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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book III, Chapter 25

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book III

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Chapter 25. Of Christ's Subsequent Manifestations of Himself to the Disciples, and of the Question Whether a Thorough Harmony Can Be Established Between the Different Narratives When the Notices Given by the Four Several Evangelists, as Well as Those Presented by the Apostle Paul and in the Acts of the Apostles, are Compared Together.

70. We must take up the consideration of the manner in which the Lord showed Himself to the disciples after His resurrection, and that with the view not only of bringing out clearly the consistency of the four evangelists with each other on these subjects, but also of exhibiting their agreement with the Apostle Paul, who discourses of the theme in his First Epistle to the Corinthians. The statement by the latter runs in the following terms: For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this day, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. Now this succession of the appearances is one which has been given by none of the evangelists. Hence we must examine whether the order which they have put on record does not stand in antagonism to this. For neither has Paul related all, nor have the evangelists included everything in their reports. And the real subject for our investigation, therefore, is the question, whether, among the incidents which do come under our notice in these various narratives, there is anything fitted to establish a discrepancy between the writers. Now Luke is the only one among the four evangelists who omits to tell us how the Lord was seen by the women, and confines his statement to the appearance of the angels. Matthew, again, informs us that He met them as they were returning from the sepulchre. Mark likewise mentions that He appeared first to Mary Magdalene; as also does John. Only Mark does not state how He manifested Himself to her, while John does give us an explanation of that. Moreover, Luke not only passes by in silence the fact that He showed Himself to the women, as I have already remarked, but also reports that two disciples, one of whom was Cleophas, talked with Him, before they recognised Him, in a strain which seems to imply that the women had related no other appearance seen by them than that of the angels who told them that He was alive. For Luke's narrative proceeds thus: And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden, that they should not know Him. And He said to them, What manner of communications are these that you have one to another, as you walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleophas, answering, said to Him, Are you only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which have come to pass there in these days? And He said to them, What things? And they said to Him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people; and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him. But we trusted that it had been He that should have redeemed Israel: and besides all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; and when they found not His body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that He was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women said; but Him they saw not. All these things they relate, according to Luke's narrative, just as they were able to command their recollections and bethink themselves of what had been reported to them by the women, or by the disciples who had run to the sepulchre when the intelligence was conveyed to them that His body had been removed from the place. It is at the same time true that Luke himself reports only Peter to have run to the tomb, and there to have stooped down and seen the linen clothes laid by themselves, and then to have departed, wondering in himself at that which had come to pass. This notice about Peter, moreover, is introduced previous to the narrative of these two disciples whom He found on the way, and subsequently to the story of the women who had seen the angels, and who had heard from them that Jesus had risen again; so that this position might seem to mark the period at which Peter ran to the sepulchre. But still we must suppose that Luke has inserted the passage about Peter here in the form of a recapitulation. For the time when Peter ran to the sepulchre was also the time when John ran to it; and at that point all that they had heard was simply the statement conveyed to them by the women, and in particular by Mary Magdalene, to the effect that the body had been carried away. Furthermore, the period at which the said woman brought such tidings was just the occasion when she saw the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And it was at a later point that these other things occurred, connected with the vision of the angels, and the appearance of the Lord Himself, who showed Himself twice over to the women, namely, once at the sepulchre, and a second time when He met them as they were returning from the tomb. This, however, took place previous to His being seen by those two upon the journey, one of whom was Cleophas. For, when this Cleophas was talking with the Lord, before he recognized who He was, he did not say expressly that Peter had gone to the sepulchre. But his words were these: Certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women said; which last statement is also to be understood as introduced in the form of a recapitulation. For the reference is to the report brought first of all by the women to Peter and John about the removal of the body. And thus, when Luke here informs us that Peter ran to the sepulchre, and also states how Cleophas mentioned that some of those who were with them went to the tomb, he is to be taken as attesting John's account, which bears that two persons proceeded to the sepulchre. But Luke has specified Peter alone in the first instance, just because it was to him that Mary had brought the earliest tidings. A difficulty, however, may also be felt in the circumstance that the same Luke does not say that Peter entered, but only that he stooped down and saw the linen clothes hid by themselves, and that thereupon he departed, wondering in himself; whereas John intimates that it was rather himself (for he is the disciple whom Jesus loved) that looked at the scene in this fashion, not going within the sepulchre, which he was the first to reach, but simply bending down and beholding the linen clothes laid in their place; although he also adds that he did enter the tomb afterwards. The explanation, therefore, is simply this, that Peter at first did stoop down and look in after the fashion which Luke specifies, but to which John makes no allusion; and that he went actually in somewhat later, but still before John entered. And in this way we shall find that all these writers have given a true account of what occurred in terms which betray no discrepancies.

71. Taking, then, not only the reports presented by the four evangelists, but also the statement given by the Apostle Paul, we shall endeavour to bring the whole into a single connected narrative, and exhibit the order in which all these incidents may have taken place, comprehending all the Lord's appearances to the male disciples, and leaving out His earlier declarations to the women. Now, in the entire number of the men, Peter is understood to be the one to whom Christ showed Himself first. At least, this holds good so far as regards all the individuals who are actually mentioned by the four evangelists, and by the Apostle Paul. But, at the same time, who would be bold enough either to affirm or to deny that He may have appeared to some one among them before He showed Himself to Peter, although all these writers pass the matter over in silence? For the statement which Paul also gives is not in the form, He was seen first of Cephas. But it runs thus: He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once. And thus it is not made clear who these twelve were, just as we are not informed who these five hundred were. It is quite possible, indeed, that the twelve here instanced were some unknown twelve belonging to the multitude of the disciples. For now the apostle might speak of those whom the Lord designated apostles, not as the twelve, but as the eleven. Some codices, indeed, contain this very reading. I take that, however, to be an emendation introduced by men who were perplexed by the text, supposing it to refer to those twelve apostles who, by the time when Judas disappeared, were really only eleven. It may be the case, then, that those are the more correct codices which contain the reading eleven; or it may be that Paul intended some other twelve disciples to be understood by that phrase; or, once more, the fact may be that he meant that consecrated number to remain as before, although the circle had been reduced to eleven: for this number twelve, as it was used of the apostles, had so mystical an importance, that, in order to keep the spiritual symbol of the same number, there could be but a single individual, namely, Matthias, elected to fill the place of Judas. But whichever of these several views may be adopted, nothing necessarily results which can appear to be inconsistent with truth, or at variance with any one most trustworthy historian among them. Still, it remains the probable supposition, that, after He was seen of Peter, He appeared next to those two, of whom Cleophas was one, and regarding whom Luke presents us with a complete narrative, while Mark gives us only a very brief notice. The latter evangelist reports the same incident in these concise terms: And after that He appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked and went to a country-seat. For it is not unreasonable for us to suppose that the place of residence referred to may also have been styled a country-seat; just as Bethlehem itself, which formerly was called a city, is even at the present time also named a village, although its honour has now been made so much the greater since the name of this Lord, who was born in it, has been proclaimed so extensively throughout the Churches of all nations. In the Greek codices, indeed, the reading which we discover is rather estate than country-seat. But that term was employed not only of residences, but also of free towns and colonies beyond the city, which is the head and mother of the rest, and is therefore called the metropolis.

72. Again, if Mark tells us that the Lord appeared to these persons in another form, Luke refers to the same when he says that their eyes, were holden, that they should not know Him. For something had come upon their eyes which was suffered to remain until the breaking of the bread, in reference to a well-known mystery, so that only then was the different form in Him made visible to them, and they did not recognise Him, as is shown by Luke's narrative, until the breaking of the bread took place. And thus, in apt accordance with the state of their minds, which were still ignorant of the truth, that it behooved Christ to die and rise again, their eyes sustained something of a similar order; not, indeed, that the truth itself proved misleading, but that they were themselves incompetent to perceive the truth, and thought of the matter as something else than it was. The deeper significance of all which is this, that no one should consider himself to have attained the knowledge of Christ, if he is not a member in His body — that is to say, in His Church — the unity of which is commended to our notice under the sacramental symbol of the bread by an apostle, when he says: We being many are one bread and one body. So was it that, when He handed to them the bread which He had blessed, their eyes were opened, and they recognised Him, that is to say, their eyes were opened for such knowledge of Him, in so far as the impediment was now removed which had prevented them from recognising Him. For certainly they were not walking with closed eyes. But there was something in them which debarred them from seeing correctly what was in their view — a state of matters, indeed, which is the familiar result of darkness, or of a certain kind of humour. It is not meant by this, however, that the Lord could not alter the form of His flesh, so that His figure might be literally and actually different, and not the one which they were in the habit of beholding. For, indeed, even before His passion, He was transfigured on the mount so that His countenance did shine as the sun. And He who made genuine wine out of genuine water can also transform any body whatsoever in all unquestionable reality into any other kind of body which may please Him. But what is meant is, that He had not acted so when He appeared in another form unto those two individuals. For He did not appear to be what He was to these men, because their eyes were holden, so that they should not know Him. Moreover, not unsuitably may we suppose that this impediment in their eyes came from Satan, with the view of precluding their recognition of Jesus. But, nevertheless, permission that it should be so was given by Christ on to the point at which the mystery of the bread was taken up. And thus the lesson might be, that it is when we become participants in the unity of His body, that we are to understand the impediment of the adversary to be removed, and liberty to be given us to know Christ.

73. Besides, it is necessary to believe that these were the same persons to whom Mark also refers. For he informs us, that they went and told these things to the rest: just as Luke states, that the persons in question rose up the same hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon. And then he adds that these two also told what things were done on the way, and how He was known of them in breaking of bread. By this time, therefore, a report of the resurrection of Jesus had been conveyed by those women, and also by Simon Peter, to whom He had already shown Himself. For these two disciples found those to whom they came in Jerusalem talking of that very subject. Consequently, it may be the case that fear made them decline mentioning formerly, when they were on the way, that they had heard that He had risen again, so that they confined themselves to stating how the angels had been seen by the women. For, not knowing with whom they were conversing, they might reasonably be anxious not to let any word drop from them on the subject of Christ's resurrection , lest they should fall into the hands of the Jews. But again, we must remark that Mark states that they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them: whereas Luke tells us that these others were already saying that the Lord was risen indeed, and had appeared unto Simon. Is not the explanation, however, simply this, that there were some of them there who refused to credit what was related? Moreover, to whom can it fail to be clear that Mark has just omitted certain matters which are fully set forth in Luke's narrative — that is to say, the subjects of the conversation which Jesus had with them before He recognised them, and the manner in which they came to know Him in the breaking of the bread? For, after recording how He appeared to them in another form, as they went towards a country-seat, Mark has immediately appended the sentence, And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them; as if men could tell of a person whom they had not recognised, or as if those to whom He had appeared only in another form could know Him! Without doubt, therefore, Mark has simply given us no explanation of the way in which they came to know Him, so as to be able to report the same to others. And this, then, is a thing which deserves to be imprinted on our memory, in order that we may accustom ourselves to keep in view the habit which these evangelists have of passing over those matters which they do not put on record, and of connecting the facts which they do relate in such a manner that, among those who fail to give due consideration to the usage referred to, nothing proves itself a more fruitful source of misapprehension than this, leading them to imagine the existence of discrepancies in the sacred writers.

74. Luke next proceeds with his narrative in the following terms: And as they thus spoke, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and says unto them, Peace be unto you: it is I; be not afraid. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, Why are you troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see me have. And when He had thus spoken, He showed them His hands and His feet. It is to this act, by which the Lord showed Himself after His resurrection, that John is also understood to refer when he discourses as follows: Then, when it was late on the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus, and stood in the midst, and says unto them, Peace be unto you. And when He had so said, He showed unto them His hands and His side. Thus, too, we may connect with these words of John certain matters which Luke reports, but which John Himself omits. For Luke continues in these terms: And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, He said to them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And when He had eaten before them, He took what remained, and gave it unto them. Again, a passage which Luke omits, but which John presents, may next be connected with these words. It is to the following effect: Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father has sent me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and says unto them, Receive the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. Once more, we may attach to the above section another which John has left out, but which Luke inserts. It runs thus: And He said to them, These are the words which I spoke unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said to them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. And I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be endued with power from on high. Observe, then, how Luke has here referred to that promise of the Holy Spirit which we do not elsewhere find made by the Lord, save in John's Gospel. And this deserves something more than a passing notice, in order that we may bear in mind how the evangelists attest each other's truth, even on subjects which some of them may not themselves record, but which they nevertheless know to have been reported. After these matters, Luke passes over in silence all else that happened, and introduces nothing into his narrative beyond the occasion when Jesus ascended into heaven. And at the same time he appends this [statement of the ascension], just as if it followed immediately upon these words which the Lord spoke, at the same time with those other transactions on the first day of the week, that is to say, on the day on which the Lord rose again; whereas, in the Acts of the Apostles, the self-same Luke tells us that the event really took place on the fortieth day after His resurrection. Finally, as regards the fact that John states that the Apostle Thomas was not present with these others on the occasion under review, whereas, according to Luke, the two disciples, of whom Cleophas was one, returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven assembled and those who were with them, it admits of little doubt that we must suppose Thomas simply to have left the company before the Lord showed Himself to the brethren when they were talking in the terms noticed above.

75. This being the case, John now records a second manifestation of Himself, which was vouchsafed by the Lord to the disciples eight days after, on which occasion Thomas also was present, who had not seen Him up to that time. The narrative proceeds thus: And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then says He to Thomas, Reach hither your finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither your hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered and said to Him, My Lord and my God. Jesus says unto Him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. This second appearance of the Lord among the disciples— that is to say, the appearance which John records in the second instance — we might also recognise as alluded to by Mark in a section concisely disposing of it, according to that evangelist's habit. A difficulty, however, is created by the circumstance that his terms are these: Lastly, He appeared unto those eleven as they sat at meat. The difficulty does not lie in the mere fact that John says nothing about their sitting at meat, for he might well have omitted that; but it does rest in the use of the word lastly, for that makes it seem as if He did not show Himself to them after that occasion, whereas John still proceeds to record a third appearance of the Lord by the sea of Tiberias. And then we have to keep in view the fact that the same Mark tells us how Jesus upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen. In these words he refers to the two disciples to whom He appeared after He was risen, as they went toward a country-seat, and to Peter, to whom the examination of Luke's narrative has shown us that He manifested Himself first of all [among the apostles] — perhaps also to Mary Magdalene, and those other women who were along with her on the occasion when He was seen by them at the sepulchre, and again when He met them as they were returning on the way. For the said Mark has constructed his record in a manner which leads him first to insert his brief notice of the two disciples to whom He appeared as they went toward the country-seat, and of their giving a report to the residue and obtaining no credit, and then to subjoin in the immediate connection this statement: Lastly, He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen. How, then, is this phrase lastly used, as if they did not see Him subsequently to this occasion? For the last time that the apostles saw the Lord upon the earth was really the time when He ascended into heaven, and that event took place on the fortieth day after His resurrection. Now, is it likely that He would upbraid them at that period on the ground that they had not believed those who had seen Him after He was risen, when by that time they had seen Him themselves so often after His resurrection, and especially when they had seen Him on the very day of His resurrection — that is to say, on the first day of the week, when it was now about night, as Luke and John record? It remains for us, therefore, to suppose that, in the passage under review, it was Mark's intention to give a statement, in his own concise fashion, simply on the subject of the said day of the Lord's resurrection; that is to say, that first day of the week on which Mary and the other women who were along with her saw Him after daybreak, on which also Peter beheld Him, on which likewise He appeared to the two disciples, of whom Cleophas was one, and to whom Mark himself also seems to refer; on which, further, when it was now about night, He showed Himself to the eleven (Thomas, however, being excepted) and those who were with them; and on which, finally, the persons already instanced reported to the disciples the things which they had seen. Hence it is that he has employed the term lastly, because the incident mentioned was the last that took place on this same day. For the night was now coming on by the time that the two disciples had returned from the place where they had recognised Him in the breaking of bread, and had made their way into Jerusalem and found the eleven, as Luke tells us, and those who were with them, speaking to each other about the Lord's resurrection and about His having appeared to Peter; to whom these two also related what had occurred on the way, and how they came to know Him in the breaking of bread. But, assuredly, there were also there some who did not believe. Hence we see the truth of Mark's words, Neither believed they them. When these, therefore, were now sitting at meat, as Mark informs us, and when they were talking of these subjects, as Luke tells us, the Lord stood in their midst, and said to them, Peace be unto you, as Luke and John both record. Moreover, the doors were shut when He entered among them, as John alone mentions. And thus, among the words which, as Luke and John have reported, the Lord spoke to the disciples on that occasion, this expostulation also comes in, which is instanced by Mark, and in which He upbraided them for not believing those who had seen Him after He was risen.

76. But, again, a difficulty may also be felt in understanding how Mark says that the Lord appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, if the time referred to is really the beginning of the night of that Lord's day, as is indicated by Luke and John. For John, indeed, tells us plainly that the Apostle Thomas was not with them on that occasion; and we believe that he left them before the Lord entered among them, but after the two disciples who returned from the village had been conversing with the eleven, as we discover from Luke. Luke, it is true, presents a point in his narrative, at which we may fairly suppose, first, that Thomas went out while they were talking of these subjects, and then that the Lord came in. Mark, however, who says, Lastly, He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, compels us to admit that Thomas also was there. But it may be the case, perhaps, that he chose to style them the eleven, although one of the company was absent, because the same apostolic society was designated by this number at the time previous to the election of Matthias in the place of Judas. Or, if there is a difficulty in accepting this explanation, we may still suppose that, after the many manifestations in which He vouchsafed His presence to the disciples during the forty days, He also showed Himself on one final occasion to the eleven as they sat at meat — that is to say, on the fortieth day itself; and that, as He was now on the point of leaving them and ascending into heaven, He was minded on that memorable day specially to upbraid them with their refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen until they should first have seen Him themselves; and this particularly because it was the case that, when they preached the gospel subsequently to His ascension, the very Gentiles would be ready to believe what they did not see. For, after mentioning this upbraiding, Mark at once proceeds to subjoin this passage: And He said to them, Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned. If, therefore, they were charged to preach that he who believes not shall be condemned, when that indeed which he believes not is just what he has not seen, was it not meet that they should themselves first of all be thus reproved for their own refusal to believe those to whom the Lord had shown Himself at an earlier stage until they should have seen Him with their own eyes?

77. In what follows we have a further recommendation to take this to have been the last manifestation of Himself in bodily fashion which the Lord gave to the apostles. For the same Mark continues in these terms: And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. Then he appends this statement: So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by signs following. Now, when he says, So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, he appears probably enough to indicate that this was the last discourse He held with them upon the earth. At the same time, the words do not seem to shut us up to that idea absolutely. For what he says is not, after He had spoken these things unto them, but simply, after He had spoken unto them; and hence it would be quite admissible, were there any necessity for such a theory, to suppose that this was not the last discourse, and that that was not the last day on which He was present with them upon the earth, but that all the matters regarding which He spoke with them in all these days may be referred to in the sentence, After He had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven. But, inasmuch as the considerations which we have detailed above lead us rather to conclude that this was the last day, than to suppose that the allusion is specifically to the eleven at a time when, in consequence of the absence of Thomas, they were only ten, we are of opinion that after this discourse which Mark mentions, and with which we have to connect in their proper order those other words, whether of the disciples or of the Lord Himself, which are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, we must believe the Lord to have been received up into heaven, to wit, on the fortieth day after the day of His resurrection.

78. John, again, although he tells us plainly that he has passed over many of the things which Jesus did, has been pleased, nevertheless, to give us a narrative of a third manifestation of Himself, which the Lord granted to the disciples after the resurrection, namely, by the sea of Tiberias, and before seven of the disciples — that is to say, Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two others who are not mentioned by name. That is the occasion when they were engaged in fishing; when, in obedience to His command, they cast the nets on the right side, and drew to land great fishes, a hundred and fifty and three: when He also asked Peter three times whether He was loved by him, and charged him to feed His sheep, and delivered a prophecy regarding what he would suffer, and said also, with reference to John, Thus I will that he tarry till I come. And with this John has brought his Gospel to its conclusion.

79. We have next to consider now what was the occasion of His first appearance to the disciples in Galilee. For this incident, which John narrates as the third in order, took place in Galilee by the sea of Tiberias. And one may perceive that the scene was in that district, if he calls to mind the miracle of the five loaves, the narrative of which the same John commences in these terms: After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And what should naturally be supposed to be the proper locality for His first manifestation to the disciples after His resurrection but Galilee? This seems to be the conclusion to which we should be led when we recollect the words of the angel who, according to Matthew's Gospel, addressed the women as they came to the sepulchre. The words were these: Fear not ye; for I know that you seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay: and go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead; and, behold, He goes before you into Galilee; there shall you see Him: lo, I have told you. Mark presents a similar report, whether the angel of whom he speaks be the same one or a different. His version runs thus: Be not affrighted: ye seek Jesus of Nazareth which was crucified; He is risen; He is not here: behold the place where they laid Him. But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goes before you into Galilee: there shall you see Him, as He said to you. Now the impression which these words seem to produce is, that Jesus was not to show Himself to His disciples after His resurrection, but in Galilee. The appearance thus referred to, however, is not recorded even by Mark himself, who has informed us how He showed Himself first to Mary Magdalene in the early morning of the first day of the week; how she went and told them that had been with Him as they mourned and wept; how these persons refused to believe her; how, after this, He was next seen by the two disciples who were going to the residence in the country; how these two reported what had occurred to them to the residue, which, as Luke and John agree in certifying, took place in Jerusalem on the very day of the Lord's resurrection, and when night was now coming on. Thereafter the same evangelist comes next to that appearance which he calls His last, and which was vouchsafed to the eleven as they sat at meat; and when he has given us his account of that scene, he tells us how He was received up into heaven, which event took place, as we know, on the Mount Olivet, at no great distance from Jerusalem. Thus Mark nowhere relates the actual fulfilment of that which he declares to have been announced beforehand by the angel. Matthew, on the other hand, confines his statement to a single occurrence, and refers to no other locality whatsoever, whether earlier or later, where the disciples saw the Lord after He was risen, but the Galilee which was specified in the angel's prediction. This evangelist, in short, first introduces his notice of the terms in which the women were addressed by the angel; then he subjoins an account of what happened as they were going, and how the members of the watch were bribed to give a false report; and then he inserts his statement [of the appearance in Galilee], just as if that were the very event which followed immediately on what he has been relating. For, indeed, the angel's words, He is risen; and behold, He goes before you into Galilee, were really such as might make it seem reasonable to suppose that nothing would intervene [before that manifestation in Galilee]. Matthew's version, accordingly, proceeds as follows: Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. In these terms has Matthew closed his Gospel.

80. Thus, then, were it not that the consideration of the narratives given by others of the evangelists led us inevitably to examine the whole subject with greater care, we might entertain the idea that the scene of the Lord's first manifestation of Himself to the disciples after His resurrection, could be nowhere else but in Galilee. In like manner, had Mark passed over the angel's announcement without notice, any one might have supposed that Matthew was induced to tell us how the disciples went away to a mountain in Galilee, and there worshipped the Lord, by his desire to show the actual fulfilment of the charge, and of the prediction which he had also recorded to have been conveyed by the angel. As the case now stands, however, Luke and John both certify with sufficient clearness, that on the very day of His resurrection the Lord was seen by His disciples in Jerusalem, which is at such a distance from Galilee as makes it impossible for Him to have been seen by these same individuals in both places in the course of a single day. In like manner, Mark, while he does report in similar terms the announcement made by the angel, nowhere mentions that the Lord actually was seen in Galilee by His disciples after He was risen. These, therefore, are considerations which strongly force upon us an inquiry into the real import of this saying, Behold, He goes before you into Galilee! There shall you see Him. For if Matthew himself, too, had not stated that the eleven disciples went away into Galilee into a mountain, where Jesus had appointed them, and that they saw Him there and worshipped Him, we might have supposed that there was no literal fulfilment of the prediction in question, but that the whole announcement was intended to convey a figurative meaning. And a parallel to that we should then find in the words recorded by Luke, namely, Behold I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected; which prediction certainly was not accomplished in the letter. In like manner, if the angel had said, He goes before you into Galilee, there shall you see Him first; or, Only there shall you see Him; or, Nowhere else but there shall you see Him; unquestionably, in that case, Matthew would have been in antagonism with the rest of the evangelists. As the matter stands, however, the words are simply these: Behold, He goes before you into Galilee; there shall you see Him; and there is no statement of the precise time at which that meeting was to take place — whether at the earliest opportunity, and before He was seen by them elsewhere, or at a later period, and after they had seen Him also in other places besides Galilee; and, further, although Matthew relates that the disciples went away into Galilee into a mountain, he neither specifies the day of that departure, nor constructs his narrative in an order which would force upon us the necessity of supposing that this particular event must have been actually the first appearance. Consequently, we may conclude that Matthew stands in no antagonism with the narratives of the other evangelists, but that he makes it quite competent for us, in due consistency with his own report, to understand the meaning and accept the truth of these other accounts. At the same time, as the Lord thus pointed, not to the place where He intended first to manifest Himself, but to the locality of Galilee, where undoubtedly He appeared afterwards; and as He conveyed these instructions about beholding Himself at once through the angel, who said, Behold, He goes before you into Galilee: there shall you see Him; and by His own words, Go, tell my brethren, that they go into Galilee, and there shall you see me;— in these facts we find considerations which make every believer anxious to inquire with what mystical significance all this may be understood to have been stated.

81. In the first place, however, we must also consider the question of the time at which He may thus have shown Himself in bodily form in Galilee, according to the statement given by Matthew in these terms: Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them; and when they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted. That it was not on the day of His resurrection is manifest. For Luke and John agree in telling us most plainly that He was seen in Jerusalem that very day, when the night was coming on; while Mark is not so clear on the subject. When was it, then, that they saw the Lord in Galilee? I do not refer to the appearance mentioned by John, by the sea of Tiberias; for on that occasion there were only seven of them present, and they were found fishing. But I mean the appearance detailed by Matthew, when the eleven were on the mountain, to which Jesus had gone before them, according to the announcement made by the angel. For the import of Matthew's statement appears to be this, that they found Him there just because He had gone before them according to appointment. It did not take place, then, either on the day on which He rose, or in the eight days that followed, after which space John states that the Lord showed Himself to the disciples, when Thomas, who had not seen Him on the day of His resurrection, saw Him for the first time. For, surely, on the supposition that the eleven had really seen Him on the mountain in Galilee within the period of these eight days, it may well be asked how Thomas, who had been of the number of these eleven, could be said to have seen Him for the first time at the end of these eight days. To that question there is no answer, unless, indeed, one could say that they were not the eleven, who by that time bore the specific designation of Apostles, but some other eleven disciples singled out of the numerous body of His followers. For those eleven were, indeed, the only persons who were yet called by the name of Apostles, but they were not the only disciples. It may perhaps be the case, therefore, that the apostles are really referred to; that not all but only some of them were there; that there were also other disciples with them, so that the number of persons present was made up to eleven; and that Thomas, who saw the Lord for the first time at the end of those eight days, was absent on this occasion. For when Mark mentions the said eleven, he does not use the general expression eleven, but says explicitly, He appeared unto the eleven. Luke, likewise, puts it thus: They returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them. There he gives us to understand that these were the eleven — that is to say, the apostles. For when he adds, and those who were with them, he has surely indicated plainly enough, that those with whom these others were, were styled the eleven in some eminent sense; and this leads us to understand those to be meant who were now called distinctively Apostles. Consequently, it is quite possible that, out of the body of apostles and other disciples, the number of eleven disciples was made up who saw Jesus upon the mountain in Galilee, within the space of these eight days.

82. But another difficulty in the way of this settlement arises here. For, when John has recorded how the Lord was seen, not by the eleven on the mountain, but by seven of them when they were fishing in the sea of Tiberias, he appends the following statement: This is now the third time that Jesus showed Himself to His disciples, after that He was risen from the dead. Now, if we accept the theory that the Lord was seen by the company of the eleven disciples within the period of these eight days, and previous to His being seen by Thomas, this scene by the sea of Tiberias will not be the third but the fourth time that He showed Himself. Here, indeed, we must take care not to let any one suppose that, in speaking of the third time, John meant that there were in all only three appearances of the Lord. On the contrary, we must understand him to refer to the number of the days, and not to the number of the manifestations themselves; and, further, it is to be observed that these days are not presented as coming in immediate succession after each other, but as separated by intervals in accordance with intimations given by the evangelist himself. For, keeping out of view His appearance to the women, it is made perfectly plain in the Gospel that He showed Himself three several times on the first day after He was risen; namely, once to Peter; again to those two disciples, of whom Cleophas was one; and a third time to the larger body, while they were conversing with each other as the night came on. But all these John, looking to the fact that they took place on a single day, reckons as one appearance. Then he identifies a second — that is to say, an appearance on another day — with the occasion on which Thomas also saw Him; and he particularizes a third by the sea of Tiberias, that is to say, not literally His third appearance, but the third day of His self-manifestations. Thus the result is, that after all these incidents, we are constrained to suppose this other occasion to have occurred on which, according to Matthew, the eleven disciples saw Him on the mountain in Galilee, to which He had gone before them according to appointment, so that all that had been foretold, both by the angel and by Himself, should be fulfilled even to the letter.

83. Consequently, in the four evangelists we find mention made of ten distinct appearances of the Lord to different persons after His resurrection. First, to the women near the sepulchre. Secondly, to the same women as they were on the way returning from the sepulchre. Thirdly, to Peter. Fourthly, to the two who were going to the place in the country. Fifthly, to the larger number in Jerusalem, when Thomas was not present. Sixthly, on the occasion when Thomas saw Him. Seventhly, by the sea of Tiberias. Eighthly, on the mountain in Galilee, of which Matthew speaks. Ninthly, at the time to which Mark refers in the words, Lastly, as they sat at meat, thereby intimating that now they were no more to eat with Him upon the earth. Tenthly, on the same day, not now indeed upon the earth, but lifted up in the cloud, as He ascended into heaven, as Mark and Luke record. This last appearance, indeed, is introduced by Mark, directly after he has told us how the Lord showed Himself to them as they sat at meat. For his narrative goes on connectedly as follows: So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven. Luke, on the other hand, omits all that may have passed between Him and His disciples during the forty days, and, after giving the history of the first day of His resurrection-life, when He showed Himself to the larger number in Jerusalem, he silently connects therewith the closing day on which He ascended up into heaven. His statement proceeds in this form: And He led them out as far as to Bethany; and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them; and it came to pass, that while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. Thus, therefore, besides seeing Him upon the earth, they beheld Him also as He was borne up into heaven. So many times, then, is He reported in the evangelical books to have been seen by different individuals, previous to His completed ascension into heaven, namely, nine times upon the earth, and once in the air as He was ascending.

84. At the same time, all is not recorded, as John plainly declares. For He had frequent intercourse with His disciples during the forty days which preceded His ascension into heaven. He had not, however, showed Himself to them throughout all these forty days without interruption. For John tells us, that after the first day of His resurrection-life, there elapsed other eight days, at the end of which space He appeared to them again. The appearance which is identified [in John] as the third — namely, the one by the sea of Tiberias — may perhaps have taken place on an immediately succeeding day; for there is nothing antagonistic to that. And then He showed Himself when it seemed the proper time to Him, as He had appointed with them (which appointment had also been conveyed in the previous prophetic announcement) to go before them into Galilee. And all throughout these forty days, He appeared on occasions, and to individuals, and in modes, just as He was minded. To these appearances Peter alludes when, in the discourse which he delivered before Cornelius and those who were withhim, he says, Even to us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead, for the space of forty days. It is not meant, however, that they had eaten and drunk with Him daily throughout these forty days. For that would be contrary to John's statement, who has interposed the space of eight days, during which He was not seen, and makes His third appearance take place by the sea of Tiberias. At the same time, even although He [should be supposed to have] manifested Himself to them and lived with them every day after that period, that would not come into antagonism with anything in the narrative. And, perhaps, this expression, for the space of forty days, which is equivalent to four times ten, and may thus sustain a mystical reference to the whole world or the whole temporal age, has been used just because those first ten days, within which the said eight fall, may not incongruously be reckoned, in accordance with the practice of the Scriptures, on the principle of dealing with the part in general terms as the whole.

85. Let us therefore compare what is said by the Apostle Paul with the view of deciding whether it raises any question of difficulty. His statement proceeds thus: That He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen of Cephas. He does not say, He was seen first of Cephas. For this would be inconsistent with the fact that it is recorded in the Gospel that He appeared first to the women. He continues thus: then of the twelve; and whoever the individuals may have been to whom He then showed Himself, and whatever the precise hour, this was at least on the very day of His resurrection. Again he goes on: After that He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once. And whether these were gathered together with the eleven when the doors were shut for fear of the Jews, and when Jesus came to them after Thomas had gone out from the company, or whether the reference is to some other appearance subsequent to these eight days, no discrepancy is created. Again he says, after that He was seen of James. We ought not, however, to suppose this to mean that this was the first occasion on which He was seen of James; but we may take it to allude to some special appearance to that apostle by himself. Next he adds, then of all the apostles, which does not imply that this was the first time that He showed Himself to them, but that from this period He lived in more familiar intercourse with them on to the day of His ascension. Finally he says, And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. But that was a revelation of Himself from heaven some considerable time after His ascension.

86. Consequently, let us now take up the subject which we had postponed, and inquire what mystical meaning may underlie the report given by Matthew and Mark, namely, that on rising He made this statement, I will go before you into Galilee: there shall you see me. For this announcement, if it was fulfilled at all, was certainly not fulfilled till a considerable interval had elapsed; whereas it is couched in terms which seem to lead us (although such a conclusion is not an absolute necessity) most naturally to expect that the appearance referred to would be either the only one or the first that would ensue. We observe, however, that the words in question are not given as the words of the evangelist himself, in the form of a narrative of a past occurrence, but as the words of the angel, who spoke according to the Lord's commission, and subsequently also as the words of the Lord Himself; that is to say, the words are used by the evangelist in his narrative, but they are presented by him as a direct statement of what was spoken by the angel and by the Lord. This, therefore, unquestionably compels us to accept them as uttered prophetically. Now Galilee may be interpreted to mean either Transmigration or Revelation. Consequently, if we adopt the idea of Transmigration, what other sense occurs to us to put upon the sentence, He goes before you into Galilee, there shall you see Him, but just this, that the grace of Christ was to be transferred from the people of Israel to the Gentiles? That in preaching the gospel to these Gentiles, the apostles would meet with no acceptance unless the Lord prepared a way for them in the hearts of men — this may be what is to be understood by the sentence, He goes before you into Galilee. And, again, that they would look with joy and wonder at the breaking down and removing of difficulties, and at the opening of a door for them in the Lord through the enlightenment of the believing — this is what is to be understood by the words, there shall you see Him; that is to say, there shall you find His members, there shall you recognise His living body in the person of those who shall receive you. Or, if we follow the second view which takes Galilee to signify Revelation, the idea may be, that He was now no more to be in the form of a servant, but in that form in which He is equal with the Father; as He promised to those who loved Him when He said, according to the testimony of John, And I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. That is to say, He was afterwards to manifest Himself, not merely as they saw Him before, nor merely in the way in which, rising as He did with His wounds upon Him, He was to give Himself to be touched as well as seen by them, but in the character of that ineffable light, wherewith He enlightens every man that comes into this world, and in virtue of which He shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehends Him not. Thus has He gone before us to something from which He withdraws not, although He comes to us, and which does not involve His leaving us, although He has preceded us there. That will be a revelation which may be spoken of as a true Galilee, when we shall be like Him; there shall we see Him as He is. Then, also, will there be for us the more blessed transmigration, from this world into that eternity, if we embrace His precepts so as to be counted worthy of being set apart on His right hand. For there, those on the left hand shall go away into eternal burning, but the righteous into life eternal. Hence they shall pass there, and there, shall they see Him, as the wicked do not see Him. For the wicked shall be taken away, so that he shall not see the brightness of the Lord; and the unrighteousness shall not see the light. For He says, And this is life eternal, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent; even as He shall be known in that eternity to which He will bring His servants by the form of a servant, in order that in liberty they may contemplate the form of the Lord.

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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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