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John 19:1. “Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him.”
Between this verse and the preceding lies Matthew 27:24-25, the mention of Pilate’s washing his hands; as between ch. John 18:39-40, the message of Pilate’s wife, Matthew 27:19. After the popular will had been uttered in so express a manner, Pilate yielded to it. He paved the way for the crucifixion when he gave up Jesus to be scourged. But he hoped to be able to restrain in the midst of its course the punishment itself. When he presented to the people the sad image of suffering innocence and righteousness, he thought they would be smitten by it. That was the reason why he permitted the soldiers to indulge all their mockery of Jesus, to which the scourging had given them a kind of right. The more deeply He was humbled, the more tragical the spectacle was which He exhibited, the better would Pilate’s end be subserved. “It is a poor policy,” says Quesnel, “when we undertake to win the world, and at the same time indulge them with part of what they desire; and when we think to satisfy our duty by denying them the other part. Fidelity cannot divide itself in relation to God.”
Crucifixion was usually preceded, among the Romans, by scourging, which was so painful and horrible, that the delinquents not seldom gave up the ghost during the process. Heyne has devoted a special treatise to the question, cur supplicio addita fuerit virgarum soevitia (Opusc. iii.). The true reason was, the determination to heap upon the malefactor all kinds of torment. This we learn from Josephus, who mentions the combination of scourging and crucifixion in several passages. In the Antiq. v. 11, 1, he says the malefactors were scourged and tormented in every possible way before death. In another passage, De Bell. Jud. ii. 14, 9, scourging is mentioned as the prelude of crucifixion: “And taking others, they led them to Floras, whom having scourged with rods, he crucified.” The scourging inflicted by Pilate was evidently of this kind. As the question in St John concerned only life and death, we may suppose, after the attempt in ch. John 18:39 had ended, that the scourging was the introduction to the penalty of death. The same is evident from a comparison of Matthew and Mark, where the scourging is the preliminary of the crucifixion: Matthew 27:26, “And when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified;” Mark 15:15, “And so Pilate, willing to content the people, delivered Jesus, when he had scourged Him, to be crucified.” As also in our Lord’s own fore-announcement of His passion, Matthew 20:19, “And shall deliver Him to the Gentiles, to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him;” and Luke 18:33, “And they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death.” There is no sufficient reason for distinguishing the scourging of Matthew and Mark from that of John. The difference in the expression, there φραγελλοῦ?ν , the Latin fiagellare, here μαστιγοῦ?ν , the genuine Greek expression, is of little moment, since in our Lord’s prediction, Matthew 20:19, we have μαστιγοῦ?ν . St Matthew chooses the official term, since the execution itself was now in question. The historical portion of the scourging is, in Matthew, and Mark, and John, the same; the only difference being, that the former pass over the fruitless attempts of Pilate to arrest the natural course of things, and disturb the connection between the scourging and crucifixion. The assertion, that in the first Evangelists the scourging follows the sentence, while in St John it precedes it, is altogether erroneous. The Evangelists mention no other sentence than that which in fact was uttered in the scourging. The formal sentence of death spoken, according to St John, by Pilate afterwards, they pass over as less important. It is misleading to connect the scourging in St John with Luke 23:16, where Pilate says to the Jews, “Having punished him, I will let him go.” There the matter was only of a disciplinary infliction, which Pilate offered to the Jews. What that infliction was to be is not plainly said, because nothing depended upon it: he desired only to pave the way for the Jews to retire with honour from the matter. The loud demand of the people, which, according to St Mark, was independent of the other transaction, and took place while Pilate was making the overture to the rulers—their loud and increasing cry that he would release a prisoner as usual, had such an effect upon Pilate, as to make him withdraw the proposition he had made, and adopt other means which seemed to present themselves for the same end. When these means failed, he reverted, according to Luke 23:22, to his earlier proposal, but could obtain no hearing for it. St Luke alone gives us the account of Pilate’s fruitless proposal. He omits the scourging. But that he did not omit it through ignorance, we learn from ch. Luke 18:33.
The more terrible the scourging was, the more miserable was its contrast with Pilate’s “I find no fault in him.” But such contradictions are unavoidable, when a man with a guilty conscience, assailable at all points, attempts to withstand the evil of others. We, however, must never forget that Jesus endured the scourging for us: “He voluntarily withdrew from heavenly joys, and clothed Himself with all sorrows and agonies, that He might take away the sorrows of man and fill him instead with joy.”
Ver. 2. “And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe.”
The thorns declared that the dominion, of which the crown was a symbol, should cost Christ, who attained it, dear. This was the truth, and therefore the crown of thorns in Christendom has been always regarded with deep interest. As certainly as the crown was the crown of a king, so certainly was the purple robe a royal robe, and the idea of a soldier’s mantle is quite out of keeping. St Luke does not mention the mantle; but in ch. Luke 23:11, he relates of Herod, “And Herod, with his men of war, set Him at nought, and mocked Him, and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe (ἐ?σθῆ?τα λαμπραάν ), and sent Him again to Pilate.” There we have an answer to the question where the Jewish soldiers obtained the royal robe (Herod says, in Josephus, Bell. Jud. i. 23, 5, to his sons, δίδωμι ὑ?μῖ?ν ἑ?σθῆ?τα βασιλικήν ). On the renewal of the judicial investigation before Pilate, it had been laid aside, as below the dignity of the occasion; but when Jesus was handed over to the soldiers, they put it on Him again. St Luke speaks of a gorgeous or resplendent robe; St Matthew of a “scarlet robe” (χλαμύδα κοκκίνην , ch. Matthew 27:28); Mark 15:17 (πορφύραν ) and St John speak of a purple robe. There is no contradiction in all this. Λαμπός does not signify white, but splendid or magnificent: it was therefore the most general designation. It simply says that the robe was a gorgeous robe—as may be supposed, an old one laid aside. That there is no contradiction between purple and scarlet, we learn from two passages in the Apocalypse: ch. John 17:4, “And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour;” and ch. John 18:16, where one and the same garment is called both purple and scarlet. Purple is the more general, scarlet the more specific, designation. Braun (De vestitu sacerdotum, i. 1, c. 14) has shown that in all ancient times, purple, as the leading colour for magnificent garments, often included in it the scarlet colour. When the soldiers laid on Jesus, and as the suffering Jesus, a purple garment, they unconsciously bore witness to the truth. For Christ is the “Prince of the kings of the earth,” Revelation 1:5; the “King of kings,” John 19:16; and the foundation of that dominion was laid in His sufferings.
Ver. 3. “And said. Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands.”
The words ἤ?ρχοντο πρὸ?ς αὐ?τόν , received by Lachmann into the text after the Codex Vatic, appeared to many transcribers superfluous. But it serves to tell us that they in the most formal manner came before Him, in order to pay Him the obeisance due to royalty. The motive which induced the soldiers to practise their mockery is revealed in the words of the salutation. King of the Jews. They did not mock the presumption of Jesus. It was the kingdom of the Jews itself that they laughed at. The soldiers regarded Jesus as the representative of the Messianic hope of the Jews. They would turn into ridicule those royal hopes which were known far in the heathen world,” more especially as those hopes took an external direction, and aspired to the dominion of the whole earth. The soldiers represented the Gentile world turning to scorn the lofty pretensions of the Jews. But there was here a remarkable irony of fate. The mockery, “Hail, King of the Jews,” was to change soon into awful earnest.
“And they smote Him:” according to Matthew 27:29-30, with the reed which they had placed in His right hand as a royal sceptre, but which He had declined to accept. Lampe: “It had not seemed good to the Saviour so far to respond to their wickedness as to receive this reed in His hand He could, without disparaging His decorum, suffer indignities, but not perform them. Wherefore, when He refused to retain the reed in His right hand, they inflicted blows upon Him with it.” These indignities presuppose that the condemnation had in fact taken place; and if the scourging had the significance which we have assigned to it, that was certainly the case. Only one who was condemned could be handed over to the violence of the soldiery. When Pilate surrendered Jesus to the scourge, he in fact pronounced thereby His condemnation. In the ordinary procedure of justice, the verbal condemnation should have preceded the scourging. But this did not take place, because Pilate was not without hope that he could restrain the punishment in its course. He wished to avoid the indecency of recalling a formally uttered sentence of condemnation. But as that hope was frustrated, he was obliged afterwards to pronounce the formal sentence.
Ver. 4. “Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them. Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.”
Here first it is definitely established that Pilate caused Jesus to be led into the praetorium to be scourged, and that there, where the watch was stationed, the indignities of vers, 2, 3 were inflicted. That Pilate once more led Him out, was itself a proof that he held Him innocent, because he otherwise would have made no further attempt to move His accusers in His favour. In the case of one who was pronounced a delinquent by the authorities, the crucifixion followed immediately on the scourging. On “I find no fault in him,” Grotius remarks: “That is, not even so much fault as would warrant his being beaten with rods. Thus he condemned his own iniquity.”
Ver. 5. “Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them. Behold the man!”
Pilate preceded, that attention might be first directed to him and to his words, and that the impression of his words might not be damaged by a glance at Him whom they persecuted with such obstinate prejudice. Then he caused Jesus to come before them, Φορέω , as distinguished from φέρω , indicates that the crown of thorns and the purple robe then belonged to the proper costume of Christ. The subject in λέγει needed not to be mentioned, because it was plain enough that not Jesus, but Pilate, was the speaker. “Behold the man:” look once more on this man, this man who is man no more, Isaiah 53:3, a worm and no man, Psalms 22:7, in His deepest misery lustrous with innocence and righteousness, silent and patient in His sufferings, like a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is dumb before her shearers. Pilate thought, judging others by himself, that they would need only to look upon Him in His humiliation, so full of innocence, and their hatred would pass away. But Pilate forgot two things: first, the abyss of wickedness opened up in those who stand in a near relation to religion, without admitting its transforming influence into their hearts; and then the all-penetrating influence which bigoted ministers of religion exercise upon the laity, when the latter are not armed against them by true religion.
Ver. 6. “When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them. Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.”—“Take ye him, and crucify him,” is only a vivid form of refusing to be their tool: comp. ch. John 18:31.
Ver. 7. “The Jews answered him. We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”
The Jewish rulers were emboldened by the spirit of concession which they already found in Pilate, who surrendered a man whom he pronounced innocent to the scourging which was reserved only for the guilty, and who supplicated them in favour of Jesus, when he ought to have enforced his own authority, and manfully defended against them the cause of innocence and righteousness. Thus, when their political accusation had come to nought (Grotius: Not being able to establish the crime against the Roman authority, they urge their own law), they return back to the position which they had taken at the beginning, ch. John 18:30, and demand that Pilate should condemn Him on their decision, whether he himself found Him guilty or not. They do not concede so much to Pilate as to point out the passage in the law which they had in view. That passage was Leviticus 24:16, which decrees that the blasphemer of God shall be punished with death. It was the same judicial decree on the ground of which Jesus before the high priest was adjudged to die. He had there, on the adjuration of the high priest, that He should say whether He was the Son of God, answered in the affirmative. Thereupon the high priest declared, “He blasphemeth;” and the council decreed, “He is guilty of death,” Matthew 26:63 seq. With “He made himself the Son of God,” comp. ch. John 5:18, “He called God his Father, making himself equal with God.” The claim to be the Son of God fell under the category of blasphemy only if it were a presumptuous claim. This was the sense in which Pilate took the words of the high priest; and if it had been untrue, Jesus would not by His silence have confirmed it as the right sense. That the members of the Sanhedrim were in earnest as to this claim of Sonship—that they regarded it as including the assumption of divinity, is plain from ch. John 10:33. There the Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy; of blasphemy consisting in this, that though he was man, he made himself God.
Ver. 8. “When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid.”
His present fear was distinguished from the former only by the more. Even before then he must have feared that he should draw down on himself the vengeance of God. Pilate had been already alarmed, when he thought he had to do only with a man under the special protection of Heaven. The words of his wife, “Have thou nothing to do with this just man,” sank deep in his heart. But now that, according to the declaration of the Jews, Jesus made Himself the Son of God, a new aspect of the case was opened, and he might dread being in the fullest sense a θεομάχος , a fighter against God. What Jesus, according to their statements, had uttered concerning Himself, he could not lightly dismiss from his mind. “He remembered,” says Heumann, “His wonderful works, and with deeper reflection than before; he bethought himself that Jesus was a holy man, to whom lying and deception were impossible.” The impressions of Christ’s person, the majesty which shone through all His deep humiliation, led Pilate involuntarily to think of something beyond the sphere of mere humanity. He did not think of a son of the gods, of one dei cujusdam filius. The unity of God, a truth ineradicably implanted in the human mind, never entirely disappeared in polytheism; and this unity became more and more prominent in the period of the decline of Gentile culture. Pilate, in regard to this, like his centurion, Matthew 27:54, Mark 15:39, stood very much under the influence of the people among whom he had dwelt so many years. His conscience had been before this much wounded. He now feared, that by new guilt he should involve himself in the immediate judgments of Heaven.
Ver. 9. “And went again into the judgment-hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.”
Pilate went into the praetorium, and led Jesus with him. The auditory outside seemed to him too profane for the introduction of this question. That “Whence art thou”? could have but one meaning, “Belongest thou to heaven or to earth? art thou God, or mere man?” is now generally acknowledged: comp. ch. John 7:28, John 18:36-37. What our Lord in the latter passage said concerning His kingdom, that it was not of this World, not from below, applied also to His person. He was not, like ordinary men, ἐ?κ τῶ?ν κάτω , but ἐ?κ τῶ?ν ἄ?νω , ch. John 8:23. To the πόθεν here corresponds the ἄ?νωθεν in ver. 11. Pilate designedly put the question in this general form. A holy fear restrained him from putting it more directly. He felt that in the region he now entered he was at a loss, and must reveal his inaptitude. Wherefore did not Jesus answer Pilate? The reason must be the same which occasioned the silence before Annas, before the council, and before Herod; as also the silence on the accusations of the rulers before Pilate, of which Matthew (vers. 12, 13) and Mark (vers. 4, 5) make mention. The supposition, that “Jesus kept silence because a heathenish notion of Sonship to God was in question,” is, apart from the fact that it rests on a groundless supposition, wrong, simply because it severs our Lord’s silence here from its connection with His other silences. Like the rest before whom Jesus kept silence, Pilate no longer deserved an answer. He had earlier declined to be led by Jesus into the knowledge of the truth, because he would not sacrifice the passions with which his soul was filled: comp. ch. John 18:38. His whole bearing had shown that his personal interest was first in everything, and that he listened to the cause of right only so far as this consisted with his own interest. Jesus looked through his soul, and knew that he was incapable of practically following even the truth that he knew. There was no obligation incumbent upon Him to avow His divinity before the world. He had already solemnly avowed Himself to be the Son of God before the council. The “good confession” which Christ was to witness, and had already witnessed before the Roman power, touched not His divinity, but His world-embracing kingdom as based upon that divinity. Thus Jesus could and must make good on this occasion the prophetic word concerning the lamb which opened not its mouth, Isaiah 53:7. And all the more as, to the deeper glance, there was even in His silence an answer to Pilate’s question whether man or God. “He showed,” says Heumann, “by this silence the dignity of His person, and that it rested with Himself whether He would answer or not, while He by no means admitted Pilate to be His judge.” Further, if He laid no claim to divinity, it would have been His duty to have absolutely repelled the allegation of the Jews, that He made Himself the Son of God. That would have been to give God His honour. His silence said, “I am from above, but thou art not worthy that I should admit thee into the mystery of My nature. For thine heart is not right before God.” The silence was more significant than words. The “from above” was uttered in it; and at the same time an emphatic intimation of Pilate’s insincerity, who belonged to that large class of whom these words have been used: “A man of the world is often touched by Divine deeds and Divine teaching, as we see in King Agrippa and the governor Felix, Acts 24:24; Acts 26:28; but, as the Lord says in Matthew 13:22, worldly thoughts choke the word, that it brings forth no fruit.” How entirely our Lord’s silence was justified, is manifest from the deep effect it produced on Pilate, here as well as in Matthew, vers. 12, 13,—an effect which it must have produced, inasmuch as assumed dignity is ever rich in words, while only true greatness can bear to be held in suspicion or denied.
Ver. 10. “Then saith Pilate unto Him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?”
Pilate certainly did not speak in the sensitive and excited tone of offended dignity. (Lampe: “Threatening anger is plainly opposed to the preceding fear.”) That would have been contrary to the whole position which he assumed towards Jesus; and, moreover, his impression of Christ’s majesty was too deep to allow it. He simply desired, half imploringly, to have from Jesus an explanation of the marvellous fact, that He thought him worthy of no reply who held, nevertheless, His life in his hands. “Power to crucify” precedes the “power to deliver,” because the beam in the balance decidedly vibrated that way. The scourging had already taken place, which was the prelude to crucifixion, and Pilate’s attempt to soften the rulers had already failed. The order has been inverted in many MSS., simply from a notion that the right of the magistracy was strictly “jus vitae et necis.” That the emphasis fell upon the “crucify,” is shown by what follows: “Thou couldest have no power over Me.”
Ver. 11. “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin.”
To the question Jesus had given no answer. Against the express denial of His dignity He must utter a protest. The words “Thou couldest have . . . given thee “declared that Pilate, to whom Jesus was apparently in submission, was in truth only an instrument in a higher hand which ruled over the destiny of Jesus; and that to it, not to him, was Jesus subjected. “Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shapeth it?” Isaiah 10:15. The imaginary lord was thus reduced to a servant, not only of the Father, but of the Son, between whom there was the fullest concert. To this connection between the Father and the Son points the relation in which the ἄ?νωθεν stands to the πόθεν of Pilate. Grotius: Inde scil. unde ortus sum, tacite enim hoc indicat. Stier: “In this heavenly ἄ?νωθεν there is at the same time a late answer to the previously unanswered question as to His origin.” The matter is not here the authority of the magistracy. Stier regards these words as a support for the “unassailable theory of the Divine right of the powers that be;” but the question was rather, as the reference to Pilate’s words shows, the material power which Pilate as the representative of earthly dominion had over Jesus, whom no one as it seemed could wrest from his hands.
The leading thought is followed by an undertone.” “Therefore:” that is, because thou hast obtained power over Me only through a special Divine ordering. The fact that Pilate had only a permitted power over Jesus, as, on the one hand, it overturned the conclusion which Pilate drew from his power in favour of his superiority, so, on the other hand, it served for his apology. He had not, like the Jews, voluntarily entered into the matter; he was by Divine destiny connected with it, he himself knew not how, and would with all his heart have been free from it.
All the enemies of Jesus, Herod and the Jews, no less than Pilate and the Gentiles, did against Him “what the hand and counsel of God had determined before to be done,” Acts 4:27. Even the act of the traitor Judas rested on a decree ὡ?ρισμένον , corresponding to the δεδομένον ἄ?νωθεν here. But when a man against his wall is involved in a matter, the Divine causality is in the foreground; when he deliberately seeks it, the human is predominant. In regard to this, Exodus 21:12-13 is very instructive: “He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall surely be put to death. And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.” The murderer no less than the manslayer stands under the decree of God, but no one would think of comforting an impenitent murderer by referring him to this Divine destiny. It was not until his brothers had attained to a penitent sense of their fault, that Joseph represented to them for their consolation the Divine causality, Genesis 50:20. As soon as the Jews repented, they also had presented to them the Divine causality. Till then their minds must be directed to their own guilt alone.
Our Lord does not acquit Pilate of guilt. The contrast presented to him was only a relative one. The relative admeasurement of guilt, according to its various grades, the allusion to the guilt of Israel, as deeper than that of the heathen, recurs often in the discourses of our Lord in the earlier Evangelists, Matthew 10:15; Luke 12:48. When Jesus established the measure of Pilate’s guilt. He declared Himself to be His judge’s Judge, and intimated to him the place which He Himself would occupy at the great day of universal judgment.
“He that delivered Me to thee” must be, according to the comparison with Pilate, which leads us to expect that here person is set against person, as also according to ch. John 18:28, Caiaphas , not however Caiaphas as an individual, but as the representative of the Jewish people, whom Pilate opposes to himself in Matthew 27:24, and who cried out in ver. 25 (πᾶ?ς ὁ? λαός ), “His blood be on us, and on our children.” Caiaphas was accordingly an ideal person as it were, the representative of the Jewish national spirit as it then was, in harmony with the representative position which the high priest assumes in the Old Testament. According to Leviticus 4:3, the sins of the high priest were reckoned to the people: “If the priest that is anointed sin according to the sin of the people.” In Zechariah 3:1, the high priest appears before the Lord burdened with the sins of the whole people. Aben Ezra, on Leviticus 4:3, says: Ecce pontifex maxiraus sequiparatur universo Israeli.
Ver. 12. “And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him: but the Jews cried out, saying. If thou let this man go, thou art not Cesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Cesar.”—Ἐ?κ τούτου , as in John 6:66, from that time onwards. Before ἐ?ζήτει there might, as in ver. 8, be placed a μᾶ?λλον . Its omission rested upon the idea, that in comparison of his present striving, the earlier came not into consideration. John could have known this only in case Pilate had shown the earnestness of his present endeavour in a very demonstrative manner, coming out from the praetorium to the Jews. How he showed it, we are not told.
The Jews perceived that a change had come over Pilate, and that with their present means they could not accomplish anything more. They now laid hold on their most perilous weapon. They set simply before Pilate the alternative of giving up Jesus, or of losing himself. They threatened him, not ambiguously, with an accusation before Cesar.—”Friend of Cesar” was then the highest title of honour with which the high Roman officials, after praiseworthy government, were rewarded: comp. Wetstein on this passage. To be not a friend of Cesar, not to sacrifice all other interests to his, was the gravest charge against a man like Pilate, and one which the suspicious Tiberius was always sufficiently inclined to listen to. (Tacitus, Ann. iii. 38: Majestatis crimen omnium accusationum complementum erat. Suetonius, Vita Tib. c. 58: Qui atrocissime exercebat leges majestatis.)—“Speaketh against:” Jesus had declared Himself to be a King, and thereby, according to the assertion of the Jews, raised Himself into competition with the power of Cesar. The matter primarily moved in the sphere of words, and the ἀ?ντιλέγειν preserves therefore its ordinary meaning. The Jews spoke really according to the mind of the Roman imperial power. We have nothing to do here with the inability of Cesar to apprehend the true nature of the kingdom of Christ. To the pretensions which the imperial power maintained, the kingdom of Christ actually stood in direct contradiction. This is plain from the conflict of life and death which arose afterwards between the imperial dominion and the Church of Christ, as well as the description of that conflict in the thirteenth chapter of the Apocalypse.
Jesus was to be condemned, but only after His innocence had been made as clear as day, and acknowledged by the judge in the most decisive manner, and in repeated ways. To attain this double end, there could have been chosen no more fitting instrument than Pilate, free from the malignity of the Jews, yielding to the impressions of truth, and filled with a certain zeal to put it in the true light; but yet too weak to enforce it at the price of his own interests or place.
Ver. 13. “When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment-seat, in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.”—Τῶ?ν λόγων τούτων is the most approved reading: every word was to Pilate an arrow. Τούτων τῶ?ν λόγων seems to have come from ver. 8.
Pilate, according to ver. 9, had gone with Jesus into the praetorium, in order that he might there speak to Him quietly. Ver. 12 requires us to assume that he then came forth to the people, and made known to them his full design to set Jesus at liberty. After his conscience had received that deadly blow from the Jews, he went back into the praetorium, and hastened Jesus out. The condemnation must be spoken under the open heaven, in the presence of the accused.
That the judgment-seat of the Roman governors stood in the open air, according to the tenor of our narrative, is proved by Josephus, De Bell. Jud. ii. 9, 3: “Pilate having sat down on the judgment-seat in the great stadium, summoned before him the people,” etc. There he is speaking of Cesarea. In section 4 he speaks of the same thing at Jerusalem, around which “the people gathered themselves together with uproar.” But still more explicit Isaiah 2:14; Isaiah 2:8. This passage shows, that when the procurator came to Jerusalem, the judgment-seat was placed before his dwelling, the old royal castle of Herod, identical with the praetorium here. We are presented with the same scene as here. Τοῦ? before βήματος is omitted by Lachmann. Everywhere else in the New Testament this word has the article; but in two of the passages quoted from Josephus it is without the article. A judgment-seat might be mentioned, because, when the procurator left Jerusalem, the βῆ?μα also was taken away: the βῆ?μα , therefore, had not so permanent a character as the court of justice. We see in Matthew 27:19, that Pilate, during the previous transactions with the people, had intermittently occupied the judgment-seat.
When St John approaches that crisis of universal interest, the proper pronunciation of Christ’s doom by Pilate, everything becomes momentous to him: he designates places by their two names, the Greek and the Hebrew, or Aramaic, and specifies the day and the hour.
The Greek and the Aramaic names indicate the same place under different relations, yet so that these two relations are fundamentally connected. The Greek name points to the Mosaic work, which in its beauty indicated the dignity of the judgment: comp. Revelation 4:6. The Aramaic name indicated the elevation of the place, suggesting the fact that absolute submission was due to the word of the judge. Λιθόστρωτον (we find the word in Josephus, Bell. Jud. vi. 1, 8) strictly means inlaid with stone generally, but was specifically used for Mosaic tessellation. Gabbatha signifies hill. The town, which is called in Hebrew Gibeah, Josephus mentions frequently under the name Gabbatha. So Antiq. v. 1, 29: “There is a tomb and monument of him in the city of Gabbatha.” In vi. 4, 2, he says of Samuel, “Coming thence afterwards to Gabbatha:” comp. viii. 12, 4, 5, xiii. 1, 4. Josephus, Bell. Jud. v. 2, 1, calls Gibeah in Benjamin Γαβαθσαούλην , adding the explanation, “this means hill of Saul.” The only difference, that Josephus spells it always with one β , is of small moment; for, apart from the fact that the reading Γαβαθᾶ? is not altogether unsupported, the reduplication of the letter might have been introduced for a euphonic purpose, the original word being otherwise harsh. So there is in the Hebrew a purely euphonic dagesh forte. Hence for the same reason we have μαμμωνᾶ?ς instead of μαμωνᾶ?ς , in a number of manuscripts of Matthew 6:24.
The opposite we find in the case of the name עַ?ווָ?ּ?ה which the Septuagint translate Γάζα . There were other localities around Jerusalem which bore the name of hill, as the hill of the lepers, Jeremiah 31:39. Iken’s objection, that the name was too general, equally applies to Λιθόστρωτον ; and, moreover, the specific characterization of the place was given in the preceding ἐ?πὶ? τοῦ? βήματος . These names were appropriate only in the immediate neighbourhood of the judgment-seat. When they spoke elsewhere of these localities, the reference to the βῆ?μα , or the connection with it, required to be expressly mentioned. According to the analogy of Λιθόστρωτον , we might expect that the word Gabbatha would be a general designation. The hill probably was an artificial one.
Ver. 14. “And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!”
The exact specification of the place is followed by that of the time. First the day of the week: “it was the preparation of the Passover.” These words have been differently understood. According to some, they say that it was the preparation of the Passover, the day of preparation, on which the paschal lamb was provided; according to others, that it was the preparation for the Sabbath in the Passover feast. The latter interpretation is the correct one. Παρασκευὴ? τοῦ? πάσχα cannot mean the preparation for the Passover. Τὸ? πάσχα meant either the paschal lamb or the whole feast. On that supposition, it must have signified the feast day of the paschal feast. But the word never occurs with that signification.
Further, παρασκευή never is used for the day that preceded the feast; only for the day that preceded its one Sabbath. Bleek has not been able to adduce the slightest proof that this word, and the corresponding Aramaic ערונתא , was ever employed to designate the day before the feast. There lies the point of the discussion: failing to prove this, the cause is lost. In the New Testament, παρασκευή is always the proper name of a week-day, the Friday. If the word was also used for the preparation days of the feasts, how was it that the preparation day of the Sabbath was always called the preparation day, or preparation day absolutely, ἡ? παρασκευή , or παρασκευή , without the word Sabbath being ever added?—an addition which was all the more necessary, because all the passages which speak of the day of preparation refer to the feast, and ambiguity was therefore unavoidable. The passages are Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:31. St Matthew says, “The next day that followed the day of the preparation.” He means thereby the Sabbath,—a strange note of time, if it were not quite settled that “day of preparation,” standing alone, was synonymous with Friday. St Mark explains the day of preparation as “the day before the Sabbath.” He gives his Greek readers this explanation of a term which in Jewish phraseology was more limited than its sound. But elsewhere than in the New Testament we find the same phrase. Joseph us, Antiq. xvi. 6, 2, mentions an edict of Augustus, which gave the Jews certain exemptions on the Sabbath, and “on the day of its preparation from the ninth hour.” There the word is used for the Friday; although Josephus or the edict explains it for Gentile readers, as being the day before the Sabbath, because the simple παρασκευή would have been unintelligible to them. So also in the language of the fathers, παρασκευή is always Friday: comp. Clem. Alex. Stromata 7; Dion. Alex, in Kouth, Rell. Sac. s. ii. p. 385, and other passages in Suicer. The word is also expressly quoted as the Jewish phrase. Synesius in Epistle 4 says, “It was the day which the Jews term preparation.” Thus the use of the phrase is absolutely on our side. The opposite view has here no ground to stand upon. Bleek has skilfully concealed the point on which all depends; but even he is obliged to confess, “that the expression in this form is not found elsewhere.” The argument is not in the least degree weakened by the allegation, that the first day of the paschal feast, as being equal to the Sabbath, demanded its preparation. That would have force if the word bore only an appellative character,—if it had not been, in Jewish phraseology, the proper name of the last day in the week but one. Our opponents appeal to the fact, that in the Jewish writings any is frequently used for the eve of the feasts, and especially of the Sabbath. But there is no proof that ערב , evening, corresponds to παρασκευή , preparation day. Inasmuch as ereb is used of the eves of the feasts, but preparation day always denotes the day before the Sabbath, the two words, which are not coincident in meaning, have nothing in common. The Jewish word for παρασκευή is ערובתא , which had never any other meaning than that of the day preceding the Sabbath, and was simply the name of the week-day: Buxtorf, Lex. c. 1160. This same word is used by the Syriac translator for the word παρασκευή . In Syriac it so decidedly and so exclusively denoted the Friday, that the Syrians termed Good Friday the day of preparation for the Passion: comp. Castelli, Lex. (ed. Michaelis), p. 673.
It has been maintained that St John, if he had regarded the first feast day as the day of death, would not so indefinitely have designated as the Friday in the Passover that day which might have been any other of the seven feast days, especially here, where he is so exact in his record, that he defines the very hour. But what precedes had determined the day, in harmony with the first three Evangelists, who in regard to this point leave no room for doubt: comp. on John 18:28; John 18:39. Here the emphasis falls upon the determination of the day of the week, which had not yet been given.
It has again been asserted, that to regard the preparation day of the Passover as the preparation day for the Sabbath in the Passover, must always have the air of a forced evasion of a difficulty. But this assertion rests upon the supposition, already overturned, that παρασκευή signified preparation day generally. As soon as we settle it that the word standing alone meant the day before the Sabbath, the Friday, the ambiguity is at once removed. The parallel passages adduced by Reland (Antiq. Sac.) have then their full force. The pseudo-Ignatius, in the Epistle to the Philippians, c. 13, speaks of the Sabbath of the Passover, that is, of the Sabbath which fell in Easter, which in the Christian Church took its beginning in the week preceding the Monday of the resurrection. Socrates, Hist. Ecc. v. 22, speaks of the Sabbath of the feast, τὸ? σάββατον τῆ?ς ἑ?ορτῆ?ς .
Once more, it has been maintained to be unimaginable that the first day of the feast should be designated a preparation day. Now if the first day of the feast had been simply and as such denominated a day of preparation, it would have been something strange; for its character as the first feast day infinitely outweighed its character as a day of preparation. But it must be remembered, that whatever was peculiar to the day as the first of the feast, was now already over. For the rest of the day its characteristic as the preparation preponderated; or, at least, this characteristic might fitly be taken into consideration, especially as the Evangelist’s design was to indicate the day of the week, and as such the day was only the παρασκευή . Moreover, while the main end of the statement was a chronological one, we may suppose that it was intended further to pave the way for the record that the Jews, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross during the Sabbath, came to Pilate and asked that their legs might be broken and they taken away.
Finally, appeal has been made to the Jewish regulation, according to which the first day of the feast might never fall on the second, fourth, and sixth day of the week: nor on the last, the Friday, because in that case the first feast day would have been a mere preparation for the Sabbath. Ideler gave currency to this argument (Handb. der Chronologie i. S. 521); but it has been long since established that that Jewish decision was not extant in Christ’s time, or centuries later. After Baronius maintained this, Bochart thoroughly proved it (Hieroz. i. 562, ed. Rosen. 638), Bynaeus taking the same view. In the Talmud mention is frequently made of a case in which a feast might fall on the day of preparation; and Abenezra says, “Both in the Mishna and in the Talmud we may see that the Passover might come sometimes on the second, fourth, and sixth day.” It may be proved also from Epiphanius, that this regulation was a recent one.
The determination of the hour follows that of the day: “it was about the sixth hour,” ὥ?ρα ἦ?ν ὡ?σεὶ? ἕ?κτη , or, according to Lachmann, ὥ?ρα ἦ?ν ὡ?ς ἕ?κτη . Mark 15:25 says, “It was the third hour, and they crucified Him.” St John does not contradict this; but he supplements it. His statement was not to be isolated; it was in his design to be combined with that of his predecessors. St John had the records of the three Evangelists, in all their details, before his eyes; he never corrects them, but everywhere supplements. The two statements, when combined, furnish the result that the sentence of Pilate and the leading away to crucifixion fell in the middle, between the third and the sixth hour, that is, about half an hour after ten. The ὡ?σεὶ? or ὡ?ς in St John intimates expressly that he did not mean precisely the sixth hour, but that the sixth hour is only referred to as the period in the day. The idea of a contradiction has sprung only from the fact that the two Evangelists were supposed to have substituted the current hour in the place of the hour as the time of the day. The supposition that among the Jews the day was divided into four periods, each of three hours, rests not only upon the declarations of Maimonides and of the Talmud; it cannot be said that the division of the day was of late origin. That it existed in Christ’s time, is made extremely probable by the analogy of the division of the night into four periods, each of three hours: comp. Mark 13:35; Luke 12:38. It is still more forcibly suggested by Matthew 20:3-4. The reason why there is here a transition from dawn to the third hour, from this to the sixth, and from the sixth to the ninth, can only have been that the day was actually divided into spaces of three hours. We are led to the same result by the fact that, in the whole history of the crucifixion in the Gospels, only the third, sixth, and ninth hours occur, and that generally in the New Testament these hours are much oftener mentioned than the intervening ones. The fourth and the fifth hours, for instance, never occur in the New Testament; and the tenth only once, John 1:40, where it was the highest personal interest of the Evangelist to define with exactitude. Further, this supposition alone explains the fact, that precisely in connection with those hours which mark the quadrants of the day, the ὡ?σεὶ? or περὶ? is so often used: comp. Matthew 27:46; Luke 23:44; John 4:6; Acts 10:3; Acts 10:9. The intermediate time between the third and the sixth hour seems also in the nature of the case the most suitable. If we adhere to the third hour, the space is too much narrowed for the transactions before Pilate, and we come in conflict with the statement not merely of Matthew 27:45, but also of Mark himself, Mark 15:33, that with the sixth hour the darkness began. As the darkness coincided with the crucifixion, as it was the answer in act to the crucifixion, and the concomitant mockery of the Jews, we can hardly suppose that Jesus at the commencement of the darkness had been hanging three hours on the cross. On the other hand, if we advance to the sixth hour, space is too much narrowed for the crucifixion itself.
Pilate said to the Jews, “Behold your King.” Here also we must renounce the notion of mockery, which would so badly have served Pilate’s ends; this would ill accord with the disposition of the wretched man, who, drawn hither and thither, this way by his conscience, that way by his interest, certainly was but little inclined to “sport with the King of the Jews.” Jesus was assuredly a representative of the Messianic hope of the Jewish nation. According to Pilate’s secret presentiment, He was yet more; and he could not, even at the moment of uttering the sentence, hold out to the Jews a more powerful motive to bethink themselves and stay their fury, than this, “Behold your King.”
Ver. 15. “But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Cesar.”
The double ἆ?ρον here, like the αἶ?ρε , Luke 23:18, Acts 21:36, points to Deuteronomy. Gesenius: Formula solennis Deut. ubicunque jubetur supplicium, haec est הרע מקרבך בערת . Comp. John 13:6, where it is said of false prophets, and John 17:7, Sept. καὶ? ἐ?ξαρεῖ?ς τὸ?ν πονηρὸ?ν ἐ?ξ ὑ?μῶ?ν αὐ?τῶ?ν , John 19:9. The ἆ?ρον was the judicial expression of their demand, which as such bore in it its own motive; σταύύρωσον signified the form in which, under present circumstances, the supposed requirement of law might be satisfied.—“We have no king but Cesar:” they renounce their hope, that they may be rid of its hateful representative: comp. Acts 17:7. But their word had a deeper significance than they themselves meant; and therefore it was recorded. When they despised Christ their true King, and delivered Him up to death, they ceased, in fact, to be God’s people and kingdom, and sank entirely under the power of this world, which God used for the execution of His wrath upon them: comp. Luke 19:27. Lampe: “They elected Cesar to be their king; by Cesar they were destroyed, and that in the time of the Passover.”
Ver. 16. “Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away.”—Παρέδωκεν obviously must not be understood of material delivery over; it is equivalent to χαρίζεσθαί εἰ?ς ἀ?πώλειαν , Acts 25:16: comp. ver. 11. A comparison with that passage shows that in the expression there lies a complaint against Pilate. According to the Roman law he acted unjustly, but still more so according to the law of God, which commands the ruler, “Ye shall not respect persons in judgment,” Deuteronomy 1:17. Παρέδωκε here is distinct from παρέδωκε in Matthew 27:26. Here it denotes the last and definitive delivery, as it followed upon the solemn judgment; there it was the actual delivery, as it was expressed by the scourging. St Matthew has omitted the attempt of Pilate to undo the sentence which had been actually uttered by the fact of the scourging; he has omitted also the formal pronunciation of the sentence.
Despite the seeming humiliation of Jesus under Pilate, the transactions before him yielded a result which furthered the Divine plan of salvation. Jesus was to die for the sins of the world; but His innocence and righteousness must be attested by the judge himself who condemned Him to death. Pilate’s triple “I find no fault in this man;” the declaration that he would be innocent of the blood of this righteous man; the adoption of all means that might have been available to rescue Him, down to the very moment when he pronounced the sentence; the message of his wife;—all these things utterly destroy the very root of the disparaging conclusions that might be drawn from the condemnation of our Lord.
We shall now cast a closing glance over the series of events that took place before Pilate. They present no real difficulty, still less any contradictions. Matthew and Mark are most brief; Luke and John communicate each his peculiar details with considerable minuteness. But in the matter common to all the Evangelists, we have a sure guide by which we can adjust the position of what is peculiar to each, so that the order is never arbitrary or doubtful.
John 18:29-32 forms the beginning. Then follows Luke 23:2. The Jews, repelled in their request that Pilate would, without further ado, confirm the judgment they had pronounced, bring their accusation against Jesus, that He stirred the people to sedition, and hindered them from giving tribute to Cesar, saying that He Himself was Christ a King. This accusation was the point of connection for the question, common to all the Evangelists, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” From St John we gather that Pilate put this question to Christ after he had taken Him into the praetorium. The Lord’s answer is communicated by the first three Evangelists only in its central words, σὺ? λέγεις . St John records previously the explanations which Jesus had given Pilate touching the nature of His kingdom before that decisive answer. Then did Pilate, convinced of His innocence, betake himself with Jesus to the people outside, and speak for the first time the words afterwards twice repeated, “I find no fault in this man,” John 18:38; Luke 23:4. The rulers are not pacified by that declaration; they renew, with increased vehemence, their allegations: Luke, Luke 23:5. Pilate challenges Jesus to defend Himself, but He answers nothing, so that Pilate greatly marvelled, Matthew 13:14; Mark, Mark 13:5. In the accusation of the rulers, mention had been made of Galilee. Pilate takes up that word, hoping that here would be an opening for his own extrication from the embarrassment. He asks (Luke) whether Christ were a Galilean; and on finding that it was so, sends Him to Herod. After Christ’s return from Herod, Pilate, according to St Luke, summons the rulers of the people together, and declares a second time, “I find no fault in him;” but offers, that the hateful offence of false accusation and unrighteous judgment might not seem to rest with them, to inflict corporal punishment on Christ, and release Him. So far we follow St Luke. Now all the Evangelists concur. That the people’s voice might be raised in favour of the accused, Pilate makes use of the popular cry, heard, according to St Mark, just at this moment, and before the answer to the proposal of chastisement could be given, demanding the release of a prisoner; and he gives them the choice between Christ and Barabbas. The conciseness with which St John touches this momentous event suggests that it had been already exhaustively treated by his predecessors. Between the proposal of Pilate and the answer of the people must be placed the message from his wife, which is peculiar to St Matthew. After this attempt had failed, Pilate a third time, despairing of the matter now, says, “I find no fault in him,” Luke 23:22, and repeats his earlier proposition to dismiss Jesus with chastisement. But His enemies redouble their clamour, Luke, Luke 23:23. Still Pilate did not give all up. He declared by a symbolical action, the washing of his hands, that he would release himself from all responsibility. The multitude, regarding nothing but the readiness to fall into their plans which Pilate’s words betrayed, declare themselves prepared to take the whole responsibility upon themselves, Matthew 24:25. Then follows the scourging, Matthew 24:26; Mark 15:15; John 19:1. Then come the indignities perpetrated by the soldiers, Matthew 24:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; John 19:2-3. Then Pilate renews his attempts to influence the people in favour of Jesus,—attempts which St John records in John 19:4 seq.; and, finally, when these availed nothing, the formal and final sentence.
Vers. 17, 18. “And He, bearing His cross, went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha; where they crucified Him, and two other with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”
We might think, according to ver. 16, that the Jews were the subject of παρέλαβον . But the verbs “delivered” and “led” will not suit the Jews, inasmuch as the Roman punishment could be executed only by Roman instruments; still less “they crucified” (comp. ver. 23), which, however, belongs to the same subject. The agents in these verbs therefore must be those on whom devolved the crucifixion, the Roman soldiers, the same who, according to vers. 1-3, had performed the scourging which was the introduction to the crucifixion. But St John would have expressed himself more precisely, if he had not reckoned on being supplemented out of his predecessors: compare especially Matthew 27:31, where, according to ver. 27, the soldiers of the governor are the subject to “led Him out to be crucified;” Mark, ver. 20, comp. ver. 16.
Executions must take place, according to the Roman as well as the Jewish custom, without the gate: Numbers 15:35; 1 Kings 21:13; Acts 7:38. It signified that “this soul was rooted out from his people:” the culprit executed was cast out of the community of his fellow-citizens. The Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. John 13:12-13, grounds upon the fact that Christ suffered without the gate, the exhortation, “Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.”—Ἐ?ντεῦ?θεν καὶ? ἐ?ντεῦ?θεν occurs in the New Testament only here and Revelation 22:2. By the middle place assigned to Him, Jesus was marked out as the chief personage. It appears that this place was given Him at the urgency of the Jews. But there was a providence of God concerned in it. A malefactor on the right hand, and a malefactor on the left hand; so was it right for Him who, according to Isaiah 53:12, was reckoned among the transgressors, and was the representative of many sinners.
In his record of the superscription on the cross, vers. 19-22, St John is particularly copious, because he discerned in what Pilate wrote, and in the obstinacy with which he held to it, a remarkable leading of Divine providence. His predecessors had, as St John’s copiousness itself might lead us to expect, touched this subject very briefly: compare Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26. St Luke alone had mentioned the three languages. St John alone alludes to the contention with the Jews about the change in it.
Chap. 19:17-30—The Crucifixion
John 19:17-18 sum up briefly what the earlier Evangelists had recorded, to serve as a point of connection for what is peculiar to St John. Then there is a copious narrative of four facts, which either the other Evangelists altogether omit, such as the committal of the Lord’s mother to the care of John, or in which St John has made remarkable additions: the superscription on the cross, the division of the garments, and the vinegar offered to drink.
Ver. 19. “And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”—Τίτλος , titulus, was the judicial name of the superscription. That St John gives the technical term, is in harmony with the significance which he attached to the whole matter. Naturally, the superscription was written and placed on the cross only at Pilate’s order. “The King of the Jews:” a voice in Pilate’s heart spoke in favour of His being so in reality. He had already done enough at the bidding of the Jews. In the consciousness of his injustice to Christ, he would not further afflict Him by charging Him in His death with making a presumptuous claim. Yet the determinations of men, especially of such men as Pilate, in whom diversified motives and impulses cross each other, are not to be reckoned upon. That this resolution, however, was held firmly, in spite of the counter influence of the Jews, was regarded by St John as resulting from the influence of God, who holds the hearts of men in His hands. Lampe: We believe that Pilate piously wrote this title under a certain Divine impulse.
Ver. 20. “This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.”
The observation that many of the Jews witnessed this, was not intended as a confirmation of the fact; but to intimate that Jesus was proclaimed the King of the Jews before many witnesses.
The three languages were significant to St John, inasmuch as their concurrence testified that the King of the Jews, as such, was at the same time the King of the Gentiles (comp. on John 1:50); that through Him the prophecy of Japhet dwelling in the tents of Shem, Genesis 9:27, and of Shiloh whom the nations would obey. Genesis 49:10, were accomplished. Calvin: The Lord thus declared that the time was at hand when He would make everywhere known the name of His Son. As it regards the order of the languages, the Greek precedes the Latin in St Luke also; but there is this difference, that the Hebrew comes last in his account, while in John it takes precedence. The inverted order may be most simply accounted for as due to St John’s preference for the Hebrew. Ἑ?βραϊστὶ? occurs four times in the Gospel, twice in the Apocalypse, but nowhere else in the entire New Testament. Neither of the two Evangelists professes to follow the actual order of the languages. It is probable that the Latin was really the first, as the tongue of the rulers of the land (the reading of Cod. B., Ῥ?ωμαϊστί , Ἑ?λληνιστί , sprang from- the erroneous supposition that John must needs follow the actual order, as in the original title); then the Greek followed, as the actual language of the country; and finally the Hebrew. St Luke placed the Greek first, because he wrote primarily for Greeks (Theophilus); and St John gives it the precedence of the Latin, because it was the more generally diffused language.
Vers. 21, 22. “Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not. The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.”
The representations of the Jews were made to Pilate, who was not himself present at the crucifixion, before the Lord was led away, when the superscription was just prepared. The whole section, vers. 19-22, does not stand to vers. 17 and 18 in the relation of sequence, but of juxtaposition. The superscription had been written and attached to the cross before Jesus was led forth. Ἀ?ρχιερεῖ?ς is used by Josephus, just as it is by the Evangelists, to designate all priests of the higher rank: comp. e.g, Antiq. xx. 7, 8; Bell. Jud. iv. 3, 6. But often as the ἀ?ρχιερεῖ?ς are mentioned, the addition, “of the Jews,” is found only here. We must seek therefore some special occasion for it. Evidently the high priests of the Jews stood in a peculiar relation to the King of the Jews,—a relation which explains the motive of the high priests. Between them and Christ a strife of life and death for dominion had been going on: comp. on John 10:8, Matthew 21:28; Matthew 27:18, according to which the high priests delivered Jesus for envy. In this rivalry between the high priests of the Jews and the King of the Jews, we may discern the impulse of that bitterness which led them to rob Christ of the honour which had been given Him by the superscription of Pilate.
Pilate’s answer, ὃ? γέγραφα , γέγραφα , doubtless suggests that obstinacy of character which Philo attributed to him (τὴ?ν φύσιν ἀ?καμπής ). Still, as the preceding transactions show how little he was able, under the pressure of a guilty conscience, to persist in the object he set out with, we may justly refer his unbending determination in this particular point to the secret overruling of God, which secured that on the cross, where Jesus obtained the right to His dominion. He should be proclaimed King. Lampe: “As this title was written in the three cardinal languages of the world, so in a short space His kingdom was announced to all nations in the same tongues.” What is expunged is as good as not written. Hence “I have written” is equivalent to “It must be so.”
Vers. 23, 24. “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also His coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves. Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith. They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.”
All the Evangelists mention the division of Christ’s garments, because this, of itself a less important circumstance, contained a fulfilment of the prophecy in Psalms 22:19. The interest which they all felt in this proceeding sprang from their sure conviction of the inspiration of the Old Testament, which of itself would attach significance to otherwise indifferent coincidences. The relation of the incident to the passage in the psalm was so plain, that the first three Evangelists held it needless to quote it (for the quotation in Matthew is spurious). In his allusion to the coincidence between the prophecy and its fulfilment, John goes more into detail; he testifies that inspiration in the Old Testament extended to the minutest matters, and that the overruling of Divine Providence is in these minute details of special moment. Now, as the individual words of the psalm were requisite to this object, he cites the passage itself. That passage speaks, in its first clause, of the division of the garments; in its second, of the lot cast for the לבוש , the long vesture, after the removal of which the body was left naked; so that it involves a climax: Job 24:7-10; Psalms 35:13; Esther 4:2. Both were strictly fulfilled. The soldiers divided among themselves the other habiliments of Jesus: the covering of His head, the girdle. Matthew 10:9, Acts 1:13; the shoes, John 1:27; the coat, Matthew 5:40; and then cast lots for the outer vesture. That which is here detailed St Mark hints at in John 15:24, “And when they had crucified Him, they parted His garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.” Accordingly the lot was, at least in part, of such a kind, that one obtained something, while others obtained nothing. Strictly speaking, it is not “what every man should take,” but “who should obtain something.” As the value of the four parts was unequal, the first distribution also was probably by lot.
That four soldiers were usually employed in these matters by the Romans, is plain from many sources: e.g. Acts 12:4; Philo in Flaccum, p. 981. John alone describes the vesture which the Son of man wore. And in harmony with his description, the glorified Christ appeared to him in a similar vesture, ἐ?νδεδυμένος ποδήρη , Revelation 1:13.—“Throughout,” so that the web went through the whole, and no seam was visible. Before ἵ?να πληρωθῇ? we must interpolate, “This came to pass,” or, “They must do this.” “This, therefore, the soldiers did,” forms of course the transition to the following scene. The act of the soldiers, however, in itself indifferent, would not have been made prominent by such a transition-formula, had not their act stood under the disposal of a higher power, which gave it importance. Apparently all is come to an end with the Redeemer. “The distribution of the garment served,” as Luther says, “for a sign that everything was done with Christ, just as with one who was abandoned, lost, and to be forgotten for ever.” The soldiers doubtless, during this act, continued their mockery of the King of the Jews; and the matter, doubtless, derived its attractiveness rather from this pastime than from any material gain. We have here the continuation of the mockery in ch. John 19:2-3. But the deed itself was under the hand of Providence; and, concurrent with the profane irony, there was a sacred irony upon the irony.
In vers. 25-27, Jesus commits His mother to John. This record is peculiar to the fourth Evangelist: it would seem as if the others regarded it as his property. The question arises, where we are to place the incident; and the most obvious thought is, that it occurred towards the close, as only on the border between life and death would our Lord have committed His mother to any other keeping. Moreover, the μετὰ? τοῦ?το , in ver. 28, would mean nothing, if the following occurrence were not in immediate connection with that we now consider. But that following occurrence, according to the express remark of John, fell in the near neighbourhood of the Saviour’s death. Accordingly, the word which Jesus here addressed to His mother and to John must take the fourth place among the Seven words spoken from the cross: the first, “Father, forgive them;” the second, “This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise;” the third, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” The sacred design in the number Seven will be seen, when it is observed that it is obtained here only by combining the records of the four Evangelists; so that their origin was not due to any artistic arrangement on the part of the several writers. Of these seven utterances, four were spoken in the near approach of His death, and had an immediate reference to it.
Ver. 25. “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.”
According to Matthew 27:55-56, at a certain distance from the cross of Jesus there stood “many women,” among whom Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee, are mentioned. Mark, in ch. Mark 15:40-41, names also three women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and Joses, and Salome; the same therefore, with this only difference, that the name of James has the appendage τοῦ? μικροῦ? , and instead of the mother of the sons of Zebedee her name is stated. The appendage, “the less,” was rendered necessary by Salome being mentioned instead of the mother of Zebedee’s sons. There were only two prominent men with the name of James. The elder of these was the son of Zebedee. Thus Matthew, who introduces the mother of the sons of Zebedee, needed not to define more particularly the lesser James. John omits his own mother, the mention of whom would have been somewhat of an interruption in this scene, and substitutes the mother of Jesus, who forms here the centre of all. The two others are identical with those mentioned by the other Evangelists: this we might be led to expect, by the fact that Matthew and Mark certainly named those only who had a certain claim to be distinguished from the rest. The further difference in the order resulted from the mother of Jesus being mentioned first. She could not be otherwise than at the head; and her sister would naturally follow. Thus Mary Magdalene, who in all the other enumerations of holy women takes precedence, must needs have on this occasion the last place.
To Mary the mother of Jesus was now fulfilled the word of Simeon, Luke 2:35, “And a sword shall pierce thy own soul also:” the same sword which, according to the prophecy of Zechariah 13:7, was to smite and pierce the Shepherd of the Lord. Grotius aptly regards her presence at the cross as a prophecy of the Christian boldness which was to be exhibited even by the weaker sex.—“And His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas:” since we have no instance of actual sisters bearing the same name, the sister must be sister-in-law. The term sister is frequently used for near relations: Tob_8:4 ; Tob_8:7 ; Tob_7:4 , compared with Tob_7:2 ; Job 42:11. The designation had its specific reason, probably in the circumstance that after the death of Cleophas the two families were blended into one. The sons of this Mary are recorded by Matthew and Mark as being James and John. Accordingly Mary could be only the wife of Cleophas, which is indeed the most obvious relationship implied in the term. Cleophas is mentioned here only in the New Testament; but he must be identical with the Alphaeus mentioned by Matthew, Mark, and Luke: for James, who in Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, is called the son of Mary, the wife, according to John, of Cleophas, was, according to Matthew 10:3, the son of Alphaeus; as also according to Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13. The difference is to be explained by the fact that the name was originally Aramaic, and took the form חַ?לְ?פַ?י . Now the ח might be translated variously in the Greek: compare the analogies in the Septuagint, which Gesenius has collected under the letter ח in his Thesaurus. Whether the Cleophas of Luke 24:18 is the same name, may be doubted: it may have been a contraction of Κλεόπατρος . If he had been the same man as is mentioned in Luke 6:15, the Evangelist would not in the same Gospel have adopted another Greek name. But if the two names were originally the same, that would be a reason why he should choose another Greek form, in order that personal identity might not be supposed to be implied. Mark 2:14 shows us that the name was a current one: there we have another Alphaeus, the father of Matthew.
We are led to suppose that Cleophas or Alphaeus was already dead, from the circumstance that Mary is everywhere else indicated by her maternal relation. Supposing him to have died early, we can understand how Mary with her sons came into a close relationship with Joseph the husband of Mary, who would represent a father to them.
The James and John of Mark 15:40 can be no other than those whom he had mentioned in ch. John 6:3, and with them Judas and Simon, also therefore sons of Mary. If it was not Mary mother of our Lord, but another Mary, who, according to Mark 15:40, was the mother of these sons, then we must not think, in Mark 6:3, of literal brothers of Jesus, but only of nearest kindred: comp., concerning the brothers of Jesus, the remarks on ch. John 2:12, John 7:3.
Many suppose that four, and not three women, are mentioned here. The (unnamed) sister of the mother of Jesus is supposed to be Salome the mother of John, and Mary wife of Cleophas to be a different person. But that this is a mere learned device, is rendered exceedingly probable by the simple circumstance, that the Christian Church has from the beginning regarded them as three in number. Where, in the earlier Evangelists, a great number of women had been previously mentioned, and then individuals are specified, three, and never four, are alluded to in connection with the cross. Hence we may naturally expect that here also three, and not four, are alluded to. Only on the supposition that Mary wife of Cleophas was the sister of our Lord’s mother, can we account for the postponement of Mary Magdalene, who everywhere else takes the first place among the women, as uniformly as Simon Peter takes the first among the Apostles. The καὶ? also could be omitted only if there was no ambiguity. It could not possibly have been wanting if a description had preceded which required that the name of the same person should follow to make it clear. If the sister of the mother of Jesus and the wife of Cleophas are two persons, then the former lacks a name, and the latter is introduced without a reason given for the introduction. Nor is there ever given the slightest intimation of a relationship betwixt John and our Lord. The manner in which our Lord committed to him His mother leads to the conclusion, that a relationship of affinity did not subsist between the two. Finally, among the three Marys, here designedly placed in juxtaposition, we are not justified in interposing another, especially such a characterless and indefinite personage as this “sister of the mother of Jesus,” about whom neither the earlier Evangelists nor St John give us any the slightest information.
Ver. 26. “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son!”
The fact that the women in Matthew 27:55 looked on generally from afar, does not exclude the supposition that it was permitted to the mother of Jesus to approach nearer to the cross, especially as the Lord’s mother did not belong to the circle of the women mentioned there. The address “Woman,” occurring also in ch. John 2:4, is explained by Matthew 12:48, where Jesus says emphatically to those who announced the arrival of His mother, “Who is My mother?” and intimated that, in the things pertaining to His vocation, into which His mother would intrude, the relation between them altogether receded. Thus here also the term woman suggests that at this crisis His relation to His mother retreated altogether in comparison of the high commission given Him by His Father to redeem a sinful world. We must carry this, however, no further than as teaching us that no such relation must hinder us from the discharge of our duty. We must not forget that, in the latest moments of His earthly existence. He, as a pattern to us, cared for His mother. He had honoured His Father by childlike obedience, in deference to the fourth commandment; and He honours His mother by careful provision for her external need.—“Behold thy son” presupposes that Mary had no sons besides Jesus. To honour parents by faithful care of them, is not merely the duty, but the privilege also, of children; and if she had had other children, Jesus would have infringed upon that privilege by committing His mother to John. He would have left His disciples but a poor pattern of the sanctification of the relations appointed of Heaven, if He had thus absolutely placed Himself in independence of those relations. The duty of the sons would have remained, even if the supposed brothers of Jesus had at that time been in a state of unbelief. Moreover, this supposition is based on a false exposition of ch. John 7:3: certainly the “brethren of Jesus” are a few weeks afterwards, Acts 1:14, in the number of the believers; and He who knew what was in man, who saw the future developments of the character of Peter and Judas from the beginning, would have fallen under the reproach of shortsightedness, if He had taken their mother from them on the ground of their temporary unbelief, and committed her for ever to another. The actual mother of the “brethren” of Jesus, Mary the wife of Cleophas, had been mentioned just before.
On the words of Christ to His mother and John, the Berlenberg Bible justly says: “Thus it is not opposed to the mind of Christ, when we extend the commandment for parents and children further than its mere letter.”
Our Lord’s design was not to provide for John, but to provide for His mother. He begins with her, and gives her a son, because as a feeble woman she needed that protection; and when He said to John, “Behold thy mother,” this meant only that he was to pay her, from that time forward, the respect due to a mother. The result shows this. Mary does not take John, but John takes Mary to his house. Quesnel’s remark springs from an entire inversion of the order: “The holy Virgin receives all Christians as her children in the person of John. This property over us gives us the right and the confidence to place all our interests in her hands.”
Ver. 27. “Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”—“From that hour” must be taken literally; but “to his own house” intimates that Mary was from that time the honoured companion of his home. The too literal view assumes that John had a house in Jerusalem, while ch. John 21:1 shows that His abiding home was Galilee; and further, that he at once led our Lord’s mother to his own house, which is contrary to John 19:34, and in itself unnatural, Bengel’s remark is wrong here: “The sword had now sufficiently penetrated the soul of Mary: now she is guarded against seeing and hearing the most bitter things, the darkness, the abandonment of God [but both had already taken place], the death.” It is the duty and the right of the nearest friends to abide until the last breath. It would have been severity towards His mother, and towards the disciple whom He loved, had He sent them both away.
In vers. 28-30, we have the potion of vinegar which was given to our Lord. It was customary to provide for those who were to be crucified a malefactor’s potion, which should mitigate their pains, and still their horrible thirst. The vessel containing such a drink was, according to John 19:29, already there before Jesus said, “I thirst.” Matthew, in ch. Matthew 27:34, describes the potion theologically as vinegar mingled with gall, because he sees in it a fulfilment of prophecy, Psalms 69:21, “They gave Me also gall for My meat; and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” This description of the potion is a delicate and veiled quotation. As to its physical nature, it says—as every one must see who admits the reference to Psalms 69:21, according to which the words “gall and vinegar” must have, as it were, quotation marks—only this, that the potion was at once sour and bitter. Mark, who everywhere devotes a special observation to externalities, describes the potion in its physical quality, “And they gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh.” The myrrh was designed to make the drink bitter, and rob it of its flavour. Galen (in Wetstein) says of myrrh, ἔ?χει , πικρίαν . Accordingly, we must regard the wine as bitter vinegar. This drink was offered to Jesus by the soldiers before the crucifixion, but He rejected it: “And having tasted. He would not drink,” Matthew 27:34. It is significant here that the Lord first tasted: this pertains to the reason for rejecting it. In the bitter and sour wine, the entire relation of the ungodly to Jesus was exhibited; to Jesus, who through them and for them suffered. When He repelled this drink. He uttered His condemnation of this position, and rejected it as unworthy of Him. But this rejection can be viewed only as preliminary; and it intimated that an acceptance of it was afterwards to follow. Jesus, according to the psalm, must actually drink, but the circumstances stated there were not yet in existence. It is said, “In My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” Thus the thirst must first be experienced. Luke mentions the vinegar in ch. Luke 23:36-37. According to his statement, the soldiers mockingly offered Jesus during the crucifixion the vinegar as His royal table-wine; and made much of the misrelation in which the malefactor’s potion stood to His assumed royal dignity. This scene is peculiar to Luke. Matthew mentions the vinegar a second time in ch. Matthew 27:48, “And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink.” Mark 15:36 is parallel. According to both, this incident followed hard upon the word which Jesus uttered about the ninth hour, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” and His death immediately followed. This is the same occurrence which John here touches, as immediately preceding the death. He adds the important clause which first places the whole incident in its true light, that they gave Him this to drink in consequence of His cry, “I thirst.”
Ver. 28. “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.”
The knowledge of Christ that all things were now fulfilled, was the motive which impelled Him to introduce that one last circumstance still wanting to the perfect fulfilment of Scripture. The question whether “all things” refers generally to the work which Christ was to accomplish, or to the predictions of it contained in the Old Testament, tends to divide things internally united. The work to be done by Christ was, in its fundamental principles, perfectly foreannounced and described in the Old Testament. That reference to the prophecies is not to be excluded, is shown by the following words, “that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” So also in Luke 22:37: “For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished (τελεσθῆ?ναι ) in Me, And He was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning Me have an end.” So also Luke 18:31, Revelation 17:17, which set aside the remark of Bengel, “τελέω refers to things, τελειόω ) to holy Scripture.” The real distinction between the two verbs is this, that τελειοῦ?ν is the stronger, and marks perfect fulfilment. Τελειοῦ?ν is related to τελεῖ?ν , as לכלות , in order to fulfil, entirely to fulfil, Jeremiah’s word in 2 Chronicles 36:22, is related to למלאות , to fulfil the word of the Lord through Jeremiah, in 2 Chronicles 36:21. That, on the other hand, reference to the work committed by God to the Son of man, to all that which He had undertaken to do and suffer, is not to be excluded, needs no other proof than that this was the obvious interpretation of the words. Moreover, we must observe the relation in which the τετέλεσται , here and in ver. 30 stands to the last word of Psalms 22, עשה , “He hath done it,” corresponding with the relation of “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me” to the beginning of that psalm. The work of God must be regarded, therefore, as what was finished: comp. ch. John 17:4, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.”
“All things” receives a limitation in what follows: one point was in reserve, one thing which was yet wanting to the full fulfilment of Scripture, and therefore to the accomplishment of the work of God; hence all things with the exception of one point. The idea is evidently this: Jesus knew that all was accomplished, that one thing only failed as yet. In order to bring in the fulfilment of this one thing, He uttered the word “I thirst;” and when this was also fulfilled. He said again, “It is finished.”
According to John, Jesus uttered the word “I thirst” in order to introduce a fulfilment of Scripture, the word of Psalms 69:21. To such a theological reason we are independently led by the declaration of the Evangelist. There can be no doubt that the “I thirst” was literally true. The most burning thirst was wont to torment the crucified. But in the immediate approach of death, our Lord would not assuredly have first desired to drink; He could not possibly have dedicated yet one of His sacred seven words to the relief of a mere bodily craving. That Jesus uttered the word in order to the fulfilment of a passage in the psalm is a stumbling-block only to those who, on the one hand, have surrendered the principle of the high import of the Old Testament, which Christ regarded as Divine down to its ἰ?ῶ?τα and κεραία , and who, on the other hand, fail to discern that that word of the psalm utters a general truth, so that the incident retains its importance even for those who altogether look away from the psalm itself. That passage most luminously exhibits the position which the world assumes to the Sufferer, to righteousness suffering through the guilt of the world. In ver. 20 we read, “Reproach hath broken My heart, and I am full of heaviness; and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.” After the enemies had brought the Sufferer so low that He was broken down in body and soul, they ought to have been amazed at the work of their hands, and their hatred should have turned to inward pity. But they give the Sufferer, instead of the refreshing potion, gall and vinegar. The situation here, presented is dependent on the passage in the psalm, and yet at the same time independent of it. Jesus says in His suffering, which He endured for the world, “I thirst.” What do they give Him in His thirst? Vinegar. This potion, presented to malefactors, was a benefit; presented to righteousness suffering incarnate, it was a harsh and bitter insult. To close His career with such a symbolical action was all the more appropriate to our Lord, inasmuch as what then took place was not an isolated thing, but reflected the attitude which the world would assume to Him in succeeding ages. The more vividly we see, in our own time, the counterpart of this offer of vinegar, the less reason have we to deal critically with it here as a symbolical action, and the less propriety is there in evading it by all kinds of forced exegesis. The better way is to turn it all to our profit. Quesnel: “See there the mortifications and amenities which men have to offer Him who gives His life for them. A vessel of vinegar for the blood which He shed for them. After this, can we complain of the ingratitude of men, and of the small consolation which we sometimes receive from our own friends?”
Ver. 29. “Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth.”
Meyer’s remark here is erroneous: “Ὄ?ξος is sour soldiers’ wine, posca. John says nothing of the stupefying draught which Jesus rejected.” It is against the soldiers’ wine which expositors have invented, that besides the vessel with vinegar, the sponge also and the reed were in readiness. This shows that the provision was made for malefactors. Of any “stupefying draught” the other three Evangelists are quite unconscious. The potion must have been another and a worse one than mere soldiers’ wine, otherwise the design for which our Saviour said “I thirst” would not have been accomplished, and Psalms 69:21 would be quite unsuitable. The necessary consequence of Meyer’s view, “In Psalms 69:21 the offering of vinegar is the act of scorn and wickedness, which does not suit here,” is sufficient, at the same time, for its refutation.
Instead of the reed, κάλαμος , in Matthew, John mentions specifically the hyssop. This would have been a refinement, if he had not viewed the hyssop with a theological eye. It is striking also, that instead κάλαμος ὑ?σσώπου , he says barely ὑ?σσώπος . This of itself gives us reason to suppose that here there is an allusion to a passage of the Old Testament in which hyssop is mentioned, but not the reed of hyssop. The hyssop is in the Mosaic law (comp. Hebrews 9:13), and in Psalms 51:9, which comes strictly into consideration here, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean,” the symbol of expiation. (Comp. my Commentary on the Psalms, and Egypt and the Books of Moses.) To the Evangelist the hyssop with the sponge of vinegar, the hyssop of mockery, forms a memorable contrast to the hyssop of atonement; and he regards it as a Divine arrangement that the reed was no other than a branch of hyssop. Celsius gives us the most complete explanations of the natural history of hyssop (Hierobotan. i. 407). In the Talmudic tract Succa, hyssop is mentioned among the branches which were used at the Feast of Tabernacles. Abulfadli (in Celsius) says that it reached nearly the height of an ell. The cross being so low, this was sufficient.
Ver. 30. “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said. It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.”
That was accomplished which the prophecies of the Old Testament had foreshown as the work of Christ, to accomplish which was incumbent on Christ in His state of humiliation, incumbent on the Son of man: comp. Luke 18:31, “All things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished” (τελεσθήσεται ). The limitation to the state of humiliation is obvious, from the fact that our Lord uttered it on the cross, where that humiliation had its end. “It is finished,” peculiar to John, forms the foundation for Luke’s last word of our Lord, “Father, into Thine hands I commend My spirit.” Lampe: “For the Father could not keep back from His bosom one who had so perfectly done the will of His Father.” To these last words, as recorded by Luke, corresponds the “gave up” here, παρέδωκε . “Gave up,” without mention of Him to whom, is as it were an express allusion to that last word, in which the imperfect expression finds its interpretation. Bengel well says: “There are seven words in the four Evangelists, all of which not one has recorded. Whence it is plain that these books are, as it were, four voices, which produce symphony when heard together.”
Ver. 31. “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day (for that Sabbath-day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”
According to Deuteronomy 21:23, the bodies of persons suspended were to be taken down and buried the same day, and, “as we may see in the application of this law, Joshua 8:29; Joshua 10:26 seq., before sundown” (Keil). Abhorrence of the offence was to be shown in this, that the delinquents were utterly destroyed as soon as possible, that the land might be no longer made unclean by them. That this law was in force at this time we see in Josephus, although, in a polemical interest, he assigns it to a wrong cause—the care for burial. He says, De Bell. Jud. iv. 5, 2, of the Idumeans: “They went to such a pitch of impiety, that they cast them out unburied [those whom they had slain], although the Jews were so anxious about burial that they were in the habit of taking down those crucified by the visitation of law, and burying them before the sun went down.” If the new light of a common day was not to look upon the corpse of a malefactor, it is obvious that they would be especially solicitous when that new day was a holy day. In this case, the following day was not merely an ordinary Sabbath; it was one which derived a special dignity from its being also one of the days of the feast. The utter want of conscience on the part of the rulers was paralleled only by their excessive scrupulosity in such externalities. This is the common characteristic of hypocrites.
Παρασκευή here also is the proper name of the sixth day of the week. If it were a term that might indifferently designate the preparation of feasts, or this feast, there must have been an addition τοῦ? σαββάτου . The words “for that Sabbath-day was a high day” have been made to serve as the basis of an argument that this Sabbath was at the same time the first day of the feast; for only that day could be great, like the seventh and last, because these two were termed holy in the law, but not every day of the feast. It is not said, however, that the day was great as a feast-day; it rose above the level of ordinary Sabbaths, because to its sanctity as the Sabbath there was superadded its dignity as being also a feast-day, though not one of the holiest days of the feast. The passage proves rather the reverse of these conclusions. The day spoken of here could not be the first day of the feast: for in the case of this day, as the most important day of the whole year, its festal quality would preponderate over its Sabbath quality; while here, inversely, its quality as a Sabbath is pre-eminent, and its quality as a feast-day only something superadded. In one point alone, in reference to its rest, the Sabbath outweighed the first feast-day. But this point comes not here into consideration. Here the question is only the sanctity and festal character of the day. In the interest of a higher festal character, the question of rest on the first day of the Passover would not have been so rigorously regarded. The Passover was the root of all the feasts, and was therefore instituted before the Sabbath, yea before the covenant on Sinai: compare, for the dignity of the Passover, on ch. John 5:1. This, therefore, stands irreversibly firm. If the following day was the first feast-day, it would have been so described, and not as the Sabbath.
The crurifragium was among the Romans of itself a distinct punishment. The reason of its connection with the crucifixion is to be sought in the idea of a compensation. Instead of the longer continuance of the agony, there was a compromise in its greater acuteness. The breaking of the legs generally issued in death (Amm. Marc. xiv. 9 speaks of those qui fractis cruribus occiduntur), and would therefore, in the case of such as were already exhausted by the torments of crucifixion, soon hasten death. From the circumstance that the converted malefactor had to undergo this punishment, Bengel draws the conclusion: “Even to the converted there often remain sorrows, and an external bodily misery equal to that of the ungodly.”
Chap. John 19:31-37
The Apostle relates here what ensued after the death of Jesus, and before He was taken down from the cross. John is silent as to the miraculous natural phenomena which were connected with the death of Christ, because he had nothing of his own to add to them. He records only what the others had omitted, that the legs of Jesus were not broken, like those of the malefactors crucified with Him; that one of the soldiers pierced His side with a lance; and that forthwith blood and water came thereout: three facts to which he assigns a high importance.
Vers. 32, 33. “Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs.”
Jesus, according to ver. 30, had said in the presence of the soldiers, “It is finished,” had then bowed His head, and given up the ghost. Looking therefore at John alone, we should not infer that the soldiers came to Jesus with the design of breaking His legs. We are led to the opposite by marking that they did not come to Jesus until they had broken the legs of the two malefactors. Jesus was the chief person. If they had originally the intention of breaking His legs, they would have made their beginning with Him; or if they took the persons in order, Jesus must have come between the two in the operation. Their leaving the natural order must have had a specific reason. Accordingly, the note of the soldiers seeing that Jesus was already dead, can only mean that this confirmed their previous observations. A comparison of the other Evangelists leads to the same result. According to these, the centurion, and “those who were with him,” were deeply impressed by the death of Jesus, Matthew 27:54, Mark 15:39, Luke 23:47.
The intention of the piercing could not have been to ascertain the reality of Christ’s death; for the soldier was no professor of medical jurisprudence. It could only have been to hasten the death, in case it had not, as circumstances seemed to indicate, taken place; and, as His death was absolutely probable, in a manner less rough than that of breaking the legs. With this design, the thrust would naturally be directed to the heart; for there, it was well known, was the seat of mortal wounds. Galen (in Wetstein) says: “That the piercing of the heart necessarily brings death, is among things universally acknowledged.” Sextus Empiricus: “Piercing the heart is a cause of immediate death.” So also Quinctilian.
That blood and water came forth (Lampe: “We must hold to the letter: blood first flowed, then water, so limpid that it might be seen by John and others around to be different from blood”), seems by what follows to have been something extraordinary, indeed miraculous. We might therefore expect that analogous facts are not to be found; nor is it strange that the responsa of the medical faculty in reference to our passage are so unsatisfactory. What Tholuck adduces goes far enough to show the conditions in human bodies which, under peculiar circumstances, might bring about the result here recorded. If more could be done, it would be possibly a disadvantage to the design of the Evangelist.
Ver. 35. “And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.”
That the assurance refers to all the three points in the preceding, and not to the third alone—that the bones of Jesus were not broken, that His side was pierced, and that blood and water came forth,—is shown by the connection with vers. 36, 37, which, by γάρ , refer also to the two former incidents. But the Evangelist had the third matter in view pre-eminently; for the assurance is directly connected with it. The two former facts were so simply material, and of themselves probable, that the assurance, as referring to them alone, would seem almost superfluous. In connection with the third, on the contrary, deception of an excited fancy might easily be asserted. There was something unusual, under these circumstances something miraculous: that in the Lord’s case blood and water came forth, symbols of the atonement and justification which His death obtained for us, was to the Apostle sufficient reason for saying so emphatically that he, the reporter, was not a credulus, but a fidelis. The assurance designedly takes a triple form. On ὁ? ἑ?ωρακώς Bengel says: “Hence it appears that John clave inseparably to the body of Jesus after His death.” In regard to the perfect μεμαρτύρηκε , comp. on ch. John 1:34. Testimony is called true, in opposition to a statement which rests upon delusion or lie. Ἵ?να introduces the design of the assurance so expressly given in the preceding words. There must be supplemented from the context, “This I say,” or, “These things are written:” comp. ch. John 20:31. In the same elliptical way, ἵ?να is used in ch. John 1:22, “Who art thou? (we ask thee,) in order that we may give an answer.” Πιστεύειν is used for believing generally, not for believing in the truth of a fact stated: comp. ch. John 20:8 and ver. 31, where, instead of the simple believing as here, we read, “Believe that Jesus is the Christ.” Πιστεύειν not seldom occurs in John with this comprehensive meaning: ch. John 1:7; John 1:51, John 11:15.
Ver. 36. “For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken.”—Γάρ justifies the connection which the preceding words established between the truth of the recorded facts and believing. Ταῦ?τα refers to those preceding facts generally. One of these, however, is prominently stated: “They brake not His legs.” This was brought about in the providence of God, who caused Jesus to die before the soldiers came to break the bones, that in this way an utterance of the Old Testament might be fulfilled. This correspondence between prophecy and fulfilment is itself a strong motive to faith. By scripture is here meant, as in ch. John 13:18, Mark 12:10; Mark 15:28, an individual passage of Scripture: it is equivalent to τὸ? γεγραμμένον τοῦ?το , Luke 20:17; Luke 20:37. Scripture is whatsoever is written and is found in the Book simply. “That the scripture might be fulfilled” is equivalent to “that what is written might come to pass.” John was not looking at the passage, Psalms 34:21: for there the bones of a living righteous man are spoken of; there the singular ὀ?στοῦ?ν is not used; and the αὐ?τοῦ? is wanting. We expect in relation to this something beyond what is common to all saints. The allusion was rather to two passages which treat of the paschal lamb: Exodus 12:46, “Neither shall ye break a bone thereof,” Sept. καὶ? ὀ?στοῦ?ν οὐ? συντρίψετε ἀ?π̓? αὐ?τοῦ? ; and Numbers 9:12, “Nor break any bone of it.” John easily substitutes συντριβήσεται for συντρίψετε , συντρίψουσι , that their application might be more obvious to the Antitype, in regard to which the Evangelist makes most prominent the Divine causality. The view that the paschal lamb was typical of Christ is not found only in 1 Corinthians 5:7. In ch. John 1:29 of John’s Gospel, Christ is the Antitype of the paschal lamb: ch. John 6:4 also points to Christ as the true Paschal Lamb. Jesus declared Himself to be the Paschal Lamb, in that He withdrew before His enemies until He could die at the Passover; as well as by instituting the Supper in the place of the Jewish feast.
For a clear apprehension of the connection between this Mosaic ordinance and the fact we now consider, it is necessary that we should look at the design and significance of that ordinance. There can be no doubt that it was intended to obviate the profanation of the paschal lamb. No violence was to be offered to it: nothing which might tend to obliterate the distinction between the all-holy sacrifice of the Lord and a common sacrificial animal. In Micah 3:3, the greediness is described of those who, not content with eating the flesh, broke the bones asunder that they might find out everything eatable. Such greediness was to be excluded from the holy meal. Exodus 12:46 leads us to a similar reason of the ordinance: “Neither shall ye break a bone thereof” is there preceded by, “In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth aught of the flesh abroad out of the house.” Both fall under the same law: the lamb was to be treated with sacred respect, and not as a common sacrifice. So also in Numbers 9:12, “They shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break any bone of it.” The parallel clause leads to the same reason of the ordinance. If any part of the holy lamb remained over, it was not to be used as common food, nor given to other persons; it must be burnt. If we thus discern the reason of the Mosaic ordinance, the passage we now consider has some light shed on it. It was the same divine decorum which forbade all indignity to be offered to the typical paschal lamb, and hindered all indignity from being offered to the Antitype. To the distinction between the typical lamb and common sacrifices in relation to the breaking of the bones, corresponds the distinction between Christ and the two malefactors.
Ver. 37. “And again another scripture saith, They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”
The passage is Zechariah 12:10. For an exposition of its meaning and its connection with the fact before us, we refer to the Christology (vol. iii. Clark’s Trans.). John here contemplates only the piercing (ἐ?ξεκέντησαν , as here also in Revelation 1:7: see on that passage), not the penitent looking at the Pierced One, which referred to another time. The Evangelist had recorded three facts in the preceding verses, as suited to work faith. Only in regard to two does he, in vers. 36, 37, suggest how fitted they were to produce this effect, as realizing what, according to the Old Testament, was to befall the Christ. In regard to the third fact, the issuing of water and blood is without such an intimation. The reason of this absence cannot have been that the Apostle attached less importance to it. We saw in ver. 35, that it was upon this event that John laid the chief stress. The reason was rather, that the Evangelist regarded the import of this event as perfectly plain, so that he could leave the reader to discern it for himself; even as the Christian Church of all ages has detected it without difficulty. This reason for silence may be supported by many parallels: for example, the three Evangelists omit referring to Psalms 22 in their record of the distribution of the garments; and John, in ver. 18, does not quote Isaiah 53:12. Blood and water flowing from the side of the Redeemer dead upon the cross: what that signifies, no Christian heart can ever doubt. The blood is the blood of atonement, which is exhibited in Isaiah 53 as the centre of the work of redemption: comp. on ch. John 6:53. The water signifies, in the symbolism of the Old Testament, the forgiveness of sins, which is shown to have its ground in the blood of atonement, by its being placed after that blood. We have the interpretation in 1 John 1:7, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin,” where the cleansing pertains to the water. So also in 1 John 5:6: “This is He who came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood:” water without blood would have been forgiveness without satisfaction, according to the doctrine of those who regard the death of Christ as a mere event or concomitant. Revelation 1:5 is also parallel, “Who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His blood;” and John 7:14, “Who washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb:” the washing signifies the attainment of the forgiveness of sins, through the appropriation of the blood of Christ. These parallels are of all the greater importance, as they are John’s own: at the same time there is a reference to the two sacraments of the Christian Church. The water signifies baptism, which is connected with the forgiveness of sins, comp. on ch. John 3:5; the blood points to the holy communion, comp. on ch. John 6:53.
Ver. 38. “And after this, Joseph of Arimathea (being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.”—Ἄ?ρῃ? , with its allusion to ἀ?ρθῶ?σιν , ver. 31, can refer only to the taking the body from the cross, not to the removing of the body already taken down. The καθελών of Mark 15:46, Luke 23:53, points to the same conclusion. Pilate had given orders that the legs of the crucified should be broken, and they taken down and removed. The soldiers, acting on their own responsibility, had failed to break the legs of Jesus. The removal of the body, as having that condition connected with it, they durst not attempt themselves or permit to others, notwithstanding the piercing of His side, until Pilate gave permission. This permission Joseph sought, and Pilate conceded it, after having called the centurion, and made satisfactory inquiries as to the actual death of our Lord: comp. Mark 15:44-45. The article before the name of Joseph, the omission of which in some MSS. sprang from an inconsiderate comparison of the other Evangelists, points to the fact that Joseph was already known from the records of those predecessors of John, who introduce him formally, as one altogether unknown before: Matt. ver. 57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50. Matthew heads the list of his qualifications with his riches, ἄ?νθρωπος πλούσιος , with allusion to Isaiah 53:9, where the prophet represents the exaltation of Christ as beginning with His being buried with, a rich man, instead of being entombed, according to His enemies’ intention, with malefactors. Arimathea is now Ramlah, eight hours’ journey from Jerusalem (v. Raumer, S. 217). That Joseph was a native of Arimathea, but a resident of Jerusalem, illustrates his position as a member of the council, Mark 15:43, Luke 23:51, and the fact of his having a sepulchre in the city, Matt. ver. 60. But the circumstance, that the sepulchre had never been used before, indicates that his removal to Jerusalem had taken place only a short time before. Matthew alone tells us expressly, that the sepulchre in which Jesus was placed belonged to Joseph. The correspondence between “of Arimathea” and the new grave, serves to anticipate and confirm that statement. Probably the consideration that he had a new grave in the neighbourhood of the place of crucifixion, and his reflection upon the hand of Providence in this, was the impulse to his coming out from his previous concealment. He had hitherto been only in secret a disciple of Jesus. It is true that, according to Luke 23:51, he had not consented to the deed of the Jews; but he had known how to clothe his protest in such a form as to avoid being known as a disciple of Christ. Lampe: Non directe, atque eapropter invalide: indirectly, and therefore ineffectually.
Chap. John 19:38-42— The Burial of Jesus
It is peculiar to John’s account of this, that Joseph of Arimathea came forward publicly with his confession of Christ, which Mark in the τολμήσας , Mark 15:43, had only slightly intimated; and that Nicodemus co-operated with Joseph in the interment of Jesus. He further gives the particulars of the spices, the statement that the sepulchre was in the neighbourhood of the garden, and that this was the reason why they placed Him there. The rest is simply taken up from the earlier Evangelists, in order to add these additional traits. “Wonderful power of the death of Christ!” cries Quesuel, “which gives courage to avow Him in His deepest humiliation, to those who, when He was performing His wonderful works, came to Him only in secret.”
Ver. 39. “And there came also Nicodemus (which at the first came to Jesus by night), and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.”—“Who came to Jesus by night” (comp. on ch. John 7:50) corresponds with what had been said about Joseph in ver. 38. Lampe: “They had been fellows in the imbecility and fear of faith; now they are fellows in the fortitude of love.” The myrrh and aloes point to Psalms 45:9. There it is said of the apparel of the great King, in the day of the joy of His heart, in the day of His espousals to the Gentile world (comp. ch. John 12:32: “And I, if I am lifted up, will draw all men unto Me”), that all His garments “were of myrrh and aloes”—nothing but myrrh and aloes: they were so fragrant, that they might have been nothing else. The figure of the psalm becomes here incorporated in a symbol. In respect to the abundance of the material, comp. 2 Chronicles 16:14. There it is said, that Asa was laid “in the bed, which was filled with sweet odours, and divers kinds of spices.”
Ver. 40. “Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.”
The ὀ?θόνια , linen clothes, with which the whole body was enveloped, are to be distinguished from the κειρίαις in ch. John 11:44, these having been mere bands, which pertained only to the hands and feet, and which were there connected with the winding-sheet. Only in the case of our Lord are ὀ?θόνια mentioned: comp. Luke 24:12; John 20:6-7.
Ver. 41. “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.”
The place must naturally be taken with a wide meaning. The circumstance that the sepulchre had never been used before is made so emphatically prominent by the Evangelists (Matthew, “in his new sepulchre;” Luke 23:53, “wherein yet never man lay:” John takes “new” from Matthew, and “never man yet” from Luke), that it must have been regarded as an important fact. They discerned in it a Divine hand, so ordering it that the Prince of life was never laid in a place of corruption. Something analogous we may note in the “new cart,” with the “two milch kine on which there hath come no yoke,” whereon the ark of the covenant was to be brought back from the Philistines, 1 Samuel 6:7.
Ver. 42. “There laid they Jesus therefore, because of the Jews’ preparation-day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.”
The meaning is not that they intended afterwards to remove Him again, but that, under these circumstances, the nearness of the sepulchre decided in its favour; whereas otherwise there would have arisen a keen emulation among the disciples of Christ. The reason for choosing the nearest place, was simply the proximity of the Sabbath. How entirely different would it have been if the following day, beginning with the evening, is regarded as the first day of the Passover! Thus the interment of Jesus would have been almost simultaneous with the slaying of the paschal lamb.
In the Divine care of the body of Jesus, there has always been observed a type and pledge of God’s care of the Christian Church, when brought to the lowest point. The circumstances were all the more significant, as Isaiah in ch. 53 had made the honourable burial of the servant of God the beginning of His exaltation
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 19". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent