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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book II, Chapter 75

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book II

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Chapter 75. Of the Pharisees Who Sit in the Seat of Moses, and Enjoin Things Which They Do Not, and of the Other Words Spoken by the Lord Against These Same Pharisees; Of the Question Whether Matthew's Narrative Agrees Here with Those Which are Given by the Other Two Evangelists, and in Particular with that of Luke, Who Introduces a Passage Resembling This One, Although It is Brought in Not in This Order, But in Another Connection.

144. Matthew proceeds with his account, observing the following order of narration: Then spoke Jesus to the multitude, and to His disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not; and so on, down to the words, You shall not see me henceforth, till you shall say, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord. Luke also mentions a similar discourse which was spoken by the Lord in opposition to the Pharisees and the scribes and the doctors of the law, but reports it as delivered in the house of a certain Pharisee, who had invited Him to a feast. In order to relate that passage, he has made a digression from the order which is followed by Matthew, about the point at which they have both put on record the Lord's sayings respecting the sign of the three days and nights in the history of Jonas, and the queen of the south, and the unclean spirit that returns and finds the house swept. And that paragraph is followed up by Matthew with these words: While He yet talked to the people, behold, His mother and His brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him. But in the version which the third Gospel presents of the discourse then spoken by the Lord, after the recital of certain sayings of the Lord which Matthew has omitted to notice, Luke turns off from the order which he had been observing in concert with Matthew, so that his immediately subsequent narrative runs thus: And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee besought Him to dine with him: and He went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that He had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said to him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and platter. And after this, Luke reports other utterances which were directed against the said Pharisees and scribes and teachers of the law, which are of a similar tenor to those which Matthew also recounts in this passage which we have taken in hand at present to consider. Wherefore, although Matthew records these things in a manner which, while it is true indeed that the house of that Pharisee is not mentioned by name, yet does not specify as the scene where the words were spoken any place entirely inconsistent with the idea of His having been in the house referred to; still the facts that the Lord by this time [i.e. according to Matthew's Gospel] had left Galilee and come into Jerusalem, and that the incidents alluded to above, on to the discourse which is now under review, are so arranged in the context after His arrival as to make it only reasonable to understand them to have taken place in Jerusalem, whereas Luke's narrative deals with what occurred at the time when the Lord as yet was only journeying towards Jerusalem, are considerations which lead me to the conclusion that these are not the same, but only two similar discourses, of which the former evangelist has reported the one, and the latter the other.

145. This is also a matter which requires some consideration — namely, the question how it is said here, You shall not see me henceforth, till you shall say, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord, when, according to this same Matthew, they had already expressed themselves to this effect. Besides, Luke likewise tells us that a reply containing these very words had previously been returned by the Lord to the persons who had counselled Him to leave their locality, because Herod sought to kill Him. That evangelist represents these self-same terms, which Matthew records here, to have been employed by Him in the declaration which He directed on that occasion against Jerusalem itself. For Luke's narrative proceeds in the following manner: The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto Him, Get you out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill you. And He said to them, Go and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am perfected. Nevertheless, I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stone them that are sent unto you; how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen does gather her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house shall be left unto you desolate: and I say unto you, that you shall not see me until the time come when you shall say, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord. There does not seem, however, to be anything contradictory to the narration thus given by Luke in the circumstance that the multitudes said, when the Lord was approaching Jerusalem, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord. For, according to the order which is followed by Luke, He had not yet come to the scene in question, and the words had not been uttered. But since he does not tell us that He did actually leave the place at that time, not to return to it until the period came when such words would be spoken by them (for He continues on His journey until he arrives at Jerusalem; and the saying, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am perfected, is to be taken to have been uttered by Him in a mystical and figurative sense: for certainly He did not suffer at a time answering literally to the third day after the present occasion; nay, He immediately goes on to say, Nevertheless, I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following), we are indeed constrained also to put a mystical interpretation upon the sentence, You shall not see me henceforth, until the time come when you shall say, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord, and to understand it to refer to that advent of His in which He is to come in His effulgent brightness; it being thereby also implied, that what He expressed in the declaration, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am perfected, bears upon His body, which is the Church. For devils are cast out when the nations abandon their ancestral superstitions and believe in Him; and cures are wrought when men renounce the devil and this world, and live in accordance with His commandments, even unto the consummation of the resurrection, in which there shall, as it were, be realized that perfecting on the third day; that is to say, the Church shall be perfected up to the measure of the angelic fullness through the realized immortality of the body as well as the soul. Therefore the order followed by Matthew is by no means to be understood to involve a digression to another connection. But we are rather to suppose, either that Luke has antedated the events which took place in Jerusalem, and has introduced them at this point simply as they were here suggested to his recollection, before his narrative really brings the Lord to Jerusalem; or that the Lord, when drawing near the same city on that occasion, did actually reply to the persons who counselled Him to be on His guard against Herod, in terms resembling those in which Matthew represents Him to have spoken also to the multitudes at a period when He had already arrived in Jerusalem, and when all these events had taken place which have been detailed above.

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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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