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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book II, Chapter 80

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book II

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Chapter 80. Of the Harmony Characterizing the Accounts Which are Given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, of the Occasion on Which He Sent His Disciples to Make Preparations for His Eating the Passover.

157. Matthew proceeds thus: Then one of the twelve, who is called Judas [of] Scarioth, went unto the chief priests, and said to them, What will you give me, and I will deliver Him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver; and so on down to the words, And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them, and they made ready the passover. Nothing in this section can be supposed to stand in any contradiction with the versions of Mark and Luke, who record this same passage in a similar manner. For as regards the statement given by Matthew in these terms, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master says, My time is at hand: I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples, it just indicates the person whom Mark and Luke name the goodman of the house, or the master of the house, in which the dining-room was shown them where they were to make ready the passover. And Matthew has expressed this by simply bringing in the phrase, to such a man, as a brief explanation introduced by himself with the view of succinctly giving us to understand who the person referred to was. For if he had said that the Lord addressed them in words like these: Go into the city, and say unto him [or it], The Master says, My time is at hand, I will keep the passover at your house, it might have been supposed that the terms were intended to be directed to the city itself. For this reason, therefore, Matthew has inserted the statement, that the Lord bade them go to such a man, not, however, as a statement made by the Lord, whose instructions he was recording, but simply as one volunteered by himself, with the view of avoiding the necessity of narrating the whole at length, when it seemed to him that this was all that required to be mentioned in order to bring out with sufficient accuracy what was really meant by the person who gave the order. For who can fail to see that no one naturally speaks to others in such an indefinite fashion as this, Go to such a man? If, again, the words had been, Go to any one whatsoever, or to any one you please, the mode of expression might have been correct enough, but the person to whom the disciples were sent would have been left uncertain: whereas Mark and Luke present him as a certain definitely indicated individual, although they pass over his name in silence. The Lord Himself, we may be sure, knew to what person it was that He dispatched them. And in order that those also whom He was thus sending might be able to discover the individual meant, He gave them, before they set out, a particular sign which they were to follow — namely, the appearance of a man bearing a pitcher or a vessel of water — and told them, that if they went after him, they would reach the house which He intended. Hence, seeing that it was not competent here to employ the phraseology, Go to any one you please, which is indeed legitimate enough, so far as the demands of linguistic propriety are concerned, but which an accurate statement of the matter dealt with here renders inadmissible in this passage, with how much less warrant could an expression like this have been used here (by the speaker Himself), Go to such a man, which the usage of correct language can never admit at all? But it is manifest that the disciples were sent by the Lord, plainly, not to any man they pleased, but to such a man, that is to say, to a certain definite individual. And that is a thing which the evangelist, speaking in his own person, could quite rightly have related to us, by putting it in this way: He sent them to such a man, in order to say to him, I will keep the passover at your house. He might also have expressed it thus: He sent them to such a man, saying, Go, say to him, I will keep the passover at your house. And thus it is that, after giving us the words actually spoken by the Lord Himself, namely, Go into the city, he has introduced this addition of his own, to such a man, which he does, however, not as if the Lord had thus expressed Himself, but simply with the view of giving us to understand, although the name is left unrecorded, that there was a particular person in the city to whom the Lord's disciples were sent, in order to make ready the passover. Thus, too, after the two [or three] words brought in that manner as an explanation of his own, he takes up again the order of the words as they were uttered by the Lord Himself, namely, And say unto him, The Master says. And if you ask now to whom they were to say this, the correct reply is given [at once] in these terms, To that particular man to whom the evangelist has given us to understand that the Lord sent them, when, speaking in His own person, he introduced the clause, to such a man. The clause thus inserted may indeed contain a rather unusual mode of expression, but still it is a perfectly legitimate phraseology when it is thus understood. Or it may be, that in the Hebrew language, in which Matthew is reported to have written, there is some peculiar usage which might make it entirely accordant with the laws of correct expression, even were the whole taken to have been spoken by the Lord Himself. Whether that is the case, those who understand that tongue may decide. Even in the Latin language itself, indeed, this kind of expression might also be used, in terms like these: Go into the city to such a man as may be indicated by a person who shall meet you carrying a pitcher of water. If the instructions were conveyed in such words as these, they could be acted upon without any ambiguity. Or again, if the terms were anything like these, Go into the city to such a man, who resides in this or the other place, in such and such a house, then the note thus given of the place and the designation of the house would make it quite possible to understand the commission delivered, and to execute it. But when these instructions, and all others of a similar order, are left entirely untold, the person who in such circumstances uses this kind of address, Go to such a man, and say unto him, cannot possibly be listened to intelligently for this obvious reason, that when he employs the terms, to such a man, he intends a certain particular individual to be understood by them, and yet offers us no hint by which he may be identified. But if we are to suppose that the clause referred to is one introduced as an explanation by the evangelist himself, [we may find that] the requirements of brevity will render the expression somewhat obscure, without, however, making it incorrect. Moreover, as to the fact, that where Mark speaks of a pitcher of water, Luke mentions a vessel, the simple explanation is, that the one has used a word indicative of the kind of vessel, and the other a term indicative of its capacity, while both evangelists have nevertheless preserved the real meaning actually intended.

158. Matthew proceeds thus: Now when the evening had come, He sat down with the twelve disciples; and as they did eat, He said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say, Lord, is it I? and so on, down to where we read, Then Judas, which betrayed Him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said to him, You have said. In what we have now presented for consideration here, the other three evangelists, who also record such matters, offer nothing calculated to raise any question of serious difficulty.

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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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