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18. Now at this point commences the account of the preaching of John, which is presented by all the four. For after the words which I have placed last in the order of his narrative thus far,—the words with which he introduces the testimony from the prophet, namely, He shall be called a Nazarene,—Matthew proceeds immediately to give us this recital: “In those days came Jn the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,”104 etc. And Mark, who has told us nothing of the nativity or infancy or youth of the Lord, has made his Gospel begin with the same event,—that is to say, with the preaching of John. For it is thus that he sets out: The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; as it is written in the prophet Isaiah,105 Behold, I send a messenger106 before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Jn was in the wilderness baptizing, and preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,107 etc. Luke, again, follows up the passage in which he says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and age,108 and in favour with God and man,” by a section in which he speaks of the preaching of Jn in these terms: Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness,109 etc. The Apostle John, too, the most eminent of the four evangelists, after discoursing of the Word of God, who is also the Son, antecedent to all the ages of creaturely existence, inasmuch as all things were made by Him, has introduced in the immediate context his account of the preaching and testimony of John, and proceeds thus: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.110 This will be enough at once to make it plain that the narratives concerning Jn the Baptist given by the four evangelists are not at variance with one another. And there will be no occasion for requiring or demanding that to be done in all detail in this instance which we have already done in the case of the genealogies of the Christ who was born of Mary, to the effect of proving how Matthew and Lc are in harmony with each other, of showing how we might construct one consistent narrative out of the two, and of demonstrating on behoof of those of less acute perception, that although one of these evangelists may mention what the other omits, or omit what the other mentions, he does not thereby make it in any sense difficult to accept the veracity of the account given by the other. For when a single example [of this method of harmonizing] has been set before us, whether in the way in which it has been presented by me, or in some other method in which it may more satisfactorily be exhibited, every man can understand that, in all other similar passages, what he has seen done here may be done again.

19. Accordingly, let us now study, as I have said, the harmony of the four evangelists in the narratives regarding Jn the Baptist. Matthew proceeds in these terms: In those days came Jn the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea.111 Mc has not used the phrase “In those days,” because he has given no recital of any series of events at the head of his Gospel immediately before this narrative, so that he might be understood to speak in reference to the dates of such events under the terms, “In those days.”112 Luke, on the other hand, with greater precision has defined those times of the preaching or baptism of John, by means of the notes of the temporal power. For he says: Now, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.113 We ought not, however, to understand that what was actually meant by Matthew when He said, “In those days,” was simply the space of days literally limited to the specified period of these powers. On the contrary, it is apparent that he intended the note of time which was conveyed in the phrase “In those days,” to be taken to refer to a much longer period. For he first gives us the account of the return of Christ from Egypt after the death of Herod,—an incident, indeed, which took place at the time of His infancy or childhood, and with which, consequently, Luke’s statement of what befell Him in the temple when He was twelve years of age is quite consistent.114 Then, immediately after this narrative of the recall of the infant or boy out of Egypt, Matthew continues thus in due order: “Now, in those days came Jn the Baptist.” And thus under that phrase he certainly covers not merely the days of His childhood, but all the days intervening between His nativity and this period at which Jn began to preach and to baptize. At this period, moreover, Christ is found already to have attained to man’s estate;115 for Jn and he were of the same age;116 and it is stated that He was about117 thirty years of age when He was baptized by the former.


20. But with respect to the mention of Herod, it is well understood that some are apt to be influenced by the circumstance that Lc has told us how, in the days of John’s baptizing, and at the time when the Lord, being then a grown man, was also baptized, Herod was tetrarch of Galilee;118 whereas Matthew tells us that the boy119 Jesus returned from Egypt after the death of Herod. Now these two accounts cannot both be true, unless we may also suppose that there were two different Herods. But as no one can fail to be aware that this is e perfectly possible case, what must be the blindness in which those persons pursue their mad follies, who are so quick to launch false charges against the truth, of the Gospels; and how miserably inconsiderate must they be, not to reflect that two men may have been called by the same name? Yet this is a thing of which examples abound on all sides. For this latter Herod is understood to have been the son of the former Herod: just as Archelaus also was, whom Matthew states to have succeeded to the throne of Judaea on the death of his father; and as Philip was, who is introduced by Lc as the brother of Herod the tetrarch, and as himself tetrarch of Ituraea. For the Herod who sought the life of the child Christ was king; whereas this other Herod, his son, was not called king, but tetrarch, which is a Greek word, signifying etymologically one set over the fourth part of a kingdom.


21. Here again, however, it may happen that a difficulty will be found, and that some, seeing that Matthew has told us how Joseph was afraid to go into Judaea with the child on his return, expressly for the reason that Archelaus the son reigned there in place of his father Herod, may be led to ask how he could have gone into Galilee, where, as Lc bears witness, there was another son of that Herod, namely, Herod the tetrarch. But such a difficulty can only be founded on the fancy that the times indicated as those in which there was such apprehension on the child’s account were identical with the times dealt with now by Luke: whereas it is conspicuously evident that there is a change in the periods, because we no longer find Archelaus represented as king in Judaea; but in place of him we have Pontius Pilate, who also was not the king of the Jews, but only their governor, in whose times the sons of the eider Herod, acting under Tiberius Caesar, held not the kingdom, but the tetrarchy. And all this certainly had not come to pass at the time when Joseph, in fear of the Archelaus who was then reigning in Judaea, betook himself, together with the child, into Galilee, where was also his city Nazareth.


22. Or may a question perchance be raised as to how Matthew tells us that His parents went with the boy Jesus into Galilee, because they were unwilling to go into Judaea in consequence of their fear of Archelaus; whereas it would rather appear that the reason for their going into Galilee was, as Lc has not failed to indicate, the consideration that their city was Nazareth of Galilee? Well, but we must observe, that when the angel said to Joseph in his dreams in Egypt, “Arise, and take the young child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel,”120 the words were understood at first by Joseph in a way that made him consider himself commanded to journey into Judaea. For that was the first interpretation that could have been put upon the phrase, “the land of Israel.” But again, after ascertaining that Archelaus, the son of Herod, was reigning there, he declined to expose himself to such danger, inasmuch as this phrase, “the land of Israel,” was capable also of being so understood as to cover Galilee too, because the people of Israel were occupants of that territory as well as the other. At the same time, this question also admits of being solved in another manner. For it might have appeared to the parents of Christ that they were called to take up their residence along with the boy, concerning whom such information had been conveyed to them through the responses of angels, just in Jerusalem itself, where was the temple of the Lord: and it may thus be, that when they came back out of Egypt, they would have gone directly thither in that belief, and have taken up their abode there, had it not been that they were terrified at the presence of Archelaus. And certainly they did not receive any such instructions from heaven to take up their residence there as would have made it their imperative duty to set at nought the fears they entertained of Archelaus).


23. Or does any one put to us this question, How was it, then, that His parents went up to Jerusalem every year during the boyhood of Christ, as Luke’s narrative bears, if they were prevented from going there by the fear of Archelaus? Well, I should not deem it any very difficult task to solve this question, even although none of the evangelists has given us to understand how long Archelaus reigned there. For it might have been the case that, simply for that one day, and with the intention of returning forthwith, they went up on the day of the feast, without attracting any notice among the vast multitudes then assembled, to the city where, nevertheless, they were afraid to make their residence on other days. And thus they might at once have saved themselves from the appearance of being so irreligious as to neglect the observance of the feast, and have avoided drawing attention upon themselves by a continued sojourn. But further, although all the evangelists have omitted to tell us what was the length of the reign of Archelaus, we have still open to us this obvious method of explaining the matter, namely, to understand the custom to which Luke refers, when he says that they were in the habit of going to Jerusalem every year,121 as one prosecuted at a time when Archelaus was no more an object of fear. But if the reign of Archelaus should be made out to have lasted for a somewhat longer period on the authority of any extra-evangelical history which appears to deserve credit, the consideration which I have indicated above should still prove quite sufficient,—namely, the supposition that the fear which the parents of the child entertained of a residence in Jerusalem was, nevertheless, not of such a nature as to lead them to neglect the observance of the sacred festival to which they were under obligation in the fear of God, and which they might very easily go about in a manner that would not attract public attention to them. For surely it is nothing incredible that, by taking advantage of favourable opportunities, whether by day or by hour, men may (safely venture to) approach places in which they nevertheless are afraid to be found tarrying.


24. Hereby also we see how another question is solved, if any one indeed finds a difficulty in it. I allude to the question as to how it was possible, on the supposition that the elder Herod was already anxious (to obtain information regarding Him), and agitated by the intelligence received from the wise men concerning the birth of the King of the Jews, for them, when the days of the purification of His mother were accomplished, to go up in any safety with Him to the temple, in order to see to the performance of those things which were according to the law of the Lord, and which are specified by Luke.122 For who can fail to perceive that this solitary day might very easily have escaped the notice of a king, whose attention was engaged with a multitude of affairs? Or if it does not appear probable that Herod, who was waiting in the extremest anxiety to see what report the wise men would bring back to him concerning the child, should have been so long in finding out how he had been mocked, that, only after the mother’s purification was already past, and the solemnities proper to the first-born were performed with respect to the child in the temple, nay more, only after their departure into Egypt, did it come into his mind to seek the life of the child, and to slay so many little ones;—if, I say, any one finds a difficulty in this, I shall not pause to state the numerous and important occupations by which the king’s attention may have been engaged, and for the space of many days either wholly diverted from such thoughts, or prevented from following them out. For it is not possible to enumerate all the cases which might have made that perfectly possible. No one, however, is so ignorant of human affairs as either to deny or to question that there may very easily have been many such matters of importance (to preoccupy the king). For to whom will not the thought occur, that reports, whether true or false, of many other more terrible things may possibly have been brought to the king, so that the person who had been apprehensive of a certain royal child, who after a number of years might prove an adversary to himself or to his sons, might be so agitated with the terrors of certain more immediate dangers, as to have his attention forcibly removed from that earlier anxiety, and engaged rather with the devising of measures to ward off other more instantly threatening perils? Wherefore, leaving all such considerations unspecified, I simply venture on the assertion that, when the wise men failed to bring back any report to him, Herod may have believed that they had been misled by a deceptive vision of a star, and that, after their want of success in discovering Him whom they had supposed to have been born, they had been ashamed to return to him; and that in this way the king, having his fears allayed, had given up the idea of asking after and persecuting the child. Consequently, when they had gone with Him to Jerusalem after the purification of His mother, and when those things had been performed in the temple which are recounted by Luke,123 inasmuch as the words which were spoken by Simeon and Anna in their prophesyings regarding Him, when publicity began to be given to them by the persons who had heard them, were like to call back the king’s mind then to its original design, Joseph obeyed the warning conveyed to him in the dream, and fled with the child and His mother into Egypt. Afterwards, when the things which had been done and said in the temple were made quite public, Herod perceived that he had been mocked; and then, in his desire to get at the death of Christ, he slew the multitude of children, as Matthew records.124


25. Moreover, Matthew makes up his account of Jn in the following manner:—Now in those days came Jn the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is He that is spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.125 Mc also and Lc agree in presenting this testimony of Isaiah as one referring to John.126 Luke, indeed, has likewise recorded some other words from the same prophet, which follow those already cited, when he gives his narrative of Jn the Baptist. The evangelist John, again, mentions that Jn the Baptist did also personally advance this same testimony of Isaiah regarding himself.127 And, to a similar effect, Matthew here has given us certain words of Jn which are unrecorded by the other evangelists. For he speaks of him as “preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; “which words of Jn have been omitted by the others. In what follows, however, in immediate connection with that passage in Matthew’s Gospel,—namely, the sentence, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight,”—the position is ambiguous; and it does not clearly appear whether this is something recited by Matthew in his own person, or rather a continuance of the words spoken by John himself, so as to lead us to understand the whole passage to be the reproduction of John’s own utterance, in this way: “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; for this is He that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah,” and so on. For it ought to create no difficulty against this latter view, that he does not say, “For I am He that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah,” but employs the phraseology, “For this is He that was spoken of.” For that, indeed, is a mode of speech128 which the evangelists Matthew and Jn are in the habit of using in reference to themselves. Thus Matthew has adopted the phrase, “He found129 a man sitting at the receipt of custom,”130 instead of “He found me.” John, too, says, “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true,”131 instead of “I am,” etc., or, “My testimony is true.” Yea, our Lord Himself very frequently uses the words, “The Son of man,”132 or, “The Son of God,”133 instead of saying, “I.” So, again, He tells us that “it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day,”134 instead of saying, “It behoved me to suffer.” Consequently it is perfectly possible that the clause, “For this is He that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah,” which immediately follows the saying, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” may be but a continuation of what Jn the Baptist said of himself; so that only after these words cited from the speaker himself will Matthew’s own narrative proceed, being thus resumed: “And the same Jn had his raiment of camel’s hair,” and so forth. But if this is the case, then it need not seem wonderful that, when asked what he had to say regarding himself, he should reply, according to the narrative of the evangelist John, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness,”135 as he had already spoken in the same terms when enjoining on them the duty of repentance. Accordingly, Matthew goes on to tell us about his attire and his mode of living, and continues his account thus: And the same Jn had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins, and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Mc also gives us this same statement almost in so many words. But the other two evangelists omit it.

26. Matthew then proceeds with his narrative, and says: Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized by him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance; and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. For now the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be hewn down and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He that is to come after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire: whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.136 This whole passage is also given by Luke, who ascribes almost the same words to John. And where there is any variation in the words, there is nevertheless no real departure from the sense.Thus, for example, Matthew tells us that John said, “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father,” where Lc puts it thus: “And begin not to say, We have Abraham to our father.” Again, in the former we have the words, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance;” whereas the latter brings in the questions put by the multitudes as to what they should do, and represents Jn to have replied to them with a statement of good works as the fruits of repentance,—all which is omitted by Matthew. So, when Lc tells us what reply the Baptist made to the people when they were musing in their hearts concerning Him, and thinking whether He were the Christ, he gives us simply the words, “I indeed baptize you with water,” and does not add the phrase, “unto repentance.” Further,in Matthew the Baptist says, “But he that is to come after me is mightier than I;” while in Lc he is exhibited as saying, “But one mightier than I cometh.” In like manner, according to Matthew, he says, “whose shoes I am not worthy to bear;” but according to the other, his words are, “the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose.” The latter sayings are recorded also by Mark, although he makes no mention of those other matters. For, after noticing his attire and his mode of living, he goes on thus: “And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose: I have baptized you with water, but He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit.” In the notice of the shoes, therefore, he differs from Luke in so far as he has added the words, “to stoop down;” and in the account of the baptism he differs from both these others in so far as he does not say, “and in fire,” but only, “in the Holy Spirit.” For as in Matthew, so also in Luke, the words are the same, and they are given in the same order, “He shall baptize you in the Spirit and in fire,”—with this single exception, that Lc has not added the adjective “Holy,”137 while Matthew has given it thus: “in the Holy Spirit and in fire.”138 The statements made by these three are attested by the evangelist John, when he says: “Jn bears witness139 of Him, and cries, saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me; for He was before me.”140 For thus he indicates that the thing was spoken by Jn at the time at which those other evangelists record him to have uttered the words. Thus, too, he gives us to understand that Jn was repeating and calling into notice again something which he had already spoken, when he said, “This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me.”

27. If now the question is asked, as to which of the words we are to suppose the most likely to have been the precise words used by Jn the Baptist, whether those recorded as spoken by him in Matthew’s Gospel, or those in Luke’s, or those which Mc has introduced, among the few sentences which he mentions to have been uttered by him, while he omits notice of all the rest, it will not be deemed worth while creating any difficulty for oneself in a matter of that kind, by any one who wisely understands that the real requisite in order to get at the knowledge of the truth is just to make sure of the things really meant, whatever may be the precise words in which they happen to be expressed. For although one writer may retain a certain order in the words, and another present a different one, there is surely no real contradiction in that. Nor, again, need there be any antagonism between the two, although one may state what another omits. For it is evident that the evangelists have set forth these matters just in accordance with the recollection each retained of them, and just according as their several predilections prompted them to employ greater brevity or richer detail. on certain points, while giving, nevertheless, the same account of the subjects themselves.

28. Thus, too, in what more pertinently concerns the matter in hand, it is sufficiently obvious that, since the truth of the Gospel, conveyed in that word of God which abides eternal and unchangeable above all that is created, but which at the same time has been disseminated141 throughout the world by the instrumentality of temporal symbols, and by the tongues of men, has possessed itself of the most exalted height of authority, we ought not to suppose that any one of the writers is giving an unreliable account, if, when several persons are recalling some matter either heard or seen by them, they fail to follow the very same plan, or to use the very same words, while describing, nevertheless, the self-same fact. Neither should we indulge such a supposition, although the order of the words may be varied; or although some words may be substituted in place of others, which nevertheless have the same meaning; or although something may be left unsaid, either because it has not occurred to the mind of the recorder, or because it becomes readily intelligible from other statements which are given; or although, among other matters which (may not bear directly on his immediate purpose, but which) he decides on mentioning rather for the sake of the narrative, and in order to preserve the proper order of time, one of them may introduce something which he does not feel called upon to expound as a whole at length, but only to touch upon in part; or although, with the view of illustrating his meaning, and making it thoroughly clear, the person to whom authority is given to compose the narrative makes some additions of his own, not indeed in the subject-matter itself, but in the words by which it is expressed; or although, while retaining a perfectly reliable comprehension of the fact itself, he may not be entirely successful, howeverhe may make that his aim, in calling to mind and reciting anew with the most literal accuracy the very words which he heard on the occasion. Moreover, if any one affirms that the evangelists ought certainly to have had that kind of capacity imparted to them by the power of the Holy Spirit, which would secure them against all variation the one from the other, either in the kind of words, or in their order, or in their number, that person fails to perceive, that just in proportion as the authority of the evangelists [under their existing conditions] is made pre-eminent, the credit of all other men who offer true statements of events ought to have been established on a stronger basis by their instrumentality: so that when several parties happen to narrate the same circumstance, none of them can by any means be rightly charged with untruthfulness if he differs from the other only in such a way as can be defended on the ground of the antecedent example of the evangelists themselves. For as we are not at liberty either to suppose or to say that any one of the evangelists has stated what is false, so it will be apparent that any other writer is as little chargeable with untruth, with whom, in the process of recalling anything for narration, it has fared only in a way similar to that in which it is shown to have fared with those evangelists. And just as it belongs to the highest morality to guard against all that is false, so ought we all the more to be ruled by an authority so eminent, to the effect that we should not suppose ourselves to come upon what must be false, when we find the narratives of any writers differ from each other in the manner in which the records of the evangelists are proved to contain variations. At the same time, in what most seriously concerns the faithfulness of doctrinal teaching, we should also understand that it is not so much in mere words, as rather truth in the facts themselves, that is to be sought and embraced; for as to writers who do not employ precisely the same modes of statement, if they only do not present discrepancies with respect to the facts and the sentiments themselves, we accept them as holding the same position in veracity.142

29. With respect, then, to those comparisons which I have instituted between the several narratives of the evangelists, what do these present that must be considered to be of a contradictory order? Are we to regard in this light the circumstance that one of them has given us the words, “whose shoes I am not worthy to bear,” whereas the others speak of the” unloosing of the latchet of the shoe”? For here, indeed, the difference seems to be neither in the mere words, nor in the order of the words, nor in any matter of simple phraseology, but in the actual matter of fact, when in the one case the “bearing of the shoe” is mentioned, and in the other the “unloosing of the shoe’s latchet.” Quite fairly, therefore, may the question be put, as to what it was that Jn declared himself unworthy to do—whether to bear the shoes, or to unloose the shoe’s latchet. For if only the one of these two sentences was uttered by him, then that evangelist will appear to have given the correct narrative who was in a position to record what was said; while the writer who has given the saying in another form, although he may not indeed have offered an [intentionally] false account of it, may at any rate be taken to have made a slip of memory, and will be reckoned thus to have stated one thing instead of another. It is only seemly, however, that no charge of absolute unveracity should be laid against the evangelists, and that, too, not only with regard to that kind of unveracity which comes by the positive telling of what is false, but also with regard to that which arises through forgetfulness. Therefore, if it is pertinent to the matter to deduce one sense from the words “to bear the shoes,” and another sense from the words “to unloose the shoe’s latchet,” what should one suppose the correct interpretation to be put on the facts, but that Jn did give utterance to both these sentences, either on two different occasions or in one and the same connection? For he might very well have expressed himself thus, “whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose, and whose shoes I am not worthy to bear:” and then one of the evangelists may have reproduced the one portion of the saying, and the rest of them the other; while, notwithstanding this, all of them have really given a veracious narrative. But further, if, when he spoke of the shoes of the Lord, Jn meant nothing more than to convey the idea of His supremacy and his own lowliness, then, whichever of the two sayings may have actually been uttered by him, whether that regarding the unloosing of the latchet of the shoes, or that respecting the bearing of the shoes, the self-same sense is still correctly preserved by any writer who, while making mention of the shoes in words of his own, has expressed at the same time the same idea of lowliness, and thus has not made any departure from the real mind [of the person of whom he writes]. It is therefore a useful principle, and one particularly worthy of being borne in mind, when we are speaking of the concord of the evangelists, that there is no divergence [to be supposed] from truth, even when they introduce some saying different from what was actually uttered by the person concerning whom the narrative is given, provided that, notwithstanding this, they set forth as his mind precisely what is also so conveyed by that one among them who reproduces the words as they were literally spoken. For thus we learn the salutary lesson, that our aim should be nothing else than to ascertain what is the mind and intention of the person who speaks.

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