Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels 300


This book contains a demonstration of the harmony of the evangelists from the accounts of the Supper on to the end of the Gospel, the narratives given by the several writers being collated, and the whole arranged in one orderly connection.


1). Inasmuch as we have now reached that point in the history at which all the four evangelists necessarily hold their course in company on to the conclusion, without presenting any serious divergence the one from the other, if it happens anywhere that one of them makes mention of something which another leaves unnoticed, it appears to me that we may demonstrate the consistency maintained by the various evangelists with greater expedition, if from this point onwards we now bring all the statements given by all the writers together into one connection, and arrange the whole in a single narration, and under one view.1 I consider that in this way the task which we have undertaken may be discharged with greater convenience and facility than otherwise might be the case. What we have now before us, therefore, is to attempt the construction of a single narrative, in which we shall include all the particulars, and for which we shall possess the attestation of those evangelists who, (each selecting for recital out of the whole number of facts those which he had either the ability or the desire to relate,) have prepared these records for us:2 this being done in such a manner, moreover, that all these statements, in regard to which we have to prove an entire freedom from contradictions, are taken as made by all the evangelists together.


2. Let us commence here, accordingly, with the notice presented by Matthew, [which runs thus]: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.”3 Both Mc and Lc also gave this section.4 It is true that Lc has made mention of the cup twice over: first before He gave the bread; and, secondly, after the bread has been given. But the fact is, that what is stated in that earlier connection has been introduced, according to this writer’s habit, by anticipation, while the words which he has inserted here in their proper order are left unrecorded in those previous verses, and the two passages when put together make up exactly what stands expressed by those other evangelists.5 John, on the other hand, has said nothing about the body and blood of the Lord in this context; but he plainly certifies that the Lord spake to that effect on another occasion,6 with much greater fulness than here. At present, however, after recording how the Lord rose from supper and washed the disciples’ feet, and after telling us also the reason why the Lord dealt thus with them, in expressing which He had intimated, although still obscurely, and by the use of a testimony of Scripture, the fact that He was being betrayed by the man who was to eat of His bread, at this point Jn comes to the section in question, which the other three evangelists also unite in introducing. He presents it thus: “When Jesus had thus said, He was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, That one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked (as the same Jn subjoins) one on another, doubting of whom He spake.”7 “And (as Matthew and Mc tell us) they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto Him, Is it I? And He answered and said (as Matthew proceeds to state), He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.” Matthew also goes on to make the following addition to the preceding: “The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of Him; but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.”8 Mark, too, is at one with him here as regards both the words themselves and the order of narration.9 Then Matthew continues thus: “Then Judas, which betrayed Him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.” Even these words did not say explicitly whether he was himself the man. For the sentence still admits of being understood as if its point was this, “I am not the person who has said so.”10 All this, too, may quite easily have been uttered by Judas and answered by the Lord without its being noticed by all the others.

3. After this, Matthew proceeds to insert the mystery of His body and blood, as it was committed then by the Lord to the disciples. Here Mc and Lc act correspondingly. But after He had handed the cup to them, [we find that] He spoke again concerning His betrayer, in terms which Lc recounts, when he says, “But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. And truly the Son of man goeth as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom He shall be betrayed.”11 At this point we must now suppose that to come in which is narrated by Jn while these others omit it, just as Jn has also passed by certain matters which they have detailed. In accordance with this, after the giving of the cup, and after the Lord’s subsequent saying which has been brought in by Luke,—namely, “But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table,” etc.,—the statement made by Jn is [to be taken as immediately] subjoined. It is to the following effect: “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, and said unto him,12 Who is he of whom He speaketh? He then, when he had laid himself on Jesus’ breast, saith unto Him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon [of] Scarioth. And after the sop Satan then entered into him.”13

4. Here we must take care not to let Jn underlie the appearance not only of standing in antagonism to Luke, who had stated before this, that Satan entered into the heart of Judas at the time when he made his bargain with the Jews to betray Him on receipt of a sum of money, but also of contradicting himself. For, at an earlier point, and previous to [his notice of] the receiving of this sop, he had made use of these terms: “And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas to betray Him.”14 And how does he enter into the heart, but by putting unrighteous persuasions into the thoughts of unrighteous men? The explanation, however, is this. We ought to suppose Judas to have been more fully taken possession of by the devil now, just as on theother hand, in the instance of the good, those who had already received the Holy Spirit on that occasion, subsequently to His resurrection, when He breathed upon them and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,”15 also obtained a fuller gift of that Spirit at a later time, namely, when He was sent down from above on the day of Pentecost. In like manner, Satan then entered into this man after the sop. And (as Jn himself mentions in the immediate context) “Jesus saith unto him, What thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent He spake this unto him; for some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. He then, having received the sop, went immediately out; and it was night. Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus saith, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him: and if God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him.”16


5. “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and, as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come;so now I say unto you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter saith unto Him, Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, until thou deniest me thrice.”17 John, from whose Gospel I have taken the passage introduced above, is not the only evangelist who details this incident of the prophetic announcement of his own denial to Peter. The other three also record the same thing.18 They do not, however, take one and the same particular point in the discourses [of Christ] as their occasion for proceeding to this narration. For Matthew and Mc both introduce it in a completely parallel order, and at the same stage of their narrative, namely, after the Lord left the house in which they had eaten the passover; while Lc and John, on the other hand, bring it in before He left that scene. Still we might easily suppose, either that it has been inserted in the way of a recapitulation by the one couple of evangelists, or that it has been inserted in the way of an anticipation by the other; only such a supposition may be made more doubtful by the circumstance that there is so remarkable a diversity, not only in the Lord’s words, but even in those sentiments of His by which the incident in question is introduced, and by which Peter was moved to venture his presumptuous asseveration that he would die with the Lord or for the Lord. These considerations may constrain us rather to understand the narratives really to import that the man uttered his presumptuous declaration thrice over, as it was called forth by different occasions in the series of Christ’s discourses, and that also three several times the answer was returned him by the Lord, which intimated that before the cock crew he would deny Him thrice.

6. And surely there is nothing incredible in supposing that Peter was moved to such an act of presumption on several occasions, separated from each other by certain intervals of time, as he was actually instigated to deny Him repeatedly. Neither should it seem unreasonable to fancy that the Lord gave him a reply in similar terms at three successive periods, especially when [we see that] in immediate connection with each other, and without the interposition of anything else either in fact or word, Christ addressed the question to him three several times whether he loved Him, and that, when Peter returned the same answer thrice over, He also gave him thrice over the self-same charge to feed His sheep.19 That it is the more reasonable thing to suppose that Peter displayed his presumption on three different occasions, and that thrice over he received from the Lord a warning with respect to his triple denial, is further proved, as we may see, by the very terms employed by the evangelists, which record sayings uttered by the Lord in diverse form and of diverse import. Let us here call attention again to that passage which I introduced a little ago from the Gospel of John. There we certainly find that He had expressed Himself in this way “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, whither goest Thou?”20 Now, surely it is evident here that what moved Peter to utter this question, “Lord, whither goest Thou?” was the words which the Lord Himself had spoken. For he had heard Him say, “Whither I go, ye cannot come.” Then Jesus made this reply to the said Peter: “Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now, but thou shall follow me afterwards.” Thereupon Peter expressed himself thus: “Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake.”21 And to this presumptuous declaration the Lord responded by predicting his denial. Luke, again, first mentions how the Lord said, “Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and, when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren:” next he proceeds immediately to tell us how Peter replied to this effect: “Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both unto prison and to death;” and then he continues thus: “And He said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.”22 Now, who can fail to perceive that this is an occasion by itself, and that the incident in connection with which Peter was incited to make the presumptuous declaration already referred to is an entirely different one? But, once more, Matthew presents us with the following passage: “And when they had sung an hymn,” he says, “they went out into the Mount of Olives. Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.”23 The same passage is given in precisely the same form by Mark.24 What similarity is there, however, in these words, or in the ideas expressed by them, either to the terms in which Jn represents Peter to have made his presumptuous declaration, or to those in which Lc exhibits him as uttering such an asseveration? And so we find that in Matthew’s narrative the connection proceeds immediately thus: “Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus saith unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, that this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter saith unto him, Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee. Likewise also said all His disciples.”25

7. All this is recorded almost in the same language also by Mark, only that he has not put in so general a form what the Lord said with regard to the manner in which the event [of Peter’s failure] was to be brought about, but has given it a more particular turn. For his version is this: “Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice; thou shalt deny me thrice.”26 Thus it appears that all of them tell us how the Lord foretold that Peter would deny Him before the cock crew, but that they do not all mention how often the cock was to crow, and that Mc is the only one who has presented a more explicit notice of this incident in the narrative. Hence some are of opinion that Mark’s statement is not in harmony with those of the others. But this is simply because they do not give sufficient attention to the facts of the case, and, above all, because they approach the question under the cloud of a prejudiced mind, in consequence of their being possessed by a hostile disposition towards the gospel. The fact is, that Peter’s denial, when taken as a whole, is a threefold denial. For he remained in the same state of mental agitation, and harboured the same mendacious intention, until what had been foretold regarding him was brought to his mind, and healing came to him by bitter weeping and sorrow of heart. It is evident, however, that if this complete denial—that is to say, the threefold denial—is taken to have commenced only after the first crowing of the cock, three of the evangelists will appear to have given an incorrect account of the matter. For Matthew’s version is this: “Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice;” and Lc puts it thus: “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me;” and Jn presents it in this form: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, the cock shall not crow till thou hast denied me thrice.” And thus, in different terms and with words introduced in diverse successions, these three evangelists have expressed one and the same sense as conveyed by the words which the Lord spake—namely, the fact that, before the cock should crow, Peter was to deny Him thrice. On the other hand, if [we suppose that] he went through the whole triple denial before the cock began to crow at all, then Mc will be made to underlie the charge of having given a superfluous statement when he puts these words into the Lord’s mouth: “Verily I say unto thee, That this day, before the cock crow twice, thou shall deny me thrice.” For to what purpose would it be to say, “before the cock crow twice,” when, on the supposition that this entire threefold denial was gone through previous to the first crowing of the cock, it is self-evident that a negation, which would thus be proved to have been completed before the first cockcrow, must also, as matter of course, be understood to have been fully uttered before the second cockcrow and before the third, and, in short, before all the cockcrowings which took place on that same night? But, inasmuch as this threefold denial was begun previous to the first crowing of the cock, those three evangelists concerned themselves with noticing, not the time at which Peter was to complete it, but the extent27 to which it was to be carried, and the period at which it was to commence; that is to say, their object was to bring out the facts that it was to be thrice repeated, and that it was to begin previous to the cockcrowing. At the same time, so far as the man’s own mind is concerned, we might also quite well understand it to have been engaged in, as a whole, previous to the first cockcrow. For although it is true that, so far as regards the actual utterance of the individual who was guilty of the denial, that threefold negation was only entered upon previous to the first cockcrow, and really finished before the second cockcrow, still it is equally true that, in so far as the disposition of mind and the apprehensions indulged by Peter were concerned, it was conceived,28 as a whole, before the first cockcrow. Neither is it a matter of any consequence of what duration those intervals of delay were which elapsed between the several utterances of that thrice-recurring voice, if it is the case that the denial completely possessed his heart even previous to the first cockcrow,—in consequence, indeed, of his having imbibed a spirit of terror so abject as to make him capable of denying the Lord when he was questioned regarding Him, not only once, but a second time, and even a third time. Thus, a more correct and careful consideration of the matter might show us29 that, precisely as it is declared that the man who looketh on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart,30 so, in the present instance, inasmuch as in the words which he spoke, Peter merely expressed the apprehension which he had already conceived with such intensity in his mind as to make it capable of enduring even on to a third repetition of his denial of the Lord, this threefold negation is to be assigned as a whole to that particular period at which the fear that sufficed thus to carry him on to a threefold denial took possession of him. In this way, too, it may be made apparent that, even if the words in which the denial was couched began to break forth from him only after the first cockcrow, when his heart was smitten by the inquiries addressed to him, it would involve neither any absurdity nor any untruthfulness, although it were said that before the cock crew he denied Him thrice, seeing that, in any case, previous to the crowing of the cock, his mind had been assailed by an apprehension violent enough to be able to draw him31 on even to a third denial. All the less, therefore, ought we to feel any difficulty in the matter, if it appears that the threefold denial, as expressed also in the thrice-recurring utterances of the person who made the denial, was entered upon previous to the crowing of the cock, although it was not completed before the first cockcrow. We may take a parallel case, and suppose an intimation to be made to the following effect to a person: “This night, before the cock crow, you will write a letter to me, in which you will revile me thrice.” Well, surely in this instance, if the man began to write the letter] before the cock had crowed at all, and finished it after the cock had crowed for the first time,that would be no reason for alleging that the intimation previously made was false. The fact, therefore, is that, in putting these words into the Lord’s lips, “Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice,” Mc has given us a plainer indication of the intervals of time which separated the utterances themselves. And when we come to the said section of the evangelical narrative, we shall see that the circumstances are presented in a manner which exhibits, in that connection also, the harmony subsisting among the evangelists.

8. If, however, the demand is to get at the very words, literally and completely, which the Lord addressed to Peter, we answer that it is impossible to discover these; and further, that it is simply superfluous to ask them, inasmuch as the speaker’s meaning—to intimate which wasthe object He had in view in uttering the words—admits of being understood with the utmost plainness, even under the diverse terms employed by the evangelists. And whether, then, it be the case that Peter, instigated at different occasions in the course of the Lord’s sayings, made his presumptuous declaration three several times, and had his denial foretold him thrice over by the Lord, as is the more probable result to which our investigation points us; or whether it may appear that the accounts given by all the evangelists are capable of being reduced to a single statement, when a certain order of narration is adopted, so that it could be proved that it was only on one occasion that the Lord predicted to Peter, on the exhibition of his presumptuous spirit, the fact that he would deny Him;—in either case, any contradiction between the evangelists will fail to be detected, as nothing of that nature really exists.


9. At this point, therefore, we may now follow, as far as we can, the order of the narrative, as gathered from all the evangelists together. Thus, then, after the prediction in question had been made to Peter, according to John’s version, the same Jn proceeds with his statement, and introduces in this connection the Lord’s discourse, which was to the following effect: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions;”32 and so forth. He narrates at length the sayings, so memorable and so pre-eminently sublime, of which He delivered Himself in the course of that address, until, in due connection, he comes to the passage where the Lord speaks as follows: “O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”33 Again we find, according to the narrative given by Luke, that there arose “a strife among them which of them should be accounted the greatest. And He said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger;34 and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. And ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations: and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”35 The said Lc also immediately subjoins to these words the following passage: “And the Lord said to Simon: Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto Him: Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death. And He said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shall thrice deny that thou knowest me. And He said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing. Then said He unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And He was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And He said unto them, It is enough.”36 Next comes the passage, given both by Matthew and by Mark: “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives. Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter saith unto Him, Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.”37 We have introduced the preceding section as it is presented by Matthew. But Mc also records it almost in so many and the same words, with the exception of the apparent discrepancy, which we have already cleared up above, on the subject of the crowing of the cock.


10. Matthew then proceeds with his narrative in the same connection as follows: “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane.”38 This is mentioned also by Mark.39 Luke, too, refers to it, although he does not notice the piece of ground by name. For he says: “And He came out, and went, as was His wont, to the Mount of Olives; and His disciples also followed Him. And when He was at the place, He said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.”40 That is the place which the other two have instanced under the name of Gethsemane. There, we understand, was the garden which Jn brings into notice when he gives the following narration: “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples.”41 Then taking Matthew’s record, we get this statement next in order: “He said unto His disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.42 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And He went a little farther, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt. And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What! could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me except I drink it, Thy will be done. And He came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh He to His disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that shall betray me.”43

11. Mc also records these passages, introducing them quite in the same method and succession. Some of the sentences, however, are given with greater brevity by him, and others are somewhat more fully explained. These sayings of our Lord, indeed, may seem in one portion to stand in some manner of contradiction to each other as they are presented in Matthew’s version. I refer to the fact that [it is stated there that] He came to His disciples after His third prayer, and said to them, “Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that shall betray me.” For what are we to make of the direction thus given above, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” when there is immediately subjoined this other declaration, “Behold, the hour is at hand,” and thereafter also the instruction, “Arise, let us be going “? Those readers who perceive something like a contradiction here, seek to pronounce these words, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” in a way betokening that they were spoken in reproach, and not in permission. And this is an expedient which might quite fairly be adopted were there any necessity for it. Mark, however, has reproduced these sayings in a manner which implies that after He had expressed himself in the terms, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” He added the words, “It is enough,” and then appended to these the further statement, “The hour is come; behold, the Son of man shall be betrayed.”44 Hence we may conclude that the case really stood thus: namely, that after addressing these words to them, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” the Lord was silent for a space, so that what He had thus given them permission to do might be [seen to be] really acted upon; and that thereafter He made the other declaration” Behold the hour is come” Thus it is that in Mark’s Gospel we find those words [regarding the sleeping] followed immediately by the phrase, “It is enough;” that is to say,” the rest which you have had is enough now.” But as no distinct notice is introduced of this silence on the Lord’s part which intervened then, the passage comes to be understood in a forced manner, and it is supposed that a peculiar pronunciation must be given to these words.

12. Luke, on the other hand, has omitted to mention the number of times that He prayed. He has told us, however, a fact which is not recorded by the others—namely, that when He prayed He was strengthened by an angel, and that, as He prayed more earnestly, He had a bloody sweat, with drops falling down to the ground. Thus it appears that when he makes the statement, “And when He rose up from prayer, and was come to His disciples,” he does not indicate how often He had prayed by that time. But still, in so doing, he does not stand in any kind of antagonism to the other two. Moreover, Jn does indeed mention how He entered into the garden along with His disciples. But he does not relate how He was occupied there up to the period when His betrayer came in along with the Jews to apprehend Him.

13. These three evangelists, therefore, have in this manner narrated the same incident, just as, on the other hand, one man might give three several accounts of a single occurrence, with a certain measure of diversity in his statements, and yet without any real contradiction. Luke, for example, has specified the distance to which He went forward from the disciples—that is to say, when He withdrew from them in order to pray—more definitely than the others. For he tells us that it was “about a stone’s cast.” Mark, again, states first of all in his own words how the Lord prayed that, “If it were possible, the hour might pass from Him,” referring to the hour of His Passion, which be also expresses presently by the term “cup.” He then reproduces the Lord’s own words, in the following manner: “Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee: take away this cup from me.” And if we connect with these terms the clause which is given by the other two evangelists, and for which Mc himself has also already introduced a clear parallel, presented as a statement made in his own person instead of the Lord’s, the whole sentence will be exhibited in this form: “Father, if it be possible, (for) all things are possible unto Thee, take away this cup from me.” And it will be so put just to prevent any one from supposing that He made the Father’s power less than it is when He said, “If it be possible.” For thus His words were not “If Thou canst do it” but “If it be possible. And anything is possible which He wills. Therefore, the expression, “If it be possible,” has here just the same force as, “If Thou wilt.” For Mark has made the sense in which the phrase, “If it be possible,” is to be taken quite plain, when he says, “All things are possible unto Thee.” And further, the fact that these writers have recorded how He said, “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what Thou wilt” (an expression which means precisely the same as this other form, “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done”), shows us clearly enough that it was with reference not to any absolute impossibility on the Father’s side, but only to His will, that these words, “If it be possible,” were spoken. This is made the more apparent by the plainer statement which Luke has presented to the same effect. For his version is not, “If it be possible,” but, “If Thou be willing.” And to this clearer declaration of what was really meant we may add, with the effect of still greater clearness, the clause which Mc has inserted, so that the whole will proceed thus: “If Thou be willing, (for) all things are possible unto Thee, take away this cup from me.”

14. Again, as to Mark’s mentioning that the Lord said not only “Father,” but “Abba, Father,” the explanation simply is, that “Abba” is in Hebrew exactly what “Pater” is in Latin. And perhaps the Lord may have used both words with some kind of symbolical significance, intending to indicate thereby, that in sustaining this sorrow He bore the part of His body, which is the Church, of which He has been made the corner-stone, and which comes to Him [in the person of disciples gathered] partly out of the Hebrews, to whom He refers when He says “Abba,” and partly out of the Gentiles, to whom He refers when He says “Pater” [Father].45 The Apostle Paul also makes use of the same significant expression. For he says, “In whom we cry, Abba, Father;”46 and, in another passage, “God sent His Spirit into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”47 For it was meet that the good Master and true Saviour, by sharing in the sufferings of the more infirm,48 should in His own person illustrate the truth that His witnesses ought not to despair, although it might perchance happen that, through human frailty, sorrow might steal in upon their hearts at the time of suffering; seeing that they would overcome it if, mindful that God knows what is best for those whose well-being He regards, they gave His will the preference over their own. On this subject, however, as a whole, the present is not the time for entering on any more detailed discussion. For we have to deal simply with the question concerning the harmony of the evangelists, from whose varied modes of narration we gather the wholesome lesson that, in order to get at the truth, the one essential thing to aim at in dealing with the terms is simply the intention which the speaker had in view in using them. For the word “Father” means just the same as the phrase “Abba, Father.” But with a view to bring out the mystic significance, the expression, “Abba, Father,” is the clearer form; while, for indicating the unity, the word “Father” is sufficient. And that the Lord did indeed employ this method of address, “Abba, Father,” must be accepted as matter of fact. But still His intention would not appear very obvious were there not the means (since others use simply the term “Father”) to show that under such a form of expression those two Churches, which are constituted, the one out of the Jews, and the other out of the Gentiles, are presented as also really one. In this way, then, [we may suppose that] the phrase, “Abba, Father,” was adopted in order to convey the same idea as was indicated by the Lord on another occasion, when He said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.”49 In these words He certainly referred to the Gentiles, since He had sheep also among the people of Israel. But in that passage He goes on immediately to add the declaration, “Them also I must bring, that there may be one fold and one Shepherd.” And so we may say that, just as the phrase, “Abba, Father,” contains the idea of [the two races,] the Israelites and the Gentiles, the word “Father,” used alone, points to the one flock which these two constitute.

Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels 300