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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VI.—Of the Harmony Characterizing the Accounts Which These Evangelists Give of What Happened When the Lord Was Led Away to the House of the High Priest, as Also of the Occurrences Which Took Place Within the Said House After He Was Conducted There in the Nighttime, and in Particular of the Incident of Peter’s Denial.

19. In the line of Matthew’s narrative we come next upon this statement: “And they that laid hold on Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.” 1288 We learn, however, from John that He was conducted first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. 1289 On the other hand, Mark and Luke omit all mention of the name of the high priest. 1290 Moreover [we find that] He was led away bound. For, as John informs us, there were at hand there, in the multitude, a tribune and a cohort, and the servants of the Jews. 1291 Then in Matthew we have these words: “But Peter followed Him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in and sat with the servants to see the end.” 1292 To this passage in the narrative Mark makes this addition: “And he warmed himself at the fire.” 1293 Luke also makes a statement which amounts to the same, thus: “Peter followed afar off: and when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were sat down together, Peter sat down among them.” 1294 And John proceeds in these terms: “And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. That disciple (namely, that other) was known unto the high priest, and went in (as John also tells us) with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. But Peter (as the same John adds) stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.” 1295 For the last fact we are thus indebted to John’s narrative. And in this way we see how it came about that Peter also got inside, and was within the hall, as the other evangelists mention. 1296

20. Then Matthew’s report goes on thus: “Now the chief priests and elders and all the council sought false witness against Jesus, to put Him to death, but found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none.” 1297 Mark comes in here with the explanation, that “their witness agreed not together.” 1298 But, as Matthew continues, “At the last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.” 1299 Mark states that there were also others who said, “We have heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. And therefore (as Mark also observes in the same passage) their witness did not agree together.” 1300 Then Matthew gives us the following relation: “And the high priest arose and said unto Him, Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held His peace. And the high priest answered and said unto Him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said.” 1301 Mark reports the same passage in different terms, only he omits to mention the fact that the high priest adjured Him. He makes it plain, however, that the two expressions ascribed to Jesus as the reply to the high priest,—namely, “Thou hast said,” and, “I am,” 1302 —really amount to the same. For, as the said Mark puts it, the narrative goes on thus: “And Jesus said, I am; and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 1303 This is just as Matthew also presents the passage, with the solitary exception that he does not say that Jesus replied in the phrase “I am.” Again, Matthew goes on further in this strain: “Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? And they answered and said, He is guilty of death.” 1304 Mark’s version of this is entirely to the same effect. So Matthew continues, “Then did they spit in His face, and buffeted Him, and others smote Him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” 1305 Mark reports these things in like manner. He also mentions a further fact, namely, that they covered His face. 1306 On these incidents we have likewise the testimony of Luke.

21. These things the Lord is understood to have passed through on to the early morning in the high priest’s house, to which He was first conducted, and in which Peter was also tempted. p. 186 With respect, however, to this temptation of Peter, which took place during the time that the Lord was enduring these injuries, the several evangelists do not present the same order in the recital of the circumstances. For Matthew and Mark first narrate the injuries offered to the Lord, and then this temptation of Peter. Luke, again, first describes Peter’s temptation, and only after that the reproaches borne by the Lord; while John, on the other hand, first recounts part of Peter’s temptation, then introduces some verses recording what the Lord had to bear, next appends a statement to the effect that the Lord was sent away thence (i.e. from Annas) to Caiaphas the high priest, and then at this point resumes and sums up the relation which he had commenced of Peter’s temptation in the house to which he was first conducted, giving a full account of that incident, thereafter reverting to the succession of things befalling the Lord, and telling us how He was brought to Caiaphas. 1307

22. Accordingly, Matthew proceeds as follows: “Now Peter sat without in the palace; and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And as he went out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them, for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying that he knew not the man. And immediately the cock crew.” 1308 Such is Matthew’s version. But we are also given to understand that after he had gone outside, and when he had now denied the Lord once, the first cock crew,—a fact which Matthew does not specify, but which is intimated by Mark.

23. But it was not when he was outside at the gate that he denied the Lord the second time. That took place after he had come back to the fire-place. There was no need, however, to mention the precise time at which he did thus return. Consequently Mark goes on with his narrative of the incident in these terms: “And he went out into the porch, and the cock crew. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again.” 1309 This is not the same maid, however, as the former one, but another, as Matthew tells us. Nay, we gather further that on the occasion of the second denial he was addressed by two parties, namely, by the maid who is mentioned by Matthew and Mark, and also by another person who is noticed by Luke. For Luke’s account runs in this style: “And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were sat down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied Him, saying, Woman, I know Him not. And after a little while, another saw him, and said, “Thou art also of them.” 1310 Now the clause, “And after a little while,” which Luke introduces, covers the period during which [we may suppose that] Peter went out and the first cock crew. By this time, however, he had come in again; and thus we can understand the consistency of John’s narrative, which informs us that he denied the Lord the second time as he stood by the fire. For in his version of Peter’s first denial, John not only says nothing about the first crowing of the cock (which holds good of the other evangelists, too, with the exception of Mark), but also leaves unnoticed the fact that it was as he sat by the fire that the maid recognised him. For all that John says there is this, “Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples? He saith, I am not.” 1311 Then he brings in the statement which he deemed it right to make on the subject of what took place with Jesus in that same house. His record of this is to the following effect: “And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals, for it was cold. And they warmed themselves; and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.” 1312 Here, therefore, we may suppose Peter to have gone out, and by this time to have come in again. For at first he was sitting by the fire; and after a space, as we gather, he had returned, and commenced to stand [by the hearth].

24. It may be, however, that some one will say to us: Peter had not actually gone out as yet, but had only risen with the purpose of going out. This may be the allegation of one who is of opinion that the second interrogation and denial took place when Peter was outside at the door. Let us therefore look at what follows in John’s narrative. It is to this effect: “The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples, and of His doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. And when He had p. 187 thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me? And Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” 1313 This certainly shows us that Annas was high priest. For Jesus had not been sent to Caiaphas as yet, when the question was thus put to Him, “Answerest thou the high priest so?” Mention is also made of Annas and Caiaphas as high priests by Luke at the beginning of his Gospel. 1314 After these statements, John reverts to the account which he had previously begun of Peter’s denial. Thus he brings us back to the house in which the incidents took place which he has recorded, and from which Jesus was sent away to Caiaphas, to whom He was being conducted at the commencement of this scene, as Matthew has informed us. 1315 Moreover, it is in the way of a recapitulation that John records the matters regarding Peter which he has introduced at this point. Falling back upon his narration of that incident with the view of making up a complete account of the threefold denial, he proceeds thus: “And Simon stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not.” 1316 Here, therefore, we find that Peter’s second denial occurred, not when he was at the door, but as he was standing by the fire. This, however, could not have been the case, had he not returned by this time after having gone outside. For it is not that by this second occasion he had actually gone out, and that the other maid who is referred to saw him there outside; but the matter is put as if it was on his going out that she saw him; or, in other words, it was when he rose to go out that she observed him, and said to those who were there,—that is, to those who were gathered by the fire inside, within the court,—“This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.” Then we are to suppose that the man who had thus gone outside, on hearing this assertion, came in again, and swore to those who were now inimically disposed, “I do not know the man.” 1317 In like manner, Mark also says of this same maid, that “she began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.” 1318 For this damsel was speaking not to Peter, but to those who had remained there when he went out. At the same time, she spoke in such a manner that he heard her words; whereupon he came back and stood again by the fire, and met their words with a negative. Then we have the statement made by John in these terms: “They said, Art not thou also one of his disciples?” We understand this question to have been addressed to him on his return as he stood there; and we also recognise the harmony in which this stands with the position that on this occasion Peter had to do not only with that other maid who is mentioned by Matthew and Mark in connection with this second denial, but also with that other person who is introduced by Luke. This is the reason why John uses the plural, “They said.” The explanation then may be, that when the maid said to those who were with her in the court as he went out, “This is one of them,” he heard her words and returned with the purpose of clearing himself, as it were, by a denial. Or, in accordance with the more probable theory, we may suppose that he did not catch what was said about him as he went out, and that on his return the maid and the other person who is introduced by Luke addressed him thus, “Art not thou also one of his disciples?” that he met them with a denial, “and said, I am not;” and further, that when this other person of whom Luke speaks insisted more pertinaciously, and said, “Surely thou art one of them,” Peter answered thus, “Man, I am not.” Still, when we compare together all the statements made by the several evangelists on this subject, we come clearly to the conclusion, that Peter’s second denial took place, not when he was at the door, but when he was within, by the fire in the court. It becomes evident, therefore, that Matthew and Mark, who have told us how he went without, have left the fact of his return unnoticed simply with a view to brevity.

25. Accordingly, let us next examine into the consistency of the evangelists so far as the third denial is concerned, which we have previously instanced in the statement given by Matthew only. Mark then goes on with his version in these terms: “And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them; for thou art a Galilæan. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. And immediately the second time the cock crew.” 1319 Luke, again, continues his narrative, relating the same incident in this fashion: “And about the space of one hour after, another confidently affirmed, Of a truth this fellow also was with him; for he is a Galilæan. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately while he yet spake the cock crew.” 1320 John follows with his account of Peter’s third denial, which is thus p. 188 given: “One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? Peter then denied again; and immediately the cock crew.” 1321 Now what precise period of time is meant under the phrase, “a little after,” which is employed by Matthew and Mark, is made clear by Luke, when he says, “And about the space of one hour after.” John, however, conveys no intimation of this space of time. Again, with respect to the circumstance that Matthew and Mark use the plural number instead of the singular, and speak of the persons who were engaged with Peter, while Luke mentions only a single individual, and John, too, specifies but one, particularizing him further as kinsman to him whose ear Peter cut off; we may easily explain it either by understanding Matthew and Mark to have adopted a familiar method of speech here in employing the plural number simply instead of the singular, or by supposing that one of the persons present—one who knew Peter and had seen him—took the lead in making the declaration, and that the rest, imitating his confidence, joined him in pressing the assertion upon Peter. If this is the case, then two of the evangelists have given the general statement, using simply the plural number; while the other two have preferred to particularize only the one special individual who played the chief part in the transaction. But, once more, Matthew affirms that the words, “Surely thou also art one of them, for thy speech bewrayeth thee,” were spoken to Peter himself. In like manner, John tells us that the question, “Did not I see thee in the garden with him?” was addressed directly to Peter. But Mark, on the other hand, gives us to understand that the sentence, “Surely he is one of them, for he is also a Galilæan,” was what those who stood by said to each other about Peter. And, in the same way, Luke indicates that the declaration uttered by the other person, who said, “Of a truth, this fellow also was with him, for he is a Galilæan,” was not addressed to Peter, but was made regarding Peter. These variations, however, may be explained either by understanding the evangelists, who speak of Peter as the person directly addressed, to have fairly reproduced the general sense, inasmuch as what was spoken about the man in his own presence was much the same as if it had been spoken immediately to him; or by supposing that both these methods of address were actually practised, and that the one has been noticed by the former evangelists, and the other by the latter. Moreover, we take the second cockcrowing to have occurred after the third denial, as Mark has expressly informed us.

26. Matthew then proceeds with his narrative in these terms: “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus which He had said unto him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly.” 1322 Mark, again, gives it thus: “And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said unto him, Before the cock crow twice thou shall deny me thrice. And he began to weep.” 1323 Luke’s version is as follows: “And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said unto him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out and wept bitterly.” 1324 John says nothing about Peter’s recollection and weeping. Now, the statement made here by Luke, to the effect that “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter,” is one which requires more careful consideration, with a view to its correct acceptance. For although there are also inner halls (or courts), so named, it was in the outer court (or hall) that Peter appeared on this occasion among the servants, who were warming themselves along with him at the fire. And it is not a credible supposition that Jesus was heard by the Jews in this place, so that we might also understand the look referred to to have been a look with the bodily eye. For Matthew presents us first with this narrative: “Then did they spit in His face and buffeted Him; and others smote Him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who is he that smote thee?” 1325 And then he follows this up immediately with the paragraph about Peter: “Now Peter sat without in the palace.” 1326 He would not, however, have used this latter expression, had it not been the case that the things previously alluded to were done to the Lord inside the house. And, indeed, as we gather from Mark’s version, these things took place not simply in the interior, but also in the upper parts of the house. For, after recording the said circumstances, Mark goes on thus: “And as Peter was beneath in the palace.” 1327 Thus, as Matthew’s words, “Now Peter sat without in the palace,” show us that the things previously mentioned took place inside the house, so Mark’s words, “And as Peter was beneath in the palace,” indicate that they were done not only in the interior, but in the upper parts of the house. But if this is the case, how could the Lord have looked on Peter with the actual glance of the bodily eye? These considerations bring p. 189 me to the conclusion, that the look in question was one cast upon Peter from Heaven, the effect of which was to bring up before his mind the number of times he had now denied [his Master], and the declaration which the Lord had made to him prophetically, and in this way (the Lord thus looking mercifully upon him 1328 ), to lead him to repent, and to weep salutary tears. The expression, therefore, will be a parallel to other modes of speech which we employ daily, as when we thus pray, “Lord, look upon me;” or as when, in reference to one who has been delivered by the divine mercy from some danger or trouble, we say that the “Lord looked upon him.” In the Scriptures, also, we find such words as these: “Look upon me and hear me;” 1329 and “Return, 1330 O Lord, and deliver my soul.” 1331 And, according to my judgment, a similar view is to be taken of the expression adopted here, when it is said that “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord.” Finally, we have to notice how, while it is the more usual practice with the evangelists to employ the name “Jesus” in preference to the word “Lord” in their narratives, Luke has used the latter term exclusively in the said sentence, saying expressly, “The ‘Lord’ turned and looked upon Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the ‘Lord:’” whereas Matthew and Mark have passed over this “look” in silence, and consequently have said that Peter remembered not the word of the “Lord,” but the word of “Jesus.” From this, therefore, we may gather that the “look” thus proceeding from Jesus was not one with the eyes of the human body, but a look cast from Heaven. 1332



Matt. xxvi. 57.


John xviii. 13.


Mark 14:53, Luke 22:54.


John xviii. 12.


Matt. xxvi. 58.


Mark xiv. 54.


Luke 22:54, 55.


John xviii. 15-18.


[It is implied here that the denials of Peter took place in the house of Annas, and also that Matthew and Mark, in their account of the night examination, refer to the same event described by John 18.19-23. The objection to this is found in the explicit statement of Matt. 26.57 in regard to Caiaphas.—R.]


Matt. 26:59, 60.


Mark xiv. 56.


Matt. xxvi. 61.


Mark xiv. 57-59.


Matt. xxvi. 62-64.


Mark xiv. 62.


Mark xiv. 62.


Matt. 26:65, 66.


Matt. 26:67, 68.


Mark xiv. 65.


[The evangelists indicate three distinct episodes of recognition and denial, but do not refer to the same facts in detail. This Augustin seems to apprehend.—R.]


Matt. xxvi. 69-74.


Mark xiv. 68-70.


Luke xxii. 54-58.


John xviii. 17.


John xviii. 18.


John xviii. 19-24.


Luke iii. 2.


Matt. xxviii. 57. [See note on § 19. Augustin’s Latin text in John xviii. 24, et misit eum, etc., agrees in tense with the Greek. The Authorized Version incorrectly renders, “Now Annas had sent,” etc. The Revised Version has, “Annas therefore sent,” The theory of two distinct night examinations (before Annas first, and then before Caiphas) agrees best with the literal sense. Both may have occupied parts of the same house.—R.]


John xviii. 25.


Matt. xxviii. 71.


Mark xiv. 69.


Mark xiv. 70-72.


Luke 22:59, 60.


John 18:26, 27.


Matt. xxvi. 75.


Mark xiv. 72: the words, “when he thought thereon,” being omitted. [There is nothing omitted. The difficult Greek term (ἐπιβαλών) is explained by “when he thought thereon” in the Authorized Version. Augustin’s view is given in Revised Version margin, “And he began to weep.”—R.]


Luke 22:61, 62.


Matt. 26:67, 68.


Atrio, court. [The Revised Version properly renders the terms referring to the “court,” etc. “Palace” (Authorized Version) is misleading.—R.]


Mark xiv. 66.


Or, regarding him, respiciente.


Ps. xiii. 3.




Ps. vi. 4.


[This fanciful interpretation is unnecessary. The inner court of the large Jewish house, with rooms looking upon it, would allow place for all the incidents, without any departure from the simple historical sense.—R.]

Next: Chapter VII

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