The Augustinian Hypothesis.


Those, who hold Mark wrote before Luke, often claim the support Augustine of Hippo and refer to ‘The Augustinian hypothesis”. This implies that, after studying the problem, he came to this conclusion. But let us examine his writings in full.


His composition of  De Consensu Evangelistarum (Harmony of the Gospels). consisted of four books. At the beginning of Book 1, verses 1 and 2, he states that Matthew produced the first Gospel and John the last. Two non-Apostles produced the other two. The sentence quoted comes from verse 3 of this first book.


Augustine wrote that the four Evangelists, “are said to have written in this order: first Matthew, then Mark, thirdly Luke, lastly John”.


This is not surprising. He had lived all his Christian life in the Western church. He was quoting the tradition generally held in the Western Church. He was not endorsing or criticising this tradition.


But Augustine, in his forth Book, favoured a different sequence. In this forth book

Augustine showed how the first three gospels could be harmonised.


He continues: “We are now left with John and there is none with whom he may be compared. For whatever each evangelist said to be the cause of any contradiction between them! And therefore it is quite clear that Matthew, Mark, and Luke have dealt especially with the humanity of Lord Jesus Christ in respect of his being both King and Priest; and therefore Mark (who in the mysterious symbolism of the four living creatures seems to symbolize the figure of the Man) either appears rather as together with him he relates a greater number of things respecting the kingly figure (which as we have noted in Book 1 is usually accompanied by an attendant) or more probably he goes in step with both. For, although he agrees with Mathew in many things, yet in some things he agrees more with Luke.



1. Quotes from: The Order of the Gospels, pages: 212-214, underlining added.


2. See: [G 200] Chapter 4. Two traditions.


3. See: [G 200] Chapter 7. Liturgies in the Eastern Churches.


4. See: [G 294] Clement of Alexandria and Origen.


[G 215] This version: 2nd June 2016.