Patristic Evidence

St. Augustine on John 8:1-11 (403 A.D.)

Exerpted from: St. Augustine,
Homilies on John, XXXIII (403 A.D.) etc.

Page Index

Last Updated: Feb 15, 2009

Section 1: - Introduction to Saint Augustine
Section 2: - Homily 33: Augustine on John 8:1-11
Section 3: - Contra Faustum, Book XXII: Opponents confirm 8:1-11.
Section 4: - Contra Faustum, Book XXXIII: Faustus quotes 8:1-11!
Section 5: - De Adulterinis Conjugiis, Book II: 'On Adulterous Marriages' (English/Latin)
   Augustine describes the state of the manuscript copies in his time etc.

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Aurelius Augustinus, Saint Augustine (354-430 A.D.,converted 386 A.D.)

Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo from 396-430 A.D. and one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. In Roman Catholicism and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint and pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinian religious order. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of Reformation teaching on salvation and grace. In Orthodox Churches he is considered Blessed or even a saint by some while others are of the opinion that he is a heretic, primarily for his statements concerning what became known as the filioque clause:

In Christian theology the filioque clause (filioque meaning "and [from] the son" in Latin) is a heavily disputed clause added to the Nicene Creed, that forms a divisive difference in particular between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. In the place where the original Nicene Creed reads "We believe in the Holy Spirit ... who proceeds from the Father", the amended version reads "We believe in the Holy Spirit ... who proceeds from the Father and the Son". The addition is accepted by Catholic Christians (and many Protestants) but rejected by Eastern Orthodox Christians. The clause is most often referred to as simply "filioque" or "the filioque."

19th Century References to St. Augustine

Dr F.J.A. Hort cites Augustine as positive evidence for the authenticity of the Pericope de Adultera (John 7:53-8:11):

"Aug. 3 Conj. adult. ii 6 shews knowledge of the difference of text by saying "Some of little faith, I suppose from a fear lest their wives should gain impunity in sin, removed from their MSS the Lord's act of indulgence to the adulteress". He also notices the ridicule directed by some 'sacrilegious pagans' against Christ's writing on the ground (Faust. xxii 25); and one of his quotations from his contemporary the Manichean Faustus includes a reference to Christ's 'absolution' of in injustitia et in adulterio deprehensam mulierem (xxxiii 1)."

Hort, NT in the Original Greek, Appendix: Notes on Select Readings, p. 82 (MacMillan, 1896)

The work cited here, De Coniugiis Adulteris ii 6 ("Adulterous Marriages"), is indeed an important witness to the textual situation. Here Dr. Hort grants four times the space for Augustine as he does for two other early fathers, Ambrose and Jerome.

Yet this is not because he is sympathetic to Augustine's explanations of why the passage was removed. In fact, later Hort dismisses Augustine's explanation in his discussion of 'intrinsic probability' (ibid., p 86). Hort merely uses Augustine to confirm that some MSS omitted the verses (circa 400 A.D.).

In spite of the seeming attention Hort gives to Augustine, this single lonely reference hardly does justice to the copious evidence of this early father. As others had noted nearly a decade earlier, Augustine is known to have discussed the verses at least 18 times in his extant writings alone. (see for instance, Dean John Burgon, The Pericope de Adultera, 1886. )

Modern References to St. Augustine

Hodges (1979) offers a more complete and accurate quotation of Augustine here:

"...certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from the manuscripts the Lord’s act of forgiveness toward the adulterous,as if He who had said, 'sin no more' had granted permission to sin..." 1

"(This comment is also passed over in silence by Metzger! 2 ) Whatever may be thought of Augustine’s assessment of the source of the trouble, there is obviously no question about what he believed to be authentic text!"

Hodges' original footnotes:

1. Augustine, "Adulterous Marriages" (2.7), transl C. T. Huegelmeyer, in Saint Augustine: Treatises on Marriage and Other Subjects (NT: Fathers of the Church, 1955), P. 107.

2. It is perhaps vaguely alluded to by the words, "Sometimes it is stated that the pericope was deliberately expunged from the 4th Gospel because it was liable to be understood in a sense too indulgent to adultery" (Metzger, Textual Commentary, p. 221). Candor might have been better served if the reader had been informed that the idea can be traced back to the 5th century!

From: Zane Hodges, Problem Passages in the Gospel of John Part 8: The Woman taken in Adultery (John 7: 53- 8:11) : The Text, BSac 136 (1979) 318-332

The Meaning of Saint Augustine's Writings Today

Today, we can step aside from the apologetic debates of yesteryear, and apply ourselves more seriously to a scientific study of Augustine's testimony. With this purpose in mind, we can distinguish several aspects of importance:

(1) Augustine was a contemporary and challenger to Jerome, often disagreeing with him strongly on issues regarding his new translation of the Latin Bible. What is remarkable and extremely important, is that Augustine made no protest whatever of Jerome's inclusion of the Pericope de Adultera, but plainly agreed with him completely on its authenticity and even its detailed content. This is especially important, since Augustine was so independant from Jerome. Had Augustine felt that Jerome's claims about or position on John 7:53-8:11 was in any way false or exaggerated, Augustine would have been outspoken on the matter.

(2) Jerome could not have been responsible for the inclusion of the Pericope de Adultera, but must have found it in a large number of Greek and Latin manuscripts just as he claimed. These manuscripts would be much older than the handful of 4th century uncials surviving today.

(3) Augustine is also very important for establishing the actual text in circulation. Because he comments on the section verse by verse in detail, often with repetitions, we have a very good idea of Augustine's text, and it is essentially identical with the Byzantine (Traditional) Text. This dates the traditional form of the text to circa 400 A.D.

(4) Augustine's interpretation of the text is equally important, for it shows that his own tradition could not have been its source. Augustine appears naive as to the full purpose and meaning of the text, and this clears him and his contemporaries of any sensible motivation or likelyhood of having created and/or inserted the text.

(5) Augustine's explanation of the cause of the omission is also important, because he was in intimate contact with heretical groups such as the Montanists who may have been responsible for its omission. He in fact had a large hand in restoring these fringe-groups to the Church. His testimony on this is more credible and weighty than many critics in the past have allowed.

(6) Augustine wrote a complete commentary on John including the verses. This means that a mainstream father near the heart of the Byzantine Empire knew and accepted the verses as authentic as early as 390 A.D., contemporary with Jerome. Some critics have claimed that "no Greek father comments on the verses until the 9th century", but this is a misleading statement. As Burgon remarked in 1886, to claim that these fathers (Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome) were Latin is irrelevant. They were familiar with the Greek manuscripts (Jerome used them for translating), and lived near the center of the ancient Roman Empire. All were important ecclesiastical leaders, and experts with the texts.

For all of the above reasons, it is very profitable to study Augustine's quotations and interpretation of the Pericope de Adultera in much more detail than is usually done.

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Saint Augustine:
Homily on John

Explanation of Format:

We have formatted Augustine's booklet, and boxed his quotations of scripture. However, nothing was added to the text except chapter and verse references. We have not altered the readings of Augustine's text as it has been translated, but have left all text verbatum. No scriptures have been added to the commentary: all are original to Augustine's homily. We use green for narrative, blue for dialogue, and red for the words of Jesus in the quotations.

Tractate XXXIII. (#33)

Chapter VII. 40–53; VIII. 1–11


You remember, my beloved, that in the last discourse, by occasion of the passage of the Gospel read, we spoke to you concerning the Holy Spirit (Jn 7:39).

When the Lord had invited those that believe on Him to this drinking (Jn 7:37), speaking among those who meditated to lay hold of Him (Jn 7:44), and sought to kill Him (Jn 7:1), and were not able (Jn 7:44), because it was not His will (Jn 7:30) : well, when He had spoken these things, there arose a dissension among the multitude concerning Him (Jn 7:43); some thinking that He was the very Christ, others saying that Christ shall not arise from Galilee. (Jn 7:41)

But they who had been sent to take Him returned (Jn 7:45) clear of the crime and full of admiration. For they even gave witness to His divine doctrine, when those by whom they had been sent asked, “Why have ye not brought him?” They answered that they had never heard a man so speak: “For not any man so speaks.” (Jn 7:45-56) But He spake thus, because He was God and man.

But the Pharisees, repelling their testimony, said to them: “Are ye also deceived?” We see, indeed, that you also have been charmed by his discourses. “Hath any one of the rulers or the Pharisees believed on him? But this multitude who know not the law are cursed.” (Jn 7:47-49)

They who knew not the law believed on Him who had sent the law; and those men who were teaching the law despised Him, that it might be fulfilled which the Lord Himself had said,

“I am come that they who see not may see, and they that see may be made blind.” (Jn 9:39)

For the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, were made blind, and the people that knew not the law, and yet believed on the author of the law, were enlightened.


“Nicodemus,” however, “one of the Pharisees, who had come to the Lord by night,” (Jn 7:50) - not indeed as being himself unbelieving, but timid; for therefore he came by night to the light, because he wished to be enlightened and feared to be known; - Nicodemus, I say, answered the Jews, “Doth our law judge a man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (Jn 7:51) For they perversely wished to condemn before they examined.

Nicodemus indeed knew, or rather believed, that if only they were willing to give Him a patient hearing, they would perhaps become like those who were sent to take Him, but preferred to believe.

They answered, from the prejudice of their heart, what they had answered to those officers, “Art thou also a Galilean?” (Jn 7:52a) That is, one seduced as it were by the Galilean. For the Lord was said to be a Galilean, because His parents were from the city of Nazareth. I have said “His parents” in regard to Mary, not as regards the seed of man; for on earth He sought but a mother, He had already a Father on high. For His nativity on both sides was marvellous: divine without mother, human without father.

What, then, said those would-be doctors of the law to Nicodemus? “Search the Scriptures, and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” (Jn 7:52b) Yet the Lord of the prophets arose thence. “They returned,” saith the evangelist, “every man to his own house.” (Jn 7:53)*


“Thence Jesus went unto the mount;” namely, to mount “Olivet,”(Jn 8:1) - unto the fruitful mount, unto the mount of ointment, unto the mount of chrism. For where, indeed, but from mount Olivet did it become the Christ to teach?

For the name of Christ is from chrism; χρισμα in the Greek, is called in Latin unctio, an anointing. And He has anointed us for this reason, because He has made us wrestlers against the devil.

And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down and taught them.

(Jn 8:2)

And He was not taken, for He did not yet deign to suffer.


And now observe wherein the Lord’s gentleness was tempted by His enemies.

And the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman just taken in adultery: and they set her in the midst, and said to Him,

"Master, this woman has just been taken in adultery. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?"

But this they said, tempting Him, that they might accuse Him.

(Jn 8:3-6a)

Why accuse Him? Had they detected Himself in any misdeed; or was that woman said to have been concerned with Him in any manner? What, then, is the meaning of “tempting Him, that they might accuse Him”? We understand, brethren, that a wonderful gentleness shone out pre-eminently in the Lord. They observed that He was very meek, very gentle: for of Him it had been previously foretold,

'Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O most Mighty; in Thy splendor and beauty urge on, march on prosperously, and reign, because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness.'

(Ps. xlv. 3, 4.)

Accordingly, as a teacher, He brought truth; as a deliverer, He brought gentleness; as a protector, He brought righteousness. That He was to reign on account of these things, the prophet had by the Holy Spirit foretold.

When He spoke His truth was acknowledged; when He was not provoked to anger against His enemies, His meekness was praised. Whilst, therefore, in respect of these two, - namely, His truth and meekness, - His enemies were tormented with malice and envy; in respect of the third, - namely, righteousness, - they laid a stumbling-block for Him.

In what way? Because the law had commanded the adulterers to be stoned, and surely the law could not command what was unjust: if any man should say other than the law had commanded, he would be detected as unjust.

Therefore they said among themselves,

“He is accounted true, he appears to be gentle; an accusation must be sought against him in respect of righteousness. Let us bring before him a woman taken in adultery; let us say to him what is ordered in the law concerning such: if he shall approve her being stoned, he will not show his gentleness; if he consent to let her go, he will not keep righteousness."

"But", say they, "that he may not lose the reputation of gentleness, for which he is become an object of love to the people, without doubt he will say that she must be let go. Hence we find an opportunity of accusing him, and we charge him as being a transgressor of the law: saying to him, Thou art an enemy to the law; thou answerest against Moses, nay, against Him who gave the law through Moses; thou art worthy of death: thou too must be stoned with this woman.”

By these words and sentiments they might possibly be able to inflame envy against Him, to urge accusation, and cause His condemnation to be eagerly demanded.

But this against whom? It was perversity against rectitude, falsehood against the truth, the corrupt heart against the upright heart, folly against wisdom. When did such men prepare snares, into which they did not first thrust their own heads?

Behold, the Lord in answering them will both keep righteousness, and will not depart from gentleness. He was not taken for whom the snare was laid, but rather they were taken who laid it, because they believed not on Him who could pull them out of the net.


What answer, then, did the Lord Jesus make? How answered the Truth? How answered Wisdom? How answered that Righteousness against which a false accusation was ready?

He did not say, Let her not be stoned; lest He should seem to speak against the law. But God forbid that He should say, Let her be stoned: for He came not to lose what He had found, but to seek what was lost. What then did He answer? See you how full it is of righteousness, how full of meekness and truth!

“He that is without sin of you,” saith He,
“let him first cast a stone at her.”

(Jn 8:7b)

O answer of Wisdom! How He sent them unto themselves! For without they stood to accuse and censure, themselves they examined not inwardly: they saw the adulteress, they looked not into themselves. Transgressors of the law, they wished the law to be fulfilled, and this by heedlessly accusing; not really fulfilling it, as if condemning adulteries by chastity.

You have heard, O Jews, you have heard, O Pharisees, you have heard, O teachers of the law, the guardian of the law, but have not yet understood Him as the Lawgiver. What else does He signify to you when He writes with His finger on the ground? (Jn 8:6b) For the law was written with the finger of God; but written on stone because of the hard-hearted.

The Lord now wrote on the ground, (Jn 8:8) because He was seeking fruit.

You have heard then, 'Let the law be fulfilled, let the adulteress be stoned.' But is it by punishing her that the law is to be fulfilled by those that ought to be punished? Let each of you consider himself, let him enter into himself, ascend the judgment-seat of his own mind, place himself at the bar of his own conscience, (Jn 8:9a) oblige himself to confess. For he knows what he is: for

“no man knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of man which is in him.”

Each looking carefully into himself, finds himself a sinner. Yes, indeed. Hence, either let this woman go, or together with her receive ye the penalty of the law. Had He said, Let not the adulteress be stoned, He would be proved unjust: had He said, Let her be stoned, He would not appear gentle: let Him say what it became Him to say, both the gentle and the just,

“Whoso is without sin of you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

(Jn 8:7b)

This is the voice of Justice: Let her, the sinner, be punished, but not by sinners: let the law be fulfilled, but not by the transgressors of the law. This certainly is the voice of justice: by which justice, those men pierced through as if by a dart, looking into themselves and finding themselves guilty, “one after another all withdrew.” (Jn 8:9a)

The two were left alone, the wretched woman and Mercy. But the Lord, having struck them through with that dart of justice, deigned not to heed their fall, but, turning away His look from them,

“again He wrote with His finger on the ground.” (Jn 8:8)


But when that woman was left alone, and all they were gone out, He raised His eyes to the woman.

(Jn 8:9b-10a)

We have heard the voice of justice, let us also hear the voice of clemency. For I suppose that woman was the more terrified when she had heard it said by the Lord, “He that is without sin of you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (Jn 8:7b) But they, turning their thought to themselves, and by that very withdrawal having confessed concerning themselves, had left the woman with her great sin to Him who was without sin.

And because she had heard this, “He that is without sin. let him first cast a stone at her,” (Jn 8:7b) she expected to be punished by Him in whom sin could not be found. But He, who had driven back her adversaries with the tongue of justice,

raising the eyes of clemency towards her, asked her,

“Hath no man condemned thee?”

She answered, “No man, Lord.”

And He said, “Neither do I condemn thee;”...

(Jn 8:10-11a) whom, perhaps, thou didst fear to be condemned, because in me thou hast not found sin. “Neither will I condemn thee.”

What is this, O Lord? Dost Thou therefore favor sins? Not so, evidently. Mark what follows:

“Go; henceforth, sin no more.”

(Jn 8:11b)

Therefore the Lord did also condemn, but He condemned sins, not man.

For if He were a patron of sin, He would say,

"Neither will I condemn thee; go, live as thou wilt: be secure in my deliverance; how much soever thou wilt sin, I will deliver thee from all punishment even of hell, and from the tormentors of the infernal world."

- He did not say this!


Let them take heed, then, who love His gentleness in the Lord, and let them fear His truth. For “The Lord is sweet and right.”[Ps. xxv. 8.] Thou lovest Him in that He is sweet; fear Him in that He is right.

As the meek, He said, “I held my peace;” ...but as the just, He said, “Shall I always be silent?” [Isa. xlii. 14]

“The Lord is merciful and pitiful.” So He is, certainly. Add yet further, “Long-suffering;” add yet further, “And very pitiful:”

...but fear what comes last:And true.” [Ps. lxxxvi. 15. ] For those whom He now bears with as sinners, He will judge as despisers:

“Or despisest thou the riches of His long-suffering and gentleness; not knowing that the forbearance of God leadeth thee to repentance? But thou, after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up for thyself wrath against the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds.”

[Rom. ii. 4–6.]

The Lord is gentle, the Lord is long-suffering, the Lord is pitiful; but the Lord is also just, the Lord is also true. He bestows on thee space for correction; but thou lovest the delay of judgment more than the amendment of thy ways. Hast thou been a bad man yesterday? Today be a good man. Hast thou gone on in thy wickedness today? At any rate change tomorrow. Thou art always expecting, and from the mercy of God makest exceeding great promises to thyself.

As if He, who has promised thee pardon through repentance, promised thee also a longer life. How knowest thou what to-morrow may bring forth? Rightly thou sayest in thy heart: When I shall have corrected my ways, God will put all my sins away. We cannot deny that God has promised pardon to those that have amended their ways and are converted. For in what prophet thou readest to me that God has promised pardon to him that amends, thou dost not read to me that God has promised thee a long life.


From both, then, men are in danger; both from hoping and despairing, from contrary things, from contrary affections. Who is deceived by hoping? He who says, God is good, God is merciful, let me do what I please, what I like; let me give loose reins to my lusts, let me gratify the desires of my soul. Why this? Because God is merciful, God is good, God is kind. These men are in danger by hope.

And those are in danger from despair, who, having fallen into grievous sins, fancying that they can no more be pardoned upon repentance, and believing that they are without doubt doomed to damnation, do say with themselves, We are already destined to be damned, why not do what we please with the disposition of gladiators destined to the sword. This is the reason that desperate men are dangerous: for, having no longer aught to fear, they are to be feared exceedingly.

Despair kills these; hope, those. The mind is tossed to and fro between hope and despair. Thou hast to fear lest hope slay thee; and, when thou hopest much from mercy, lest thou fall into judgment: again, thou hast to fear lest despair slay thee, and, when thou thinkest that the grievous sins which thou hast committed cannot be forgiven thee, thou dost not repent, and thou incurrest the sentence of Wisdom, which says, “I also will laugh at your perdition.” [Prov. i. 26.]

How then does the Lord treat those who are in danger from both these maladies? To those who are in danger from hope, He says,

“Be not slow to be converted to the Lord, neither put it off from day to day; for suddenly His anger will come, and in the time of vengeance, will utterly destroy thee.” [Ecclus. v. 8, 9.]

To those who are in danger from despair, what does He say?

“In whatsoever day the wicked man shall repent, I will forget all his iniquities.” [Ezek. xviii. 21]

Accordingly, for the sake of those who are in danger by despair, He has offered us a refuge of pardon; and because of those who are in danger by hope, and are deluded by delays, He has made the day of death uncertain. Thou knowest not when thy last day may come. Art thou ungrateful because thou hast today on which thou mayest be improved?

Thus therefore said He to the woman, “Neither will I condemn thee;” but, being made secure concerning the past, beware of the future.

“Neither will I condemn thee:” I have blotted out what thou hast done; keep what I have commanded thee, that thou mayest find what I have promised."

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Saint Augustine:
Contra Faustum, Book XXII

Faustus, Bishop of the Manichees

This North African Faustus was a bishop among the Manichees, a sect which claimed to base everything on reason. Its members were in fact skilled in astronomical calculations and predictions. But Faustus made greatest pretensions to understanding good and evil. Characteristic of Manichaeism was its incisive dualism, which saw the world as divided between powers of light and darkness.

John 8:1-11 known by Augustine's Opponents the Manecheans

The remarkable thing about the following quote in St. Augustine is that while he mentions John 8:1-11 only in passing, the reference is unmistakable (Jesus' writing in the ground is mentioned). But even more importantly, it is obvious that Augustine's opponents are quite familiar with the passage as Holy Scripture used by Christians, and so they attack the content of John 8:1-11 while confirming its authenticity. Thus ironically, it is Augustine's opponents who provide the witness to its place in the text!

Finally, the reference to the writing in the sand (combined with the approximate date of Augustine's writing) makes it reasonably certain that the form of the text is the standard one (if Augustine's copious quotations in other writings weren't enough to establish this). There is no question in Augustine's mind or issue between him and his opponents about the content of the passage.

Contra Faustum, Book XXII

¶ 23. So also the patriarchs and prophets whom you cry out against are not the men whom we honor, but men whose characters are drawn from your fancy, prompted by ill-will. And yet even thus as you paint them, I will not be content with showing them to be superior to your elect, who keep all the precepts of Manichæus, but will prove their superiority to your god himself. Before proving this, however, I must, with the help of God, defend our holy fathers the patriarchs and prophets against your accusations, by a clear exposition of the truth as opposed to the carnality of your hearts. As for you Manichaeans, it would be enough to say that the faults you impute to our fathers are preferable to what you praise in your own, and to complete your shame by adding that your god can be proved far inferior to our fathers as you describe them. This would be a sufficient reply for you. But as, even apart from your perversities, some minds are of themselves disturbed when comparing the life of the prophets in the Old Testament with that of the apostles in the New,—not discerning between the manner of the time when the promise was under a veil, and that of the time when the promise is revealed,—I must first of all reply to those who either have the boldness to pride themselves as superior in temperance to the prophets, or quote the prophets in defence of their own bad conduct.

¶ 24. First of all, then, not only the speech of these men, but their life also, was prophetic; and the whole kingdom of the Hebrews was like a great prophet, corresponding to the greatness of the Person prophesied. So, as regards those Hebrews who were made wise in heart by divine instruction, we may discover a prophecy of the coming of Christ and of the Church, both in what they said and in what they did; and the same is true as regards the divine procedure towards the whole nation as a body. For, as the apostle says, "all these things were our examples."

¶ 25. Those who find fault with the prophets, accusing them of adultery for instance, in actions which are above their comprehension, are like those Pagans who profanely charge Christ with folly or madness because He looked for fruit from a tree out of the season; [Matthew 21:19] - or with childishness, because He stooped down and wrote on the ground, and, after answering the people who were questioning Him, began writing again.
[John 8:6-8]

Such critics are incapable of understanding that certain virtues in great minds resemble closely the vices of little minds, not in reality, but in appearance. Such criticism of the great is like that of boys at school, whose learning consists in the important rule, that if the nominative is in the singular, the verb must also be in the singular; and so they find fault with the best Latin author, because he says, Pars in frusta secant. He should have written, say they, secat. And again, knowing that religio is spelt with one l, they blame him for writing relligio, when he says, Relligione patrum. Hence it may with reason be said, that as the poetical usage of words differs from the solecisms and barbarisms of the unlearned, so, in their own way, the figurative actions of the prophets differ from the impure actions of the vicious. Accordingly, as a boy guilty of a barbarism would be whipped if he pled the usage of Virgil; so any one quoting the example of Abraham begetting a son from Hagar, in defence of his own sinful passion for his wife's handmaid, ought to be corrected not by caning only, but by severe scourging, that he may not suffer the doom of adulterers in eternal punishment. This indeed is a comparison of great and important subjects with trifles; and it is not intended that a peculiar usage in speech should be put on a level with a sacrament, or a solecism with adultery. Still, allowing for the difference in the character of the subjects, what is called learning or ignorance in the proprieties and improprieties of speech, resembles wisdom or the want of it in reference to the grand moral distinction between virtue and vice.

¶ 26. Instead of entering on the distinctions between the praiseworthy and the blameworthy, the criminal and the innocent, the dangerous and the harmless, the guilty and the guiltless, the desirable and the undesirable, which are all illustrations of the distinction between sin and righteousness, we must first consider what sin is, and then examine the actions of the saints as recorded in the holy books, that, if we find these saints described as sinning, we may if possible discover the true reason for keeping these sins in memory by putting them on record. Again, if we find things recorded which, though they are not sins, appear so to the foolish and the malevolent, and in fact do not exhibit any virtues, here also we have to see why these things are put into the Scriptures which we believe to contain wholesome doctrine as a guide in the present life, and a title to the inheritance of the future. As regards the examples of righteousness found among the acts of the saints, the propriety of recording these must be plain even to the ignorant. The question is about those actions the mention of which may seem useless if they are neither righteous nor sinful, or even dangerous if the actions are really sinful, as leading people to imitate them, because they are not condemned in these books, and so may be supposed not to be sinful, or because, though they are condemned, men may copy them from the idea that they must be venial if saints did them.

¶ 27. Sin, then, is any transgression in deed, or word, or desire, of the eternal law. And the eternal law is the divine order or will of God, which requires the preservation of natural order, and forbids the breach of it. But what is this natural order in man?...

(St. Augustine, Contra Faustum, Book xxii ¶ 23-27)

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Saint Augustine:
Contra Faustum,

Augustine's Opponent Mentions John 8:1-11

St. Augustine now quotes Faustus at length. And here there is little doubt as to the accuracy of the quote, since Augustine is plainly copying out the written argument of Faustus here.

Faustus clearly refers to John 8:1-11 (again), this time confirming another portion of the text that also uniquely identifies the story in the form we have it in the traditional text.

Perhaps more importantly, and remarkably, Faustus makes no mention at all of any doubt attached to the text, or its lack of support in the manuscript tradition of his time. This is especially significant, since the whole argument Faustus presents concerns variations in the text between Matthew and Luke, which he uses as evidence of corruption.

Had there been any convincing textual argument suggesting that John 8:1-11 was an 'insertion', Faustus would have been expected to gleefully call attention to it, to further embarrass Augustine regarding the stability and trustworthiness of the text.

Faustus does not think it would be a great honor to sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose moral characters as set forth in the Old Testament he detests. He justifies his subjective criticism of Scripture. Augustin sums up the argument, claims the victory, and exhorts the Manichæans to abandon their opposition to the Old Testament notwithstanding the difficulties that it presents, and to recognize the authority of the Catholic Church.

¶ 1. Faustus said:


'You quote from the Gospel the words, "Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven," [Matt. 8:11] and ask why we do not acknowledge the patriarchs. Now, we should be the last to grudge to any human being that God should have compassion on him, and bring him out of perdition to salvation. At the same time, we should acknowledge in such a case the clemency shown in this act of compassion, and not the merit of the person whose life is undeniably blameworthy.

- Thus, in the case of the Jewish fathers, Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, who are mentioned by Christ in this verse, supposing it to be genuine, although they led wicked lives, as we may learn from their descendant Moses, or whoever was the author of the history called Genesis, which describes their conduct as having been most shocking and detestable; we are ready to allow that they may, after all, be in the kingdom of heaven, in the place which they neither believed in, nor hoped for, as is plain enough from their books.

But then it must be kept in mind that, as you yourselves confess, if they did attain to what is spoken of in this verse, it was something very different from the nether dungeons of woe to which their own deserts consigned them, and that their deliverance was the work of our Lord Christ, and the result of His mystic passion.

Who would grudge to the thief on the cross that deliverance was granted to him by the same Lord, and that Christ said that on that very day he should be with Him in the paradise of His Father? [Luke 23:43] Who is so hard-hearted as to disapprove of this act of benevolence? Still, it does not follow that, because Jesus pardoned a thief, we must approve of the habits and practices of thieves; any more than of the publicans and harlots, whose faults Jesus pardoned, declaring that they would go into the kingdom of heaven before those who behaved proudly. [Matt. 21:31]

For, when He acquitted the woman accused by the Jews as sinful, and as having been caught in adultery, He told her to "sin no more." [ John 8:3-11]

If, then, He has done something of the same kind in the case of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, all the praise is His; for such actions towards souls are becoming in Him who "makes His sun to rise upon the evil and upon the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." [ Matt. 5:45]

One thing perplexes me in your doctrine: why you limit your statements to the fathers of the Jews, and are not of opinion that the Gentile patriarchs had also a share in this grace of our Redeemer; especially as the Christian Church consists of their children more than of the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

You will say that the Gentiles worshipped idols, and the Jews the Almighty God, and that therefore Jesus had regard only to the Jews. It would seem from this that the worship of the Almighty [Jewish] God is the sure way to hell, and that the Son must come to the aid of the worshipper of the Father. That is as you please. For my part, I am ready to join you in the belief that the fathers reached heaven, not by any merit of their own, but by that divine mercy which is stronger than sin.

¶ 2. However, there is a difficulty in deciding as regards this verse too, whether the words were really spoken to Christ, for there is a discrepancy in the narratives. For while two evangelists, Matthew and Luke, both alike tell of the centurion whose servant was sick, and to whom these words of Jesus are supposed to have applied, that He had not seen so great faith, no, not in Israel, as in this man, though a Gentile and a Pagan, because he said that he was not worthy that Jesus should come under his roof, but wished Him only to speak the word, and his servant should be healed; Matthew alone adds that Jesus went on to say,

"Verily I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness."

By the "many" who should come are meant the Pagans, on account of the centurion, in whom, although he was a Gentile, so great faith was found; and the children of the kingdom are the Jews, in whom there was no faith found.

Luke, again, though he too mentions the occurrence in his Gospel as part of the narrative of the miracles of Christ, says nothing of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If it is said that he omitted it because it had been already said by Matthew, why does he tell the story at all of the centurion and his servant, since that, too, has the advantage of being recorded at length in Matthew's ingenious narrative?

But the passage is corrupt. For, in describing the centurion's application to Jesus, Matthew says that he came himself to ask for a cure; while Luke says he did not, but sent elders of the Jews, and that they, in case Jesus should despise the centurion as a Gentile (for they [Luke?] will have Jesus to be a thorough Jew), set about persuading Him, by saying that he was worthy for whom He should do this, "because he loved their nation, and had built them a synagogue;" here again taking for granted that the Son of God was concerned in a pagan centurion having thought it proper to build a synagogue for the Jews.

The words in question are, indeed, found in Luke also, perhaps because on reflection he thought they might be genuine; but they are found in another place, and in a connection altogether different. The passage is where Jesus says to His disciples,

"Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many shall come seeking to enter in, and shall not be able.

When once the Master of the house has entered in, and has shut to the door, you shall begin to stand without, and to knock, saying 'Lord, open to us.' And He shall answer and say, 'I know you not.'
Then you shall begin to say, 'We have eaten and drunk in Your presence, and You have taught in our streets and synagogues;' but He shall say unto you, 'I know not whence you are; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.'

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, entering into the kingdom of God, and you yourselves cast out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God."

[ Luke 13:24-29]

The part where it is said that many shall be shut out of the kingdom of God, who have only borne the name of Christ, without doing His works, is not left out by Matthew; but he makes no mention here of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. In the same way, Luke mentions the centurion and his servant, without alluding in that connection to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.

Since it is uncertain when the words were spoken, we are at liberty to doubt whether they were spoken at all.

¶ 3. It is not without reason that we bring a critical judgment to the study of Scriptures where there are such discrepancies and contradictions. By thus examining everything, and comparing one passage with another, we determine which contains Christ's actual words, and what may or may not be genuine.

For your predecessors have made many interpolations in the words of our Lord, which thus appear under His name, while they disagree with His doctrine. Besides, as we have proved again and again, the writings are not the production of Christ or of His apostles, but a compilation of rumors and beliefs, made, long after their departure, by some obscure semi-Jews, not in harmony even with one another, and published by them under the name of the apostles, or of those considered the followers of the apostles, so as to give the appearance of apostolic authority to all these blunders and falsehoods.

But whatever you make of that, as regards this verse, I repeat that I do not insist on rejecting it. It is enough for my position, as I said before, and as you are obliged to confess, that before the coming of our Lord all the patriarchs and prophets of Israel lay in infernal darkness for their sins. Even though they may have been restored to light and liberty by Christ, that has nothing to do with the hateful character of their lives.

We hate and eschew not their persons, but their characters; not as they are now, when they are purified, but as they were, when impure. So, whatever you think of this verse, it does not affect us: for if it is genuine, it only illustrates Christ's goodness and compassion; and if it is spurious, those who wrote it are to blame. Our cause is as safe as it always is."


¶ 4. Augustine replies:
" Poor safety, indeed! when you contradict yourself by hating the patriarchs as impure, at the same time that you grieve for your impure god.

You allow that, since the advent of the Saviour, the patriarchs have had purity restored, and have enjoyed the rest of the blessed; while your god, even after the Saviour's advent, still lies in darkness, is still sunk in the ocean of iniquity, still wallows in the mire of all uncleanness.

These men, therefore, were not only better than your god in their lives, but also happier in their death. Where was the abode of the just who departed from this life before Christ's coming in the flesh, and whether their condition also was improved by the passion of Christ, in whom they had believed as to come, and to suffer, and to rise again, and had, moreover, foretold this in suitable language under the guidance of the Spirit of prophecy, is to be discovered from the Holy Scriptures, if any clear discovery in this matter is possible;

We are not required to adopt the crude notions of all and sundry, still less the heretical opinions of men who have gone astray into such egregious error. There is a vain attempt here on the part of Faustus to introduce by a side-door the idea that we may obtain something after this life besides the due reward of our conduct in this life. It will be better for you to abandon your error while you are still alive, and to embrace and hold the truths of the Catholic faith. Otherwise the expectations of the unrighteous will be sadly disappointed when God begins to fulfill His warnings to the unrighteous.

¶ 5. I have already given what I considered a sufficient answer to Faustus' calumnies of the lives of the patriarchs. That they were punished at their death, or that they were justified after the Lord's passion, is not what we learn from Our Lord's commendation of them, when He admonished the Jews that, if they were Abraham's children, they should do the works of Abraham, and said that Abraham desired to see His day, and was glad when he saw it; [Jn 8:39, 56] and that it was into his bosom, that is, some deep recess of blissful repose, that the angels carried the poor sufferer who was despised by the proud rich man. [Luke 16:23]

And what are we to make of the Apostle Paul? Is there any idea of justification after death in his praise of Abraham, when he says that before he was circumcised he believed God, and that it was counted to him for righteousness? [Rom. 4:3] And so much importance does he attach to this, that the single ground which he specifies for our becoming Abraham's children, though not descended from him in the flesh, is, that we follow the footsteps of his faith.

¶ 6. You are so hardened in your errors against the testimonies of Scripture, that nothing can be made of you; for whenever anything is quoted against you, you have the boldness to say that it is written not by the apostle, but by some pretender under his name.

The doctrine of demons which you preach is so opposed to Christian doctrine, that you could not continue, as "professing Christians", to maintain it, unless you denied the truth of the apostolic writings.

How can you thus do injury to your own souls? Where will you find any authority, if not in the Gospel and apostolic writings? How can we be sure of the authorship of any book, if we doubt the apostolic origin of those books which are attributed to the apostles by the Church which the apostles themselves founded, and which occupies so conspicuous a place in all lands, and if at the same time we acknowledge as the undoubted production of the apostles what is brought forward by heretics in opposition to the Church, whose authors, from whom they derive their name, lived long after the apostles?

And do we not likewise see in secular literature that there are well-known authors under whose names many things have been published after their time which have been rejected, either from inconsistency with their ascertained writings, or from their not having been known in the lifetime of the authors, so as to be banded down with the confirmatory statement of the authors themselves, or of their friends?

To give a single example, were not some books published lately under the name of the distinguished physician Hippocrates, which were not received as authoritative by physicians? And this decision remained unaltered in spite of some similarity in style and matter: for, when compared to the genuine writings of Hippocrates, these books were found to be inferior; besides that they were not recognized as his at the time when his authorship of his genuine productions was ascertained.

Those books, again, from a comparison with which the productions of questionable origin were rejected, are with certainty attributed to Hippocrates; and any one who denies their authorship is answered only by ridicule, simply because there is a succession of testimonies to the books from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, which makes it unreasonable either now or hereafter to have any doubt on the subject.

How do we know the authorship of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence? So also with the numerous commentaries on the ecclesiastical books, which have no canonical authority, and yet show a desire of usefulness and a spirit of inquiry. How is the authorship ascertained in each case, except by the author's having brought his work into public notice as much as possible in his own lifetime, and, by the transmission of the information from one to another in continuous order, the belief becoming more certain as it becomes more general, up to our own day; so that, when we are questioned as to the authorship of any book, we have no difficulty in answering?

But why speak of ancient books? Take the books now before us: should any one, after some years, deny that this book was written by me, or that Faustus' was written by him, where is evidence for the fact to be found but in the information possessed by some at the present time, and transmitted by them through successive generations even to distant times?

From all this it follows, that no one who has not yielded to the malicious and deceitful suggestions of lying demons, can be so blinded by passion as to deny the ability of the Church of the apostles—a community of brethren as numerous as they were faithful—to transmit their writings unaltered to posterity, as the original seats of the apostles have been occupied by a continuous succession of bishops to the present day, especially when we are accustomed to see this happen in the case of ordinary writings both in the Church and out of it.

¶ 7. But Faustus finds contradictions in the Gospels: Say, rather, that Faustus reads the Gospels in a wrong spirit, that he is too foolish to understand, and too blind to see.

If you were animated with piety instead of being misled by party spirit, you might easily, by examining these passages, discover a wonderful and most instructive harmony among the writers.

Who, in reading two narratives of the same event, would think of charging one or both of the authors with error or falsehood, because one omits what the other mentions, or one tells concisely, but with substantial agreement, what the other relates in detail, so as to indicate not only what was done, but also how it was done? This is what Faustus does in his attempt to impeach the truth of the Gospels; as if Luke's omitting some saying of Christ recorded in Matthew implied a denial on the part of Luke of Matthew's statement.

There is no real difficulty in the case; and to make a difficulty shows want of thought, or of the ability to think! ... "

(Augustine, Contra Faustus)

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Saint Augustine:
'On Adulterous Marriages',


Introduction to On Adulterous Marriages

While considering the state of marriage as a natural contract and a social institution regulated by the Gospel, as well as the sacramental character of matrimony in a special way, Augustine systematized the rather elementary doctrine which preceded him and developed it by establishing it on a firm foundation, largely in the course of his struggles against the Manichaean and Pelagian heretics.

The first book of the present treatise was occasioned by a letter received by Augustine from a certain Pollentius, who had some erroneous notions concerning divorce and remar­ riage and who had asked Augustine to answer and resolve his difficulties. After Augustine had answered Pollentius' original queries, the text of his replies were edited by some of his friends, before he could answer some later questions addressed to him also in letter form by the same Pollentius. Thus, Augustine's treatise on marriage and divorce was in­ tended by him to appear as a unit, but the zeal of his friends forced the premature publishing of his earlier replies.

The two books, Adulterous Marriages, are basically exegetical in character.

- C. T. Wilcox, Introduction,
Saint Augustine: Treatises on Marriage and other Subjects

The following is taken from C. T. Wilcox's translation: The Fathers Of The Church A New Translation, Volume 27 (1955)

De Adulterinis Conjugiis ("On Adulterous Marriages") written at the beginning of the fifth century, Augustine wrote,

Chapter 6.

(5)   It appears harsh to you that, after adultery, spouse should be reconciled to spouse. If faith is present, it will not be harsh. Why do we still reckon as adulterers those who we believe have either been cleansed by baptism or have been healed by penance?

Under the Old Law of God, no sacrifices wiped away these crimes, which, without a doubt, are cleansed by the Blood of the New Covenant. Therefore, in former times, it was forbidden in every way to take unto oneself a woman sullied by another man.
( - Although David, as a figure of the New Testament, took back, without any hesitation, the daughter of Saul, whom the father of the same woman had given to another, after her separation from David. ) [cf. 2 Kings 3.4].

But now, afterwards, Christ says to the adulteress:

    Neither will I condemn thee.
   Go thy way, and from now on sin no more."
(Jn 8:11)

Who fails to understand that it is the duty of the husband to forgive what he knows the Lord of both has forgiven, and that he should not now call her an adulteress whose sin he believes to have been eradicated by the mercy of God as a result of her penance?

Chapter 7.

(6)   However, the pagan mind obviously shrinks from this comparison, so that some men of slight faith, or rather, some hostile to the true faith, fearing, as I believe, that liberty to sin with impunity is granted their wives, remove from their Scriptural texts the account of our Lord's pardon of the adulteress: - as though He who said,

    "From now on, sin no more."(Jn 8:11)

granted permission to sin, or as though the woman should not have been cured by the Divine Physician by the remission of that sin, so as not to offend others who are equally unclean.

The ones whom that act of the Lord displeases are themselves shameless, nor is it chastity that makes them stern. The belong, rather, to those men of whom the Lord says,

    "Let him who is without sin among you
    be the first to cast a stone at her."
(Jn 8:7)

But the men, terrified by their consciences, departed and they ceased to try Christ and to vilify the adulteress. These men, on the contrary, sick as they are, censure the Physician, and themselves adulterers, rage at the adulteress.

If one were to say to them, not what they heard, "Let him who is without sin" - for who is without sin? - but:

    'Let him who is without that particular sin
   be the first to cast a stone at her',

- then perhaps, those who were incensed at the fact that they had not killed the adulteress will consider how great is the mercy of God which spares them so that they may live, though adulterers.

1. "Adulterous Marriages"
translated by C. T. Wilcox, Book 2, para.7, in
from The Fathers Of The Church A New Translation, Volume 27 (1955)

The original Latin text of the paragraph from Excerpta ex Documenta Catholica Omnia, with variants from Migne's Patrologia Latina reads as follows:

Reconciliatio post adulterium cum conjuge resipiscente quam conveniens christiano.

Quod autem tibi durum videtur, ut post adulterium reconcilietur conjugi conjux; si fides adsit, non erit durum. Cur enim adhuc deputamus adulteros, quos vel Baptismate ablutos, vel poenitentia credimus esse sanatos?
Haec crimina in vetere Dei lege nullis sacrificiis mundabantur, quae Novi Testamenti sanguine sine dubitatione mundantur [1]. et ideo tunc omni modo prohibitum est ab alio contaminatam viro recipere uxorem; quamvis David Saulis filiam, quam pater ejusdem mulieris ab eo sparatam dederat alteri, tanqam Novi Testamenti praefigurator sine cunctatione receperit (II Reg. III, 14):

nunc autem posteaquam Christus ait adulterae,

   Nec ego te damnabo; vade, deinceps noli peccare;

quis non intelligat debere ignoscere maritum, quod videt ignovisse Dominum amborum, nec jam se debere adulteram dicere, cujus poenitentis crimen divina credit miseratione deletum?

Mariti saevientes in uxores adulteras, cum sint et ipsi adulteri.

Sed hoc videlicet infidelium sensus exhorret, ita ut nonnulli modicae fidei vel potius inimici verae fidei, credo metuentes peccandi impunitatem dari mulieribus suis, illud quod de adulterae indulgentia Dominus fecit, auferrent de codicibus suis [a]: quasi permissionem peccandi tribuerit qui dixit,

  Jam deinceps noli peccare;

aut ideo non debuerit mulier a medico Deo illius peccati remissione sanari, ne offenderentur insani.

Neque enim quibus illud factum Domini displicet, ipsi pudici sunt, et eos severos castitas facit: sed potius ex illo sunt hominum numero, quibus Dominus ait,

  Qui sine peccato est vestrum,
  prior in eam lapidem jaciat.

Nisi quod illi conscientia territi recesserant, et temptare Christum atque adulteram persequi destiterunt (Joan. VIII, 7-11); isti autem et aegroti medicum reprehendunt, et in adulteras adulteri saeviunt:

quibus si diceretur, non quod illi audierunt, Qui sine peccato est quis enim sine peccato? sed,

   Qui sine isto peccato est,
   prior in illam lapidem mittat;

tum vero forsitan cogitarent, qui indignabantur, quod adulteram non occiderant [i], quanta illis Dei misericordia parceretur, ut adulteri viverent.

Cooperatorum Veritatis Societas - Excerpta ex Documenta Catholica Omnia

& Migne - Patrologia Latina

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