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St Augustine on Matthew 27:38-54
(Chapters XIV to XX of Book III from The Harmony of the Gospels in Vol VI, NPNF (1st))
Chapter XIV.-Of the Harmony Preserved Among All the Evangelists on the Subject of the Two Robbers Who Were Crucified Along with Him.

51. Matthew continues his narrative in the following terms: "Then were there two robbers crucified with Him, one on the right hand, and another on the left."194 Mark and Luke give it also in a similar form.195 Neither does John raise any question of difficulty, although he has made no mention of those robbers. For he says, "And two other with Him, on either side one,and Jesus in the midst."196 But there would have been a contradiction if John had spoken of these others as innocent, while the former evangelists called them robbers. 

Chapter XV.-Of the Consistency of the Accounts Given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke on the Subject of the Parties Who Insulted the Lord.

52. Matthew goes on in the following strain: "And they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself: if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross."197 Mark's statement agrees with this almost to the letter. Then Matthew continues thus: "Likewise also the chief priests, mocking Him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save: if he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now, if He will: for he said, I am the Son of God."198 Mark and Luke, although they report the words differently, nevertheless agree in conveying the same meaning, although the one passes without notice something which the other mentions.199 For they are both really at one on the subject of the chief priests, giving us to understand that they insulted the Lord when He was crucified. The only difference is, that Mark does not specify the elders, while Luke, who has instanced the rulers, has not added the designation "of the priests," and thus has rather comprehended the whole body of the leading men under the general designation; so that we may fairly take both the scribes and the elders to be included in his description.

Chapter XVI.-Of the Derision Ascribed to the Robbers, and of the Question Regarding the Absence of Any Discrepancy Between Matthew and Mark on the One Hand, and Luke on the Other, When the Last-Named Evangelist States that One of the Two Mocked Him, and that the Other Believed on Him.

53. Matthew continues his narrative in these terms: "The robbers also, which were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth."200 Mark is quite in harmony with Matthew here, giving the same statement in different words.201 On the other hand, Luke may be thought to contradict this, unless we be careful not to forget a certain mode of speech which is sufficiently familiar. For Luke's narrative runs thus: "And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us."202 And then the same writer proceeds to introduce into the same context the following recital: "But the other answering, rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, To-day thou shall be with me in paradise."203 The question then is, how we can reconcile either Matthew's report, "The robbers also, which were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth," or Mark's, namely, "And they that were crucified with Him reviled Him," with Luke's testimony, which is to the effect that one of them reviled Christ, but that the other arrested him and believed on the Lord. The explanation will be, that Matthew and Mark, presenting a concise version of the passage under review, have employed the plural number instead of the singular; as is the case in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where we find the statement given in the plural form, that "they stopped the mouths of lions,"204 while Daniel alone is understood to be referred to. Again, the plural number is adopted where it is said that they "were sawn asunder,"205 while that manner of death is reported only of Isaiah. In the same way, when it is said in the Psalm, "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers took counsel together," etc.,206 the plural number is employed instead of the singular, according to the exposition given of the passage in the Acts of the Apostles. For those who have made use of the testimony of the said Psalm in that book take the kings to refer to Herod, and the princes to Pilate.207 But further, inasmuch as the pagans are in the habit of bringing such slanderous charges against the Gospel, I would ask them to consider how their own writers have spoken of Phaedras and Medeas and Clytemnestras, when there really was but a single individual reputed trader each of these names. And what is more common, for example, than for a person to say, "The rustics also behave insolently to me," even although it should only be one that acted rudely? In short, no real discrepancy would be created by the restriction of Luke's report to one of the two robbers, unless the other evangelists had declared expressly that "both" the malefactors reviled the Lord; for in that case it would not be possible for us to suppose only one individual intended under the plural number. Seeing, however, that the phrase employed is "the robbers," or "those who were crucified with Him," and the term "both" is not added, the expression is one which might have been used if both these men had been engaged in the thing, but which might equally well be adopted if one of the two had been implicated in it,-that fact being then conveyed by the use of the plural number, according to a familiar method of speech.

Chapter XVII.-Of the Harmony of the Four Evangelists in Their Notices of the Draught of Vinegar.

54. Matthew proceeds in the following terms: "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour."208 The same fact is attested by two others of the evangelists.209 Luke adds, however, a statement of the cause of the darkness, namely, that "the sun was darkened." Again, Matthew continues thus: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani! that is to say, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? And some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias."210 Mark's agreement with this is almost complete, so far as regards the words, and not only almost, but altogether complete, so far as the sense is concerned. Matthew next makes this statement: "And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink."211 Mark presents it in a similar form: "And one ran, and filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take Him down."212 Matthew, however, has represented these words about Elias to have been spoken, not by the person who offered the sponge with the vinegar, but by the rest. For his version runs thus: "But the rest said, Let be; let us see whether Elias will come to save Him;"213 -from which, therefore, we infer that both the man specially referred to and the others who were there expressed themselves in these terms. Luke, again, has introduced this notice of the vinegar previous to his report of the robber's insolence. He gives it thus: "And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him, and offering Him vinegar, and saying, If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself."214 It has been Luke's purpose to embrace in one statement what was done and what was said by the soldiers. And we ought to feel no difficulty in the circumstance that he has not said explicitly that it was "one" of them who offered the vinegar. For, adopting a method of expression which we have discussed above,215 he has simply put the plural number for the singular.216 Moreover, John has also given us an account of the vinegar, where he says: "After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth."217 But although the said John thus informs us that Jesus said "I thirst," and also mentions that there was a vessel full of vinegar there, while the other evangelists leave these things unspecified, there is nothing to marvel at in this.

Chapter XVIII.-Of the Lord's Successive Utterances When He Was About to Die; And of the Question Whether Matthew and Mark are in Harmony with Luke in Their Reports of These Sayings, and Also Whether These Three Evangelists are in Harmony with John.

55. Matthew proceeds as follows: "And Jesus, crying again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost."218 In like manner, Mark says, "And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost."219 Luke, again, has told us what He said when that loud voice was uttered. For his version is thus: "And Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit: and saying this, He gave up the ghost."220 John, on the other hand, as he has left unnoticed the first voice, which Matthew and Mark have reported-namely, "Eli, Eli"-has also passed over in silence the one which has been recited only by Luke, while the other two have referred to it under the designation of the "loud voice." I allude to the cry, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." Luke has also attested the fact that this exclamation was uttered with a loud voice; and hence we may understand this particular cry to be identified with the loud voice which Matthew and Mark have specified. But John has stated a fact which is noticed by none of the other three, namely, that He said "It is finished," after He had received the vinegar. This cry we take to have been uttered previous to the loud voice referred to. For these are John's words: "When Jesus, therefore, had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished; and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost."221 In the interval elapsing between this cry, "It is finished," and what is referred to in the subsequent sentence, "and He bowed His head and gave up the ghost," the voice was uttered which John himself has passed over without record, but which the other three have noticed. For the precise succession appears to be this, namely, that He said first "It is finished," when what had been prophesied regarding Him was fulfilled in Him, and that thereafter-as if He had been waiting for this, like one, indeed, who died when He willed it to be so-He commended His spirit [to His Father], and resigned it.222 But, whatever the order may be in which a person may consider it likely that these words were spoken, he ought above all things to guard against entertaining the notion that any one of the evangelists is in antagonism with another, when one leaves unmentioned something which another has repeated, or particularizes something which another has passed by in silence.

Chapter XIX.-Of the Rending of the Veil of the Temple, and of the Question Whether Matthew and Mark Really Harmonize with Luke with Respect to the Order in Which that Incident Took Place.

56. Matthew proceeds thus: "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom."223 Mark's version is also as follows: "And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom."224 Luke likewise gives a statement in similar terms: "And the veil of the temple was rent in the midst."225 He does not introduce it, however, in the same order. For, with the intention of attaching miracle to miracle, he has told us first how "the sun was darkened," and then has deemed it right to subjoin the said sentence in immediate succession, namely, "And the veil of the temple was rent in the midst." Thus it would appear that he has introduced at an earlier point this incident, which really took place when the Lord expired, so as to give us there a summary description of the circumstances relating to the drinking of the vinegar, and the loud voice, and the death itself, which are understood to have taken place previous to the rending of the veil, and after the darkness had come in. For Matthew has inserted this sentence, "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent," in immediate succession to the statement, "And Jesus, crying again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost;" and has thus given us clearly to understand that the time when the veil was rent was after Jesus had given up His spirit. If, however, he had not added the words, "And behold," but had said simply, "And the veil of the temple was rent," it would have been uncertain whether Mark and he had narrated the incident in the form of a recapitulation, while Luke had kept the exact order, or whether Luke had given the summary account of what these others had introduced in the correct historical succession.

Chapter XX.-Of the Question as to the Consistency of the Several Notices Given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, on the Subject of the Astonishment Felt by the Centurion and Those Who Were with Him.

57. Matthew proceeds thus: "And the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after the resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."226 There is no reason to fear that these facts, which have been related only by Matthew, may appear to be inconsistent with the narratives presented by any one of the rest. The same evangelist then continues as follows: "Now when the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God."227 Mark offers this version: "And when the centurion which stood over against Him saw that He so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this was the Son of God."228 Luke's report runs thus: "Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man."229 Here Matthew says that it was when they saw the earthquake that the centurion and those who were with him were thus astonished, whereas Luke represents the man's amazement to have been drawn forth by the fact that Jesus uttered such a cry, and then gave up the ghost; thus making it clear how He had it in His own power to determine the time for His dying. But this involves no discrepancy. For as the said Matthew not only tells us how the centurion "saw the earthquake," but also appends the words, "and those things that were done," he has indicated that there was room enough for Luke to represent the Lord's death as itself the thing which called forth the centurion's wonder. For that event is also one of the things which were done in so marvellous a manner then. At the same time, even although Matthew had not added any such statement, it would still have been perfectly legitimate to suppose, that as many astonishing things did take place at that time, and as the centurion and those who were with him may well have looked upon them all with amazement, the historians were at liberty to select for narration any particular incident which they were severally disposed to instance as the subject of the man's wonder. And it would not be fair to impeach them with inconsistency, simply because one of them may have specified one occurrence as the immediate cause of the centurion's amazement, while another introduces a different incident. For all these events together had really been matters for the man's astonishment. Again, the mere fact that one evangelist tells us that the centurion said, "Truly this was the Son of God," while another informs us that the words were, "Truly this man was the Son of God," will create no difficulty to any one who has retained some recollection of the numerous statements and discussions bearing upon similar cases, which have already been given above. For these different versions of the words both convey precisely the same sense and although one writer introduces the wore "man" while another does not, that implies no kind of contradiction. A greater appearance of discrepancy may be supposed to be created by the circumstance, that the words which Luke reports the centurion to have uttered are not "This was the Son of God," but "This was a righteous man." But we ought to suppose either that both things were actually said by the centurion, and that two of the evangelists have recorded the one expression, and the third the other; or else perhaps that it was Luke's intention to bring out the exact idea which the centurion had in view when he said that Jesus was the Son of God. For it may be the case that the centurion did not really understand Him to be the Only-begotten, equal with the Father; but that he called Him the Son of God simply because he believed Him to be a righteous man, as many righteous men have been named sons of God. Moreover, when Luke says, "Now when the centurion saw what was done," he has really used terms which cover all the marvellous things which occurred on that occasion, commemorating a single deed of wonder, so to speak, of which all those miraculous incidents were, as we may say, members and parts. But, once more, as regards the circumstance that Matthew has also referred to those who were with the centurion, while the others have left these parties unnoticed, to whom will this not explain itself on the well-understood principle that there is no contradiction necessarily involved in the mere fact that one writer records what another passes by without mention? And, finally, as to Matthew's having told us that "they feared greatly," while Luke has said nothing about the man being afraid, but has informed us that "he glorified God," who can fail to understand that he glorified [God] just by the fear which he exhibited?

194 Matt. xxvii. 38.
195 Mark xv. 27; Luke xxiii. 33.
196 John xix. 18. 
197 Matt. xxvii. 39, 40.
198 Matt. xxvii. 41-43.
199 Mark xv. 29-32; Luke xxiii. 35-37.
200 Matt. xxvii. 44.
201 Mark xv. 32.
202 Luke xxiii. 39.
203 Luke xxiii. 40-43.
204 Heb. xi. 33.
205 Heb. xi. 37.
206 Ps. ii. 2.
207 Acts iv. 26, 27. 
208 Matt. xxvii. 45.
209 Mark xv. 33-36; Luke xxiii. 44, 45.
210 Matt. xxvii. 46, 47.
211 Matt. xxvii. 48.
212 Mark xv. 36.
213 Matt. xxvii. 49.
214 Luke xxiii. 36.,37.
215 See chap. xvi.
216 [This act of the soldiers was probably distinct from the giving of the vinegar referred to by the other evangelist; it belongs to the time when all were mocking the Crucified One.-R.]
217 John xix. 28, 29.
218 Matt. xxvii. 50.
219 Mark xv. 37.
220 Luke xxiii. 46.
221 John xix. 30. 
222 [This view of the order is altogether the more probable one. See commentaries.-R.]
223 Matt. xxvii. 51.
224 Mark xv. 38.
225 Luke xxiii. 45.
226 Matt. xxvii. 51-53.
227 Matt. xxvii. 54.
228 Mark xv. 39.
229 Luke xxiii. 47.