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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book III, Chapter 23

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book III

Chapter 23. Of the Question Whether the First Three Evangelists are Quite in Harmony with John in the Accounts Given of His Burial.

60. Matthew proceeds thus: And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. Mark's version is as follows: And he bought fine linen, and took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen, and laid Him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. Luke reports it in those terms: And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. So far as these three narratives are concerned, no allegation of a want of harmony can possibly be raised. John, however, tells us that the burial of the Lord was attended to not only by Joseph, but also by Nicodemus. For he begins with Nicodemus in due connection with what precedes, and goes on with his narrative as follows: And there came also Nicodemus (which at the first came to Jesus by night), and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then, introducing Joseph again at this point, he continues in these terms: Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus, therefore, because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was near at hand. But there is really as little ground for supposing any discrepancy here as there was in the former case, if we take a correct view of the statement. For those evangelists who have left Nicodemus unnoticed have not affirmed that the Lord was buried by Joseph alone, although he is the only one introduced into their records. Neither does the fact, that these three are all at one in informing us how the Lord was wrapped in the linen cloth by Joseph, preclude us from entertaining the idea that other linen stuffs may have been brought by Nicodemus, and added to what was given by Joseph, so that John may be perfectly correct in his narrative, especially as what he tells us is that the Lord was wrapped not in a linen cloth, but in linen clothes. At the same time, when we take into account the handkerchief which was used for the head, and the bandages with which the whole body was swathed, and consider that all these were made of linen, we can see how, even although there was really but a single linen cloth [of the kind referred to by the first three evangelists] there, it could still have been stated with the most perfect truth that they wound Him in linen clothes. For the phrase, linen clothes, is one applied generally to all textures made of flax.

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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/1602323.htm>.

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