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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
John 19



Verse 1

1. τότε οὖν. Because the attempt to release Him in honour of the Feast had failed, Pilate tries whether the severe and degrading punishment of scourging will not satisfy the Jews. In Pilate’s hands the boasted justice of Roman Law ends in the policy “What evil did He do? I found no cause of death in Him: I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go” (Luke 23:22). Scourging was part of Roman capital punishment, and had we only the first two Gospels we might suppose that the scourging was inflicted immediately before the crucifixion: but this is not stated, and S. John, combined with S. Luke, makes it clear that scourging was inflicted as a separate punishment in the hope that it would suffice. The supposition of a second scourging as part of the execution is unnecessary and improbable. Pilate, sick of the bloody work and angry at being forced to commit a judicial murder, would not have allowed it; and it may be doubted whether any human frame could survive a Roman scourging twice in one day. One infliction was sometimes fatal; ille flagellis ad mortem caesus, Hor. S. I. ii. 41. Comp. ‘horribile flagellum,’ S. I. iii. 119.

Verses 1-3

1–3. Inside the Praetorium; the scourging and mockery by the soldiers.

Verses 1-16


As already stated, S. John omits both the examination before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin at an irregular time and place, at midnight and at ‘the Booths’ (Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65), and also the formal meeting of the Sanhedrin after daybreak in the proper place (Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71), at which Jesus was sentenced to death. He proceeds to narrate what the Synoptists omit, the conference between Pilate and the Jews (John 18:28-32) and two private examinations of Jesus by Pilate (John 18:33-38 and John 19:8-11). Here also we seem to have the evidence of an eyewitness. We know that S. John followed his Lord into the high-priest’s palace (John 18:15), and stood by the Cross (John 19:26); it is therefore probable enough that he followed into the Procurator’s court.

Verse 2

2. οἱ στρατιῶται. Herod and his troops (Luke 23:11) had set an example which the Roman soldiers were ready enough to follow. Pilate countenances the brutality as aiding his own plan of satisfying Jewish hatred with something less than death. The soldiers had inflicted the scourging; for Pilate, being only Procurator, would have no lictors. They crown Him in mockery of royalty rather than of victory, as what follows shews. The plant used was probably the thorny nâbk, lycium spinosum, with flexible branches and leaves like ivy, abundant round about Jerusalem.

ἱμ. πορφυροῦν. S. Mark has πορφύραν, S. Matthew χλαμύδα κοκκίνην. Purple with the ancients was a vague term for rich bright colour, crimson as well as violet. The robe was a military chlamys or paludamentum, representing a royal robe. That in which Herod mocked Jesus was probably white: 1 Maccabees 8:14; 1 Maccabees 10:20; 1 Maccabees 10:62. The soldiers act in derision of the detested Jews generally, who could probably see all this from the outside, rather than of Jesus in particular. The whole is a caricature of Jewish expectations of a national king.

ἤρχοντο πρ. αὐ. This graphic touch is omitted by the Synoptists and by some authorities here. We see each soldier coming up (imperfect) to offer his mock homage. As in John 18:22, ῥάπισμα is probably a blow with the hand rather than with a rod. Comp. Isaiah 50:6, I gave my back, εἰς μάστιγας, and my cheek, εἰς ῥαπίσματα. The Old Latin adds in faciem. The blow is the mock gift brought by the person doing homage.

Verse 3

3. Insert καὶ ἤρχοντο πρὸς αὐτόν before καὶ ἔλεγον with אBLUXΛ against A (homoeoteleuton; omission from αὐτόν to αὐτόν).

Verse 4

4. ἄγω. On the previous occasion (John 18:38) Pilate left Jesus within, while he pronounced Him innocent. Note the absence of ἐγώ and the change of order.

Verses 4-7

4–7. Outside the Praetorium; Pilate’s appeal, ‘Behold the Man;’ the Jews’ rejoinder, ‘He made Himself Son of God.’

Verse 5

5. φορῶν. Not φέρων; wearing, not merely ‘bearing.’ The crown and the robe are now His permanent dress. The Evangelist repeats the details (John 19:2) as of a picture deeply imprinted in his memory: whether or no he entered the Praetorium, he no doubt witnessed the Ecce Homo.

ἰδοὺ ὁ ἄνθρωπος. In pity rather than contempt. Pilate appeals to their humanity: surely the most bitter among them will now be satisfied, or at least the more compassionate will control the rest. No one can think that this Man is dangerous, or needs further punishment. When this appeal fails, Pilate’s pity turns to bitterness (John 19:14).

Verse 6

6. οἱ ἀρχ. κ. οἱ ὑπ. Repeat the article as in John 11:47. The leaders take the initiative, to prevent any expression of compassion on the part of the crowd. The sight of ‘the Man’ maddens rather than softens them. For κραυγάζω see on John 18:40.

σταύρ. σταύρ. Crucify, crucify. The imperative without an accusative better expresses the cry which was to give the cue to the multitude. According to all four Gospels the demand for crucifixion was not made until after the offer to release Jesus for the Feast.

λαβ. αὐ. ὑμεῖς. Take Him yourselves, as in John 18:31. We may admit that it ought to have been beneath the dignity of a Roman judge to taunt the people with a suggestion which they dared not follow; but there is nothing so improbable in it as to compel us to believe that the Jews had the power of inflicting capital punishment (see on John 18:31). Pilate is goaded into an exhibition of feeling unworthy of his office. The ἐγώ again (John 18:38) contrasts his verdict with that of the Jews.

Verse 7

7. νόμον. They refer to Leviticus 24:16. The Jews answer Pilate’s taunt by a plea hitherto kept in the background. He may think lightly of the seditious conduct of Jesus, but as a Procurator he is bound by Roman precedent to pay respect to the law of subject nationalities. He has challenged them to take the law into their own hands; let him hear what their law is. Pilate had said ‘Behold the Man!’ The Jews retort, ‘He made Himself Son of God.’ They answer his appeal to their compassion by an appeal to his fears. See on John 8:53.

Verse 8

8. τ. τ. λόγον. This word: it is no mere ‘saying’ (ῥῆμα); like the word of Caiaphas, it has more meaning than the speakers know. It intensifies Pilate’s disquietude. The message from his wife and the awe which Christ’s presence was probably inspiring had already in some degree affected him. This mysterious claim still further excites his fears. Was it the offspring of a divinity that he had so infamously handled? Comp. Matthew 27:54.

Verses 8-11

8–11. Inside the Praetorium; Christ’s origin is asked and not told; the origin of authority is told unasked.

Verse 9

9. πραιτώριον. See on John 18:28. Πόθεν εἶ σύ. is a vague question which might apply to Christ’s dwelling-place, already known to Pilate (Luke 23:6); he hoped for an answer as to His origin. Would the Prisoner repeat this mysterious claim, or explain it? But Pilate could not have understood the answer; and what had it to do with the merits of the case? No answer is given. Comp. Matthew 27:12-14 and Christ’s own precept, Matthew 7:6.

Verse 10

10. Baffled and still in doubt as to the relations between himself and his Prisoner he takes refuge in a domineering tone of assumed confidence. To me speakest Thou not? Whatever He might do before His countrymen, it was folly to refuse to answer the Roman governor. For ἐξουσίαν, authority, see on John 1:12 and comp. John 5:27, John 10:18, John 17:2 : note the emphatic repetition.

Verse 11

11. οὐκ εἶχες. Comp. John 15:20. This is Christ’s last word to Pilate; a declaration of the supremacy of God, and a protest against the claim of any human potentate to be irresponsible. The Accused has become the judge’s Judge. Even Pilate could understand ἄνωθεν: had Jesus said παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου, he would have remained uninstructed. The point is not, that Pilate is an instrument ordained for the carrying out of God’s purposes (Acts 2:23); he was such, but that is not the meaning here. Rather, that the possession and exercise of all authority is the gift of God; John 3:27; Romans 13:1-7 (see notes there). To interpret ‘from above’ of the higher tribunal of the Sanhedrin is quite inadequate. Comp. John 3:3; John 3:7; John 3:31; James 1:17; James 3:15; James 3:17, where the same adverb is used: see notes in each place. It is for this cause (see on John 1:31), because Pilate’s authority over Jesus is the result of a Divine commission, whereas that of His enemies was usurped, that their sin is greater than His. Moreover, they might have known Who He was.

ὁ παραδούς. The addition of σοι (contrast John 13:11, John 18:2; John 18:5) shews that Caiaphas, the representative of the Sanhedrin and of the nation, and not Judas, is meant: comp. John 18:35. Judas had delivered Jesus to the Sanhedrin, not to Pilate. For ἔχειν ἁμαρτίαν see on John 15:22.

Verse 12

12. ἐκ τούτου. Upon this; see on John 6:66. The imperfect expresses continued efforts. Indirect means, as the release in honour of the Feast, the appeal to compassion, and taunts, have failed; Pilate now makes more direct efforts. We are not told what they were; but the Evangelist shews by the unwillingness of Pilate how great was the guilt of ‘the Jews.’

ἐὰν τ. ἀπολύσῃς. If thou release this man: ἀπολῦσαι and ἀπολύσῃς must be translated alike. The Jews once more shift their tactics and from the ecclesiastical charge (John 19:7) go back to the political, which they now back up by an appeal to Pilate’s own political interests. They know their man: it is not a love of justice, but personal feeling which moves him to seek to release Jesus; and they will overcome one personal feeling by another still stronger. Pilate’s unexplained interest in Jesus and supercilious contempt for His accusers must give way before a fear for his own position and possibly even his life. Whether or no there was any such honorary title as Amicus Caesaris, like our ‘Queen’s Counsel,’ it is unlikely that the Jews allude to it here: they simply mean ‘loyal to Caesar.’ For ἑαυτὸν ποιῶν see on John 8:53.

ἀντιλέγει τ. Κ. Setteth himself against Caesar; ipso facto declares himself a rebel: thus the rebellion of Korah is called ἀντιλογία (Judges 1:11). For a Roman governor to protect such a person would be high treason (majestas). The Jews scarcely knew how powerful their weapon was. Pilate’s patron Sejanus (executed A.D. 31) was losing his hold over Tiberius, even if he had not already fallen. Pilate had already thrice nearly driven the Jews to revolt, and his character therefore would not stand high with an Emperor who justly prided himself on the good government of the provinces. Above all, the terrible Lex Majestatis was by this time worked in such a way that prosecution under it was almost certain death. Atrocissime exercebat leges majestatis (Suetonius).

Verses 12-16

12–16. Outside the Praetorium. The power from above controlled from below pronounces public sentence of death on the Innocent.

Verse 13

13. Pilate’s mind seems to have been made up at once: without replying he prepares to pass sentence. The fatal moment has come, and as in the case of the arrest (John 18:1-4) the Evangelist gives minute particulars.

ἤγαγεν ἔξω. Sentence must be pronounced in public. Thus we find that Pilate, in giving judgment about the standards, which had been brought into Jerusalem, has his tribunal in the great circus at Caesarea, and Florus erects his in front of the palace (Josephus, B. J. II. John 9:3, John 14:8).

ἐκάθισεν may be either transitive, as in 1 Corinthians 6:4; Ephesians 1:20, or intransitive, as in Matthew 19:28; Matthew 25:31. If it is transitive here, the meaning will be, ‘placed him on a seat,’ as an illustration of his mocking exclamation, ‘Behold your King!’—i.e. ‘There He sits enthroned!’ But [John 8:2; ] John 12:14; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 20:4, the only places where S. John uses the word, and Acts 12:21; Acts 25:6; Acts 25:17, where we have the same phrase as here, are against the transitive meaning in this place. The absence of the article before βήματος perhaps indicates that the Bema was a temporary and not the usual one; everywhere else in N.T. βῆμα has the article. With the pregnant use of εἰς comp. John 20:19, (John 21:4).

Λιθόστρωτον. Josephus (Ant. v. John 19:2) says that the Temple-Mount, on part of which the fortress of Antonia stood, was covered with a tesselated pavement. This fact and the Aramaic name tend to shew that the portable mosaic which Imperators sometimes carried about for their tribunals is not meant here. But Gab Baitha is no equivalent of Λιθόστρωτον, though it indicates the same place: it means ‘the ridge of the House,’ i.e. the Temple-Mound. For ‘Εβραϊστί see on John 5:2.

Verse 14

14. ἦν δὲ π. τ. π., ὥρα ἦν ὡς ἕκτη. In two abrupt sentences S. John calls special attention to the day and hour; now it was the eve of the Passover: it was about the sixth hour. It is difficult to believe that he can be utterly mistaken about both. The question of the day is discussed in Appendix A the question as to the hour remains.

We have seen already (John 1:39, John 4:6; John 4:52, John 11:9), that whatever view we may take of the balance of probability in each case, there is nothing thus far which is conclusively in favour of the antecedently improbable view, that S. John reckons the hours of the day as we do, from midnight to noon and noon to midnight.

The modern method is sometimes spoken of as the Roman method. This is misleading, as it seems to imply that the Romans counted their hours as we do. If this were so, it would not surprise us so much to find that S. John, living away from Palestine and in the capital of a Roman province, had adopted the Roman reckoning. But the Romans and Greeks, as well as the Jews, counted their hours from sunrise. Martial, who goes through the day hour by hour (John 4:8), places the Roman method beyond a doubt. The difference between the Romans and the Jews was not as to the mode of counting the hours, but as to the limits of each individual day. The Jews placed the boundary at sunset, the Romans (as we do) at midnight. (Pliny, Nat. Hist. II. 77.) The ‘this day’ of Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19) proves nothing; it would fit either the Roman or the Jewish method; and some suppose her to have been a proselyte. In this particular S. John does seem to have adopted the Roman method; for (John 20:19) he speaks of the evening of Easter Day as ‘the same day at evening’ (comp. Luke 24:29; Luke 24:33). This must be admitted as against the explanation that ‘yesterday’ in John 4:54 was spoken before midnight and refers to the time before sunset: but the servants may have met their master after midnight.

Yet there is some evidence of a custom of reckoning from midnight in Asia Minor. Polycarp was martyred ‘at the eighth hour’ (Mart. Pol. 21.), Pionius at ‘the tenth hour’ (Acta Mart. p. 137); both at Smyrna. Such exhibitions commonly took place in the morning (Philo ii. 529); so that 8.0 and 10.0 A.M. are more probable than 2.0 and 4.0 P.M.

McClellan adds another argument. “The phraseology of our present passage is unique in the Gospels. The hour is mentioned in conjunction with the day. To cite the words of St Augustine, but with the correct rendering of Paraskeuê, ‘S. John does not say, It was about the sixth hour of the day, nor merely, It was about the sixth hour, but It was the FRIDAY of the Passover; it was about the SIXTH hour.’ Hence in the straightforward sense of the words, the sixth hour that he means is the sixth hour of the Friday; and so it is rendered in the Thebaic Version. But Friday in S. John is the name of the whole Roman civil day, and the Roman civil days are reckoned from midnight.” New Test. I. p. 742.

This solution may therefore be adopted, not as certain, but as less unsatisfactory than the conjecture of a false reading either here or in Mark 15:25, or the various forced interpretations which have been given of S. John’s words. The reading τρίτη in some MSS. here is evidently a harmonizing correction. If, however, the mode of reckoning in both Gospels be the same, the preference in point of accuracy must be given to the Evangelist who stood by the cross.

ἴδε ὁ βας. ὑμῶν. Like the title on the cross, these words are spoken in bitter irony. This Man in His mock insignia is a fit sovereign for the miserable Jews. Perhaps Pilate would also taunt them with their own glorification of Him on Palm Sunday. To the Christian the words are another unconscious prophecy.

Verse 15

15. ἐκεῖνοι. The pronoun indicates their opposition. The four aorists are all appropriate: ἐκραύγασαν, they shouted out once for all; while the three aorists imperative shew their impatience to have their will. Σταυρώσω is either Shall I or Must I. Note the emphatic position of τ. βασ. ὑμῶν: ‘Must I crucify your King?’ Pilate begins (John 18:33) and ends with the same idea, the one dangerous item in the indictment, the claim of Jesus to be King of the Jews. This explains the length at which S. John describes the scenes with Pilate: see introductory note on John 18:12-27.

οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς. This depth of degradation is reserved for them. “The official organs of the theocracy themselves proclaim that they have abandoned the faith by which the nation had lived.” Sooner than acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah they proclaim that a heathen Emperor is their King. And their baseness is at once followed by Pilate’s: sooner than meet a dangerous charge he condemns the Innocent to death. To rid themselves of Jesus they commit political suicide; to free himself from danger he commits a judicial murder.

Verse 16

16. τότε οὗν π. In none of the Gospels does it appear that Pilate pronounced sentence on Jesus; he perhaps purposely avoided doing so. But in delivering Him over to the priests he does not allow them to act for themselves: ‘he delivered Him to them that He might be crucified’ by Roman soldiers; not that they might crucify Him themselves.

Verse 17

17. παρέλαβον οὖν. They took Jesus therefore, or they received, as in John 1:11, John 14:3. The verb means ‘to accept what is offered, receive from the hands of another.’ A comparison of the three texts is instructive. The eternal Son is given by the Father, comes to His own inheritance, and His own people received Him not (John 1:11). The Incarnate Son is given up by Pilate to His own people, and they received Him to crucify Him (John 19:16). The glorified Son comes again to His own people, to receive them unto Himself (John 14:3).

βαστ. αὐτῷ τ. στ. ἐξῆλθεν. Bearing the cross for Himself went forth. S. John omits the help which Simon the Cyrenian was soon compelled to render, as also (what seems to be implied by Mark 15:22) that at last they were obliged to carry Jesus Himself. Comp. the Lesson for Good Friday morning, Genesis 22, especially John 19:6. “The place of public execution appears to have been situated north of the city. It was outside the gate (Hebrews 13:12) and yet ‘nigh unto the city’ (John 19:20). In the Mishna it is placed outside the city by a reference to Leviticus 24:14. It is said to have been ‘two men high’ (Sanh. vi. 1). The Jews still point out the site at the cliff, north of the Damascus gate, where is a cave now called ‘Jeremiah’s Grotto.’ This site has therefore some claim to be considered as that of the Crucifixion. It was within 200 yards of the wall of Agrippa, but was certainly outside the ancient city. It was also close to the gardens and the tombs of the old city, which stretch northwards from the cliff; and it was close to the main north road, in a conspicuous position, such as might naturally be selected for a place of public execution.” Conder, Handbook to the Bible, pp. 356, 7. Κρανίου τόπον refers to the shape of the ground. To leave skulls unburied would violate Jewish law; and this would require κρανίων τόπον. For Ἑβραϊστί see on John 5:2.

Verses 17-22


Verses 17-42


For what is peculiar to S. John’s narrative in this section see the introductory note to chap. 18. Besides this, the title on the cross, the Jews’ criticism of it, and the conduct of the four soldiers, are given with more exactness by S. John than by the Synoptists.

The section falls into four double parts, all four of which contain a marked dramatic contrast, such as S. John loves to point out (see on John 19:18; John 19:30):—

[1] The Crucifixion and the title on the cross (17–22).

[2] The four enemies and the four friends (23–27).

[3] The two words, ‘I thirst,’ ‘It is finished’ (28–30).

[4] The hostile and the friendly petitions (31–42).

Verse 18

18. μέσον δὲ τ. . Dramatic contrast; the Christ between two criminals. It is the place of honour mockingly given to Him as King. The two were robbers or bandits, as S. Matthew and S. Mark call them, probably guilty of the same crimes as Barabbas. In the Acta Pilati they are named Dysmas and Gestas. Jesus suffers with them under a similar charge of sedition. Whether this was mere convenience, or a device of the Romans to insult the Jews, is uncertain. The latter is probable. Omnium par poena, sed dispar causa (S. Augustine). The whole of humanity was represented there: the sinless Saviour, the saved penitent, the condemned impenitent.

Verse 19

19. καὶ τίτλον. A title also: the meaning of the καί is not clear; perhaps it looks back to John 19:16, or to μέσον τ. Ἰησοῦν, as being Pilate’s doing: he placed Jesus between two criminals, and also insulted the Jews by a mocking inscription. Τίτλος is titulus Graecized. It was common to put on the cross the name and crime of the person executed, after making him carry the inscription round his neck to the place of execution. S. Matthew (Matthew 27:37) has τ. αἰτίαν αὐτοῦ, S. Mark (Mark 15:26) ἡ ἐπιγραφὴ τ. αἰτίας αὐτοῦ, S. Luke (Luke 23:38) ἐπιγραφή. For ἦν γεγραμ., there was written, see on John 2:17. The title is given differently in all four Gospels, and possibly varied in the three languages. Its object was to insult the Jews, not Jesus: all variations contain the offensive words “The King of the Jews.”

Verse 20

20. ἐγγύς. S. John’s exact topographical knowledge appears again here. Pictures of the Crucifixion mislead in placing the city a mile or two off in the background. Τῆς πόλεως with ἐγγύς (John 11:18), not after ὁ τόπος: ‘the place of the city was near’ is scarcely sense.

Ἑβρ., Ῥωμ., Ἑλλ. This is the order in the better authorities. The national and official languages would naturally be placed before Greek,—and for different reasons either Hebrew or Latin might be placed first. In Luke 23:38 the order is Greek, Latin, Hebrew; but the clause is of very doubtful authority. In any case the three representative languages of the world at that time, the languages of religion, of empire, and of intellect, were employed. Thus did they ‘tell it out among the heathen that the Lord is king,’ or (according to a remarkable reading of the LXX. in Psalms 96:10) ‘that the Lord reigned from the tree.’

Verse 21

21. οἱ ἀρχ. τ. Ἰουδ. Now that they have wrung what they wanted out of Pilate they see that in granting it he has insulted them publicly before the thousands present at the Passover, and in a way not easy to resent. The addition ‘of the Jews’ is remarkable, and it occurs nowhere else in N.T. It probably refers to the title: these ‘chief priests of the Jews’ objected to His being called ‘the King of the Jews.’

Verse 22

22. Pilate’s answer illustrates the mixture of obstinacy and relentlessness, which Philo says was characteristic of him. His own interests are not at stake, so he will have his way: where he had anything to fear or to gain he could be supple enough. A shrewd, practical man of the world, with all a Roman official’s contemptuous impartiality and severity, and all the disbelief in truth and disinterestedness which the age had taught him, he seems to have been one of the many with whom self-interest is stronger than their convictions, and who can walk uprightly when to do so is easy, but fail in the presence of serious difficulty and danger.

Verse 23

23. τὰ ἱμάτια. The upper garment, girdle, sandals, &c. The ἱμάτιον was large enough to be worth dividing. By the law De bonis damnatorum the clothes of executed criminals were the perquisite of the soldiers on duty. The τέσσερα shews accurate knowledge: a quaternion has charge of the prisoner, as in Acts 12:4; but there the prisoner has to be kept a long time, so four quaternions mount guard in turn, one for each watch. Here there was probably a quaternion to each cross. The danger of a popular outbreak (John 18:3) is at an end, and a small force suffices.

ἄραφος. Josephus (Ant. III. John 7:4) tells us that the high-priest’s tunic was seamless, whereas in other cases this garment was commonly made of two pieces. Possibly S. John regards it as a symbol of Christ’s Priesthood. The χιτών was a shirt, reaching from the neck to the knees or ancles. “It is noted by one of the Fathers, that Christ’s coat indeed had no seam, but the Church’s vesture was ‘of divers colours;’ whereupon he saith, In veste varietas sit, scissura non sit: they be two things, unity and uniformity” (Bacon, Essay III.).

Verses 23-27


Verse 24

24. λάχωμεν. This use of λαγχάνω is rare, if not unique. Its proper meaning is ‘to obtain by lot’ (Luke 1:9; Acts 1:17; 1 Peter 1:1).

ἵνα ἡ γραφή. see on John 2:22 and John 12:38. It was in order that the Divine purpose, already declared by the Psalmist, might be accomplished, that this twofold assignment of Christ’s garments took place. S. John quotes the LXX. verbatim, although there the difference, which both he and the original Hebrew mark between the upper and under garment, is obliterated. It is from this passage that the reference to Psalms 22:18 has been inserted in Matthew 27:35; none of the Synoptists refer to the Psalm. By οἱ μὲν οὗν στρ. τ. ἐπ. S. John emphasizes the fact that this prophecy was most literally fulfilled by men who were utterly ignorant of it.

Verse 25

25. εἱστηκ. δέ. But there were standing. The δέ answers to the previous μέν, and these two particles mark the contrast between the two groups. On the one hand, the four plundering soldiers with the centurion; on the other, the four ministering women with the beloved disciple. It is not improbable that the women had provided (Matthew 27:55; Luke 8:2-3) the very clothing which the soldiers had taken away.

ἡ ἀδ. τ. μ. αὐ., ΄. . τ. Κ. We are left in doubt whether we here have two women or one, whether altogether there are four women or three. The former is much the more probable alternative. [1] It avoids the very improbable supposition of two sisters having the same name. [2] S. John is fond of parallel expressions; ‘His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene’ are two pairs set one against the other. [3] S. Mark (Mark 15:40) mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less, and Salome. Mary Magdalene is common to both narratives, ‘Mary the mother of James the Less’ is the same as ‘Mary of Clopas:’ the natural inference is that Salome is the same as ‘His mother’s sister.’ If this is correct, [4] S. John’s silence about the name of ‘His mother’s sister’ is explained: she was his own mother, and he is habitually reserved about all closely connected with himself. We have seen already that he never mentions either his own name, or his brother’s, or the Virgin’s. [5] The very ancient Peshito or Syriac Version adopts this view by inserting ‘and’ before ‘Mary the (wife) of Clopas.’ Ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ may mean the daughter, mother, or even sister of Clopas; but the wife is more probable: comp. ἐκ τῆς τοῦ Οὐρίου (Matthew 1:6); τὴν Σμικυθίωνος (Arist. Eccles. 46); Verania Pisonis (Plin. Ep. II. 20). There is no reason for identifying Clopas here with Cleopas in Luke 24:18 : Clopas is Aramaic, Cleopas is Greek. The spelling Cleophas is a mistake derived from Latin MSS. All Greek authorities have Cleopas. If ‘wife’ is rightly inserted, and she is the mother of James the Less, Clopas is the same as Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3; comp. Matthew 27:56). It is said that Clopas and Alphaeus may be different forms of the same Aramaic name. For ΄αρία ἡ ΄αγδ. see on John 6:67; Matthew 27:56; Luke 8:2.

Verse 26

26. ὃν ἠγάπα. See on John 13:23 : it is no mere periphrasis to avoid naming him, still less a boastful insertion. It explains why Jesus committed him to His Mother and His Mother to him.

γύναι, ἴδε ὁ υἱὸς σου. See on John 2:4. The act is one of filial care for the soul-pierced Mother (Luke 2:35), who perhaps was thus spared the agony of seeing her Son die. If S. John took her home at once, this accounts for his omitting the third and fourth Words (Appendix C), which would be uttered during his absence. He who had just asked God’s forgiveness for His murderers and promised Paradise to His fellow-sufferer, now gives another son to His Mother, another mother to His friend. If S. John was the Virgin’s nephew, and if Christ’s ‘brethren’ were the sons of Joseph by a former marriage, the fact that Christ committed His Mother to her nephew and His own beloved disciple rather than to her step-sons requires no explanation. Even if His ‘brethren’ were the sons of Joseph and Mary, their not believing on Him (John 7:5) would account for their being set aside; and we have no evidence that they believed till after the Resurrection (Acts 1:14).

εἰς τὰ ἴδια. see on John 1:11 and John 16:32. Although the commendation was double, each being given to the other, yet (as was natural) S. John assumes the care of Mary rather than she of him. This shews the untenability of the view that not only S. John, but in him all the Apostles, were committed by Christ to the guardianship of Mary. That S. John was known to the high-priest (John 18:15) and that his family had hired servants (Mark 1:20) would seem to imply that he was a man of some position and substance.

Verse 26-27

26, 27. ἴδε (S. John’s usual form) for ἰδού, with אB and others against A.

Verse 28

28. μετὰ τοῦτο εἰδώς. See on John 19:38, John 3:22, John 13:1. The identity between τετέλεσται here and in John 19:30 must be preserved in translation; are now finished. The construction that follows is amphibolous. In order to avoid the apparent contradiction between all things being already finished and something still remaining to be accomplished, many critics make ἵνα τελειωθῇ depend upon τετέλεσται. But this is awkward. It is better to connect ἵνα τελ. with λέγει, especially as Psalms 69 speaks so plainly of the thirst. The seeming contradiction disappears when we consider that the thirst had been felt before it was expressed. All things were finished, including the thirst; but Jesus alone knew this. In order that the Scripture might be accomplished and made perfect, it was necessary that He should make known His thirst. “He could have borne His drought: He could not bear the Scripture not fulfilled” (Bishop Hall). Τελειόω in this sense is remarkable and very unusual.

Verses 28-30


Verse 29

29. S. John’s exact knowledge appears again. The Synoptists do not mention the σκεῦος, but he had stood beside it. The ὄξος was either the posca or sour wine for the soldiers during their long watch, or something prepared for the sufferers. The sponge and the stalk of hyssop being ready at hand is in favour of the latter. Criminals sometimes lived a day or two on the cross. Vinegar is degenerate wine, and may symbolize the fallen nature of those who offered it. Hyssop cannot be identified with certainty. The caper-plant, which is as likely as any, has stalks which run to two or three feet, and this would suffice. It is not probable that Christ’s feet were on a level with the spectators’ heads, as pictures represent: this would have involved needless trouble and expense. Moreover the mockery of the soldiers recorded by S. Luke (see on Luke 23:36) is more intelligible if we suppose that they could almost put a vessel to His lips. S. John alone mentions the hyssop; another mark of exact knowledge. Did he see in it a coincidence with Exodus 12:22?

περιθέντες προσήνεγκαν. Very graphic; περιθ. expresses the placing of the sponge round the stalk (Matthew 21:33; Matthew 27:28; Matthew 27:48), προσήν. the offering (John 16:2) and applying (Mark 10:13) to His lips. The actors and their motive are left doubtful. Probably they were soldiers and acted in compassion rather than in mockery; or in compassion under cover of mockery (Mark 15:36; Psalms 69:22).

Verse 30

30. ἔλαβεν. He had refused the stupefying draught (Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23), which would have clouded His faculties: He accepts what will revive them for the effort of a willing surrender of His life.

τετέλεσται. Just as the thirst was there before he expressed it, so the consciousness that His work was finished was there (John 19:28) before He declared it. The Messiah’s work of redemption was accomplished; His Father’s commandment had been obeyed; types and prophecies had been fulfilled; His life had been lived, and His teaching completed; His last earthly tie had been severed (John 19:26-27); and the end had come. The final ‘wages of sin’ alone remained to be paid.

κλίνας τ. κεφαλήν. Another detail peculiar to the Evangelist who witnessed it

παρέδωκεν τ. πν. The two Apostles mark with special clearness that the Messiah’s death was entirely voluntary. S. Matthew says, ‘He let go His spirit, (ἀφῆκεν); S. John, ‘He gave up His spirit.’ None of the four says ‘He died.’ The other two have ἐξέπνευσεν; and S. Luke shews clearly that the surrender of life was a willing one by giving the words of surrender, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.’—‘No one taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.’ It was the one thing which Christ claimed to do ‘of Himself’ (John 10:18). Contrast John 5:30, John 7:28, John 8:28; John 8:42. Thus the spirit which He surrendered, and the water and the blood (John 19:34), bear witness to his Messiahship.

For ‘the seven words from the cross’ see Appendix C and notes on Luke 23:34; Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:48. Between the two words recorded in these verses (28–30) there is again a marked contrast. ‘I thirst’ is an expression of suffering; the only one during the Passion. ‘It is finished’ is a cry of triumph; and the ‘therefore’ in John 19:30 shews how the expression of suffering led on to the cry of triumph. S. John omits the ‘loud voice’ which all the Synoptists give as immediately preceding Christ’s death. It proved that His end was voluntary and not the necessary result of exhaustion. Quis ita dormit quando voluerit, sicut Jesus mortuus est quando voluit? Quis ita vestem ponit quando voluerit, sicut se carne exuit quando voluit? Quis ita cum voluerit abit, quomodo cum voluit obiit? (S. Augustine).

Verse 31

31. As in John 18:28, the Jews shew themselves to be among those ‘who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.’ In the midst of deliberate judicial murder they are scrupulous about ceremonial observances. The οὖν, as in John 19:23, probably does not refer to what immediately precedes: it looks back to John 19:20-21. The Jews still continue their relentless hostility. They do not know whether any one of the three sufferers is dead or not; their request shews that; so that ‘therefore’ cannot mean in consequence of Jesus’ death. In order to save the Sabbath, and perhaps also to inflict still further suffering, they ask Pilate for this terrible addition to the punishment of crucifixion. Certainly the lesson ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice,’ of which Christ had twice reminded them, and once in connexion with the Sabbath (Matthew 12:7; Matthew 9:13), had taken no hold on them.

παρασκευή. The eve of the Sabbath; and the Sabbath on this occasion coincided with the 15th Nisan, the first day of the Passover. This first day ranked as a Sabbath (Exodus 12:16 : Leviticus 23:7); so that the day was doubly holy. Comp. John 7:37.

κατεαγῶσιν. The σκελοκοπία or crurifragium, like crucifixion, was a punishment commonly reserved for slaves. The two were sometimes combined, as here. Lactantius (IV. xxvi.) says, ‘His executioners did not think it necessary to break His bones, as was their prevailing custom;’ which seems to imply that to Jewish crucifixions this horror was commonly added, perhaps to hasten death. For even without a Sabbath to make matters more urgent, corpses ought to be removed before nightfall (Deuteronomy 21:23); whereas the Roman custom was to leave them to putrefy on the cross, like our obsolete custom of hanging in chains. The plural verb (contrast μείνῃ just before) emphasizes the separate acts: comp. ἅ ἐπερίσσευσαν (John 6:13). Winer, p. 645.

Verses 31-42


Verse 34

34. ἔνυξεν. Pricked or stabbed, a milder word than ἐξεκέντησαν (John 19:37). All ancient Versions mark the difference between the two verbs. The Vulgate (aperuit) and Philox. Syriac indicate a reading ἤνοιξεν. The object of the νύττειν was to make sure that He was dead. The word occurs here only in N.T.

αἶμα κ. ὕδωρ. There has been very much discussion as to the physical cause of Christ’s death; and those who investigate this try to frame an hypothesis which will at the same time account for the effusion of blood and water. Two or three such hypotheses have been put forward. But it may be doubted whether they are not altogether out of place. It has been seen (John 19:30) how the Evangelists insist on the fact that the Lord’s death was a voluntary surrender of life, not a result forced upon Him. Of course it may be that the voluntariness consisted in welcoming causes which must prove fatal. But it is more simple to believe that He delivered up His life before natural causes became fatal. ‘No one,’ neither Jew nor Roman, ‘took it from Him’ by any means whatever: He lays it down ‘of Himself’ (John 10:18). And if we decline to investigate the physical cause of the Lord’s death, we need not ask for a physical explanation of what is recorded here. S. John assures us that he saw it with his own eyes, and he records it that we may believe: i.e. he regards it as a ‘sign’ that the corpse was no ordinary one, but a Body that even in death was Divine.

We can scarcely be wrong in supposing that the blood and water are symbolical. The order confirms this. Blood symbolizes the work of redemption which had just been completed by His death; and water symbolizes the ‘birth from above,’ with its cleansing from sin, which was the result of His death, and is the means by which we appropriate it. Thus the great Sacraments are represented. Some Fathers see in the double effusion the two baptisms, of blood (in martyrdom) and of water. Others see the Church, the Spouse of Christ, issuing in the Sacraments from the side of the sleeping Second Adam, as Eve from the side of the first Adam.

Verse 35

35. ὁ ἑωρακὼς κ.τ.λ He that hath seen hath borne witness and his witness is true (comp. John 1:19; John 1:32; John 1:34, John 8:13-14, John 12:17). The use of the perfect participle rather than the aorist is evidence that the writer himself is the person who saw. If he were appealing to the witness of another person he would almost certainly have written, as the A. V., ‘he that saw.’ The inference that the author is the person who saw becomes still more clear if we omit the centre of the verse, which is somewhat parenthetical: ‘He that hath seen hath borne witness, in order that ye also may believe.’ The natural sense of this statement is that the narrator is appealing to his own experience. Thus the Apostolic authorship of the Gospel is again confirmed. (See Westcott, Introduction, p. xxvii.) Ἀληθινή means not simply truthful, but genuine, perfect: it fulfils the conditions of sufficient evidence. (See on John 1:9 and comp. John 8:16, John 7:28.) On the other hand ἀληθῆ means things that are true. There is no tautology, as in the A. V. S. John first says that his evidence is adequate; he then adds that the contents of it are true. Testimony may be sufficient (e.g. of a competent eyewitness) but false: or it may be insufficient (e.g. of half-witted child) but true. S. John declares that his testimony is both sufficient and true.

ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς π. That ye also may believe; as well as the witness who saw for himself.

Why does S. John attest thus earnestly the trustworthiness of his narrative at this particular point? Four reasons may be assigned. This incident tended to shew [1] the reality of Christ’s humanity against Docetic views; and these verses therefore are evidence against the theory that the Fourth Gospel is the work of a Docetic Gnostic (see on John 1:14, John 6:21, John 7:10): [2] the reality of Christ’s Divinity, against Ebionite views; while His human form was no mere phantom, but flesh and blood, yet He was not therefore a mere man, but the Son of God: [3] the reality of Christ’s death, and therefore of His Resurrection, against Jewish insinuations of trickery (comp. Matthew 28:13-15); [4] the clear and unexpected fulfilment of two Messianic prophecies.

Verse 36

36. ἐγένετο. Came to pass. Note that S. John uses the aorist, where S. Matthew, writing nearer to the events, uses γέγονεν. ‘Hath come to pass’ implies that the event is not very remote; Matthew 1:22; Matthew 21:4; Matthew 26:56. The γάρ depends on πιστεύσητε. Belief is supported by Scripture; for the two surprising events, Christ’s escaping the crurifragium and yet having His side pierced, were evidently preordained in the Divine counsels. The first γραφή (John 2:22, John 12:38) is Exodus 12:46. For συντρίβειν comp. Matthew 12:20; Mark 5:4; Mark 14:3; Revelation 2:27. Thus He who at the opening of this Gospel was proclaimed as the Lamb of God (John 1:29; John 1:36), at the close of it is declared to be the true Paschal Lamb. The Paschal Lamb, as dedicated to God, was protected by the Law from rough treatment and common uses. Its bones must not be broken; its remains must be burned. Once more we have evidence that S. John’s consistent and precise view is, that the death of Christ coincided with the killing of the Paschal Lamb. And this seems also to have been S. Paul’s view (see on 1 Corinthians 5:7).

Verse 37

37. ὄψονται. All present, especially the Jews. The whole world was represented there. Ἐκκεντᾶν, ‘to pierce deeply,’ occurs nowhere else in N.T. excepting Revelation 1:7, and forms a connexion worth noting between the Gospel and the Apocalypse (see on John 1:14, John 4:6, John 7:30, John 8:2, John 11:44, John 13:8, John 15:20, John 20:16); all the more so because S. John here agrees with the present Masoretic Hebrew text and in every word differs from the LXX. The LXX. softens down ἐξεκέντησαν (which seemed a strange expression to use of men’s treatment of Jehovah) into κατωρχήσαντο (‘insulted’). See on John 6:45, John 12:13; John 12:15, where there is further evidence of the Evangelist having independent knowledge of Hebrew. With the construction εἰς ὅν comp. John 6:29, John 17:9.

Verse 38

38. μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα. But after these things. The δέ marks a contrast between the hostile petition of the Jews and the friendly petition of Joseph. Ταῦτα as distinct from τοῦτο shews that no one event is singled out with which what follows is connected: the sequence is indefinite (John 3:22). Contrast John 19:28 : there the sequence is direct and definite (John 2:12, John 11:7; John 11:11). For Joseph of Arimathaea see on Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50. The Synoptists tell us that he was rich, a member of the Sanhedrin, a good and just man who had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s counsel and crime, one who (like Simeon and Anna) waited for the kingdom of God, and had become a disciple of Christ. Διὰ τ. φόβον forms a coincidence with S. Mark, who says of him (Mark 15:43) that ‘having summoned courage (τολμήσας) he went in unto Pilate,’ implying that like Nicodemus he was naturally timid. Joseph probably went to Pilate as soon as he knew that Jesus was dead: the vague ‘after these things’ need not mean that he did not act till after the piercing of the side. With ἧρεν τ. σῶμα comp. Matthew 14:12; Acts 8:2.

Verse 39

39. Another coincidence. Nicodemus also was a member of the Sanhedrin (John 3:1), and his acquaintance with Joseph is thus explained. But it is S. Mark who tells us that Joseph was one of the Sanhedrin, S. John who brings him in contact with Nicodemus. It would seem as if Joseph’s unusual courage had inspired Nicodemus also. Thus Jesus by being lifted up is already drawing men unto Him. These Jewish aristocrats first confess Him in the hour of His deepest degradation. Τὸ πρῶτον is either at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, or the first time He came to Jesus. The meaning of the Brazen Serpent, of which he heard then (John 3:14), is becoming plain to him now.

μίγμα. This may be a correction of ἔλιγμα (אB), a roll. Myrrhgum (Matthew 2:11) and pounded aloe-wood (here only) are both aromatic: ‘All thy garments are myrrh and aloes’ (Psalms 45:8). The quantity is royal (2 Chronicles 16:14), but not improbable, and reminds us of Mary’s profusion (John 12:3). It is a rich man’s proof of devotion, and possibly of remorse for a timidity which now seemed irremediable: his courage had come too late.

Verse 40

40. ἔδησαν αὐτὸ ὀθ. Bound it in linen cloths. The ὀθόνια (see on Luke 24:12) seem to be the bandages, whereas the σινδών (Matthew 27:59; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53) is a large sheet (Mark 14:51) to envelope the whole. Καθὼς ἔθος ἐ. τ. . distinguishes Jewish from other modes of embalming. The Egyptians had three methods, but in all cases removed part of the intestines and steeped the body in nitre (Herod II. 86 ff.) Ἐνταφιάζειν occurs elsewhere only Matthew 26:12 : ἐνταφιασμός occurs John 12:7; Mark 14:8 : in LXX. (Genesis 50:2) it is used for the embalming of Jacob.

Verse 41

41. κῆπος. S. John alone mentions it, as he alone mentions the other garden (John 18:1). It probably belonged to Joseph, for the tomb was his (Matthew 27:60). This shews that Joseph, though of Arimathaea, had settled in Jerusalem. For καινόν see on John 13:34. S. Matthew also says that it was new, S. Luke that never man had yet lain in it. S. John states the fact both ways with great emphasis. It is another royal honour. Not even in its contact with the grave did ‘His flesh see corruption.’ Comp. the colt, whereon no man ever yet sat (Luke 19:30).

Verse 42

42. The burial was hastily performed: after the great Sabbath they intended to make a more solemn and complete burial. The fact of his having a tomb of his own close to Golgotha had perhaps suggested to Joseph the thought of going to Pilate. For the addition τῶν Ἰουδαίων see on John 2:13, John 11:55 : it suggests a time when there was already a Christian ‘Preparation.’ The order of the words, with the pathetic ending, should be preserved. There therefore, because of the Jews’ Preparation (for the tomb was nigh at hand), laid they Jesus.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on John 19:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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