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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book III, Chapter 21

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book III

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Chapter 21. Of the Women Who Were Standing There, and of the Question Whether Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Who Have Stated that They Stood Afar Off, are in Antagonism with John, Who Has Mentioned that One of Them Stood by the Cross.

58. Matthew proceeds thus: And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee: among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee's children. Mark gives it in this form: There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joseph, and Salome (who also, when He was in Galilee, followed Him, and ministered unto Him); and many other women which came up with Him unto Jerusalem. I see nothing which can be supposed to constitute a discrepancy between these writers here. For in what way can the truth be affected by the fact that some of these women are named in both lists, while others are referred to only in the one? Luke has likewise connected his narrations as follows: And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. And all His acquaintance and the women that followed Him from Galilee stood afar off beholding these things. Here we perceive that he is quite in harmony with the former two as far as regards the presence of the women, although he does not mention any of them by name. On the subject of the multitude of people who were also present, and who, as they beheld the things which were done, smote their breasts and returned, he is in like manner at one with Matthew, although that evangelist has introduced into the context this distinct statement: Now the centurion and they that were with him. Thus it simply appears that Luke is the only one who has spoken expressly of His acquaintance who stood afar off. For John has also noticed the presence of the women before the Lord gave up the ghost. His narrative runs thus: Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by whom He loved, He says unto His mother, Woman, behold your son! Then says He to the disciple, Behold your mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. Now, as regards this statement, had not Matthew and Mark at the same time mentioned Mary Magdalene most explicitly by name, it might have been possible for us to say that there was one company of women afar off, and another near the cross. For none of these writers has mentioned the Lord's mother here but John himself. The question, therefore, which rises now is this, How can we understand the same Mary Magdalene both to have stood afar off along with other women, as the accounts of Matthew and Mark bear, and to have been by the cross, as John tells us, unless it be the case that these women were at such a distance as made it quite legitimate to say at once that they were near, because they were at hand there in the sight of Him, and also afar off in comparison with the crowd of people who were standing round about in closer vicinity along with the centurion and the soldiers? It is open for us, then, to suppose that those women who were present at the scene along with the Lord's mother, after He commended her to the disciple, began then to retire with the view of extricating themselves from the dense mass of people, and of looking on at what remained to be done from a greater distance. And in this way the rest of the evangelists, who have introduced their notices of these women only after the Lord's death, have properly reported them to be standing by that time afar off.

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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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