Albert the Great on Asking for Resurrection

In his comments on the raising of Lazarus in John 11, Albert the Great states that it is perfect faith which asks God for the dead to be raised. This perfect faith is faith in Jesus Christ, the cause of our resurrection by virtue of his own. Jesus instructs Martha in such faith by his divine instruction, drawing out her consent. To such faith, nothing, not even the raising of the dead, is impossible.

Here Albert comments on Jesus’ conversation with Martha in vv.25-27: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’”

Here [Jesus] touches upon a faith perfect in obtaining that for which one asks. An encouragement to such faith is first given, and then perfect faith is described.

Therefore, in the first place he says four things: in the first of these, the perfect cause of the resurrection and life is said to be in Christ; in the second, this to the believer, the possibility to obtaining the resurrection of the dead by asking is shown; in the third, the reward of such faith is signified; in the fourth, the consent of Martha to such faith is sought.

Therefore, Jesus says, “I am,” by way of cause, “the resurrection and the life,” that is, I am the cause of resurrection and life. 1 Thess 4:[14],1 “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.” For he is therefore called “the firstborn from the dead,” since his resurrection, believed in faith, is the cause of the resurrection of the dead, as Augustine states.2 Rev 1:5, “the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

“And everyone who lives,” etc.

Here he touches on the reward of her faith: for since it is now perfect, she lives. Hab 2:4, “My righteous will live by their faith.”

“And believes in me,” that is, by believing draws toward me [tendit in me], “will not die in eternity [or “forever,” in aeternum, here and following],” for although one dies bodily in time [or “for a time,” ad tempus], nevertheless they do not die so as to die in eternity. For the damned die in this way in eternity, as to always die. John 8:52, “Whoever keeps my word will not taste death in eternity.” John 3:[16],3 “that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Hos 8:14 [Vulg.], “From the hand of death I will free him, from death I will redeem them.”

“Do you believe this?”

He elicits consent to this perfect faith, to whose asking nothing is impossible. Mark 9:[23],4 “All things can be done for the one who believes.” Matt 17:[20],5 “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

“She said to him, ‘Yes,’” etc.

Here she now sufficiently presents consent in perfect faith by means of an elevated instruction.

“Yes, Lord.” Matt 15:28, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

And she explains this faith, saying, “I believe,” firmly believing and simply confessing, “that you are,” because you hide in human nature, “Christ,” anointed with the anointing of deity, “the Son of God,” born of the Father before all ages, “who,” born from a woman, the Virgin, came under the law, “came” through the assumption of flesh “into this” visible “world.” And this is perfect faith in relation to this article; so, he does not further instruct her in the faith. Matt 16:16, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And therefore, as to Peter the keys were given upon this confession, against which the gates of hell will not prevail, so the doors of death, which held the dead, could do nothing about this faith, but gave up the dead which it had taken in. Ps 107:16-17 [Vulg. 106:15-16], “For he shatters the doors of bronze, and cuts in two the bars of iron. He brought them out from their sinful ways.”

D. Alberti Magni Opera Omnia, vol. 24, In evangelium secundum Joannem, ed. Borgnet (Paris: Vivès, 1899), 447-48

1 The Borgnet edition reads I Thessal. IV, 13. We still await a critical edition of Super Iohannem.

2 I have not yet been able to identify the precise text of Augustine to which Albert might be referring.

3 The Borgnet edition reads Joan. III, 13.

4 The Borgnet edition reads Marc. IX, 22.

5 The Borgnet edition reads Matth. XVII, 19.

A Christology of Love

And for love he made mankind, and for the same love himselfe wolde become man.
— Julian of Norwich, A Revelation of Love 57

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-born Son.
— John 3:16

[F]or everything that has been done through Christ has been done for our sake.
— Martin Luther, Four Sermons on the Resurrection of the Dead (LW58: 150)

[I]t pleased God to come to aid the lost world, that is, by the death of his Son, in which he allures us to love of God and calls us away from the love of the world.
— Sebastian Meyer, In utramque D. Pauli epistolam ad Corinthios commentarii (Frankfurt: Petrus Brubacchius, 1546), fol. 8r

In these four phrases are the seeds of a whole Christology written around the theme of love.


God the Father as Divine Teacher

My thesis is focusing increasingly on the idea of “divine pedagogy” in Aquinas’ and Calvin’s commentaries on Scripture. While most often it is Christ or the Spirit who is spoken of as “the Teacher,” in this passage we find God the Father as the source of this teaching. These are Aquinas’ comments on John 17:8, “For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”

Here Jesus first sets out the order of the process of knowing from the Father to the disciples; second, the order by which the disciples’ minds are led back to the Father.

First, he discusses the giving of teaching by the Father. And this is a twofold giving. There is one which the Father gave to the Son–where it says, “the words that you gave me”–in his eternal generation, in which the Father gave word to the Son, since he is after all the Word of the Father. Words of this kind are nothing other than the ratio of everything that has been made, all of which the Father gave to the Son from eternity in giving him birth… The other giving is that which Christ gives to the disciples–where it says, “I have given them”–by teaching from within and without (interius et exterius). As it says in John 15:15 above, “For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” In doing this, he shows himself to be “the mediator between God and men” (1 Tim. 2:5), because what he received from the Father, he passed on to his disciples: “I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord” (Deut. 5:5).

The leading back of the disciples’ minds to God is laid out when Jesus says, “and they have received them.” There is a twofold reception corresponding to the twofold giving of preaching. One responds to the second giving [i.e., what Jesus gives to his disciples]–where it says, “and they have received”, that is, from me, not being rebellious… John 6:45 above, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” And while receiving, “they know that everything that you have given me is from you” (John 17:7), which responds to the first giving [i.e., what the Father gives to the Son in eternity]. (Super euangelium Iohannis 17.2.2200-2202)

There is very much fascinating in this passage. First of all, the role of the Father as the source of divine teaching, which we have already mentioned. But also, how here as elsewhere, the work of the Son in time mysteriously is prepared for in the shape of the Son’s generation by the Father. The Son is given “words” in his eternal birth, as he is the Word of the Father; these words the Son gives to the creation in shaping it according to the ratio (reason, idea, form) the Father gives him, but the Son also gives them to the disciples in his teaching, his doctrina, during his earthly mission. Thus, new creation is a fresh beginning for the old creation; what was made in the Word is remade in his words.

Further, we see here a theme more visible in Bonaventure than Aquinas: the reductio, the “leading back” of humanity to the Father. The result of the Father’s giving to the Son and the Son’s giving to his disciples is for the gift to issue in a return: the disciples turn in faith to Christ–“not being rebellious”–and Christ shows them the Father: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). And even more remarkably, the disciples know that “everything the Father has given Christ is from him” in eternity (cf. John 17:7); they begin to see into the mysterious eternal giving of the life between Father and Son; they begin to see with that eternal blessed vision.

John 11:11-16

After Jesus had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Nearing the end of his life on earth, Jesus received the word that his friend Lazarus was deathly ill. Intentionally, He waited “two more days” (11:6) where He was staying by the Jordan river, until Lazarus had died. After this, Jesus decided, “Let us go back to Judea” (11:7), to the village of Bethany, where Lazarus and his family lived. However, Bethany was just two miles outside Jerusalem, where the Jews tried to kill Jesus by stoning for His claim to be the Son of God (11:8; 10:31-39). There was incredible danger in returning to Judea, yet Jesus entered into the shadow of death in order to return the gift of life to Lazarus. In what ways does this challenge our lives of comfort? In what ways do we love to live at ease by the river Jordan, at the center of our own popularity? In what ways is Jesus calling us near to death, near to our own Golgotha, in order to restore life to those robbed of it? Hear the voice of Thomas, the response of faith: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”