Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels 304


15. When we follow the versions presented by Matthew and Mark, we find that the history now proceeds thus: “And while He yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude, with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed Him, gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He; hold Him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master; and kissed Him.”50 First of all, however, as we gather from Luke’s statement, He said to the traitor, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?”51 Next, as we learn from Matthew, He spoke thus: “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” Thereafter He added certain words which are found in John’s narrative, which runs in the following strain: “Whom seek ye? They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am He. And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them. As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground. Then asked He them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am He: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way; that the saying might be fulfilled which He spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.”52

16. Next comes in a passage, which is given by Lc as follows: “When they which were about Him saw what would follow, they said unto Him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? And one of them smote the servant of the high priest,” as is noticed by all the four historians, “and cut off his ear,” which, as we are informed by Lc and John, was his “right ear.” Moreover, we gather also from Jn that the person who smote the servant was Peter, and that the name of the man whom he thus struck was Malchus. Next we take what Luke mentions, namely, “Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far;”53 with which we must connect the words appended by Matthew, namely, “Put up thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”54 Along with these words we may also place the question to which John tells us He gave utterance on the same occasion, namely, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”55 And then, as is recorded by Luke, He touched the ear of the person who had been struck, and healed him.

17. Neither should we let the idea disturb us, that some contradiction may be found in the circumstance that Lc tells us how, when the disciples asked Him whether they should smite with the sword, the Lord replied in these words, “Suffer ye thus far,” in a manner which might seem to imply that He thus expressed Himself, after the blow had been struck, in terms bearing that He was satisfied with what had been done so far, but desired nothing further to be done; whereas the language which is employed by Matthew might give us rather to understand that this whole incident of the use which Peter made of the sword was displeasing to the Lord. For it is more correct to suppose that when they put the question to Him, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” He replied then, “Suffer ye thus far;” His meaning being this: “Let not what is about to take place agitate you. These men are to be suffered to go thus far; that is to say, so far as to apprehend me, and thus to effect the fulfilment of those things which are written of me.” We have further to suppose, however, that during the time which passed in the interchange of the question addressed by them to the Lord, and the reply returned by Him to them, Peter was borne on by his intense desire to appear as defender, and by his stronger excitement in the Lord’s behalf, to deal the blow. But while these two things might easily have happened at the same time, two different statements could not have been uttered by the same person in one breath.56 For the writer would not have used the expression, “And Jesus answered and said,” unless the words were a reply to the question which had been addressed by those who were about Him, and not a statement directed to Peter’s act. For Matthew is the only one who has recorded the judgment passed by Jesus on Peter’s act. And in that passage the phrase which Matthew has employed is also not in the form, “Jesus answered Peter thus, Put up thy sword;” but it runs in these terms: “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up thy sword;” from which it appears that it was after the deed that Jesus thus declared Himself. What is contained, again, in the phraseology used by Luke, namely, “And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far,” must be taken to have been the reply which was returned to the parties who had put the question to Him. But inasmuch as, according to our previous explanation, the single blow with which the servant was struck was delivered just during the time when the terms of the said question and answer were passing between these persons and the Lord, the writer has considered it right to record that act in the same particular order, so that it stands inserted between the words of the interrogation and those in which the response was couched. Consequently, there is nothing here in antagonism to the statement introduced by Matthew, namely, “For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword,”—that is to say, those who may have used the sword. But there might appear to be some inconsistency here if the Lord’s answer were taken in a sense which would show Him to have expressed approval on this occasion of the voluntary use of the sword, even although it was only to the effect of a single wound, and that, too, not a fatal one. The words, however, which were addressed to Peter may be understood, as a whole, in an application quite in harmony with the rest; so that, bringing in also what Lc and Matthew have reported, as I have stated above, we obtain the following connection: “Suffer ye thus far. Put up thy sword into its place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword,” etc. In what way, moreover, this sentence, “Suffer ye thus far,” is to be understood, I have explained already. And if there is any better method of interpreting it, be it so. Only let the veracity of the evangelists be maintained in any case.

18. After this, Matthew continues the narrative, and mentions that in that hour He addressed the multitude as follows: “Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.”57 Then He added also certain words, which Lc introduces thus: “But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”58 Next comes the sentence given by Matthew: “But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” This last fact is recorded also by Mark. The same evangelist makes also the following addition: “And there followed Him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and when they laid hold on him, he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.”59


19. In the line of Matthew’s narrative we come next upon this statement: “And they that laid hold on Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.”60 We learn, however, from Jn that He was conducted first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas.61 On the other hand, Mc and Lc omit all mention of the name of the high priest.62 Moreover [we find that] He was led away bound. For, as Jn informs us, there were at hand there, in the multitude, a tribune and a cohort, and the servants of the Jews.63 Then in Matthew we have these words: “But Peter followed Him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in and sat with the servants to see the end.”64 To this passage in the narrative Mc makes this addition: “And he warmed himself at the fire.”65 Lc also makes a statement which amounts to the same, thus: “Peter followed afar off: and when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were sat down together, Peter sat down among them.”66 And Jn proceeds in these terms: “And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. That disciple (namely, that other) was known unto the high priest, and went in (as Jn also tells us) with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. But Peter (as the same Jn adds) stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.”67 For , the last fact we are thus indebted to John’s narrative. And in this way we see how it came about that Peter also got inside, and was within the hall, as the other evangelists mention.68

20. Then Matthew’s report goes on thus: “Now the chief priests and elders and all the council sought false witness against Jesus, to put Him to death, but found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none.”69 Mc comes in here with the explanation, that “their witness agreed not together.”70 But, as Matthew continues, “At the last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.”71 Mc states that there were also others who said, “We have heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. And therefore (as Mc also observes in the same passage) their witness did not agree together.”72 Then Matthew gives us the following relation: “And the high priest arose and said unto Him, Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held His peace. And the high priest answered and said unto Him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said.”73 Mc reports the same passage in different terms, only he omits to mention the fact that the high priest adjured Him. He makes it plain, however, that the two expressions ascribed to Jesus as the reply to the high priest,—namely, “Thou hast said,” and, “I am,”74 —really amount to the same. For, as the said Mc puts it, the narrative goes on thus: “And Jesus said, I am; and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”75 This is just as Matthew also presents the passage, with the solitary exception that he does not say that Jesus replied in the phrase “I am.” Again, Matthew goes on further in this strain: “Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? And they answered and said, He is guilty of death.”76 Mark’s version of this is entirely to the same effect. So Matthew continues, “Then did they spit in His face, and buffeted Him, and others smote Him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?”77 Mark reports these things in like manner. He also mentions a further fact, namely, that they covered His face.78 On these incidents we have likewise the testimony of Luke.

21. These things the Lord is understood to have passed through on to the early morning in the high priest’s house, to which He was first conducted, and in which Peter was also tempted. With respect, however, to this temptation of Peter, which took place during the time that the Lord was enduring these injuries, the several evangelists do not present the same order in the recital of the circumstances. For Matthew and Mc first narrate the injuries offered to the Lord, and then this temptation of Peter. Luke, again, first describes Peter’s temptation, and only after that the reproaches borne by the Lord; while John, on the other hand, first recounts part of Peter’s temptation, then introduces some verses recording what the Lord had to bear, next appends a statement to the effect that the Lord was sent away thence (i.e. from Annas) to Caiaphas the high priest, and then at this point resumes and sums up the relation which he had commenced of Peter’s temptation in the house to which he was first conducted, giving a full account of that incident, thereafter reverting to the succession of things befalling the Lord, and telling us how He was brought to Caiaphas.79

22. Accordingly, Matthew proceeds as follows: “Now Peter sat without in the palace; and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.And as he went out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them, for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying that he knew not the man. And immediately the cock crew.”80 Such is Matthew’s version. But we are also given to understand that after he had gone outside, and when he had now denied the Lord once, the first cock crew,—a fact which Matthew does not specify, but which is intimated by Mark.

23. But it was not when he was outside at the gate that he denied the Lord the second time. That took place after he had come back to the fire-place. There was no need, however, to mention the precise time at which he did thus return. Consequently Mc goes on with his narrative of the incident in these terms: “And he went out into the porch, and the cock crew. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again.”81 This is not the same maid, however, as the former one, but another, as Matthew tells us. Nay, we gather further that on the occasion of the second denial he was addressed by two parties, namely, by the maid who is mentioned by Matthew and Mark, and also by another person who is noticed by Luke. For Luke’s account runs in this style: “And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were sat down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied Him, saying, Woman, I know Him not. And after a little while, another saw him, and said, “Thou art also of them.”82 Now the clause, “And after a little while,” which Lc introduces, covers the period during which [we may suppose that] Peter went out and the first cock crew. By this time, however, he had come in again; and thus we can understand the consistency of John’s narrative, which informs us that he denied the Lord the second time as he stood by the fire. For in his version of Peter’s first denial, Jn not only says nothing about the first crowing of the cock (which holds good of the other evangelists, too, with the exception of Mark), but also leaves unnoticed the fact that it was as he sat by the fire that the maid recognised him. For all that Jn says there is this, “Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples? He saith, I am not.”83 Then he brings in the statement which he deemed it right to make on the subject of what took place with Jesus in that same house. His record of this is to the following effect: “And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals, for it was cold. And they warmed themselves; and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.”84 Here, therefore, we may suppose Peter to have gone out, and by this time to have come in again. For at first he was sitting by the fire; and after a space, as we gather, he had returned, and commenced to stand [by the hearth].

24. It may be, however, that some one will say to us: Peter had not actually gone out as yet, but had only risen with the purpose of going out. This may be the allegation of one who is of opinion that the second interrogation and denial took place when Peter was outside at the door. Let us therefore look at what follows in John’s narrative. It is to this effect: “The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples, and of His doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in thesynagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. And when He had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me? And Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.”85 This certainly shows us that Annas was high priest. For Jesus had not been sent to Caiaphas as yet, when the question was thus put to Him, “Answerest thou the high priest so?” Mention is also made of Annas and Caiaphas as high priests by Lc at the beginning of his Gospel.86 After these statements, Jn reverts to the account which he had previously begun of Peter’s denial. Thus he brings us back to the house in which the incidents took place which he has recorded, and from which Jesus was sent away to Caiaphas, to whom He was being conducted at the commencement of this scene, as Matthew has informed us.87 Moreover, it is in the way of a recapitulation that Jn records the matters regarding Peter which he has introduced at this point. Falling back upon his narration of that incident with the view of making up a complete account of the threefold denial, he proceeds thus: “And Simon stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not.”88 Here, therefore, we find that Peter’s second denial occurred, not when he was at the door,but as he was standing by the fire. This, however, could not have been the case, had he notreturned by this time after having gone outside.For it is not that by this second occasion he had actually gone out, and that the other maid who is referred to saw him there outside; but the matter is put as if it was on his going out that she saw him; or, in other words, it was when he rose to go out that she observed him, and said to those who were there,—that is, to those who were gathered by the fire inside, within the court,—“This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.” Then we are to suppose that the man who had thus gone outside, on hearing thisassertion, came in again, and swore to those whowere now inimically disposed, “I do not know the man.”89 In like manner, Mark also says of this same maid, that “she began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.”90 For this damsel was speaking not to Peter, but to those who had remained there when he went out. At the same time, she spoke in such a manner that he heard her words; whereupon he came back and stood again by the fire, and met their words with a negative. Then we have the statement made by Jn in these terms: “They said, Art not thou also one of his disciples?” We understand this question to have been addressed to him on his return as he stood there; and we also recognise the harmony in which this stands with the position that on this occasion Peter had to do not only with that other maid who is mentioned by Matthew and Mc in connection with this second denial, but also with that other person who is introduced by Luke. This is the reason why Jn uses the plural, “They said.” The explanation then may be, that when the maid said to those who were with her in the court as he went out, “This is one of them,” he heard her words and returned with the purpose of clearing himself, as it were, by a denial. Or, in accordance with the more probable theory, we may suppose that he did not catch what was said about him as he went out, and that on his return the maid and the other person who is introduced by Lc addressed him thus, “Art not thou also one of his disciples?” that he met them with a denial, “and said, I am not;” and further, that when this other person of whom Lc speaks insisted more pertinaciously, and said, “Surely thou art one of them,” Peter answered thus, “Man, I am not.” Still, when we compare together all the statements made by the several evangelists on this subject, we come clearly to the conclusion, that Peter’s second denial took place, not when he was at the door, but when he was within, by the fire in the court. It becomes evident, therefore, that Matthew and Mark, who have told us how he went without, have left the fact of his return unnoticed simply with a view to brevity.

25. Accordingly, let us next examine into the consistency of the evangelists so far as the third denial is concerned, which we have previously instanced in the statement given by Matthew only. Mc then goes on with his version in these terms: “And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them; for thou art a Galilaean. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. And immediately the second time the cock crew.”91 Luke, again, continues his narrative, relating the same incident in this fashion: “And about the space of one hour after, another confidently affirmed, Of a truth this fellow also was with him; for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately while he yet spake the cock crew.”92 John follows with his account of Peter’s third denial, which is thus given: “One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? Peter then denied again; and immediately the cock crew.”93 Now what precise period of time is meant under the phrase, “a little after,” which is employed by Matthew and Mark, is made clear by Luke, when he says, “And about the space of one hour after.” John, however, conveys no intimation of this space of time. Again, with respect to the circumstance that Matthew and Mc use the plural number instead of the singular, and speak of the persons who were engaged with Peter, while Lc mentions only a single individual, and John, too, specifies but one, particularizing him further as kinsman to him whose ear Peter cut off; we may easily explain it either by understanding Matthew and Mc to have adopted a familiar method of speech here in employing the plural number simply instead of the singular, or by supposing that one of the persons present—one who knew Peter and had seen him—took the lead in making the declaration, and that the rest, imitating his confidence, joined him in pressing the assertion upon Peter. If this is the case, then two of the evangelists have given the general statement, using simply the plural number; while the other two have preferred to particularize only the one special individual who played the chief part in the transaction. But, once more, Matthew affirms that the words, “Surely thou also art one of them, for thy speech bewrayeth thee,” were spoken to Peter himself. In like manner, John tells us that the question, “Did not I see thee in the garden with him?” was addressed directly to Peter. But Mark, on the other hand, gives us to understand that the sentence, “Surely he is one of them, for he is also a Galilaean,” was what those who stood by said to each other about Peter. And, in the same way, Lc indicates that the declaration uttered by the other person, who said, “Of a truth, this fellow also was with him, for he is a Galilaean,” was not addressed to Peter, but was made regarding Peter. These variations, however, may be explained either by understanding the evangelists, who speak of Peter as the person directly addressed, to have fairly reproduced the general sense, inasmuch as what was spoken about the man in his own presence was much the same as if it had been spoken immediately to him; or by supposing that both these methods of address were actually practised, and that the one has been noticed by the former evangelists, and the other by the latter. Moreover, we take the second cockcrowing to have occurred after the third denial, as Mc has expressly informed us.

26. Matthew then proceeds with his narrative in these terms: “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus which He had said unto him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly.”94 Mark, again, gives it thus: “And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said unto him, Before the cock crow twice thou shall deny me thrice. And he began to weep.”95 Luke’s version is as follows: “And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said unto him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out and wept bitterly.”96 Jn says nothing about Peter’s recollection and weeping. Now, the statement made here by Luke, to the effect that “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter,” is one which requires more careful consideration, with a view to its correct acceptance. For although there are also inner halls (or courts), so named, it was in the outer court (or hall) that Peter appeared on this occasion among the servants, who were warming themselves along with him at the fire. And it is not a credible supposition that Jesus was heard by the Jews in this place, so that we might also understand the look referred to have been a look with the bodily eye. For Matthew presents us first with this narrative: “Then did they spit in His face and buffeted Him; and others smote Him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who is he that smote thee?”97 And then he follows this up immediately with the paragraph about Peter: “Now Peter sat without in the palace.”98 He would not, however, have used this latter expression, had it not been the case that the things previously alluded to were done to the Lord inside the house. And, indeed, as we gather from Mark’s version, these things took place not simply in the interior, but also in the upper parts of the house. For, after recording the said circumstances, Mc goes on thus: “And as Peter was beneath in the palace.”99 Thus, as Matthew’s words, “Now Peter sat without in the palace,” show us that the things previously mentioned took place inside the house, so Mark’s words, “And as Peter was beneath in the palace,” indicate that they were done not only in the interior, but in the upper parts of the house. But if this is the case, how could the Lord have looked on Peter with the actual glance of the bodily eye? These considerations bring me to the conclusion, that the look in question was one cast upon Peter from Heaven, the effect of which was to bring up before his mind the number of times he had now denied [his Master], and the declaration which the Lord had made to him prophetically, and in this way (the Lord thus looking mercifully upon him100 ), to lead him to repent, and to weep salutary tears. The expression, therefore, will be a parallel to other modes of speech which we employ daily, as when we thus pray, “Lord, look upon me;” or as when, in reference to one who has been delivered by the divine mercy from some danger or trouble, we say that the “Lord looked upon him.” In the Scriptures, also, we find such words as these: “Look upon me and hear me;101 and “Return,102 O Lord, and deliver my soul.”103 And, according to my judgment, a similar view is to be taken of the expression adopted here, when it is said that “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord.” Finally, we have to notice how, while it is the more usual practice with the evangelists to employ the name “Jesus” in preference to the word “Lord” in their narratives, Lc has used the latter term exclusively in the said sentence, saying expressly, “The ‘Lord’ turned and looked upon Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the ‘Lord:’“ whereas Matthew and Mc have passed over this “look” in silence, and consequently have said that Peter remembered not the word of the “Lord,” but the word of “Jesus.” From this, therefore, we may gather that the “look” thus proceeding from Jesus was not one with the eyes of the human body, but a look cast from Heaven.104


27. Matthew next proceeds as follows: “When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus, to put Him to death; and when they had bound Him, they led Him away, and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.”105 Mark’s version is to the like effect: “And straightway in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.”106 Luke, again, after completing his account of Peter’s denial, recapitulates what Jesus had to endure when it was now about daybreak, as it appears, and continues his narrative in the following connection: “And the men that held Jesus mocked Him, and smote Him; and when they had blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face, and asked Him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee? And many other things blasphemously spake they against Him. And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people, and the chief priests, and the scribes came together, and led Him into their council, saying, Art thou the Christ? tell us. And He said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe; and if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God. Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And He said unto them, Ye say that I am. And they said, What need we further witness? For we ourselves have heard of His own mouth. And the whole multitude of them arose, and led Him unto Pilate.”107 Lc has thus recorded all these things. His statement contains certain facts which are also related by Matthew and Mark; namely, that the Lord was asked whether He was the Son of God, and that He made this reply, “I say unto you, hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” And we gather that these things took place when the day was now breaking, because Luke’s expression is, “And as soon as it was day.” Thus Luke’s narrative is similar to those of the others, although he also introduces something which these others have left unnoticed. We gather further, that when it was yet night, the Lord faced the ordeal of the false witnesses,—a fact which is recorded briefly by Matthew and Mark, and which is passed over in silence by Luke, who, however, has told the story of what was done when the dawn was coming in. The former two—namely, Matthew and Mark—have given connected narratives of all that the Lord passed through until early morning. After that, however, they have reverted to the story of Peter’s denial; on the conclusion of which they have come back upon the events of the early morning, and have introduced the other circumstances which remained for recital with a view to the completion of their account of what befell the Lord.108 But up to this point they have given no account of the occurrences belonging specifically to the morning.109 In like manner John, after recording what was done with the Lord as fully as he deemed requisite, and after telling also the whole story of Peter’s denial, continues his narrative in these terms: “Then lead they Jesus to Caiaphas,110 unto the hall of judgment. And it was early.”111 Here we might suppose either that there had been something imperatively requiring Caiaphas’ presence in the hall of judgment, and that he was absent on the occasion when the other chief priests held an inquiry on the Lord; or else that the hall of judgment was in his house; and that yet from the beginning of this scene they had thus only been leading Jesus away to the personage in whose presence He was at last actually conducted. But as they brought the accused person in the character of one already convicted, and as it had previously approved itself to Caiaphas’ judgment that Jesus should die, there was no further delay in delivering Him over to Pilate, with a view to His being put to death.112 And thus it is that Matthew here relates what took place between Pilate and the Lord.

28. First, however, he makes a digression with the purpose of telling the story of Judas’ end, which is related only by him. His account is in these terms: “Then Judas, which had betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him that was valued, whom the children of Israel113 did value, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.”114

29. Now, if any one finds a difficulty in the circumstance that this passage is not found in the writings of the prophet Jeremiah, and thinks that damage is thus done to the veracity of the evangelist, let him first take notice of the fact that this ascription of the passage to Jeremiah is not contained in all the codices of the Gospels, and that some of them state simply that it I was spoken “by the prophet.” It is possible, therefore, to affirm that those codices deserve rather to be followed which do not contain the name of Jeremiah. For these words were certainly spoken by a prophet, only that prophet was Zechariah. In this way the supposition is, that those codices are faulty which contain the name of Jeremiah, because they ought either to have given the name of Zechariah or to have mentioned no name at all, as is the case with a certain copy, merely stating that it was spoken “by the prophet, saying,” which prophet would assuredly be understood to be Zechariah. However, let others adopt this method of defence, if they are so minded. For my part, I am not satisfied with it; and the reason is, that a majority of codices contain the name of Jeremiah, and that those critics who have studied the Gospel with more than usual care in the Greek copies, report that they have found it stand so in the more ancient Greek exemplars. I look also to this further consideration, namely, that there was no reason why this name should have been added [subsequently to the true text], and a corruption thus created; whereas there was certainly an intelligible reason for erasing the name from so many of the codices. For venturesome inexperience might readily have done that, when perplexed with the problem presented by the fact that this passage could not be found in Jeremiah.115

30. How, then, is the matter to be explained, but by supposing that this has been done in accordance with the more secret counsel of that providence of God by which the minds of the evangelists were governed? For it may have been the case, that when Matthew was engaged in composing his Gospel, the word Jeremiah occurred to his mind, in accordance with a familiar experience, instead of Zechariah. Such an inaccuracy, however, he would most undoubtedly have corrected (having his attention called to it, as surely would have been the case, by some who might have read it while he was still alive in the flesh), had he not reflected that [perhaps] it was not without a purpose that the name of the one prophet had been suggested instead of the other in the process of recalling the circumstances (which process of recollection was also directed by the Holy Spirit), and that this might not have occurred to him had it not been the Lord’s purpose to have it so written. If it is asked, however, why the Lord should have so determined it, there is this first and most serviceable reason, which deserves our most immediate consideration, namely, that some idea was thus conveyed of the marvellous manner in which all the holy prophets, speaking in one spirit, continued in perfect unison with each other in their utterances,—a circumstance certainly much more calculated to impress the mind than would have been the case had all the words of all these prophets been spoken by the mouth of a single individual. The same consideration might also fitly suggest the duty of accepting unhesitatingly whatever the Holy Spirit has given expression to through the agency of these prophets, and of looking upon their individual communications as also those of the whole body, and on their collective communications as also those of each separately. If, then, it is the case that words spoken by Jeremiah are really as much Zechariah’s as Jeremiah’s, and, on the other hand, that words spoken by Zechariah are really as much Jeremiah’s as they are Zechariah’s, what necessity was there for Matthew to correct his text when he read over what he had written, and found that the one name had occurred to him instead of the other? Was it not rather the proper course for him to bow to the authority of the Holy Spirit, under whose guidance he certainly felt his mind to be placed in a more decided sense than is the case with us, and consequently to leave untouched what he had thus written, in accordance with the Lord’s counsel and appointment, with the intent to give us to understand that the prophets maintain so complete a harmony with each other in the matter of their utterances that it becomes nothing absurd, but, in fact, a most consistent thing for us to credit Jeremiah with a sentence originally spoken by Zechariah?116 For if, in these days of ours, a person, desiring to bring under our notice the words of a certain individual, happens to mention the name of another by whom the words were not actually uttered,117 but who at the same time is the most intimate friend and associate of the man by whom they were really spoken; and if forthwith recollecting that he has given the one name instead of the other, he recovers himself and corrects the mistake, but does it nevertheless in some such way as this, “After all, what I said was not amiss;” what would we take to be meant by this, but just that there subsists so perfect a unison of sentiment between the two parties—that is to say, the man whose words the individual in question intended to repeat, and the second person whose name occurred to him at the time instead of that of the other—that it comes much to the same thing to represent the words to have been spoken by the former as to say that they were uttered by the latter? How much more, then, is this a usage which might well be understood and most particularly commended to our attention in the case of the holy prophets, so that we might accept the books composed by the whole series of them, as if they formed but a single book written by one author, in which no discrepancy with regard to the subjects dealt with should be supposed to exist, as none would be found, and in which there would be a more remarkable example of consistency and veracity than would have been the case had a single individual, even the most learned, been the enunciator of all these sayings? Therefore, while there are those, whether unbelievers or merely ignorant men, who endeavour to find an argument here to help them in demonstrating a want of harmony between the holy evangelists, men of faith and learning, on the other hand, ought rather to bring this into the service of proving the unity which characterizes the holy prophets.118

31. I have also another reason (the fuller discussion of which must be reserved, I think, for another opportunity, in order to prevent the present discourse from extending to larger limits than may be allowed by the necessity which rests upon us to bring this work to a conclusion) to offer in explanation of the fact that the name of Jeremiah has been permitted, or rather directed, by the authority of the Holy Spirit, to stand in this passage instead of that of Zechariah. It is stated in Jeremiah that he bought a field from the son of his brother, and paid him money for it. That sum of money is not given, indeed, under the name of the particular price which is found in Zechariah, namely, thirty pieces of silver; but, on the other hand, there is no mention of the buying of the field in Zechariah. Now, it is evident that the evangelist has interpreted the prophecy which speaks of the thirty pieces of silver as something which has received its fulfilment only in the Lord’s case, so that it is made to stand for the price set upon Him. But again, that the words which were uttered by Jeremiah on the subject of the purchase of the field have also a bearing upon the same matter, may have been mystically signified by the selection thus made in introducing [into the evangelical narrative] the name of Jeremiah, who spoke of the purchase of the field, instead of that of Zechariah, to whom we are indebted for the notice of the thirty pieces of silver. In this way, on perusing first the Gospel, and finding the name of Jeremiah there, and then, again, on perusing Jeremiah, and failing there to discover the passage about the thirty pieces of silver, but seeing at the same time the section about the purchase of the field, the reader would be taught to compare the two paragraphs together, and get at the real meaning of the prophecy, and learn how it also stands in relation to this fulfilment of prophecy which was exhibited in the instance of our Lord. For [it is also to be remarked that] Matthew makes the following addition to the passage cited, namely, “Whom the children of Israel did value; and gave them the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.” Now, these words are not to be found either in Zechariah or in Jeremiah. Hence we must rather take them to have been inserted with a nice and mystical meaning by the evangelist, on his own responsibility,—the Lord having given him to understand, by revelation, that a prophecy of the said tenor had a real reference to this occurrence, which took place in connection with the price set upon Christ. Moreover, in Jeremiah, the evidence of the purchase of the field is ordered to be cast into an earthen vessel. Inlike manner, we find in the Gospel that the money paid for the Lord was used for the purchase of a potter’s field, which field also was to be employed as a burying-place for strangers. And it may be that all this was significant of the permanence of the repose of those who sojourn like strangers in this present world, and are buried with Christ by baptism. For the Lord also declared to Jeremiah, that the said purchase of the field was expressive of the fact that in that land [of Judaea] there would be a remnant of the people delivered from their captivity.119 I judged it proper to give some sort of sketch120 of these things, as I was calling attention to the kind of significance which a really careful and painstaking study should look for in these testimonies of the prophets, when they are reduced to a unity and compared with the evangelical narrative. These, then, are the statements which Matthew has introduced with reference to the traitor Judas.

Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels 304