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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book II, Chapter 43

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book II

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Chapter 43. Of the Mutual Consistency of the Accounts Which are Given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke of What Was Said by Herod on Hearing About the Wonderful Works of the Lord, and of Their Concord in Regard to the Order of Narration.

91. Matthew continues: At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, and said to his servants, This is John the Baptist: he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him. Mark gives the same passage, and in the same manner, but not in the same order. For, after relating how the Lord sent forth the disciples with the charge to take nothing with them on the journey save a staff only, and after bringing to its close so much of the discourse which was then delivered as has been recorded by him, he has subjoined this section. He does not, however, connect it in such a way as to compel us to suppose that what it narrates took place actually in immediate sequence on what precedes it in the history. And in this, indeed, Matthew is at one with him. For Matthew's expression is, at that time, not on that day, or at that hour. Only there is this difference between them, that Mark refers not to Herod himself as the utterer of the words in question, but to the people, his statement being this: They said that John the Baptist was risen from the dead; whereas Matthew makes Herod himself the speaker, the phrase being: He said to his servants. Luke, again, keeping the same order of narration as Mark, and introducing it also indeed, like Mark, in no such way as to compel us to suppose that his order must have been the order of actual occurrence, presents his version of the same passage in the following terms: Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him: and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead; and of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see Him. In these words Luke also attests Mark's statement, at least, so far as concerns the affirmation that it was not Herod himself, but other parties, who said that John was risen from the dead. But as regards his mentioning how Herod was perplexed, and his bringing in thereafter those words of the same prince: John have I beheaded: but who is this of whom I hear such things? we must either understand that after the said perplexity he became persuaded in his own mind of the truth of what was asserted by others, when he spoke to his servants, in accordance with the version given by Matthew, which runs thus: And he said to his servants, This is John the Baptist: he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him; or we must suppose that these words were uttered in a manner betraying that he was still in a state of perplexity. For had he said, Can this be John the Baptist? or, Can it chance that this is John the Baptist? there would have been no need of saying anything about a mode of utterance by which he might have revealed his dubiety and perplexity. But seeing that these forms of expression are not before us, his words may be taken to have been pronounced in either of two ways: so that we may either suppose him to have been convinced by what was said by others, and so to have spoken the words in question with a real belief [in John's reappearance]; or we may imagine him to have been still in that state of hesitancy of which mention is made by Luke. Our explanation is favoured by the fact that Mark, who had already told us how it was by others that the statement was made as to John having risen from the dead, does not fail to let us know also that in the end Herod himself spoke to this effect: It is John whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead. For these words may also be taken to have been pronounced in either of two ways — namely, as the utterances either of one corroborating a fact, or of one in doubt. Moreover, while Luke passes on to a new subject after the notice which he gives of this incident, those other two, Matthew and Mark, take occasion to tell us at this point in what way John was put to death by Herod.

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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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