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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book II, Chapter 40

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book II

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Chapter 40. Of the Question as to Whether There is Any Discrepancy Between Matthew on the One Hand, and Mark and Luke on the Other, in Regard to the Order in Which the Notice is Given of the Occasion on Which His Mother and His Brethren Were Announced to Him.

87. Matthew then proceeds with his narrative in the following terms: While He yet talked to the people, behold, His mother and His brethren stood without, desiring to speak to Him; and so on, down to the words, For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Without doubt, we ought to understand this to have occurred in immediate sequence on the preceding incidents. For he has prefaced his transition to this narrative by the words, While He yet talked to the people; and what does this term yet refer to, but to the very matter of which He was speaking on that occasion? For the expression is not, When He talked to the people, Behold, His mother and His brethren; but, While He was yet speaking, etc. And that phraseology compels us to suppose that it was at the very time when He was still engaged in speaking of those things which were mentioned immediately above. For Mark has also related what our Lord said after His declaration on the subject of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. He gives it thus: And there came His mother and His brethren, omitting certain matters which meet us in the context connected with that discourse of the Lord, and which Matthew has introduced there with greater fullness than Mark, and Luke, again, with greater fullness than Matthew. On the other hand, Luke has not kept the historical order in the report which he offers of this incident, but has given it by anticipation, and has narrated it as he recalled it to memory, at a point antecedent to the date of its literal occurrence. But furthermore, he has brought it in in such a manner that it appears dissociated from any close connection either with what precedes it or with what follows it. For, after reporting certain of the Lord's parables, he has introduced his notice of what took place with His mother and His brethren in the following manner: Then came to Him His mother and His brethren, and could not come at Him for the press. Thus he has not explained at what precise time it was that they came to Him. And again, when he passes off from this subject, he proceeds in these terms: Now it came to pass on one of the days, that He went into a ship with His disciples. And certainly, when he employs this expression, it came to pass on one of the days, he indicates clearly enough that we are under no necessity of supposing that the day meant was the very day on which this incident took place, or the one following in immediate succession. Consequently, neither in the matter of the Lord's words, nor in that of the historical order of the occurrences related, does Matthew's account of the incident which occurred in connection with the mother and the brethren of the Lord, exhibit any want of harmony with the versions given of the same by the other two evangelists.

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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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