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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
John 18

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-40


Christ Before Annas, Caiaphas, and Pilate

1-14. Christ's arrest and trial before Annas (cp. Matthew 26:30 = Mark 14:26 = Luke 22:39). The narrative is now parallel with the synoptic account, with which, though obviously independent, it closely agrees. Our Lord's agony in the garden is omitted as well known, but it is alluded to (John 18:11), and the evangelist elsewhere uses language quite as definite as that of the synoptists in speaking of His agony of mind at the prospect of death (John 12:27; John 13:21). In this Gospel, as in the others, the sufferer, though divine, is 'a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.'

1. The brook Cedron] RV 'Kidron,' a deep, precipitous ravine to the E. of Jerusalem, dividing it from the Mount of Olives, and now called the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Both Jews and Moslems hold that the Last Judgment will take place there (see Joel 3:2, Joel 3:12). It is mentioned several times in the OT. (2 Samuel 15:23; 1 Kings 2:37; Jeremiah 31:40, etc.), but in the NT. only here. 'Brook' should be 'valley' or 'ravine,' lit. 'winter-torrent' (RM). A garden] i.e. Gethsemane: see on Matthew 26:36.

2. Ofttimes resorted] cp. Luke 22:39. A statement like this must rest on apostolic testimony.

3. A band of men] RV 'the band of soldiers,' viz. the Roman garrison which was always stationed in the fortress Antonia, near the Temple. A 'band' or 'cohort' numbered about 600 men. And officers] These were either officers of the Sanhedrin, or the band of Levitical police who kept order in the Temple.

6. Fell to the ground] To show that He could not be arrested against His will (see John 10:18), Jesus, before giving Himself up, showed His preternatural power; or perhaps the falling was an effect of superstitious fear.

9. That the saying might be fulfilled] see John 17:2. St. John here gives the sense, not the exact words.

Have I lost none] The original saying referred to spiritual loss; and, perhaps, the meaning is not different here. Jesus desired the Apostles to escape, lest, if they were arrested, they might be tempted to apostasy, which would involve the loss of their souls.

10. Simon Peter] Peter's and Malchus's names are mentioned only by St. John. Right ear] This detail, a mark of intimate knowledge, is also in Lk, who further mentions that our Lord healed the servant's ear.

11. The cup] This is proof that St. John knew of the agony in the garden: see Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42.

12. The band] i.e. the Roman cohort. The captain] i.e. the military tribune (Gk. chiliarch), was the officer in chief command of the Roman garrison: see Acts 21:31. His presence in person marks the importance and probable danger of the arrest.

13. To Annas first] i.e. before He was taken to Caiaphas. This, though not mentioned in the other Gospels, is intrinsically probable. The authority of Annas was so great that it over shadowed that of the actual high priest Caiaphas. He is mentioned before Caiaphas, Luke 3:2; Acts 4:6. He absolutely controlled the Sanhedrin, which at this period, according to the Talmud, transferred its place of meeting from 'the Hall of Hewn Stones' in the Temple to the head-quarters of his party,' the Bazaars of the sons of Annas.' He was high priest from 7 to 14 a.d., and even after his deposition by the Romans, retained the office in his family, no less than five of his sons being appointed high priests. For his character see on Matthew 21:12. Father in law] This fact, in itself probable, is known only from St. John.

14. Caiaphas] see John 11:49-52.

15-18. St. John introduces St Peter into the Palace. First denial. For the interesting but unimportant variations of the four accounts of St. Peter's denials, see on Matthew 26:58; Mark 14:54; Luke 22:54.

15. Another disciple] clearly the same as the unnamed disciple of John 13:23, who is the apostle John. Known unto the high priest] a fact by no means improbable, considering the comparatively good position occupied by St. John's family (Mark 1:20 see on John 19:27). The high priest is Annas: see on John 18:19. The palace] RV 'the court,' i.e. the inner quadrangle: see on Matthew 26:3, Matthew 26:58. Of the high priest] viz. Annas. Probably Annas and his son-in-law lived in the same large building.

18. Coals] i.e. charcoal.

19-24. Preliminary examination before Annas (peculiar to this Gospel). The object of Annas's examination, which was irregular and informal, was obviously to induce Jesus to incriminate Himself in view of the approaching trial, the available evidence against Him being weak (Matthew 26:59). It is passed over by the synoptists, because it achieved no result; but the narrative of St. Luke allows ample time for it before the formal trial (Luke 22:54-65).

19. The high priest] i.e. Annas: see John 18:24.

20, 21. Annas tried to entrap Jesus into the admission that He had founded a secret society. Jesus repudiated the suggestion, and refused to be drawn into making any statements likely to incriminate His disciples (cp. John 18:8).

22. Struck Jesus] This is corroborated by Luke 22:63, which agrees chronologically with St. John.

24. Now Annas had sent him] The correct translation is, 'Annas, therefore, sent Him bound unto Caiaphas.' Our Lord was led out into the courtyard, and there, as he passed by on His way to the apartments of Caiaphas, which probably lay on the other side of the quadrangular court,' He turned and looked upon Peter' (Luke 22:61). The subsequent trial before Caiaphas is omitted, as being well known.

25-27. St. Peter's second and third denials.

26. The knowledge that the servant was a kinsman of Malchus bears out the statement (John 18:15) that 'the disciple' was known to the high priest.

27. Crew] This fixes the time as about 3 a.m.

28-32. Jesus is led to Pilate (Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1). See especially on St. Matthew. The pathos of this tragic spectacle of the rulers of the chosen people leading their promised Messiah to a Gentile ruler to be put to death, and thereby forfeiting their place in the Kingdom of God and their national existence, is by no evangelist so touchingly portrayed as by St. John. Yet even this great sin did not frustrate the divine purpose, but rather was the means of effecting it (John 11:49-53). While St. John's account of the civil trial is by far the fullest and the most informing, he omits several important incidents; the dream of Pilate's wife (Mt), the washing of Pilate's hands (Mt), the trial before Herod (Lk), and the prophetic cry of the people, 'His blood be on us and on our children' (Mt).

28. The hall of judgment] RV 'the palace,' lit. 'the prætorium,' here indicates the official residence of Pilate, which was either the castle of Antonia or a palace built by Herod on the W. hill of Jerusalem: see Matthew 27:27. Pilate's judgment-seat was in the open air, but he more than once entered the building to confer with Jesus privately (John 18:33; John 19:9).

That they might not be defiled (RV)] A Gentile house would not have been purged from the presence of leaven in prospect of the Passover, and therefore by entering it they would have defiled themselves. St. John, who had already eaten the Passover with Jesus, was apparently not so scrupulous: he entered, and hence was able to report the conversations between our Lord and Pilate (John 18:33-38 chapter John 19:9-11).

But.. might eat the passover] It is obvious that St. John places the Jewish Passover, not on Thursday evening, as the synoptists seem to do, but on Friday evening, and regards the Last Supper on Thursday night as an anticipated Passover—a Passover eaten before the legal date, because Jesus knew that He was to suffer on the morrow. Some critics, however, following the primâ facie meaning of the synoptists, date the Jewish Passover on Thursday evening, and understand the expression here ('but might eat the Passover') to refer not to the Passover proper, but to the 'chagigah,' a sacrifice offered on the morning after the paschal meal: see on Matthew 26:17.

30. According to Luke 23:2, they accused Him of sedition, of withholding tribute from Cæsar, and of assuming the royal title. The charge of blasphemy, on which the Sanhedrin condemned Him, would have no weight with Pilate.

31. It is not lawful, etc.] This apparently conflicts with John 8:5, John 8:59; Acts 5:33; Acts 7:57; Acts 21:27. It would seem, (1) that the Sanhedrin could sentence to death, (2) but could not execute the sentence without permission, and (3) that the governor sometimes permitted them to exceed their powers. The Talmud says that the power of life and death was lost 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem.

32. Jesus had prophesied not only His death, but His crucifixion, and this could only be fulfilled by His being delivered to the Romans, for the Jewish penalty for blasphemy was stoning (John 8:59; John 10:31; Acts 7:59).

33- 38a. Within the Prætorium. Pilate and Christ. With the exception of Pilate's first question, all is peculiar to St. John. With Roman directness Pilate goes straight to the point: Has Jesus any political designs? His words, 'Am I a Jew?' show his contempt for the Jews, and his question, 'What is truth?' echoes the flippant (but perhaps only superficial) scepticism of polite circles in Rome.

37. Thou sayest that I am a king] RM 'Thou sayest it, because I am a king.' Probably the words are a surprised question: 'Dost thou, a heathen, say that I am a king!' Pilate was impressed with our Lord's personality, and was willing to confess that there was something kingly about Him. To this end] The only kingdom which Christ claims for Himself is absolute empire over 'the Truth' (John 14:6, etc.). Every one, etc.] All who are earnestly doing their duty according to the light vouchsafed to them, are ready to receive Christ's Gospel, when it is presented to them.

38. What is truth?] Rome was infested with a horde of Greek sophists and juggling Oriental theosophists, who all claimed a monopoly of 'the truth,' and hence Pilate had learned to scoff at all mention of the search for it.

38b-40. Outside the Prætorium. Barabbas is preferred to Jesus (see Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:18-25). All is in essential agreement with the synoptists.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on John 18:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/john-18.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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