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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VI:
The Harmony of the Gospels.: Chapter IV

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IV.—Of What Took Place in the Piece of Ground or Garden to Which They Came on Leaving the House After the Supper; And of the Method in Which, in John’s Silence on the Subject, a Real Harmony Can Be Demonstrated Between the Other Three Evangelists—Namely, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

10. Matthew then proceeds with his narrative in the same connection as follows: “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane.” 1266 This is mentioned also by Mark. 1267 Luke, too, refers to it, although he does not notice the piece of ground by name. For he says: “And He came out, and went, as was His wont, to the Mount of Olives; and His disciples also followed Him. And when He was at the place, He said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.” 1268 That is the place which the other two have instanced under the name of Gethsemane. There, we understand, was the garden which John brings into notice when he gives the following narration: “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples.” 1269 Then taking Matthew’s record, we get this statement next in order: “He said unto His disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. 1270 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And He went a little farther, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt. And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What! could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me except I drink it, Thy will be done. And He came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh He to His disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that shall betray me.” 1271

11. Mark also records these passages, introducing them quite in the same method and succession. Some of the sentences, however, are given with greater brevity by him, and others are somewhat more fully explained. These sayings p. 182 of our Lord, indeed, may seem in one portion to stand in some manner of contradiction to each other as they are presented in Matthew’s version. I refer to the fact that [it is stated there that] He came to His disciples after His third prayer, and said to them, “Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that shall betray me.” For what are we to make of the direction thus given above, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” when there is immediately subjoined this other declaration, “Behold, the hour is at hand,” and thereafter also the instruction, “Arise, let us be going”? Those readers who perceive something like a contradiction here, seek to pronounce these words, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” in a way betokening that they were spoken in reproach, and not in permission. And this is an expedient which might quite fairly be adopted were there any necessity for it. Mark, however, has reproduced these sayings in a manner which implies that after He had expressed himself in the terms, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” He added the words, “It is enough,” and then appended to these the further statement, “The hour is come; behold, the Son of man shall be betrayed.” 1272 Hence we may conclude that the case really stood thus: namely, that after addressing these words to them, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” the Lord was silent for a space, so that what He had thus given them permission to do might be [seen to be] really acted upon; and that thereafter He made the other declaration, “Behold the hour is come.” Thus it is that in Mark’s Gospel we find those words [regarding the sleeping] followed immediately by the phrase, “It is enough;” that is to say, “the rest which you have had is enough now.” But as no distinct notice is introduced of this silence on the Lord’s part which intervened then, the passage comes to be understood in a forced manner, and it is supposed that a peculiar pronunciation must be given to these words.

12. Luke, on the other hand, has omitted to mention the number of times that He prayed. He has told us, however, a fact which is not recorded by the others—namely, that when He prayed He was strengthened by an angel, and that, as He prayed more earnestly, He had a bloody sweat, with drops falling down to the ground. Thus it appears that when he makes the statement, “And when He rose up from prayer, and was come to His disciples,” he does not indicate how often He had prayed by that time. But still, in so doing, he does not stand in any kind of antagonism to the other two. Moreover, John does indeed mention how He entered into the garden along with His disciples. But he does not relate how He was occupied there up to the period when His betrayer came in along with the Jews to apprehend Him.

13. These three evangelists, therefore, have in this manner narrated the same incident, just as, on the other hand, one man might give three several accounts of a single occurrence, with a certain measure of diversity in his statements, and yet without any real contradiction. Luke, for example, has specified the distance to which He went forward from the disciples—that is to say, when He withdrew from them in order to pray—more definitely than the others. For he tells us that it was “about a stone’s cast.” Mark, again, states first of all in his own words how the Lord prayed that, “If it were possible, the hour might pass from Him,” referring to the hour of His Passion, which he also expresses presently by the term “cup.” He then reproduces the Lord’s own words, in the following manner: “Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee: take away this cup from me.” And if we connect with these terms the clause which is given by the other two evangelists, and for which Mark himself has also already introduced a clear parallel, presented as a statement made in his own person instead of the Lord’s, the whole sentence will be exhibited in this form: “Father, if it be possible, (for) all things are possible unto Thee, take away this cup from me.” And it will be so put just to prevent any one from supposing that He made the Father’s power less than it is when He said, “If it be possible.” For thus His words were not, “If Thou canst do it;” but “If it be possible.” And anything is possible which He wills. Therefore, the expression, “If it be possible,” has here just the same force as, “If Thou wilt.” For Mark has made the sense in which the phrase, “If it be possible,” is to be taken quite plain, when he says, “All things are possible unto Thee.” And further, the fact that these writers have recorded how He said, “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what Thou wilt” (an expression which means precisely the same as this other form, “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done”), shows us clearly enough that it was with reference not to any absolute impossibility on the Father’s side, but only to His will, that these words, “If it be possible,” were spoken. This is made the more apparent by the plainer statement which Luke has presented to the same effect. For his version is not, “If it be possible,” but, “If Thou be willing.” And to this clearer declaration of what was really meant we may add, with the effect of still greater clearness, the clause which Mark has inserted, so that the whole will proceed thus: “If Thou be willing, (for) all things are p. 183 possible unto Thee, take away this cup from me.”

14. Again, as to Mark’s mentioning that the Lord said not only “Father,” but “Abba, Father,” the explanation simply is, that “Abba” is in Hebrew exactly what “Pater” is in Latin. And perhaps the Lord may have used both words with some kind of symbolical significance, intending to indicate thereby, that in sustaining this sorrow He bore the part of His body, which is the Church, of which He has been made the corner-stone, and which comes to Him [in the person of disciples gathered] partly out of the Hebrews, to whom He refers when He says “Abba,” and partly out of the Gentiles, to whom He refers when He says “Pater” [Father]. 1273 The Apostle Paul also makes use of the same significant expression. For he says, “In whom we cry, Abba, Father;” 1274 and, in another passage, “God sent His Spirit into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” 1275 For it was meet that the good Master and true Saviour, by sharing in the sufferings of the more infirm, 1276 should in His own person illustrate the truth that His witnesses ought not to despair, although it might perchance happen that, through human frailty, sorrow might steal in upon their hearts at the time of suffering; seeing that they would overcome it if, mindful that God knows what is best for those whose well-being He regards, they gave His will the preference over their own. On this subject, however, as a whole, the present is not the time for entering on any more detailed discussion. For we have to deal simply with the question concerning the harmony of the evangelists, from whose varied modes of narration we gather the wholesome lesson that, in order to get at the truth, the one essential thing to aim at in dealing with the terms is simply the intention which the speaker had in view in using them. For the word “Father” means just the same as the phrase “Abba, Father.” But with a view to bring out the mystic significance, the expression, “Abba, Father,” is the clearer form; while, for indicating the unity, the word “Father” is sufficient. And that the Lord did indeed employ this method of address, “Abba, Father,” must be accepted as matter of fact. But still His intention would not appear very obvious were there not the means (since others use simply the term “Father”) to show that under such a form of expression those two Churches, which are constituted, the one out of the Jews, and the other out of the Gentiles, are presented as also really one. In this way, then, [we may suppose that] the phrase, “Abba, Father,” was adopted in order to convey the same idea as was indicated by the Lord on another occasion, when He said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.” 1277 In these words He certainly referred to the Gentiles, since He had sheep also among the people of Israel. But in that passage He goes on immediately to add the declaration, “Them also I must bring, that there may be one fold and one Shepherd.” And so we may say that, just as the phrase, “Abba, Father,” contains the idea of [the two races,] the Israelites and the Gentiles, the word “Father,” used alone, points to the one flock which these two constitute.



Matt. xxvi. 36-46.


Mark xiv. 32-42.


Luke xxii. 39-46.


John xviii. 1.


[“Go yonder and pray;” so the Latin, as well as the Greek text. Comp. Revised Version, which in some other instances, in the passage here cited, agrees more closely with Augustin’s text than does the Authorized Version.—R.]


Matt. xxvi. 36-46.


Mark xiv. 41. [On the various explanations of this difficult passage, see commentaries.—R.]


See Eph. ii. 11-22.


Rom. viii. 15.


Gal. iv. 6.


Or = having compassion on the more infirm; infirmioribus compatiens.


John x. 16.

Next: Chapter V

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