Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels 133


51. Finally, as to the complaint which they make with respect to the impairing of the bliss of human life by the entrance of Christian times, if they only peruse the books of their own philosophers, who reprehend those very things which are now being taken out of their way in spite of all their unwillingness and murmuring, they will indeed find that great praise is due to the times of Christ. For what diminution is made in their happiness, unless it be in what they most basely and luxuriously abused, to the great injury of their Creator? or unless, perchance, it be the case that evil times originate in such circumstances as these, in which throughout almost alI states the theatres are failing, and with them, too, the dens of vice and the public profession of iniquity: yea, altogether the forums and cities in which the demons used to be worshipped are falling. How comes it, then, that they are falling, unless it be in consequence of the failure of those very things, in the lustful and sacrilegious use of which they were constructed? Did not their own Cicero, when commending a certain actor of the name of Roscius, call him a man so clever as to be the only one worthy enough to make it due for him to come upon the stage; and yet, again, so good a man as to be the only one so worthy as to make it due for him not to approach it?155 What else did he disclose with such remarkable clearness by this saying, but the fact that the stage was so base there, that a person was under the greater obligation not to connect himself with it, in proportion as he was a better man than most? And vet their gods were pleased with such things of shame as he deemed fit only to be removed to a distance from good men. But we have also an open confession of the same Cicero, where he says that he had to appease Flora, the mother of sports, by frequent celebration;156 in which sports such an excess of vice is wont to be exhibited, that, in comparison with them, others are respectable, from engaging in which, nevertheless, good men are prohibited. Who is this mother Flora, and what manner of goddess is she, who is thus conciliated and propitiated by a practice of vice indulged in with more than usual frequency and with looser reins? How much more honourable now was it for a Roscius to step upon the stage, than for a Cicero to worship a goddess of this kind! If the gods of the Gentile nations are offended because the supplies are lessened which are instituted for the purpose of such celebrations, it is apparent of what character those must be who are delighted with such things. But if, on the other hand, the gods themselves in their wrath diminish these supplies, their anger yields us better services than their placability. Wherefore let these men either confute their own philosophers, who have reprehended the same practices on the side of wanton men; or else let them break in pieces those gods of theirs who have made such demands upon their worshippers, if indeed they still find any such deities either to break in pieces or to conceal. But let them cease from their blasphemous habit of charging Christian times with the failure of their true prosperity,—a prosperity, indeed, so used by them that they were sinking into all that is base and hurtful,—lest thereby they be only putting us all the more emphatically in mind of reasons for the ampler praise of the power of Christ.


52. Much more might I say on this subject, were it not that the requirements of the task which I have undertaken compel me to conclude this book, and revert to the object originally proposed. When, indeed, I took it in hand to solve those problems of the Gospels which meet us where the four evangelists, as it seems to certain critics, fail to harmonize with each other, by setting forth to the best of my ability the particular designs which they severally have in view, I was met first by the necessity of discussing a question which some are accustomed to bring before us,—the question, namely, as to the reason why we cannot produce any writings composed by Christ Himself. For their aim is to get Him credited with the writing of some other composition, I know not of what sort, which may be suitable to their inclinations, and with having indulged in no sentiments of antagonism to their gods, but rather with having paid respect to them in a kind of magical worship; and their wish is also to get it believed that His disciples not only gave a false account of Him when they declared Him to be the God by whom all things were made, while He was really nothing more than a man, although certainly a man of the most exalted wisdom, but also that they taught with regard to these gods of theirs something different from what they had themselves learned from Him. This is how it happens that we have been engaged preferentially in pressing them with arguments concerning the God of Israel, who is now worshipped by all nations through the medium of the Church of the Christians, who is also subverting their sacrilegious vanities the whole world over, exactly as He announced by the mouth of the prophets so long ago, and who has now fulfilled those predictions by the name of Christ, in whom He had promised that all nations should be blessed. And from all this they ought to understand that Christ could neither have known nor taught anything else with regard to their gods than what was enjoined and foretold by the God of Israel through the agency of these prophets of His by whom He promised, and ultimately sent, this very Christ, in whose name, according to the promise given to the fathers, when all nations were pronounced blessed, it has come to pass that this same God of Israel should be called the God of the whole earth. By this, too, they ought to see that His disciples did not depart from the doctrine of their Master when they forbade the worship of the gods of the Gentiles, with the view of preventing us from addressing our supplications to insensate images, or from having fellowship with demons, or from serving the creature rather than the Creator with the homage of religious worship.


53. Wherefore, seeing that Christ Himself is that Wisdom of God by whom all things were created, and considering that no rational intelligences, whether of angels or of men, receive wisdom except by participation in this Wisdom wherewith we are united by that Holy Spirit through whom charity is shed abroad in our hearts157 (which Trinity at the same time constitutes one God), Divine Providence, having respect to the interests of mortal men whose time-bound life was held engaged in things which rise into being and die,158 decreed that this same Wisdom of God, assuming into the unity of His person the (nature of) man, in which He might be born according to the conditions of time, and live and die and rise again, should utter and perform and bear and sustain things congruous to our salvation; and thus, in exemplary fashion, show at once to men on earth the way for a return to heaven, and to those angels who are above us, the way to retain their position in heaven.159 For unless, also, in the nature of the reasonable soul, and under the conditions of an existence in time, something came newly into being,—that is to say, unless that began to be which previously was not,—there could never be any passing from a life of utter corruption and folly into one of wisdom and true goodness. And thus, as truth in the contemplative lives in the enjoyment of things eternal, while faith in the believing is what is due to things which are made, man is purified through that faith which is conversant with temporal things, in order to his being made capable of receiving the truth of things eternal. For one of their noblest intellects, the philosopher Plato, in the treatise which is named the Timaeus, speaks also to this effect: “As eternity is to that which is made, so truth to faith.” Those two belong to the things above,—namely, eternity and truth; these two belong to the things below,—namely, that which is made and faith. In order, therefore, that we may be called off from the lowest objects, and led up again to the highest, and in order also that what is made may attain to the eternal, we must come through faith to truth. And because all contraries are reduced to unity by some middle factor, and because also the iniquity of time alienated us from the righteousness of eternity, there was need of some mediatorial righteousness of a temporal nature; which mediatizing factor might be temporal on the side of those lowest objects, but also righteous on the side of these highest,160 and thus, by adapting itself to the former without cutting itself off from the latter, might bring back those lowest objects to the highest. Accordingly, Christ was named the Mediator between God and men, who stood between the immortal God and mortal man, as being Himself both God and man,161 who reconciled man to God, who continued to be what He (formerly) was, but was made also what He (formerly) was not. And the same Person is for us at once the (centre of the) said faith in things that are made, and the truth in things eternal.

54. This great and unutterable mystery, this kingdom and priesthood, was revealed by prophecy to the men of ancient time, and is now preached by the gospel to their descendants. For it behoved that, at some period or other, that should be made good among all nations which for a long time had been promised through the medium of a single nation. Accordingly, He who sent the prophets before His own. descent also despatched the apostles after His ascension. Moreover, in virtue of the man162 assumed by Him, He stands to all His disciples in the relation of the head to the members of His body. Therefore, when those disciples have written matters which He declared and spake to them, it ought not by any means to be said that He has written nothing Himself; since the truth is, that His members have accomplished only what they became acquainted with by the repeated statements of the Head. For all that He was minded to give for our perusal on the subject of His own doings and sayings, He commanded to be written by those disciples, whom He thus used as if they were His own hands. Whoever apprehends this correspondence of unity and this concordant service of the members, all in harmony in the discharge of diverse offices under the Head, will receive the account which he gets in the Gospel through the narratives constructed by the disciples, in the same kind of spirit in which he might look upon the actual hand of the Lord Himself, which He bore in that body which was made His own, were he to see it engaged in the act of writing. For this reason let us now rather proceed to examine into the real character of those passages in which these critics suppose the evangelists to have given contradictory accounts (a thing which only those who fail to understand the matter aright can fancy to be the case); so that, when these problems are solved, it may also be made apparent that the members in that body have preserved a befitting harmony in the unity of the body itself, not only by identity in sentiment, but also by constructing records consonant with that identity).

1 The writer may be pardoned for alluding to his own experience in connection with this point. In the exegetical labours of some years, he found himself accepting the theory that the three Synoptists wrote independently of each other. Afterwards, when the task of editing Dr. Robinson’s Greek Harmony compelled him to compare again and again every word of each account, the evidences of independence seemed to him to be overwhelming.
2 See Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 2,rev. ed., pp. 493 sqq., 726 sqq.; also Schaff-Herzog, Encyclopedia, article “Diatessaron.” For the literature, see as above, and the supplementary volume of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, pp. 33-35. Tatian’s Address to the Greeks may be found in vol. 2,Ante-Nicene Fathers, pp. 65-83).
3 For full titles of these volumes, see Schaff, as above.
4 The letter of Eusebius to Caprianus is given by C. R). Gregory (Prolegomena to Tischendorf’s eighth edition, part 1,pp. 143-153), together with a full list of the sections arranged under the separate canons. The numbers signify as follows:—
1. In all four Gospels, 71.
2. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, 111.
3. In Matthew, Luke, John, 22.
4. In Matthew, Mark, John, 26.
5. In Matthew, Luke, 82.
6. In Matthew, Mark, 47.
7. In Matthew, John, 7.
8. In Luke, Mark, 14.
9. In Luke, John, 21.
10. In one Gospel: Matthew, 62; Mark, 21; Luke, 71; John, 97).
5 For lists of Harmonies, see Schaff, History of the Christian Church, rev. ed. vol. i.pp. 575, 576; Gardiner, Harmony, pp. xxxiv.-xxxvii.; Robinson, Harmony, revised by Riddle, pp. ix, x. Each of these lists contains references to older authors and their lists. See also Smith, Bible Dictionary, Am. ed. (Hackett and Abbot) 2,pp. 950, 960).

1 Reading redditum. Four Mss. give revelatum = as brought to light.—Migne.
2 Instead of Qui non solum, as above, many Mss. read Cujus, etc.—Migne).
3 [The character of the Apocryphal Gospels is obvious. The reference of Lc (i. 1) is probably to fragmentary records, now lost. Comp. below Book iv. chap. 8.—R.]
4 Notissimi).
5 [This opinion is not only unwarranted, since Mc shows greater signs of originality, but it has been prejudicial to the correct appreciation of the Gospel of Mark. The verbal identity of Matthew and Mc in parallel passages is far less than commonly supposed.—R.]
6 Personam.
7 (
Lc 3,31,
8 (Mt 1,6).
9 Some editions insert antiquos, the ancient Fathers; but the Mss. omit it.—Migne.
10 (Jn 19,19-22.
11 (Ps lxxv. 1.
12 Two Mss. give prophetam (“prophet”) instead of prophetiam (“prophecy”).—Migne).
13 (Ps 110,4,
14 1 Sam 21,6; Mt 12,3.
15 The reading supported by the rnanuscripts is: Mariam commemorat ab Angelo manifestatam cognatam fuisse Elisabeth. It is sometimes given thus: Mariam commemorat manifeste cognatam, etc. = mentions that Mary was clearly related to Elizabeth.
16 (Lc 1,36, 5).
17 (Lc 1,32,
18 (1Tm 2,5,
19 Sine aliquo sacramento).
20 [Here we have a mystical meaning attached to an opinion unwarranted by facts. Yet Augustin’s mystical treatment of the “Synoptic problem” is, with all its faults, not more fanciful and extravagant than some of the modern “critical” solutions of the same problem.—R.]
21 Temporaliter).
22 Quantum inter homines sufficere credidit).
23 (Jn 1,1, 3.
24 (Jn 1,14).
25 (Jn 10,30,
26 (Jn 14,9, 10.
27 (Jn 17,22,
28 (Jn 5,19,
29 (Jn 13,23,
30 Illa qua itur, ista qua pervenitur.
31 Qua vacatur).
32 Reading lumine; but one of the Vatican Mss. gives in illuminatione, in the enlightenment of the purged).
33 (1Co 13,12,
34 Book 22,52.
35 Laborans.
36 Visum principium. In various editions it is given as visus principium. The Mss. have visum principium. In the passage referred to in the treatise against Faustus the Manichaean, Augustin appends the explanation, sive verbum ex quo videtur principium, = the first principle seen, or the word by which the first principle is seen. The etymologies on which Augustin proceeds may perhaps be these: for Leah, the Hebrew verb Laah, to be wearied (ha;l;
); and for Rachel the Hebrew forms Raah = see, and Chalal = begin (ll'h; ha;r;
). For another example of extravagant allegorizing on the two wives of Jacob, see Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, chap. cxl.—Tr.
37 [The latter application is that of Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. iii).; but the prevalent application is that of Jerome, which is accepted in mediaeval art. It differs from that of Augustin (see (table below). As a curious illustration of the fanciful character of such interpretations, the reader may consult the following table, which gives the order of the following living creatures in Ap 4,7, with some of the leading “applications.”
38 (Ap 5,5,
39 (Mt 2,1-18.
40 (Lc 1,5, 36.
41 (Lc 2,22-24.
42 See also Tract. 36, on John i. 5). [This figure of Augustin has controlled all the subsequent symbolism respecting the Evangelist John, and has been constantly cited by commentators.—R.]
43 Has Domini sanctas quadrigas.
44 Reading either palmam suae vanitatis objicere, or with several Mss. palmare, etc).
45 Vel maxime pagani.
46 Six Mss. omit the tunc, at that time.—Migne.
47 Instead of de illo nuntia fama est, fourteen Mss. give de illo fama nuntiata est = is it a more trustworthy report that has been announced.—Migne.
48 Quibas eum praedicantibus ipsa per totum mundum fama fragravit?
49 Fama.
50 De catholica ecclesia.
51 Celebris).
52 The words stand, as above, in the great majority of Mss.: tam celebris, ut eam timendo isti trepidas et tepidas contradictiunculas in sinu suo rodant, jam plus metuentes audiri quam volentes credi, Filiam Dei Unigenitum et Deum praedicat Christum? In some Mss. and editions the sense is altered by inserting est after celebris, and substituting nolentes for volentes, and praedicari for praedicat; so that it becomes = that report is of such distinguished currency, that in dread of it they can only mutter, etc.…as now rather fearing to be heard than refusing to admit the belief that Christ is proclaimed to be the only-begotten Son of God, etc. See Migne.—Tr.
53 Simul eos cum illo pictos viderent.
54 The text gives diem celebrius solemniter, etc.; others give diem celebrius et solemniter; and three Mss. have diem celeberrimum solemniter.—Migne).
55 A pingentibus fingentes decepti sunt.
56 (Ac 9,1-30.
57 Civitatem.
58 The text gives deos…colendos propitiare. Five mss. give deos…colendo propitiare.—Migne
59 Chrism.
60 Christos.
61 Et qui eruit te, Deus Israel, universae terrae vocabitur. Is 54,5). [Compare the Hebrew, from which the Latin citation varies.—R.]
62 In his Retractations (ii. 16) Augustin alludes to this sentence, and says that the word Hebrews (Hebraei) may be derived from Abraham, as if the original form had been Abrahaei, but that it is more correct to take it from Heber, so that Hebraei is for Heberaei. He refers us also to his discussion in the City of God, 16,11.
63 (Gn 28,14).
64 Chrism).
65 The text gives probetur veritas Christi, etc.; six Mss. give profertur veritas, etc.—Migne.
66 Or adduce—male laudando.
67 The philosopher of the Neo-Platonic school, better known as one of the earliest and most learned antagonists of Christianity. Though a native either of Tyre or Batanea, he is called here, as also again in the Retractations, 2,31, a Sicilian, because, according to Jerome and Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. 6,19), it was in Sicily that he wrote his treatise in fifteen books against the Christian religion.—Tr.
68 (Lc 4,41,
69 (Ps xcvi. 5). [Comp 1Co 10,20, where “demons” is the more correct rendering (so Revised Version margin and American revisers’ text).—R.]
70 Or, to such power in interpreting the divine mind—tantae divinitati resistatur).
71 Or, power—virtutis.
72 The text gives invitandos; others read imitandos, to be imitated).
73 Or, Away with that vain necessity and ridiculous timidity—Sed fuerit ista vana necessitas, etc).
74 Reading fata. Seven Mss. give facta = deeds.
75 [This reference to the destruction of idols has been used to fix the date of the Harmony; see Introductory Notice of translator. The polemic character of the larger part of Book 1,seems due to the circumstances of that particular period in North Africa.—R.]
76 Reading futuras etiam litteras…in auctoritate ita sublimi. Six Mss. give futurum…sublimari, but with substantially the same sense.
77 Nihil aliud pro magno appetant quam cum aliquid eorum responsis sibi futurum esse didicerint).
78 Reading notior; others give potior = preferable. [The text of Migne reads notior et potentior, but five Mss. read notior et potior. The argument favours the former reading, and the latter can readily be accounted for.—R.]
79 Some read audere timeant = fear to dare. But the Mss. give more correctly audiri timeant = fear to be heard; i.e., the demons were afraid that, if they interdicted His worship, the true God might be made known by their own hand.—Migne).
80 Or, the breathed air—spiritum.
81 (Jr 23,24,
82 Spiritum, breath.
83 Aërem.
84 Alluding to the derivation of the word Aegis = aijgiv", a goatskin, from the Greek aivx = goat).
85 See the first book of his De Natura Deorum, c. 42. Compare also Lactantius, De Falsa Religione, 1,11; and Varro, De Re Rustica, 1,48.
86 The father of Roman literature, born B.C. 239 at Rudiae in Calabria, both a poet and a man of learning, and well versed, among other things, in Oscan, Latin, and Greek—linguistic accomplishments beyond his day. Of his writings we now possess only fragments, preserved by Cicero, Macrobius, Aulus Gellius, and others.
87 Tusculan Disputations, Book 1,13.
88 Honorem opinionis).
89 From the Third Oration against Catiline, § 1.
90 Non figat sed fingat).
91 On this Leo or Leon, see also Augustin’s City of God, 8,5. Reference is often made to him by early Christian writers as a thinker agreeing so far with the principles of Euhemerus (in whose time, or perhaps somewhat before it, he flourished) as to teach that the gods of the old heathen world were originally men. He is mentioned by Arnobius, Adversus Gentest, 4,29; (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, i. 23; Tertullian, De Corona, c. 7. Tatian, etc.
92 Reading, with Migne, Sed quid ad nos? Dicant se Jovem, etc. Others give, Sed quid ad nos si decant, etc. = But what is it to us although they say that they worship, etc. The si, however, is wanting in the Mss.
93 Reading, with Migne, Quid dicunt de Saturno? Quem, etc. Others give, Quid dicunt de Saturno qui = What do those say about Saturn who worship Saturn? The Mss. have quem).
94 Quasi latentem indicat, in reference to the story introduced in the Virgilian passage, that the country got its name, Latium, from the disappearance of the god.
95 The statue of Saturn represented him with a sickle or pruning-knife in his hand).
96 Migne’s text gives, on the authority of Mss., the reading, Nam videris si fuit ille homo, etc. Others edit, Nam tametsi fuerit ille, etc. = For although he may have been a man…yet we interpret, etc.
97 For Kronos.
98 Saturetur—saturated, abundantly furnished.
99 Chronos, Kronos.
100 Or satiety.
101 Choros.
102 Nous.
103 Full, mind.
104 Reading arces. Some editions give artes = arts.
105 Genethliacos).
106 Senex.
107 Vicus Senis.
108 Vicus Saturni.
109 Reading colorare, as in the Mss. Some editions give colere = revere.
110 Reading fecunditatis). Faeditatis, foulness, also occurs).
111 (Gn 1,1,
112 (Gn 5,24,
113 (Gn 7,
114 (Gn 22,18,
115 (Gn 26,4,
116 (Jr 16,19,
117 (Dt 6,4). [See Revised Version, text and margin, for the variations in the rendering of the Hebrew. Comp. Mark xii. 29 for similar variations in the passage as cited in the New Testament.—R.]
118 (Ex 20,4).
119 (Ex 23,24). [Simulacra eorum. The Revised Version renders “their pillars,” with “obelisks” in the margin.—R.]
120 Vocabunt.
121 (Is 7,14 Mt 1,23,
122 Reading (Si Saturnum putant. Others read, (Si Saturnum Deum putant = if they deem Saturn to be God, etc.
123 (Ps 72,11).
124 Homo.
125 Vir.
126 The text gives humiliatum; but elatum seems to be required, corresponding with the LXX metewron.
127 Reading cedrum Libani excelsorum et elatorum, which is given by the Mss., and is accordant with the LXX uyhlwn kai metewrwn. Some editions give cedrum Libani excelsam et elatam = Every high and elevated cedar of Lebanon.
128 The LXX. here has kai epi pa;n o;endoon Basavm = And upon every tree of the acorn of Bashan. For the balavou Augustin adopts Libani, as if he read in the Greek Aibanou.
129 The fifteenth verse of our version is wholly omitted.
130 [Ver. 18, though very relevant, is omitted: “And the idols shalt utterly pass away.”—R.]
131 (Is 2,5-21). [The variations from the Hebrew are quite numerous; compare the English versions.— R.]
132 Per suorum libros.
[…Et dedita sacris
Incerti Judaea Dei.—R.]
134 Reading torpidus; for which others give tepidus, cool.
135 (Ps 19,6,
136 [Ps 19,1-6, partly in citation, partly in allegorizing paraphrase.—R.]
137 Reading humilitate; some editions give humanitate, the humanity.
138 (Is liv 5.
139 Puer.
140 Purgare deus illum de plaga.
141 Figurare per sensum = set forth in sensible figure.
142 Reading aulas tuas confige; others give caulas = thy folds.
143 (Is 52,13-liv. 5 [The variations from the Hebrew, especially in some of the more obscure passages, are worthy of notice. Compare the Revised Version, text and margin, in loco.—R.]
144 (Mt xxvi., xxvii.; Mc xiv., xv.; Lc xxii., xxiii.; Jn xviii., 19,
145 [Is 52,15 (in the Revised Version): “So shall He sprinkle many nations,” with margin, “Or, startle.”—R.]
146 (Rm 15,16, 21.
147 Magis ipsae vident quam vera nuntiata sint per prophetas.
148 (Jn 12,37-38 Rm 10,16,
149 (Rm 5,20,
150 (Dt 7,57,
151 Pythonum.
152 Aruspicia).
153 Reading defessa; others give depressa, crushed.
154 Others read nolunt, who refuse.
155 See Cicero’s Oration in behalf of Roscius.
156 See Cicero, Against Verres, 5).
157 (Rm 5,5,
158 In rebus orintibus et occidentibus occupata tenebatur.
159 Fieret et deorsum hominibus exemplum redeundi et eis qui sursum sunt angelis exemplum manendi.
160 Reading quae medietas temporalis esset de imis, justa de summis. Another version gives quae medietas temporalis esset de imis mixta et summis = which temporal mediatizing factor might be made up of the lowest and the highest objects together, or = which might be a temporal mediatizing factor made up, etc).
161 (1Tm 2,5,
162 Hominem).


In this book Augustin undertakes an orderly examination of the Gospel according to Matthew, on to the narrative of the Supper, and institutes a comparison between it and the other gospels by Mark, Luke, and John, with the view of demonstrating a complete harmony between the four evangelists throughout all these sections.

The Prologue.

1). Whereas, in a discourse of no small length and of imperative importance, which we have finished within the compass of one book, we have refuted the folly of those who think that the disciples who have given us these Gospel histories deserve only to be disparagingly handled, for the express reason that no writings are produced by us with the claim of being compositions which have proceeded immediately from the hand of that Christ whom they refuse indeed to worship as God, but whom, nevertheless, they do not hesitate to pronounce worthy to be honoured as a man far surpassing all other men in wisdom; and as, further, we have confuted those who strive to make Him out to have written in a strain suiting their perverted inclinations, but not in terms calculated, by their perusal and acceptance, to set men right, or to turn them from their perverse ways, let us now look into the accounts which the four evangelists have given us of Christ, with the view of seeing how self-consistent they are, and how truly in harmony with each other. And let us do so in the hope that no offence, even of the smallest order may be felt in this line of things in the Christian faith by those who exhibit more curiosity than capacity, in so far as they think that a study of the evangelical books, conducted not in the way of a merely cursory perusal, but in the form of a more than ordinarily careful investigation, has disclosed to them certain matters of an inapposite and contradictory nature, and in so far as their notion is, that these things are to be held up as objections in the spirit of contention, rather than pondered in the spirit of consideration.


2. The evangelist Matthew has commenced his narrative in these terms: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”1 By this exordium he shows with sufficient clearness that his undertaking is to give an account of the generation of Christ according to the flesh. For, according to this, Christ is the Son of man, — a title which He also gives very frequently to Himself,2 thereby commending to our notice what in His compassion He has condescended to be on our behalf. For that heavenly and eternal generation, in virtue of which He is the only-begotten Son of God, before every creature, because all things were made by Him, is so ineffable, that it is of it that the word of the prophet must be understood when he says, “Who shall declare His generation?”3 Matthew therefore traces out the human generation of Christ, mentioning His ancestors from Abraham downwards, and carrying them on to Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born. For it was not held allowable to consider him dissociated from the married estate which was entered into with Mary, on the ground that she gave birth to Christ, not as the wedded wife of Joseph, but as a virgin. For by this example an illustrious recommendation is made to faithful married persons of the principle, that even when by common consent they maintain their continence, the relation can still remain, and can still be called one of wedlock, inasmuch as, although there is no connection between the sexes of the body, there is the keeping of the affections of the mind; particularly so for this reason, that in their case we see how the birth of a son was a possibility apart from anything of that carnal intercourse which is to be practised with the purpose of the procreation of children only. Moreover, the mere fact that he had not begotten Him by act of his own, was no sufficient reason why Joseph should not be called the father of Christ; for indeed he could be in all propriety the father of one whom he had not begotten by his own wife, but had adopted from some other person.

3. Christ, it is true, was also supposed to be the son of Joseph in another way, as if He had been born simply of that man’s seed. But this supposition was entertained by persons whose notice the virginity of Mary escaped. For Lc says: “And Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.”4 This Luke, however, instead of naming Mary His only parent, had not the slightest hesitation in also speaking of both parties as His parents, when he says: “And the boy grew and waxed strong, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was in Him: and His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.”5 But lest any one may fancy that by the “parents” here are rather to be understood the blood relations of Mary along with the mother herself, what shall be said to that preceding word of the same Luke, namely, “And His father6 and mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of Him”?7 Since, then, he also makes the statement that Christ was born, not in consequence of Joseph’s connection with the mother, but simply of Mary the virgin, how can he call him His father, unless it be that we are to understand him to have been truly the husband of Mary, without the intercourse of the flesh indeed, but in virtue of the real union of marriage; and thus also to have been in a much closer relation the father of Christ, in so far as He was born of his wife, than would have been the case had He been only adopted from some other party? And this makes it clear that the clause,“as was supposed,”8 is inserted with a view to those who are of opinion that He was begotten by Joseph in the same way as other men are begotten.

Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels 133