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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book II, Chapter 14

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book II

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Chapter 14. Of the Words or the Voice that Came from Heaven Upon Him When He Had Been Baptized.

31. Thereafter Matthew proceeds thus: And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him; and, lo, a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. This incident is also recorded in a similar manner by two of the others, namely Mark and Luke. But at the same time, while preserving the sense intact, they use different modes of expression in reproducing the terms of the voice which came from heaven. For although Matthew tells us that the words were, This is my beloved Son, while the other two put them in this form, You are my beloved Son, these different methods of speech serve but to convey the same sense, according to the principle which has been discussed above. For the heavenly voice gave utterance only to one of these sentences; but by the form of words thus adopted, namely, This is my beloved Son, it was the evangelist's intention to show that the saying was meant to intimate specially to the hearers there [and not to Jesus] the fact that He was the Son of God. With this view, he chose to give the sentence, You are my beloved Son, this turn, This is my beloved Son, as if it were addressed directly to the people. For it was not meant to intimate to Christ a fact which He knew already; but the object was to let the people who were present hear it, for whose sakes indeed the voice itself was given. But furthermore now, with regard to the circumstance that the first of them puts the saying thus, In whom I am well pleased, the second thus, In You I am well pleased; and the third thus, In You it has pleased me; — if you ask which of these different modes represents what was actually expressed by the voice, you may fix on whichever you will, provided only that you understand that those of the writers who have not reproduced the self-same form of speech have still reproduced the identical sense intended to be conveyed. And these variations in the modes of expression are also useful in this way, that they make it possible for us to reach a more adequate conception of the saying than might have been the case with only one form, and that they also secure it against being interpreted in a sense not consonant with the real state of the case. For as to the sentence, In whom I am well pleased, if any one thinks of taking it as if it meant that God is pleased with Himself in the Son, he is taught a lesson of prudence by the other turn which is given to the saying, In You I am well pleased. And on the other hand, if, looking at this last by itself, any one supposes the meaning to be, that in the Son the Father had favour with men, he learns something from the third form of the utterance, In You it has pleased me. From this it becomes sufficiently apparent, that whichever of the evangelists may have preserved for us the words as they were literally uttered by the heavenly voice, the others have varied the terms only with the object of setting forth the same sense more familiarly; so that what is thus given by all of them might be understood as if the expression were: In You I have set my good pleasure; that is to say, by You to do what is my pleasure. But once more, with respect to that rendering which is contained in some codices of the Gospel according to Luke, and which bears that the words heard in the heavenly voice were those that are written in the Psalm, You are my Son, this day have I begotten You; although it is said not to be found in the more ancient Greek codices, yet if it can be established by any copies worthy of credit, what results but that we suppose both voices to have been heard from heaven, in one or other verbal order?

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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. <>.

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