influential thinker in the formation of the Latin Christian tradition.
Aurelius Augustinus began life at Tagaste in Roman Africa (Algeria) & died
as bishop of Hippo, only 45 miles away. But his long personal spiritual
journey left indelible marks on medieval & modern western culture.
Though his mother
was a Christian, Augustine himself did not join the Catholic church until he
was 33. He began his career as a teacher of classic Latin rhetoric. His
personal intellectual quest, recounted in his
Confessions (397 CE), led
him from Cicero to Manicheism to Neo-Platonism before he was baptized by
Ambrose at Milan (Italy) in 387. He returned to Africa & in less than a
decade was made bishop of Hippo, where he distinguished himself in debate with
Manicheans & other sects, notably supporters of Pelagius, who claimed
salvation depended on individual free will. Convinced that God had shaped the
course of his own life, Augustine insisted that salvation depends on
predestination, a view that he used to champion the triumph of Christianity
over pagan Rome in his masterpiece, The
City of God (427 CE). A
prolific interpreter of scripture, Augustine formulated the doctrine of
original sin & tried to demonstrate the Consensus
of the Gospels, against
those who claimed discrepancies between Matthew, Mark, Luke & John
invalidated their accounts.
Augustine took for granted the
order of the gospels in the NT
was the order in which they were composed. Moreover,
he assumed that each writer had read the work of every predecessor. Thus,
Augustine was the first to recognize a direct literary dependence of one
synoptic gospel upon another. Since he had such a great influence on later
biblical interpreters, his comments in
Consensus of the Gospels 1.2.4 deserve
Although each of these [gospel
writers] may appear to preserve a certain order of narration proper to
himself, this certainly should not be taken as though each individual writer
chose to write in ignorance of what his predecessor had done, or left out
things, which nonetheless another (gospel) is discovered to have recorded,
as matters about which there was no information. Rather, the fact is that as
each of them received the gift of inspiration, they abstained from adding to
their distinct works any extra shared compositions.
For Matthew is understood to
have undertaken to construct the record of the incarnation of the Lord
according to the royal lineage, and to give an account of most of His words
and deeds as they relate to this present human life.
Mark follows him closely, and
looks like his assistant and epitomizer. For in his narrative he gives
nothing apart from the others that agrees with John. He has little to record
distinctly on his own. He has still less in common with Luke that is
distinct from the rest. But he has a very great number of passages in common
with Matthew. He also narrates much in words almost the same in number and
identity as those used by Matthew, where this agreement is either with that
evangelist alone, or with him in connection with the rest.
Luke, on the other hand, appears
to have been concerned instead with the priestly lineage and character of
the Lord. For although in his own way he takes [Jesus'] descent back to
David, he has followed not the royal pedigree, but the line of those who
were not kings. He has also traced that genealogy to a point in David's son
Nathan, who likewise was no king. Yet, it was not so in Matthew. For in
tracing the lineage through king Solomon, he has followed with strict
regularity the succession of the other kings....
attempt to explain why the genealogy in Luke differed from the one in Matthew
made him the first scholar to recognize that later gospels were creative
revisions of earlier works. That is, gospels present not only additions to but
deliberate alterations of their sources that reflect the themes stressed by
their authors. This insight became the basis of redaction
view (which became the prevailing opinion in western Christian tradition) is
- Matthew wrote the basic
story of Jesus' human life;
- Mark condensed Matthew;
- Luke edited Matthew &
Mark, omitting passages they covered.
- John wrote to fill in what
the others omitted.
This theory went
unchallenged until the late 18th c., when J.
B. Koppe pointed
out that Augustine was wrong in claiming that the text of Mark had little in
common with Luke.
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