Tractates on the Gospel of John - Vol. 5

By Augustine; John W. Rettig | Go to book overview
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TRACTATE 122
On John 20.30-31, 21.1-11

AFTER THE ACCOUNT of the incident in which the disciple Thomas, when the places of the wounds in Christ's flesh were offered to him to be touched, saw what he was not willing to believe and yet did believe, the Evangelist inserts these words and says, "Many other signs also Jesus did in the sight of his disciples which have not been written in this book. But these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in his name." This section indicates, seemingly, the end of this book; but here it is next told how the Lord showed himself at the Sea of Tiberias, and in the taking of the fish he presented a mystical symbol1. of the Church, such as it will be at the final resurrection of the dead. And so I think that it served the purpose of bringing this to our attention that an end of the book, as it were, was interposed, that it was also, in a manner of speaking, the preface to the following narrative-- and this would in a way render its position [in the narrative] more prominent.2. And this narrative begins as follows: "Later Jesus showed himself again at the Sea of Tiberias. And he showed himself in this way. There were together Simon Peter and Thomas, who is called Didymus, and Nathanael, who was of Cana of Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter says to them, 'I am going fishing.' They say to him, 'We also are coming with you.'"

2. It is usually asked about this fishing of the disciples why Peter and the sons of Zebedee returned to that which they were before they were called by the Lord, for they were fishermen when he said to them, "Come after me and I shall make

____________________
1.
In Latin sacramentum.
2.
Augustine as a master rhetorician is clearly aware of the problem of the structural unity of chapter 21 with the rest of this Gospel, and he here proposes an explanation that does not question John's authorship.

-62-

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