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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book II, Chapter 25

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book II

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Chapter 25. Of the Man Sick of the Palsy to Whom the Lord Said, Your Sins are Forgiven You, And Take Up Your Bed; And in Especial, of the Question Whether Matthew and Mark are Consistent with Each Other in Their Notice of the Place Where This Incident Took Place, in So Far as Matthew Says It Happened In His Own City, While Mark Says It Was in Capharnaum.

57. Hereupon Matthew proceeds with his recital, still preserving the order of time, and connects his narrative in the following manner:— And He entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into His own city. And, behold, they brought to Him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed; and so on down to where it is said, But when the multitude saw it, they marvelled; and glorified God, which had given such power unto men. Mark and Luke have also told the story of this paralytic. Now, as regards Matthew's stating that the Lord said, Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you; while Luke makes the address run, not as son, but as man,— this only helps to bring out the Lord's meaning more explicitly. For these sins were [thus said to be] forgiven to the man, inasmuch as the very fact that he was a man would make it impossible for him to say, I have not sinned; and at the same time, that mode of address served to indicate that He who forgave sins to man was Himself God. Mark, again, has given the same form of words as Matthew, but he has left out the terms, Be of good cheer. It is also possible, indeed, that the whole saying ran thus: Man, be of good cheer: son, your sins are forgiven you; or thus: Son, be of good cheer: man, your sins are forgiven you; or the words may have been spoken in some other congruous order.

58. A difficulty, however, may certainly arise when we observe how Matthew tells the story of the paralytic after this fashion: And He entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into His own city. And, behold, they brought to Him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed; whereas Mark speaks of the incident as taking place not in His own city, which indeed is called Nazareth, but in Capharnaum. His narrative is to the following effect:— And again He entered into Capharnaum after some days; and it was reported that He was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and He spoke a word unto them. And they came unto Him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come near unto Him for the press, they uncovered the roof where He was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. And when Jesus saw their faith; and so forth. Luke, on the other hand, does not mention the place in which the incident happened, but gives the tale thus: And it came to pass on a certain day that He was sitting teaching, and there were Pharisees and doctors of the law also sitting by, which had come out of every town of Galilee, and Judæa, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before Him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the house-top, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when He saw their faith, He said, Man, your sins are forgiven you; and so forth. The question, therefore, remains one between Mark and Matthew, in so far as Matthew writes of the incident as taking place in the Lord's city; while Mark locates it in Capharnaum. This question would be more difficult to solve if Matthew mentioned Nazareth by name. But, as the case stands, when we reflect that the state of Galilee itself might have been called Christ's city, because Nazareth was in Galilee, just as the whole region which was made up of so many cities is yet called a Roman state; when, further, it is considered that so many nations are comprehended in that city, of which it is written, Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God; and also that God's ancient people, though dwelling in so many cities, have yet been spoken of as one house, the house of Israel, — who can doubt that [it may be fairly said that] Jesus wrought this work in His own city [or, state], inasmuch as He did it in the city of Capharnaum, which was a city of that Galilee to which He had returned when He crossed over again from the country of the Gerasenes, so that when He came into Galilee He might correctly be said to have come into His own city [or, state], in which ever town of Galilee He might happen to be? This explanation may be vindicated more particularly on the ground that Capharnaum itself held a position of such eminence in Galilee that it was reckoned to be a kind of metropolis. But even were it altogether illegitimate to take the city of Christ in the sense either of Galilee itself, in which Nazareth was situated, or of Capharnaum, which was distinguished as in a certain sense the capital of Galilee, we might still affirm that Matthew has simply passed over all that happened after Jesus came into His own city until He reached Capharnaum, and that he has simply tacked on the narrative of the healing of the paralytic at this point; just as the writers do in many instances, leaving unnoticed much that intervenes, and, without any express indication of the omissions they are making, proceeding precisely as if what they subjoin, followed actually in literal succession.

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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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