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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book II, Chapter 56

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book II

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Chapter 56. Of the Manifestation Which the Lord Made of Himself, in Company with Moses and Elias, to His Disciples on the Mountain; And of the Question Concerning the Harmony Between the First Three Evangelists with Regard to the Order and the Circumstances of that Event; And in Especial, the Number of the Days, in So Far as Matthew and Mark State that It Took Place After Six Days, While Luke Says that It Was After Eight Days.

112. Matthew proceeds thus: Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom. And after six days, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them up into an high mountain; and so on, down to where we read, Tell the vision to no man until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. This vision of the Lord upon the mount in the presence of the three disciples, Peter, James, and John, on which occasion also the testimony of the Father's voice was borne Him from heaven, is related by the three evangelists in the same order, and in a manner expressing the same sense completely. And as regards other matters, they may be seen by the readers to be in accordance with those modes of narration of which we have given examples in many passages already, and in which there are diversities in expression without any consequent diversity in meaning.

113. But with respect to the circumstance that Mark, along with Matthew, tells us how the event took place after six days, while Luke states that it was after eight days, those who find a difficulty here do not deserve to be set aside with contempt, but should be enlightened by the offering of explanations. For when we announce a space of days in these terms, after so many days, sometimes we do not include in the number the day on which we speak, or the day on which the thing itself which we intimate beforehand or promise is declared to take place, but reckon only the intervening days, on the real and full and final expiry of which the incident in question is to occur. This is what Matthew and Mark have done. Leaving out of their calculation the day on which Jesus spoke these words, and the day on which He exhibited that memorable spectacle on the mount, they have regarded simply the intermediate days, and thus have used the expression, after six days. But Luke, reckoning in the extreme day at either end, that is to say, the first day and the last day, has made it after eight days, in accordance with that mode of speech in which the part is put for the whole.

114. Moreover, the statement which Luke makes with regard to Moses and Elias in these terms, And it came to pass, as they departed from Him, Peter said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here, and so forth, ought not to be considered antagonistic to what Matthew and Mark have subjoined to the same effect, as if they made Peter offer this suggestion while Moses and Elias were still talking with the Lord. For they have not expressly said that it was at that time, but rather they have simply left unnoticed the fact which Luke has added — namely, that it was as they went away that Peter made the suggestion to the Lord with respect to the making of three tabernacles. At the same time, Luke has appended the intimation that it was as they were entering the cloud that the voice came from heaven, — a circumstance which is not affirmed, but which is as little contradicted, by the others.

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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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