clear that he often passed through the midst of those who planned to lay hands on him, and he was able to do the same here. But see how he arranges everything to...

    • John 5
      (pp. 97-122)

      Which feast would this be, save the one after Passover, when they ate the lamb, that they celebrated after ten days, that was called Feast of Tabernacles?iIt is clear that the evangelist mentioned that feast also on which they sacrificed the lamb, which they always celebrated in accordance with the Egyptian command. Why, then, did the Savior go up to Jerusalem for the feasts? Because of the nations that gathered for the feast, so that there he might carry out his teaching² and signs in front of all the nationsiiand reprimand the calumny of the Jews who said...

    • John 6
      (pp. 123-154)

      Why did the evangelist relate this, save to illustrate his going for the second time from Jerusalem to Galilee of Tiberias in order to perform there frequent signs and miracles; and because the going of such a multitude of people from Jerusalem was not for the sake of the faith and following the truth but merely to be amazed at the sight of the miracles? People are accustomed to rush when they hear that some novel¹ working of miracles occurs somewhere. But they did not follow [him] for the sake of faith or following the truth.

      These [words] were related...

    • John 7
      (pp. 155-174)

      Do not be distressed at such a thing,¹ that for fear of the Jews he did not wish to go around in Judea, because they were seeking to kill him. Why was he frightened, he who² many times when they had wished to arrest him had passed through their midst, being veiled from their eyes? And would not he who raised the dead and calmed the sea (Matt 8:26; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:22), have been able to save himself from them? It was not for that reason, but lest by saving himself from them by force, he might bring them...

    • John 8
      (pp. 175-196)

      How would this be appropriate for their remarks, except because they were always repeatingGalileeand that he was from there, because they despised Galilee¹ and counted it² as nothing? Just as Nathaniel had said,Is it possible for anything good to come from Galilee?here they said³ the same:A prophet does not arise from Galilee(John 1:46; 7:52). Consequently he adds⁴ something very important to the same, saying,I am the light of the world. It seems to me that in reproaching them he is introducing that prophecy that Isaiah spoke:The land of Zabulon and the land...

    • John 9
      (pp. 197-214)

      The Jews were very vexed at the Savior when they heard from him,Before Abraham existed, [201]I am, and they plotted to hasten to his¹ murder, as the evangelist makes clear:They took up rocks to throw at him, and he slipped away—he hid from their eyes so that they would not see him—and departed. Because he said,Before Abraham existed, I am, and the Jews thought the saying was much too elevated for him, he then described the life-giving encounter with the blind man. What sort of person might the blind man be? You should not...

    • John 10
      (pp. 215-242)

      Because he responded to the Pharisees concerning their dispute with the blind man whom they had expelled from the temple, and they were the leaders and teachersiand instructors of the synagogue, consequently he reproved them as not rightly or worthily holding the authority to judge and the knowledge to teach, but they sinned in every way and worked no little harm; for they were continually teaching scandals and crookedness to people and were a cause of destruction rather than of life. Therefore through a parable¹ he added something about himself, showing himself to be judge and teacher.iiFor that...

    • John 11
      (pp. 243-266)

      It is customary for those who have undertaken to expound a history of things that occurred earlier both to make clear the event and also to explain the place, so that from both of these the account may be better validated.iSo the evangelist, being about to describe the great signs that were wondrously performed in Bethany, also reveals the place,iiFrom the village of Mary and Martha her sister, indicating that the divine miracle took place there. Furthermore, adding the names of the women to that of the place, he makes it even clearer. But one should investigate why he...

    • John 12
      (pp. 267-296)

      Because the Life-giver was about to come to the cross, whereby the human race would be saved, he first came to Bethany.iAnd being near to Jerusalem he performed the miracle of Lazarus’s resurrection, so that the report of his divine³ miracles might be preached in Jerusalem, and beside the cross the wonderful power of the crucified one might be proclaimed by all. Also on going up to the feast, when he went to Ephraim, he did not act according to custom, going up to Jerusalem on foot *as he always did; for none of the people went up to...

    • John 13
      (pp. 297-310)

      The evangelist did not say that he knew now what he had not known previously, as if by some happenstance but not by foresight.iHe had even known the death of Lazarus despite being absent and had often predicted about himself to the disciples. But he said this because of the feast being imminent at which he was to endure the torments of the cross, and death and resurrection and ascension. Therefore he mentioned his departure from the world to the Father, just as indeed happened after his resurrection and the strengthening of the disciples.

      He loved his own who...

    • John 14
      (pp. 311-328)

      When he said to Peter, who was the foremostiamong them and who so loved the teacher,You will deny me three times, the disciples consequently suffered no little sadness and doubt. For if Peter will deny the teacher, will that not certainly happen also to us? They also thought: How will Peter deny, unless he suffer many torments and tribulations; and then will the same happen to us that we suffer similarly? Therefore he encouraged them with this:Let not your hearts be troubled. Then he added the example of encouragement:Believe in God, and believe in me, that...

    • John 15
      (pp. 329-340)

      After he had consoled and encouraged them concerning his torments and death, over which they were anxious, he also told them about his ascending to the Father and being glorified, and that he did not endure everything by brute force, nor was he guilty of death since he had not committed sin, because death ruled legally over other bodies. But because he loved the Father, whose wish was the salvation of the world through his death, he consequently instructed and advised them how they might render themselves even more worthy of his gifts. Therefore he said:I am the true...

    • John 16
      (pp. 341-356)

      For that reason, he said, I previously made known to you what would happen, so that when troubles and tribulations befall you, you would not think it to be some unexpected occurrence and stumble, not being forewarned; but being made aware in advance, you might prepare yourselves with fine acquiescence to endure it all, whereby you¹ will receive no small compensation.

      Not only will they expel you from their synagogues, as haters and despisers, but they will reckon² your killing to be offering a sacrificeito God. By this he wished to reveal to them in advance their deeds of...

    • John 17
      (pp. 357-372)

      Why, then, did he need to raise his eyes to heaven, he who was equal in nature and authority and power, save on account of the disciples? [He acted] in this fashion in order thoroughly to instruct and admonish them and to give them this example,ithat when sadness and tribulations would come upon them to raise their eyes and minds to heaven and take refuge in God, and to place there their hope of salvation and help, and always to remain there in the time of trials with the eyes of the body¹ and the mind.

      The hour of...

    • John 18
      (pp. 373-388)

      Be amazed at the wisdom of the evangelist. Why did he state thatJudas also knew the place, except to show that the Lord did not go to that place in order to be hidden from the Jews, as he said earlier that he went and hid from them (John 12:36); for if he had wished that, why did he linger in that spot? He also indicates the wall and fence² of the place, that it would not have been appropriate if anyone wished to flee there, for he said that it was a garden.iBut it was to show...

    • John 19
      (pp. 389-410)

      When he saw that he was not helped at all in what he had aimed at,he took and scourged him, perhaps in order to be able thereby to calm them and save him from death and to win him over.i

      The soldiers did this, ridiculing¹ him as king of the Jews, mocking and deriding him.iAnd at the pleasure of the Jews they increased their insults on him, so that the attendants even received a present from the Jews, since that activity seemed very pleasing to them. Now, the evangelist describes the soldiers doing all this in order to...

    • John 20
      (pp. 411-428)

      This first coming to the tomb is understood of Mary, when she saw the angel as he rolled away the stone from the entrance of the tomb after the Lord’s rising from the tomb, according to the account of Matthew (Matt 28:2).iSo the angel did not roll away the stone in order that the Lord might riseiibut to convince the women, for they would not yet have really believed in the account of the resurrection were the stone to be over [the entrance]. For the same purpose it was said:Come and see(Matt 28:6).iii

      For when she...

    • John 21
      (pp. 429-444)

      What, then, perhaps does this show:He again revealed himself to his disciples?iFor after the resurrection he was not all the time among them and with them, as before the cross. It is clear from the sayingHe again revealed himselfthat it means [428] that after entering among them when the doors were closed, nowhere else did he reveal [himself] until in this place. He makes the further observation that there were not such bodily passionsiiin him as before the cross, because after that there was no need of passions or sufferings, but only to confirm the...

  8. Index of Biblical Citations and Allusions
    (pp. 453-462)
  9. General Index
    (pp. 463-468)