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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book II, Chapter 73

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book II

Chapter 73. Of the Person to Whom the Two Precepts Concerning the Love of God and the Love of Our Neighbour Were Commended; And of the Question as to the Order of Narration Which is Observed by Matthew and Mark, and the Absence of Any Discrepancy Between Them and Luke.

141. Matthew then proceeds with his narrative in the following terms: But when the Pharisees had heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. And one of them, which was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. This is recorded also by Mark, and that too in the same order. Neither should there be any difficulty in the statement made by Matthew, to the effect that the person by whom the question was put to the Lord tempted Him; whereas Mark says nothing about that, but tells us at the end of the paragraph how the Lord said to the man, as to one who answered discreetly, You are not far from the kingdom of God. For it is quite possible that, although the man approached Him with the view of tempting Him, he may have been set right by the Lord's response. Or we need not at any rate take the tempting referred to in a bad sense, as if it were the device of one who sought to deceive an adversary; but we may rather suppose it to have been the result of caution, as if it were the act of one who wished to have further trial of a person who was unknown to him. For it is not without a good purpose that this sentence has been written, He that is hasty to give credit is light-minded, and shall be impaired.

142. Luke, on the other hand, not indeed in this order, but in a widely different connection, introduces something which resembles this. But whether in that passage he is actually recording this same incident, or whether the person with whom the Lord [is represented to have] dealt in a similar manner there on the subject of those two commandments is quite another individual, is altogether uncertain. At the same time, it may appear right to regard the person who is introduced by Luke as a different individual from the one before us here, not only on the ground of the remarkable divergence in the order of narration, but also because he is there reported to have replied to a question which was addressed to him by the Lord, and in that reply to have himself mentioned those two precepts. The same opinion is further confirmed by the fact that, after telling us how the Lord said to him, This do, and you shall live,— thus instructing him to do that great thing which, according to his own answer, was contained in the law,— the evangelist follows up what had passed with the statement, But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? Thereupon, too [according to Luke], the Lord told the story of the man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers. Consequently, considering that this individual is described at the outset as tempting Christ, and is represented to have repeated the two commandments in his reply; and considering, further, that after the counsel which was given by the Lord in the words, This do, and you shall live, he is not commended as good, but, on the contrary, has this said of him, But he, willing to justify himself, etc., whereas the person who is mentioned in parallel order both by Mark and by Luke received a commendation so marked, that the Lord spoke to him in these terms, You are not far from the kingdom of God,— the more probable view is that which takes the person who appears on that occasion to be a different individual from the man who comes before us here.

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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/1602273.htm>.

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