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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
John 19



Verses 1-42

The Crucifixion. The Burial

1-3. Inside the Prætorium. Scourging and mockery by the soldiers (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15). It might be supposed from Mt and Mk that the scourging was only the ordinary preliminary to a Roman execution, but Luke 23:16 suggests that it was an act of mercy to Jesus intended to save His life. This the Fourth Gospel fully confirms, showing how Pilate tried to work upon the compassion of the multitude. The present narrative elucidates, without in any way contradicting, the synoptic account.

4-7. Outside the Prætorium. 'Behold the man.' 'Crucify Him.'

5. Behold the man!] Lat. Ecce homo. The words are gently and sympathetically spoken, and are intended to move compassion: 'This meek and suffering form cannot be the usurper of a throne.'

6. Take ye him] Pilate attempts to put the responsibility of shedding innocent blood upon the Jews.

7. We have a law] This confirms the evidence of the synoptists that Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrin, not simply for claiming to be the Messiah, but for claiming to be divine, and so blaspheming God (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69).

7-11. Inside the Prætorium. Jesus refuses to satisfy Pilate's curiosity as to His origin.

8. The more afraid] viz. of allowing Jesus to be unjustly executed. In spite of superficial scepticism (John 19:38), Pilate was superstitious, and thought that Jesus might be some demigod or hero, some son of Jupiter, appearing in human form: cp. Acts 14:11.

9. Whence art thou?] Art thou a man or a demigod?

11. Caiaphas was more guilty than Pilate. Pilate had lawful authority over Jesus, which, as ordained by God, was acquiesced in by Jesus Himself. Caiaphas had no such authority, for Caiaphas was only high priest, and Jesus was the Messiah. Again, Pilate was only Caiaphas's tool; he knew not the issues at stake in the rejection and condemnation of Jesus, but Caiaphas did know, or ought to have known.

From above] i.e. from God (cp. Romans 13:1), though some think that it means from the high priest Caiaphas. He that delivered me] i.e. not Judas, but Caiaphas.

12-16. Outside the Prætorium. Pilate yields to the clamour.

12. Thou art not Cæsar's (i.e. Tiberius's) friend] The Jews now appeal to Pilate's selfish fears. They threaten to accuse him of disloyalty to the emperor, a charge which the cruel and suspicious Tiberius was only too willing to receive. St. John alone brings out the leading motive which induced Pilate to yield.

13. Sat down] or, possibly, 'caused Jesus to sit down.' The Pavement] In front of a Roman judgment seat there was usually, at this period, a mosaic or tesselated pavement.

Hebrew] i.e. Aramaic. Gabbatha] 'Gabbath or Gabbetha means a rounded height' (Edersheim).

14. St. John sees prophetic significance in Pilate's words, 'Behold your king,' and therefore times them precisely. Pilate, the representative of the Gentile world, sees in Jesus, whom Israel rejects, the true king of Israel. The Passover is mentioned, because, in the evangelist's view, Jesus is the true Paschal lamb.

The preparation] i.e. the day before the Passover, extending from sunset on Thursday to sunset on Friday. Those, however, who think that the Passover took place on Thursday, translate, 'And it was the Friday in Passover week,' a possible, but improbable rendering: see John 18:28.

About the sixth hour] i.e. about noon. St. Mark says 'the third hour,' i.e. 9 a.m. (Mark 15:25). There is a discrepancy here of about 3 hours, which cannot be satisfactorily accounted for. However, Eastern ideas of time are vague, and if the actual time of crucifixion lay midway between 9 and 12, the discrepancy is not a very large one, and may possibly be explained by the complete absorption of the disciples in the dramatic incidents of our Lord's trial and execution, which rendered them unobservant of the flight of time. The discrepancy is not satisfactorily explained, by supposing (as some do) that St. John counts his hours from midnight, for this would throw back the crucifixion to 6 a.m., still leaving a three-hours' discrepancy.

16. Unto them] viz. to the chief priests, so that the crucifixion might appear their act, rather than Pilate's, who was heartily ashamed of it.

17-22. Jesus is crucified (cp. Matthew 27:31; Mark 15:20; Luke 23:26). St. John, who is in thorough agreement with the synoptists, omits the incident of Simon of Cyrene (Mt, Mk, Lk), and the first 'word' on the cross (Lk), but adds the characteristic interview between the chief priests and Pilate.

19. Title] According to Roman custom an inferior officer bore before the condemned a block of white wood upon which was engraved the crime for which he suffered. The chief priests regarded Pilate's title as intended to insult the Jews by insinuating that the fitting ruler for such a nation was a condemned criminal.

20. Was nigh] a local detail, peculiar to this Gospel. Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin] It was written in three languages, so that it could be read by every one, including foreigners. The evangelist records the fact as symbolising the universality of the gospel.

22. What I have written] A touch true to life. Pilate, though morally a coward, was obstinate—'by nature obstinate and stubborn'; 'at once self-willed, and implacable' (Philo).

23, 24. The Parting of the Garments (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34). St. John alone sees in this incident a fulfilment of Scripture, and this accounts for his minute description of it. The dress of a Jew consisted of, (1) the head-dress, (2) the shoes, (3) the outer garment, (4) the girdle, (5) the inner garment. There were four soldiers (cp. Acts 12:4), who each took one part. There remained the seamless inner garment. For this they cast lots, fulfilling Psalms 22:18, a Davidic psalm, from which the fourth 'Word' on the cross was taken. St. John quotes it from the LXX version. The garments of criminals were a perquisite of the executioners.

25-27. Jesus and His mother. This beautiful episode is peculiar to St. John. Its grace and naturalness, and withal its reticence, speak powerfully for its truth. It took place before the darkness, which St. John does not record.

25. His mother, etc.] According to the AV and RV, only three women are named, but most modern critics hold that four are intended. Translate, therefore, 'His mother, and His mother's sister' (i.e. Salome, the mother of the evangelist); 'and Mary the daughter of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala': see further on Matthew 27:56. The wife of Cleophas (RV 'Clopas')] A more probable rendering is,' the daughter of Clopas.' Nothing is known of this Clopas, who (for reasons which cannot be fully given here, but which are accepted by most recent critics) is not to be identified with the Alphæus of Matthew 10:3, or with the Cleopas of Luke 24:18. Clopas is a contraction of Cleopatros. For the view, now generally abandoned, that 'Mary of Clopas' was the mother of our Lord's 'brethren,' see the detached note on Matthew 12:46-50.

26. Woman, behold, etc.] Although bearing the sins of the whole world, Jesus was not forgetful of human ties, and solemnly commended his mother to the care of the beloved disciple, St. John. St. John was comparatively wealthy, and was, moreover, the Virgin's nephew, so that the arrangement was in every way suitable. She was not commended to our Lord's 'brethren,' probably because they were not her own children, and were not believers: see on Matthew 12:46-50. It is clear that St. Joseph was by this time dead. Unto his own home] This implies that St. John had a separate establishment at Jerusalem. This would help to explain his acquaintance with Annas (John 18:15), and his special information about our Lord's ministry at Jerusalem. When our Lord visited Jerusalem, St. John was probably His host.

28-30. Death of Jesus (Matthew 27:45-55). The sayings 'I thirst' and 'It is finished' are peculiar to St. John. The former explains, what the synoptics do not, why 'one of them ran and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar,' etc. (Matthew 27:48; Mark 15:35).

28. That the scripture, etc.] i.e. Psalms 69:21 : cp. Psalms 22:15. Although Jesus mainly based His Messianic claim on His fulfilment of the OT. Scriptures in their widest and most general sense (Luke 24:27; Acts 10:43), yet He attached some importance (though less than the disciples did) to their literal and detailed fulfilment. I thirst] the fifth 'Word.' These words of human anguish, attesting Christ's true humanity, are significantly absent from the Docetic 'Gospel of Peter,' which says that on the cross He felt no pain. A vessel] The Roman soldiers often drank a sour wine, or vinegar, called posca. Ulpian says, 'Our soldiers are wont to drink wine and vinegar, one day wine, another day vinegar.' Hyssop] i.e. the reed mentioned by the synoptists. But Post (in HDB.) takes it to be a plant like peppermint, added to the wine to make it quench thirst better.

30. It is finished] (the sixth word). All My earthly work, including the world's redemption, is finished. The three synoptists mention Christ's loud cry, but only St. John mentions what He said. St. Luke alone adds the seventh word, which immediately followed. Gave up] The death was voluntary—'No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself' (John 10:18).

31-37. The sign of the pierced side. A section peculiar to St. John, and claiming expressly to be the testimony of an eyewitness. The knowledge of Jewish and Roman custom displayed in it speaks for its historical truth.

31. The preparation] i.e. the day before the sabbath (Friday). The sabbath began at sunset on Friday: see on John 19:14. That the bodies] An accurate account of the Jewish practice, as opposed to that of the Romans, who left corpses to rot on their crosses. The letter of the Law (Deuteronomy 21:22) required the removal of the bodies in all cases before night; much more was it necessary in this case for the bodies to be removed, seeing that the morrow was a sabbath and a high festival. An high day] It was at once the sabbath and the first day of unleavened bread. That their legs] A specially Roman practice. The criminal's legs were broken with heavy mallets to accelerate death.

34. Pierced his side] This was done to make sure of His death, and was a common practice at executions. The act was providentially ordered, that it might be made evident that the Resurrection was a resuscitation after a real death, not a mere recovery from a death-like stupor. Blood and water] No satisfactory medical explanation of this phenomenon has been given, though it has been suggested that the death of Christ was due to rupture of the heart consequent upon acute mental sufferings, and that thereupon the cavities of the heart became filled with a watery serum, which flowed out when Christ's side was pierced. The evangelist himself seems to have regarded the strange phenomenon as a miracle; he certainly saw in it a deep mystical significance, for which see on 1 John 5:6.

35. The eyewitness claims to be the actual author of the Gospel, in spite of the third person: see John 21:24.

36. A bone of him] In the evangelist's view, Christ's legs were not broken, that it might be thereby made evident that He was the true paschal lamb. The Jews were specially forbidden to break the bones of the Paschal Lamb: see Exodus 12:46.

37. They shall look] St. John quotes directly from the Heb. of Zechariah 12:10, which the LXX has mistranslated. We have here a point of contact with Revelation 1:7.

38-42. The burial (see Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:50). All is in agreement with the synoptists, but there are three additional particulars: (1) That Nicodemus assisted Joseph of Arimathæa; (2) that the tomb was in a garden close by; (3) that the body was embalmed after the Jewish manner with 100 lb. weight of spices. These details imply special knowledge.

39. Myrrh and aloes] The myrrh and the aloe wood were reduced to powder, and inserted between the bandages, which were wound fold upon fold round the body. The enormous quantity (about 75 lb. avoirdupois) of spices, though surprising, is credible as the offering of two wealthy men. According to Jewish and general Eastern custom, the neck and face of the corpse were doubtless left bare: see on John 20:8.

42. The Jews' preparation] see on John 20:14.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on John 19:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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