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NPNF1-06. St. Augustine: Sermon on the Mount; Harmony of the Gospels; Homilies on the Gospels
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Chapter XXXIX.—Of the Question as to the Manner of Matthew’s Agreement with Luke in the Accounts Which are Given of the Lord’s Reply to Certain Persons Who Sought a Sign, When He Spoke of Jonas the Prophet, and of the Ninevites, and of the Queen of the South, and of the Unclean Spirit Which, When It Has Gone Out of the Man, Returns and Finds the House Garnished.

86. Matthew goes on and relates what followed thus: “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign of thee;” and so on, down to where we read, “Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.”10161016     Matt. xii. 38. These words are recorded also by Luke in this connection, although in a somewhat different order.10171017     Luke xi. 16–37. For he has mentioned the fact that they sought of the Lord a sign from heaven at an earlier point in his narrative, which makes it follow immediately on his version of the miracle wrought on the dumb man. He has not, however, recorded there the reply which was given to them by the Lord. But further on, after [telling us how] the people were gathered together, he states that this answer was returned to the persons who, as he gives us to understand, were mentioned by him in those earlier verses as seeking of Him a sign from heaven. And that reply he also subjoins, only after introducing the passage regarding the woman who said to the Lord, “Blessed is the womb that bare thee.”10181018     Luke xi. 27. This notice of the woman, moreover, he inserts after relating the Lord’s discourse concerning the unclean spirit that goes out of the man, and then returns and finds the house garnished. In this way, then, after the notice of the woman, and after his statement of the reply which was made to the multitudes on the subject of the sign which they sought from heaven, he brings in the similitude of the prophet Jonas; and then, directly continuing the Lord’s discourse, he next instances what was said concerning the Queen of the South and the Ninevites. Thus he has rather related something which Matthew has passed over in silence, than omitted any of the facts which that evangelist has narrated in this place. And furthermore, who can fail to perceive that the question as to the precise order in which these words were uttered by the Lord is a superfluous one? For this lesson also we ought to learn, on the unimpeachable authority of the evangelists,—namely, that no offence against truth need be supposed on the part of a writer, although he may not reproduce the discourse of some speaker in the precise order in which the person from whose lips it proceeded might have given it; the fact being, that the mere item of the order, whether it be this or that, does not affect the subject-matter itself. And by his present version Luke indicates that this discourse of the Lord was of greater length than we might otherwise have supposed; and he records certain topics handled in it, which resemble those which are mentioned by Matthew in his recital of the sermon which was delivered on the mount.10191019     Matt. v.-vii. So that we take these words to have been spoken twice over, to wit, on that previous occasion, and again on this one. But on the conclusion of this discourse Luke proceeds to another subject, as to which it is uncertain whether, in the account which he gives of it, he has kept by the order of actual occurrence. For he connects it in this way: “And as He spake, a certain Pharisee besought Him to dine with him.”10201020     Luke xi. 37. He does not say, however, “as He spake these words,” but only “as He spake.” For if he had said, “as He spake these words,” the expression would of course have compelled us to suppose that the incidents referred to, besides being recorded by him in this order, also took place on the Lord’s part in that same order.


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