Thursday, August 26, 2021

Augustine, Harmony of the Evangelists.1.8-11: Jesus was not a magician



1.8: Of the question why, if Christ is believed to have been the wisest of men on the testimony of common narrative report, He should not be believed to be God on the testimony of the superior report of preaching.

Augustine continues to respond to those who reject the authenticity and historical reliability of the Gospels in their presentation of Jesus. He notes that these skeptics hypocritically affirm that Christ was the wisest of men, based on various reports about his life, but then reject the Gospels, which are based on eyewitness reports from his closest followers. The Gospels present Jesus as the only begotten Son, as God himself, and as the creator of all things. He then counter-punches by asking why the pagan deities should be considered “proper objects of reverence” if they are ridiculed in popular theatrical productions. He challenges those who say they have books written by Jesus which support their view to produced them.

1.9: Of certain persons who pretend that Christ wrote books on the art of magic:

Here Augustine attacks those who make the false claims that they have books written by Jesus on magic, which he used to produce his miracles. If they have these books, he challenges such persons to use these books to do the miracles Jesus did.

1.10: Of some men who are mad enough to suppose that the books were inscribed with the names of Peter and Paul:

The attack continues, as Augustine points out that some of the spurious “magic” books have nonsensical dedications to Peter and Paul. These claims show their “deceitful audacity” and ignorance, making them a laughingstock. It would be total folly to suggest that Jesus wrote anything to Paul, who did not become a follower of Jesus during his earthly ministry but only after his resurrection. Augustine chides such men for getting their information about Christ and the apostles “not in the holy writings, but on painted walls.” He notes that such spurious views likely developed in Rome where Peter and Paul were martyred on the same day. These men had then misunderstood paintings which depicted Jesus with Peter and Paul.

1.11: In opposition to those who foolishly imagine that Christ converted the people to Himself by magical arts:

Augustine here offers another challenge to those who claim Jesus did his miracles by magic. If this is so, how do they explain the fact that the prophets wrote about him. If he used magic to influence them, then he was “a magician before He was born.”


Augustine here continues his defense of the canonical Gospels, especially against popular pagan traditions, which suggested that Jesus had been a magician and used magic to manipulate circumstances and perform miracles. He shows that books presenting this view which claimed to be written by Jesus are spurious. He is especially critical of those who have received a distorted view of Jesus based on visual art (paintings) rather on the written Scriptures. His purpose, again, is to show the superiority of the canonical Gospels as sources for the life of Jesus.


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