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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book III, Chapter 5

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book III

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Chapter 5. Of the Accounts Which are Given by All the Four Evangelists in Regard to What Was Done and Said on the Occasion of His Apprehension; And of the Proof that These Different Narratives Exhibit No Real Discrepancies.

15. When we follow the versions presented by Matthew and Mark, we find that the history now proceeds thus: And while He yet spoke, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude, with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed Him, gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He; hold Him fast. And immediately he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master; and kissed Him. First of all, however, as we gather from Luke's statement, He said to the traitor, Judas, do you betray the Son of man with a kiss? Next, as we learn from Matthew, He spoke thus: Friend, wherefore are you come? Thereafter He added certain words which are found in John's narrative, which runs in the following strain: Whom do you seek? They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus says unto them, I am He. And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them. As soon then as He had said to them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground. Then asked He them again, Whom do you seek? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am He: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way; that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, Of them which you gave me have I lost none.

16. Next comes in a passage, which is given by Luke as follows: When they which were about Him saw what would follow, they said to Him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, as is noticed by all the four historians, and cut off his ear, which, as we are informed by Luke and John, was his right ear. Moreover, we gather also from John that the person who smote the servant was Peter, and that the name of the man whom he thus struck was Malchus. Next we take what Luke mentions, namely, Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far; with which we must connect the words appended by Matthew, namely, Put up your sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? Along with these words we may also place the question to which John tells us He gave utterance on the same occasion, namely, The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it? And then, as is recorded by Luke, He touched the ear of the person who had been struck, and healed him.

17. Neither should we let the idea disturb us, that some contradiction may be found in the circumstance that Luke tells us how, when the disciples asked Him whether they should smite with the sword, the Lord replied in these words, Suffer ye thus far, in a manner which might seem to imply that He thus expressed Himself, after the blow had been struck, in terms bearing that He was satisfied with what had been done so far, but desired nothing further to be done; whereas the language which is employed by Matthew might give us rather to understand that this whole incident of the use which Peter made of the sword was displeasing to the Lord. For it is more correct to suppose that when they put the question to Him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? He replied then, Suffer ye thus far; His meaning being this: Let not what is about to take place agitate you. These men are to be suffered to go thus far; that is to say, so far as to apprehend me, and thus to effect the fulfilment of those things which are written of me. We have further to suppose, however, that during the time which passed in the interchange of the question addressed by them to the Lord, and the reply returned by Him to them, Peter was borne on by his intense desire to appear as defender, and by his stronger excitement in the Lord's behalf, to deal the blow. But while these two things might easily have happened at the same time, two different statements could not have been uttered by the same person in one breath. For the writer would not have used the expression, And Jesus answered and said, unless the words were a reply to the question which had been addressed by those who were about Him, and not a statement directed to Peter's act. For Matthew is the only one who has recorded the judgment passed by Jesus on Peter's act. And in that passage the phrase which Matthew has employed is also not in the form, Jesus answered Peter thus, Put up your sword; but it runs in these terms: Then said Jesus unto him, Put up your sword; from which it appears that it was after the deed that Jesus thus declared Himself. What is contained, again, in the phraseology used by Luke, namely, And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far, must be taken to have been the reply which was returned to the parties who had put the question to Him. But inasmuch as, according to our previous explanation, the single blow with which the servant was struck was delivered just during the time when the terms of the said question and answer were passing between these persons and the Lord, the writer has considered it right to record that act in the same particular order, so that it stands inserted between the words of the interrogation and those in which the response was couched. Consequently, there is nothing here in antagonism to the statement introduced by Matthew, namely, For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword,— that is to say, those who may have used the sword. But there might appear to be some inconsistency here if the Lord's answer were taken in a sense which would show Him to have expressed approval on this occasion of the voluntary use of the sword, even although it was only to the effect of a single wound, and that, too, not a fatal one. The words, however, which were addressed to Peter may be understood, as a whole, in an application quite in harmony with the rest; so that, bringing in also what Luke and Matthew have reported, as I have stated above, we obtain the following connection: Suffer ye thus far. Put up your sword into its place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword, etc. In what way, moreover, this sentence, Suffer ye thus far, is to be understood, I have explained already. And if there is any better method of interpreting it, be it so. Only let the veracity of the evangelists be maintained in any case.

18. After this, Matthew continues the narrative, and mentions that in that hour He addressed the multitude as follows: Have you come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and you laid no hold on me. Then He added also certain words, which Luke introduces thus: But this is your hour, and the power of darkness. Next comes the sentence given by Matthew: But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled. This last fact is recorded also by Mark. The same evangelist makes also the following addition: And there followed Him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and when they laid hold on him, he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

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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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