[b-greek] RE: John 20:28 and Augustine

From: Alex / Ali (alexali@surf.net.au)
Date: Mon Feb 05 2001 - 06:37:09 EST

Several days ago, in a discussion of John 20:28, Dan Parker advised David

>As for whether one or two persons are in view, consider Augustine in
'Tractate CXXI':

>"Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God." He saw and touched
the man, and acknowledged the God whom he neither saw nor touched; but by
the means of what he saw and touched, he now put far away from him every
doubt, and believed the other."

In assessing the value of any single comment it is important to observe its
context. The relevance to Augustine's being cited in the matter of John
20:28 is as follows.

Augustine's tractate concerns John 20, verses 10-29, the earlier part of
which deals with Mary's weeping at the tomb, supposing that her Lord had
been taken away, and then seeing the risen Lord, who tells her not to touch
him; the latter part deals with Jesus' appearance to the disciples, Thomas
not being present, and his appearance to the disciples eight days later, on
which occasion Thomas was given the opportunity to touch Jesus but answered

Augustine discusses in some detail why Mary is told by the Lord, 'Touch me
not; for I am not yet ascended to the Father.' He expresses two
possibilities. The first is 'that by this woman the Church of the Gentiles
was symbolized, which did not believe on Christ till He had actually
ascended to the Father'. The second, which Augustine deals with at greater
length, is 'that in this way Christ wished Himself to be believed on; in
other words, to be touched spiritually, that He and the Father are one.'
Augustine explains, 'For He has in a manner ascended to the Father, to the
inward perception of him who has made such progress in the knowledge of
Christ that he acknowledges Him as equal with the Father: in any other way
He is not rightly touched, that is to say, in any other way He is not
rightly believed on. But Mary might have still so believed as to account Him
unequal with the Father, and this certainly is forbidden her by the words,
'Touch me not'. In the working out of his argument, Augustine explains the
words 'For I am not yet ascended to my Father' with the comment, 'there
shalt thou touch me, when thou believest me to be God, in no wise unequal
with the Father.'

Of some significance in reference to his later comments regarding Thomas,
Augustine asks, 'How could it be otherwise than carnally that she still
believed on Him whom she was weeping over as a man?'

Augustine then deals with the Lord's appearance to the disciples, when the
doors were shut - 'But the shutting of doors,' Augustine comments,
'presented no obstacle to the matter of His body, wherein Godhead resided.'

It is then that Augustine deals with the appearance of the Lord to Thomas,
and it is against this background that Augustine makes his comment,

'Thomas answered and said unto Him, "My Lord and my God." He saw and touched
the man, and acknowledged the God whom he neither saw nor touched; but by
the means of what he saw and touched, he now put far away from him every
doubt, and believed the other.'

In its context, Augustine's comment withstands misunderstooding; he has made
clear that Jesus is 'God, in no wise unequal with the Father' and that in
him 'Godhead resided'.

It is only for the sake of those who see his words taken out of context (or
who perhaps cannot correctly weigh the value of secondary sources even when
seen in context) that it is necessary to explain that which, when read in
its context, is clear: in saying of Thomas that he 'touched the man and
acknowledged the God whom he neither saw nor touched', Augustine does not
have in view two persons; he is saying that Thomas apprehended Jesus not
only as man but as God. He touched Jesus as a man - but understood him to
be God, who cannot be touched. And when he says that Thomas 'by means of
what he saw and touched believed the other' he is expressing that Thomas,
seeing Jesus with his earthly body that bore the marks of his death but now
risen and alive before him, understood him to be truly and fully God. Unlike
Mary who believed on him carnally, weeping over him as a man, Thomas saw and
touched a man but acknowledged him as God.

In calling Augustine as an expert witness, Dan Parker calls to the stand one
whose testimony tears apart his own argument. And that this is so may be
seen by all who have not only the interest to check Augustine's tractate
(which may be viewed at
http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF1-07/npnf1-07-126.htm#P3820_2093367) but
also the time to read it carefully and allowing the comment cited to have
its full weight in context.

Alex Hopkins (Melbourne, Australia)

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