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Book XVII.

Faustus rejects Christ’s declaration that He came not to destroy the law and the prophets but to fulfill them, on the ground that it is found only in Matthew, who was not present when the words purport to have been spoken.  Augustin rebukes the folly of refusing to believe Matthew and yet believing Manichæus, and shows what the passage of scripture really means.

1.  Faustus said:  You ask why we do not receive the law and the prophets, when Christ said that he came not to destroy them, but to fulfill them.  Where do we learn that Jesus said this?  From Matthew, who declares that he said it on the mount.  In whose presence was it said?  In the presence of Peter, Andrew, James, and John—only these four; for the rest, including Matthew himself, were not yet chosen.  Is it not the case that one of these four—John, namely—wrote a Gospel?  It is.  Does he mention this saying of Jesus?  No.  How, then, does it happen that what is not recorded by John, who was on the mount, is recorded by Matthew, who became a follower of Christ long after He came down from the mount?  In the first place, then, we must doubt whether Jesus ever said these words, since the proper witness is silent on the matter, and we have only the authority of a less trustworthy witness.  But, besides this, we shall find that it is not Matthew that has imposed upon us, but some one else under his name, as is evident from the indirect style of the narrative.  Thus we read:  "As Jesus passed by, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom, and called him; and he immediately rose up, and followed Him." 634   No one writing of himself would say, He saw a man, and called him; and he followed Him; but, He saw me, and called me, and I followed Him.  Evidently this was written not by Matthew himself, but by some one else under his name.  Since, then, the passage already quoted would not be true even if it had been written by Matthew, since he was not present when Jesus spoke on the mount; much more is its falsehood evident from the fact that the writer was not Matthew himself, but some one borrowing the names both of Jesus and of Matthew.

2.  The passage itself, in which Christ tells the Jews not to think that He came to destroy the law, is rather designed to show that He did destroy it.  For, had He not done something of the kind, the Jews would not have suspected Him.  His words are:  "Think not that I am come to destroy the law."  Supp. 235 pose the Jews had replied, What actions of thine might lead us to suspect this?  Is it because thou exposest circumcision, breakest the Sabbath, discardest sacrifices, makest no distinction in foods? this would be the natural answer to the words, Think not.  The Jews had the best possible reason for thinking that Jesus destroyed the law.  If this was not to destroy the law, what is?  But, indeed, the law and the prophets consider themselves already so faultlessly perfect, that they have no desire to be fulfilled.  Their author and father condemns adding to them as much as taking away anything from them; as we read in Deuteronomy:  "These precepts which I deliver unto thee this day, O Israel, thou shalt observe to do; thou shalt not turn aside from them to the right hand or to the left; thou shalt not add thereto nor diminish from it, that thy God may bless thee." 635   Whether, therefore, Jesus turned aside to the right by adding to the law and the prophets in order to fulfill them, or to the left in taking away from them to destroy them, either way he offended the author of the law.  So this verse must either have some other meaning, or be spurious.

3.  Augustin replied:  What amazing folly, to disbelieve what Matthew records of Christ, while you believe Manichæus!  If Matthew is not to be believed because he was not present when Christ said, "I came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill," was Manichæus present, was he even born, when Christ appeared among men?  According, then, to your rule, you should not believe anything that Manichæus says of Christ.  On the other hand, we refuse to believe what Manichæus says of Christ; not because he was not present as a witness of Christ’s words and actions, but because he contradicts Christ’s disciples, and the Gospel which rests on their authority.  The apostle, speaking in the Holy Spirit, tells us that such teachers would arise.  With reference to such, he says to believers:  "If any man preaches to you another gospel than that ye have received, let him be accursed." 636   If no one can say what is true of Christ unless he has himself seen and heard Him, no one now can be trusted.  But if believers can now say what is true of Christ because the truth has been handed down in word or writing by those who saw and heard, why might not Matthew have heard the truth from his fellow-disciple John, if John was present and he himself was not, as from the writings of John both we who are born so long after and those who shall be born after us can learn the truth about Christ?  In this way, the Gospels of Luke and Mark, who were companions of the disciples, as well as the Gospel of Matthew, have the same authority as that of John.  Besides, the Lord Himself might have told Matthew what those called before him had already been witnesses of.  Your idea is, that John should have recorded this saying of the Lord, as he was present on the occasion.  As if it might not happen that, since it was impossible to write all that be heard from the Lord, he set himself to write some, omitting this among others.  Does he not say at the close of his Gospel:  "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written"? 637   This proves that he omitted many things intentionally.  But if you choose John as an authority regarding the law and the prophets, I ask you only to believe his testimony to them.  It is John who writes that Isaiah saw the glory of Christ. 638   It is in his Gospel we find the text already treated of:  "If ye believed Moses, ye would also believe me; for he wrote of me." 639   Your evasions are met on every side.  You ought to say plainly that you do not believe the gospel of Christ.  For to believe what you please, and not to believe what you please, is to believe yourselves, and not the gospel.

4.  Faustus thinks himself wonderfully clever in proving that Matthew was not the writer of this Gospel, because, when speaking of his own election, he says not, He saw me, and said to me, Follow me; but, He saw him, and said to him, Follow me.  This must have been said either in ignorance or from a design to mislead.  Faustus can hardly be so ignorant as not to have read or heard that narrators, when speaking of themselves, often use a construction as if speaking of another.  It is more probable that Faustus wished to bewilder those more ignorant than himself, in the hope of getting hold on not a few unacquainted with these things.  It is needless to resort to other writings to quote examples of this construction from profane authors for the information of our friends, and for the refutation of Faustus.  We find examples in passages quoted above from Moses by Faustus himself, without any denial, or rather with the assertion, that they were written by Moses, only not written of Christ.  When Moses, then, writes of himself, does he say, I said this, or I did that, and not rather, p. 236 Moses said, and Moses did?  Or does he say, The Lord called me, The Lord said to me, and not rather, The Lord called Moses, The Lord said to Moses, and so on?  So Matthew, too, speaks of himself in the third person.  And John does the same; for towards the end of his book he says:  "Peter, turning, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved, who also lay on His breast at supper, and who said to the Lord, Who is it that shall betray Thee?"  Does he say, Peter, turning, saw me?  Or will you argue from this that John did not write this Gospel?  But he adds a little after:  "This is the disciple that testifies of Jesus, and has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true." 640   Does he say, I am the disciple who testify of Jesus, and who have written these things, and we know that my testimony is true?  Evidently this style is common in writers of narratives.  There are innumerable instances in which the Lord Himself uses it.  "When the Son of man," He says, "cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" 641   Not, When I come, shall I find?  Again, "The Son of man came eating and drinking;" 642 not, I came.  Again, "The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live;" 643 not, My voice.  And so in many other places.  This may suffice to satisfy inquirers and to refute scoffers.

5.  Every one can see the weakness of the argument that Christ could not have said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets:  I came not to destroy, but to fulfill," unless He had done something to create a suspicion of this kind.  Of course, we grant that the unenlightened Jews may have looked upon Christ as the destroyer of the law and the prophets; but their very suspicion makes it certain that the true and truthful One, in saying that He came not to destroy the law and the prophets, referred to no other law than that of the Jews.  This is proved by the words that follow:  "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.  Whosoever therefore shall break one of the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whosoever shall do and teach them, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."  This applied to the Pharisees, who taught the law in word, while they broke it in deed.  Christ says of the Pharisees in another place, "What they say, that do; but do not after their works:  for they say, and do not." 644   So here also He adds, "For I say unto you, Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven;" 645 that is, Unless ye shall both do and teach what they teach without doing, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  This law, therefore, which the Pharisees taught without keeping it, Christ says He came not to destroy, but to fulfill; for this was the law connected with the seat of Moses in which the Pharisees sat, who because they said without doing, are to be heard, but not to be imitated.

6.  Faustus does not understand, or pretends not to understand, what it is to fulfill the law.  He supposes the expression to mean the addition of words to the law, regarding which it is written that nothing is to be added to or taken away from the Scriptures of God.  From this Faustus argues that there can be no fulfillment of what is spoken of as so perfect that nothing can be added to it or taken from it.  Faustus requires to be told that the law is fulfilled by living as it enjoins.  "Love is the fulfilling of the law," 646 as the apostle says.  The Lord has vouchsafed both to manifest and to impart this love, by sending the Holy Spirit to His believing people.  So it is said by the same apostle:  "The love of God is shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us." 647   And the Lord Himself says:  "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." 648   The law, then, is fulfilled both by the observance of its precepts and by the accomplishment of its prophecies.  For "the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." 649   The law itself, by being fulfilled, becomes grace and truth.  Grace is the fulfillment of love, and truth is the accomplishment of the prophecies.  And as both grace and truth are by Christ, it follows that He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it; not by supplying any defects in the law, but by obedience to what is written in the law.  Christ’s own words declare this.  For He does not say, One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till its defects are supplied, but "till all be fulfilled."




Matt. ix. 9.


Deut. xii. 32.


Gal. i. 9.


John xxi. 25.


John xii. 41.


John v. 46.


John xxi. 20-24.


Luke xviii. 8.


Matt. xi. 19.


John v. 25.


Matt. xxiii. 3.


Matt. v. 17-20.


Rom. xiii. 10.


Rom. v. 5.


John xiii. 35.


John i. 7.

Next: Book XVIII