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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book II, Chapter 17

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book II

Chapter 17. Of the Calling of the Apostles as They Were Fishing.

34. Matthew's narrative is continued thus: Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, He departed into Galilee. Mark states the same fact, as also does Luke, only Luke says nothing in the present section as to John being cast into prison. The evangelist John, again, tells us that, before Jesus went into Galilee, Peter and Andrew were with Him one day, and that on that occasion the former had this name, Peter, given him, while before that period he was called Simon. Likewise John tells us, that on the day following, when Jesus was now desirous of going forth unto Galilee, He found Philip, and said to him that he should follow Him. Thus, too, the evangelist comes to give the narrative about Nathanael. Further, he informs us that on the third day, when He was yet in Galilee, Jesus wrought the miracle of the turning of the water into wine at Cana. All these incidents are left unrecorded by the other evangelists, who continue their narratives at once with the statement of the return of Jesus into Galilee. Hence we are to understand that there was an interval here of several days, during which those incidents took place in the history of the disciples which are inserted at this point by John. Neither is there anything contradictory here to that other passage where Matthew tells us how the Lord said to Peter, You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church. But we are not to understand that that was the time when he first received this name; but we are rather to suppose that this took place on the occasion when it was said to him, as John mentions, You shall be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, A stone. Thus the Lord could address him at that later period by this very name, when He said, You are Peter. For He does not say then, You shall be called Peter, but, You are Peter; because on a previous occasion he had already been spoken to in this manner, You shall be called.

35. After this, Matthew goes on with his narrative in these terms: And leaving the city of Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capharnaum, which is upon the sea-coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim; and so forth, until we come to the conclusion of the sermon which He delivered on the mount. In this section of the narrative, Mark agrees with him in attesting the calling of the disciples Peter and Andrew, and a little after that, the calling of James and John. But whereas Matthew introduces in this immediate context his account of that lengthened sermon which He delivered on the mount, after He cured a multitude, and when great crowds followed Him, Mark has inserted other matters at this point, touching His teaching in the synagogue, and the people's amazement at His doctrine. Then, too, he has stated what Matthew also states, although not till after that lengthened sermon has been given, namely, that He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. He has likewise given us the account of the man out of whom the unclean spirit was cast; and after that the story of Peter's mother-in-law. In these things, moreover, Luke is in accord with him. But Matthew has given us no notice of the evil spirit here. The story of Peter's mother-in-law, however, he has not omitted, only he brings it in at a later stage.

36. In this paragraph, moreover, which we are at present considering, the same Matthew follows up his account of the calling of those disciples to whom, when they were engaged in fishing, He gave the command to follow Him, by a narrative to the effect that He went about Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, and preaching the gospel, and healing all manner of sickness; and that when multitudes had gathered about Him, He went up into a mountain, and delivered that lengthened sermon [already alluded to]. Thus the evangelist gives us ground for understanding that those incidents which are recorded by Mark after the election of those same disciples, took place at the period when He was going about Galilee, and teaching in their synagogues. We are at liberty also to suppose that what happened to Peter's mother-in-law came in at this point; and that he has mentioned at a later stage what he has passed over here, although he has not indeed brought up at that later point, for direct recital, everything else which is omitted at the earlier.

37. The question may indeed be raised as to how John gives us this account of the calling of the disciples, which is to the effect that, certainly not in Galilee, but in the vicinity of the Jordan, Andrew first of all became a follower of the Lord, together with another disciple whose name is not declared; that, in the second place, Peter got that name from Him; and thirdly, that Philip was called to follow Him; whereas the other three evangelists, in a satisfactory concord with each other, Matthew and Mark in particular being remarkably at one here, tell us that the men were called when they were engaged in fishing. Luke, it is true, does not mention Andrew by name. Nevertheless, we can gather that he was in that same vessel, from the narrative of Matthew and Mark, who furnish a concise history of the manner in which the affair had gone about. Luke, however, presents us with a fuller and clearer exposition of the circumstances, and gives us also an account of the miracle which was performed there in the haul of fishes, and of the fact that previous to that the Lord spoke to the multitudes when He was seated in the boat. There may also seem to be a discrepancy in this respect, that Luke records the saying, From henceforth you shall catch men, as if it had been addressed by the Lord to Peter alone, while the others have exhibited it as spoken to both the brothers. But it may very well be the case that these words were spoken first to Peter himself, when he was seized with amazement at the immense multitude of fishes which were caught, and this will then be the incident introduced by Luke; and that they were addressed to the two together somewhat later, which [second utterance] will be the one noticed by the other two evangelists. Therefore the circumstance which we have mentioned with regard to John's narrative deserves to be carefully considered; for it may indeed be supposed to bring before us a contradiction of no slight importance. For if it be the case that in the vicinity of the Jordan, and before Jesus went into Galilee, two men, on hearing the testimony of John the Baptist, followed Jesus; that of these two disciples the one was Andrew, who at once went and brought his own brother Simon to Jesus; and that on this occasion that brother received the name Peter, by which he was thereafter to be called—how can it be said by the other evangelists that He found them engaged in fishing in Galilee, and called them there to be His disciples? How can these diverse accounts be reconciled, unless it be that we are to understand that those men did not gain such a view of Jesus on the occasion connected with the vicinity of the Jordan as would lead them to attach themselves to Him for ever, but that they simply came to know who He was, and, after their first wonder at His Person, returned to their former engagements?

38. For [it is noticeable that] again in Cana of Galilee, after He had turned the water into wine, this same John tells us how His disciples believed on Him. The narrative of that miracle proceeds thus: And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called and His disciples to the marriage. Now, surely, if it was on this occasion that they believed on Him, as the evangelist tells us a little further on, they were not yet His disciples at the time when they were called to the marriage. This, however, is a mode of speech of the same kind with what is intended when we say that the Apostle Paul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia; for certainly he was not an apostle at that period. In like manner are we told here that the disciples of Christ were invited to the marriage, by which we are to understand, not that they were already disciples, but only that they were to be His disciples. For, at the time when this narrative was prepared and committed to writing, they were the disciples of Christ in fact; and that is the reason why the evangelist, as the historian of past times, has thus spoken of them.

39. But further, as to John's statement, that after this He went down to Capharnaum, He and His mother, and His brethren and His disciples; and they continued there not many days; it is uncertain whether by this period these men had already attached themselves to Him, in particular Peter and Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee. For Matthew first of all tells us that He came and dwelt in Capharnaum, and then that He called them from their boats as they were engaged in fishing. On the other hand, John says that His disciples came with Him to Capharnaum. Now it may be the case that Matthew has but gone over here something he had omitted in its proper order. For he does not say, After this, walking by the sea of Galilee, He saw two brethren, but, without any indication of the strict consecution of time, simply, And walking by the sea of Galilee, He saw two brethren, and so forth: consequently it is quite possible that he has recorded at this later period not something which took place actually at that later time, but only something which he had omitted to introduce before; so that the men may be understood in this way to have come along with Him to Capharnaum, to which place John states that He did come, He and His mother and His disciples: or should we rather suppose that these were a different body of disciples, as He [may already have] had a follower in Philip, whom He called in this particular manner, by saying to him, Follow me? For in what order all the twelve apostles were called is not apparent from the narratives of the evangelists. Indeed, not only is the succession of the various callings left unrecorded; but even the fact of the calling is not mentioned in the case of all of them, the only vocations specified being those of Philip, and Peter and Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, and Matthew the publican, who was also called Levi. The first and only person, however, who received a separate name from Him was Peter. For He did not give the sons of Zebedee their names individually, but He called them both together the sons of thunder.

40. Besides, we ought certainly to note the fact that the evangelical and Scriptures do not confine this designation of His disciples to those twelve alone, but give the same appellation to all those who believed on Him, and were educated under His instruction for the kingdom of heaven. Out of the whole number of such He chose twelve, whom He also named apostles, as Luke mentions. For a little further on he says: And He came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the concourse of His disciples and a great multitude of people. And surely he would not speak of a concourse [or crowd] of disciples if he referred only to twelve men. In other passages of the Scriptures also the fact is plainly apparent, that all those were called His disciples who were instructed by Him in what pertained to eternal life.

41. But the question may be asked, how He called the fishermen from their boats two by two, namely, calling Peter and Andrew first, and then going forward a little and calling other two, namely the sons of Zebedee, according to the narratives of Matthew and Mark; whereas Luke's version of the matter is, that both their boats were filled with the immense haul of fishes. And his statement bears further, that Peter's partners, to wit, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were summoned to the men's help when they were unable to drag out their crowded nets, and that all who were there were astonished at the enormous draught of fishes which had been taken; and that when Jesus said to Peter, Fear not, from henceforth you shall catch men, although the words had been addressed to Peter alone, they all nevertheless followed Him when they had brought their ships to land. Well, we are to understand by this, that what Luke introduces here was what took place first, and that these men were not called by the Lord on this occasion, but only that the prediction was uttered to Peter by himself, that he would be a fisher of men. That saying, moreover, was not intended to convey that they would never thereafter be catchers of fish. For we read that even after the Lord's resurrection they were engaged again in fishing. The words, therefore, imported simply that thereafter he would catch men, and they did not bear that henceforth he would not catch fish. And in this way we are at perfect liberty to suppose that they returned to the catching of fish, according to their habit; so that those incidents which are related by Matthew and Mark might easily take place at a period subsequent to this. I refer to what occurred at the time when He called the disciples two by two, and Himself gave them the command to follow Him, at first addressing Peter and Andrew, and then the others, namely, the two sons of Zebedee. For on that occasion they did not follow Him only after they had drawn up their ships on shore, as with the intention of returning to them, but they went after Him immediately, as after one who summoned and commanded them to follow Him.

About this page

Source. Translated by S.D.F. Salmond. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1602217.htm>.

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