Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Augustine of Hippo, Harmony of the Evangelists.2.1-2: The Son (as was supposed) of Joseph

Image: Close-up, Jacopo Sansovino, Madonna and Child, c. 1550, painted and gilded papier mache and stucco, National Gallery, Washington, DC.

Greetings, this is Jeff Riddle, Pastor of CRBC, Louisa, Virginia and this is a series of readings from and notes and commentary upon Augustine of Hippo’s Harmony of the Evangelists.

Note: We are resuming this series after a one-year break (from March 2022).

We are in book 2 of 4. This second book is the longest in this work with some 80 chapters. It covers the events recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, with comparison to the other three Gospels, up to the Last Supper. These episodes will only be posted in audio (not video) format.

The Prologue:

Augustine begins by noting he intends to look into the four accounts of Christ in the Gospels and show how they are consistent with one another.

2.1: A statement of the reason why the enumeration of the ancestors of Christ was carried down to Joseph, while Christ was not born of this man’s seed, but of the Virgin Mary.

This book begins with an analysis of the genealogy of the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the Son of Man with respect to his true humanity. Augustine notes also “the heavenly and eternal generation” of Christ as “the only begotten Son of God. Matthew begins by tracing out the “human generation” in the genealogy from Abraham to Joseph, husband of Mary.

He notes that Joseph and Mary were married, though she was a virgin. They were an “illustrious recommendation” to “husbands and wives that they may share affections of the mind, with “no connection between the sexes of the body.” Augustine thus promotes his view that “carnal intercourse” is “to be practiced with the purpose of the procreation of children only.” Joseph was not the father of Jesus but had adopted him from another.

Augustine notes the statement from Luke 3:23 that Christ began his public ministry at “about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.” Joseph could be called his “father” only if he was “truly the husband of Mary, without the intercourse of the flesh, indeed, but in virtue of the real union of marriage.”

2.2: An explanation of the sense in which Christ is the son of David, although He was not begotten in the way of ordinary generation by Joseph the son of David.

He begins by saying that even if Mary did not descend from David by blood, we could say he descended from David by virtue of his adoption by Joseph. Given, however, that Paul said, Christ was “of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom 1:3), we know that Mary also descended directly from David. Given her connection to Elisabeth, she also came from the priestly line. Thus, Christ came “from the line of the kings, and from that of the priests.”


The Gospel story of Jesus begins with his human genealogy and his virginal conception.


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