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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book II, Chapter 24

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book II

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Chapter 24. Of the Lord's Crossing the Lake on that Occasion on Which He Slept in the Vessel, and of the Casting Out of Those Devils Whom He Suffered to Go into the Swine; And of the Consistency of the Accounts Given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke of All that Was Done and Said on These Occasions.

55. And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea. And so the story goes on, until we come to the words, And He came into His own city. Those two narratives which are told by Matthew in continuous succession, — namely, that regarding the calm upon the sea after Jesus was roused from His sleep and had commanded the winds, and that concerning the persons who were possessed with the fierce devil, and who broke their bands and were driven into the wilderness — are given also in like manner by Mark and Luke. Some parts of these stories are expressed, indeed, in different terms by the different writers, but the sense remains the same. This is the case, for example, when Matthew represents the Lord to have said, Why are you fearful, O you of little faith? while Mark's version is, Why are you fearful? Is it that you have no faith? For Mark's word refers to that perfect faith which is like a grain of mustard seed; and so he, too, speaks in effect of the little faith. Luke, again, puts it thus: Where is your faith? Accordingly, the whole utterance may perhaps have gone thus: Why are you fearful? Where is your faith, O you of little faith? And so one of them records one part, and another another part, of the entire saying. The same may be the case with the words spoken by the disciples when they awoke Him. Matthew gives us: Lord, save us: we perish. Mark has: Master, carest Thou not that we perish? And Luke says simply, Master, we perish. These different expressions, however, convey one and the same meaning on the part of those who were awaking the Lord, and who were wishful to secure their safety. Neither need we inquire which of these several forms is to be preferred as the one actually addressed to Christ. For whether they really used the one or the other of these three phraseologies, or expressed themselves in different words, which are unrecorded by any one of the evangelists, but which were equally well adapted to give the like representation of what was meant, what difference does it make in the fact itself? At the same time, it may also possibly have been the case that, when several parties in concert were trying to awake Him, all these various modes of expression had been used, one by one person, and another by another. In the same way, too, we may deal with the exclamation on the stilling of the tempest, which, according to Matthew, was, What manner of man is this, that the winds and the sea obey Him? according to Mark, What man, do you think, is this, that both the wind and the sea obey Him? "thinkest thou." The Authorized Version, given above, has an unnecessary variation; "that," "that," "for." The Greek particle is the same, and Augustine gives quia three times.—R.]}--> and according to Luke, What man, do you think, is this? for He commands both the winds and the sea, and they obey Him. Who can fail to see that the sense in all these forms is quite identical? For the expression, What man, do you think, is this? has precisely the same import with the other, What manner of man is this? And where the words He commands are omitted, it can at least be understood as a matter of course that the obedience is rendered to the person commanding.

56. Moreover, with respect to the circumstance that Matthew states that there were two men who were afflicted with the legion of devils which received permission to go into the swine, whereas Mark and Luke instance only a single individual, we may suppose that one of these parties was a person of some kind of superior notability and repute, whose case was particularly lamented by that district, and for whose deliverance there was special anxiety. With the intention of indicating that fact, two of the evangelists have judged it proper to make mention only of the one person, in connection with whom the fame of this deed had been spread abroad the more extensively and remarkably. Neither should any scruple be excited by the different forms in which the words uttered by the possessed have been reproduced by the various evangelists. For we may either resolve them all into one and the same thing, or suppose them all to have been actually spoken. Nor, again, should we find any difficulty in the circumstance that with Matthew the address is couched in the plural number, but with Mark and Luke in the singular. For these latter two tell us at the same time, that when the man was asked what was his name, he answered that he was Legion, because the devils were many. Nor, once more, is there any discrepancy between Mark's statement that the herd of swine was round about the mountain, and Luke's, that they were on the mountain. For the herd of swine was so great that one portion of it might be on the mountain, and another only round about it. For, as Mark has expressly informed us, there were about two thousand swine.

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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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