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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

John 18

Verses 1-99

Chap. 18

We enter now upon the second part of the second main division of the Gospel. The Evangelist having given us the inner Glorification of Christ in His last Discourses (13 17), now sets forth His outer Glorification in His Passion and Death (18, 19). This part, like the former (see introduction to chap. 13), may be divided into four. 1. The Betrayal (18:1 11); 2. The Jewish Trial (12 27); 3. The Roman Trial (18:28 19:16); 4. The Death and Burial (17 42).

“We return once more from discourse to narrative, which preponderates in the whole of the remaining portion of the Gospel. Accordingly as we have found hitherto that in the narrative portions the marks of an eye-witness at once begin to multiply, so here especially they occur in such large amount and in such rapid succession that it appears impossible to resist the conviction that from an eye-witness and no one else the account proceeds.” S. p. 239.

Dr Westcott ( Speaker’s Commentary , N.T., Vol. ii. p. 249) observes;

“1. It is a superficial and inadequate treatment of his narrative to regard it as a historical supplement of the other narratives, or of the current oral narrative on which they are based.… The record is independent and complete in itself . It is a whole, and like the rest of the Gospel an interpretation of the inner meaning of the history which it contains.

Thus in the history of the Passion three thoughts among others rise into clear prominence:

(1) The voluntariness of Christ’s sufferings ; 18:4, 8, 11, 36; 19:28, 30.

(2) The fulfilment of a divine plan in Christ’s sufferings ; 18:4, 9, 11; 19:11, 24, 28, 36, 37.

(3) The majesty which shines through Christ’s sufferings ; 18:6, 20 23 (comp. Luke 22:53 ), 37; 19:11, 26, 27, 30.

The narrative in this sense becomes a commentary on earlier words which point to the end; (1) 10:17, 18; (2) 13:1; (3) 13:31.

2. In several places the full meaning of S. John’s narrative is first obtained by the help of words or incidents preserved by the synoptists. His narrative assumes facts found in them: e.g. 18:11, 33, 40, 19:41.

3. The main incidents recorded by more than one of the other Evangelists which are omitted by S. John are: (by all three ) the agony, traitor’s kiss, mockery as prophet, council at daybreak, impressment of Simon, reproaches of the spectators, darkness, confession of the centurion; (by S. Matthew and S. Mark ) the desertion by all, examination before the Sanhedrin at night, false witness, adjuration, great Confession, mockery after condemnation, cry from Psalms 22:0 , rending of the veil.

Other incidents omitted by S. John are recorded by single Evangelists: ( S. Matthew ) power over the hosts of heaven, Pilate’s wife’s message, Pilate’s hand-washing, self-condemnation of the Jews, earthquake; ( S. Mark ) flight of the young man, Pilate’s question as to the death of Christ; ( S. Luke ) examination before Herod, lamentation of the women, three ‘words’ from the Cross (23:34, 43, 46), repentance of one of the robbers.

4. The main incidents peculiar to S. John are: the words of power at the arrest, examination before Annas, first conference of the Jews with Pilate and Pilate’s private examination, first mockery and Ecce Homo , Pilate’s maintenance of his words, the last charge (19:25 27), the thirst, piercing of the side, ministry of Nicodemus.

5. In the narrative of incidents recorded elsewhere S. John constantly adds details , often minute and yet most significant: e.g. 18:1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 26, 28, 19:14, 17, 41. See the notes.

6. In the midst of great differences of detail the Synoptists and S. John offer many impressive resemblances as to the spirit and character of the proceedings: e.g. (1) the activity of the ‘High Priests’ (i.e. the Sadducaean hierarchy) as distinguished from the Pharisees; (2) the course of the accusation civil charge, religious charge, personal influence; (3) the silence of the Lord in His public accusations, with the significant exception, Matthew 26:64 ; (4) the tone of mockery; (5) the character of Pilate.”

1 11. The Betrayal

1. he went forth ] From the upper room. The same word is used of leaving the room, Matthew 26:30 ; Mark 14:26 ; Luke 22:39 . Those who suppose that the room is left at 14:31 (perhaps for the Temple), interpret this of the departure from the city, which of course it may mean in any case.

the brook Cedron ] Literally, the ravine of the Kedron, or of the cedars , according to the reading, the differences of which are here exceedingly interesting. Of the cedars ( τῶν Κέδρων ) is the reading of the great majority of the authorities; but of the Kedron ( τοῦ κεδροῦ or τοῦ κεδρών ) is well supported. Of the cedars is the reading of the LXX. in 1 K. 15:13 and occurs as a various reading 2 S. 15:23; 1 K. 2:37; 2 K. 23:6, 12. The inference is that both names were current, the Hebrew having given birth to a Greek name of different meaning but very similar sound. Kedron or Kidron = ‘black,’ and is commonly supposed to refer to the dark colour of the water or the gloom of the ravine. But it might possibly refer to the black green of cedar trees, and thus the two names would be united. This detail of their crossing the ‘Wady’ of the Kidron is given by S. John alone; but he gives no indication of a “reference to the history of the flight of David from Absalom and Ahitophel” (2 S. 15:23). ‘Brook’ is misleading; the Greek word means ‘winter-torrent,’ but even in winter there is little water in the Kidron. Neither this word nor the name Kedron occurs elsewhere in N.T.

a garden ] Or, orchard. S. Matthew and S. Mark give us the name of the enclosure or ‘parcel of ground’ (John 4:5 ) rather than ‘place,’ of which this ‘garden’ formed the whole or part. Gethsemane = oil-press, and no doubt olives abounded there. The very ancient olive-trees still existing on the traditional site were probably put there by pilgrims who replanted the spot after its devastation at the siege of Jerusalem. S. John gives no hint of a comparison between the two gardens, Eden and Gethsemane, which commentators from Cyril to Isaac Williams have traced. See on Mark 1:13 for another comparison.

and his disciples ] Literally, Himself and His disciples , Judas excepted.

2. which betrayed ] Better, who was betraying : he was at that moment at work. Comp. v . 5.

knew the place ] Therefore Christ did not go thither to hide or escape, as Celsus scoffingly asserted. Origen ( Cels. ii. 10) appeals to vv . 4 and 5 as proving that Jesus deliberately surrendered Himself.

ofttimes ] Comp. 8:1, and see on Luke 21:37 , Luke 22:39 . The owner must have known of these gatherings, and may himself have been a disciple.

resorted thither ] Literally, assembled there ; as if these gatherings were for teaching of a more private kind than was given to the multitude.

3. Judas then ] Better, Judas therefore ; S. John’s favourite particle, as in vv . 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 19, 24, 27, 28, 29, 31, 33, 37, 40. It was because Judas knew that Jesus often went thither that he came thither to take Him. “Our English version gives little idea of the exactness of the description which follows.” S. p. 241.

a band of men ] Rather, the band of soldiers . This is one part of the company; Roman soldiers sent to prevent ‘an uproar’ among the thousands of pilgrims assembled to keep the Passover (see on Matthew 26:5 ). The word for band, speira , seems elsewhere in N.T. to mean ‘cohort,’ the tenth of a legion (Matthew 27:27 ; Mark 15:16 ; Acts 10:1 , Acts 21:31 , Acts 27:1 ), and with this Polybius (xi. xxi. 1; [xxiii. 1]) agrees. But Polybius sometimes (vi. xxiv. 5, xv. ix. 7, III. cxiii. 3) appears to use speira for ‘maniple,’ the third part of a cohort and about 200 men. In any case only a portion of the cohort which formed the garrison of the fortress of Antonia can here be meant: but that the arrest of Jesus was expected to produce a crisis is shewn by the presence of the chief officer of the cohort ( v . 12). The Jewish hierarchy had no doubt communicated with Pilate, and his being ready to try the case at so early an hour as 5 a.m. may be accounted for in this way.

officers from the chief priests and Pharisees ] i.e. from the Sanhedrin. These may have been either officers of justice appointed by the Sanhedrin, or a portion of the Levitical temple-police: that some of the latter were present is clear from Luke 22:4 , Luke 22:52 . This is a second part of the company. S. Luke (22:52) tells us that some of the chief priests themselves were there also. Thus there were (1) Roman soldiers, (2) Jewish officials, (3) chief priests.

with lanterns and torches ] The ordinary equipment for night duty, which the Paschal full-moon would not render useless. It was possible that dark woods or buildings would have to be searched. The word for ‘lantern,’ phanos , occurs here only in N.T.; and here only is lampas rendered ‘torch;’ elsewhere either ‘light’ (Acts 20:8 ) or ‘lamp’ (Matthew 25:1-40.25.8 ; Revelation 4:5 , Revelation 8:10 ). ‘Torch’ would perhaps be best in all cases, even in Matthew 25:1-40.25.8 , leaving ‘lamp’ free as the translation of luchnos (5:35; Matthew 5:15 , Matthew 5:6 :22; Mark 4:21 ; Luke 8:16 , Luke 8:11 :33, Luke 8:34 , Luke 8:36 , &c.) for which ‘light’ and ‘candle’ are either inadequate or misleading. Torches were fed with oil carried in a vessel (Matthew 25:4 ) for the purpose.

4. all things that should come ] Better, all the things that were coming .

went forth ] From what? (1) from the shade into the light; (2) from the circle of disciples; (3) from the depth of the garden; (4) from the garden itself. It is impossible to say which of these suggestions is right; the last is not contradicted by v . 26. The kiss of Judas is by some placed here, by others after v . 8. While ‘His hour was not yet come’ (7:30, 8:20), He had withdrawn from danger (8:59, 11:54, 12:36); now he goes forth to meet it. He who had avoided notoriety (5:13) and royalty (6:15), goes forth to welcome death.

said ] The better reading gives saith . His question perhaps had two objects; to withdraw attention from the disciples ( v . 8), and to make His captors realise what they were doing.

5. Jesus of Nazareth ] Or, Jesus the Nazarene (Matthew 2:23 ), a rather more contemptuous expression than ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ (1:46; Acts 10:38 ; comp. Matthew 21:11 ). ‘The Nazarene’ in a contemptuous sense occurs 19:19; Matthew 26:71 ; Mark 14:67 . It is sometimes used in a neutral sense (Mark 10:47 ; Luke 18:37 , Luke 24:19 ). Later on the contempt of Jews and heathen became the glory of Christians (Acts 2:22 , Acts 3:6 , Acts 4:10 , Acts 6:14 ).

I am he ] The ‘he’ is not expressed in the Greek: and ‘I am’ to Jewish ears was the name of Jehovah. We have had the same expression several times in this Gospel (4:26), 6:20, 8:24, 28, 58, 13:13 (see notes in each place). Judas, if not the chief priests, must have noticed the significant words. There is nothing in the narrative to shew that either the whole company were miraculously blinded (Luke 24:16 ), or that Judas in particular was blinded or paralysed. Even those who knew Him well might fail to recognise Him at once by night and with the traces of the Agony fresh upon Him.

which betrayed him, stood ] Literally, who was betraying Him ( v . 2), was standing . This tragic detail is impressed on S. John’s memory. In this as in the lanterns and torches, which he alone mentions, we have the vividness of the eye-witness. S. Luke (22:47) tells us that ‘Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss Him.’ Apparently, after having done this, he fell back and rejoined Christ’s enemies, standing in the foreground.

6. As soon then as he had said ] Better, when therefore (see on v . 3) He said . The Evangelist intimates that what followed was the immediate consequence of Christ’s words.

went backward, and fell ] Whether this was the natural effect of guilt meeting with absolute innocence, or a supernatural effect wrought by Christ’s will, is a question which we have not the means of determining. Moreover, the distinction may be an unreal one. Is it not His will that guilt should quail before innocence? The result in this case proved both to the disciples and to His foes that His surrender was entirely voluntary (10:18). Once before, the majesty of His words had overwhelmed those who had come to arrest Him (7:46); and it would have been so now, had not He willed to be taken. Comp. Matthew 26:53 , where the expression ‘ legions of angels’ may have reference to the fragment of a legion that had come to superintend His capture.

7. Then asked he them again ] Again therefore ( v . 3) He asked them . Their first onset had been baffled; He Himself therefore gives them another opening. They repeat the terms of their warrant; they have been sent to arrest Jesus the Nazarene.

8. I have told ] Rather, I told .

let these ] At first Jesus had gone forward ( v . 4) from His company, as Judas from his. Judas had fallen back on his followers while the disciples followed up and gathered round Christ. Thus the two bands confronted one another.

9. thou gavest me have I lost ] Better, Thou hast given me I lost (see on 17:4). The reference is to 17:12, and is a strong, confirmation of the historical truth of chap. 17. If the prayer were the composition of the Evangelist to set forth in an ideal form Christ’s mental condition at the time, this reference to a definite portion of it would be most unnatural. The change from ‘not one of them perished’ to ‘I lost of them not one’ brings out more clearly the protective intervention of Christ.

It does not follow, because S. John gives this interpretation of Christ’s words, that therefore they have no other. This was a first fulfilment, within an hour or two of their utterance, an earnest of a larger fulfilment in the future. The meaning here must not be limited to bodily preservation. Had they been captured, apostasy (at least for a time) might have been the result, as was actually the case with S. Peter.

10. Then Simon Peter ] Simon Peter therefore ( v . 3), because he ‘saw what would follow’ (Luke 22:49 ). All four Evangelists mention this act of violence; S. John alone gives the names. While S. Peter was alive it was only prudent not to mention his name; and probably S. John was the only one who knew ( v . 15) the servant’s name. S. Peter’s impetuous boldness now illustrates his impetuous words 13:37 and Mark 8:32 .

having a sword ] Probably one of the two produced in misunderstanding of Christ’s words at the end of the supper (Luke 22:38 ). To carry arms on a feast-day was forbidden; 30 that we have here some indication that the Last Supper was not the Passover.

the high priest’s servant ] No doubt he had been prominent in the attack on Jesus, and S. Peter had aimed at his head. S. Luke also mentions that it was the right ear that was cut, and he alone mentions the healing, under cover of Which S. Peter probably escaped.

11. Then said Jesus ] Jesus therefore ( v . 3) said .

the cup ] S. John alone gives these words. On the other hand, the Synoptists alone give Christ’s prayer in the garden (Matthew 26:39 , &c.) to which they obviously refer. Thus the two accounts confirm one another. See on 2:19. For the metaphor comp. Psalms 75:8 , 60:3; Job 21:20 ; Jeremiah 25:15 ; Revelation 14:10 , Revelation 14:16 :19, &c. S. Matthew gives another reason for putting up the sword into its place; ‘all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword’ (26:52).

12 27. The Jewish or Ecclesiastical Trial

12. Then the band, and the captain ] Therefore ( v . 3) the band &c., because of this violent attempt at resistance. The captain or chiliarch is the tribune or chief officer of the Roman cohort. The representations of the hierarchy to the Romans are confirmed by S. Peter’s act: Jesus the Nazarene is a dangerous character who stirs up His followers to rebellion; He must be properly secured and bound. Perhaps also their falling to the ground on meeting Him impressed them with the, necessity of using the utmost caution, as with a powerful magician. The whole force is required to secure Him.

13. to Annas first ] Whether Annas was ‘chief’ of the priests (2 K. 25:18), or president, or vice-president, of the Sanhedrin, we have no information. Certainly he was one of the most influential members of the hierarchy, as is shewn by his securing the high-priesthood for no less than five of his sons as well as for his son-in-law Caiaphas, after he had been deposed himself. He held office a.d. 7 14, his son Eleazar a.d. 16, Joseph Caiaphas a.d. 18 36; after him four sons of Annas held the office, the last of whom, another Annas (a.d. 62), put to death S. James, the first bishop of Jerusalem. The high-priests at this time were often mere nominees of the civil power, and were changed with a rapidity which must have scandalised serious Jews. There were probably five or six deposed high-priests in the Sanhedrin which tried our Lord (see on Luke 3:2 ). Other forms of the name Annas are Ananias, Ananus, and Hanan.

for he was father-in-law ] And therefore Caiaphas would be sure to respect the results of a preliminary examination conducted by him. Possibly the chief priests thought that Annas was a safer man than Caiaphas, and the father-in-law having taken the lead which they wanted the high-priest would be compelled to follow. This examination before Annas is given us by S. John only, who tacitly corrects the impression that the examination before Caiaphas was the only one.

that same year ] Omit ‘same’ and see on 11:49. Comp. 20:19 and Mark 4:35 , where ‘same’ is improperly inserted, as here.

14. Now Caiaphas was he ] See on 11:50 52. The remark is made here to recall the prophecy now so near fulfilment, and perhaps to intimate that with Caiaphas and his father-in-law to direct the trial it could have but one issue.

15. followed ] Or, was following ; the descriptive imperfect.

another disciple ] Some good authorities read ‘ the other disciple,’ but the balance is very decidedly in favour of ‘ an other.’ There is no reason for doubting the almost universal opinion that this ‘other’ was S. John himself; an opinion which agrees with the Evangelist’s habitual reserve about himself (1:40, 13:23 25, 19:26, 20:2 8, 21:20 24); and also with the fact that S. John frequently accompanies S. Peter (Luke 22:8 ; Acts 3:1 , Acts 4:13 , Acts 8:14 ). But it must be allowed that the opinion is short of certain; although the fact that S. John elsewhere designates himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ is in no degree against the identification. Here the description, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved,’ would explain nothing and would therefore be out of place (see Introduction, chap. 2:3 (3) b ). S. Augustine, Calvin and others suppose some person otherwise unknown to be meant. Other conjectures are, S. James, the Evangelist’s brother, and (strangely enough) Judas Iscariot.

was known ] The nature of this ‘acquaintance’ (Luke 2:44 , Luke 23:49 ) is nowhere explained.

the high priest ] Caiaphas is probably meant ( vv . 13, 24); but as deposed high priests still kept the title sometimes (Luke 3:2 ; Acts 4:6 ), it is possible that Annas is intended.

the palace ] Rather, the court or open space in the centre or in front of the house (Luke 22:55 ). The same word if used for the ‘sheep-fold’ (10:1, 16). It is not improbable that Annas lived in a portion of the official residence of his son-in-law; but even if this was not the case, it is no violent supposition that Annas conducted a preliminary examination in the house of Caiaphas (see on v . 13).

16. stood ] Or, was standing ; the descriptive imperfect again, Comp. vv . 5, 15. The details here also indicate the report of an eyewitness. ‘At the door without ’ seems to indicate that the ‘court’ was inside rather than in front of the building.

her that kept the door ] Comp. Rhoda, Acts 12:13 .

17. Then saith the damsel ] The damsel therefore ( v . 3) saith .

Art not thou also ] Rather, Art thou also (as well as thy companion) or, surely thou art not: S. Peter’s denial is thus, as it were, put into his mouth. See on 4:29 and comp. 4:33, 6:67, 7:47, 9:40. In all these passages the form of the question anticipates a negative answer.

one of this man’s disciples ] Or, one of the disciples of this man . ‘This man’ and the turn of the sentence are contemptuous. Comp. 9:16, 24, 11:47. S. John had hurried on to the room where Christ was being examined; as at the Cross (19:26) he kept close to his Master; and in neither case was molested. S. Peter, who ‘followed afar off’ (Luke 22:54 ) and that rather out of curiosity ‘to see the end’ (Matthew 26:58 ) than out of love, encountered temptation and fell.

18. And the servants , &c.] Better, Now the servants and the officers, having made … were standing and warming themselves . The tribune ( v . 12) having deposited his prisoner in safety, has withdrawn with his men. Only the Jewish officials remain, joined now by the household servants of the high priests.

a fire of coals ] Charcoal in a brazier, ‘to the light’ of which (Luke 22:56 ) S. Peter turned. Comp. 21:9; Ecclus. 11:32.

for it was cold ] Cold nights are exceptional but not uncommon in Palestine in April. Jerusalem stands high.

and Peter , &c.] Rather, And Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself pretending to be indifferent, but restlessly changing his posture. S. Luke says he ‘ sat to the light.’

19. The high priest then ] Rather, therefore ( v . 3), connecting what follows with vv . 13, 14. Again we are in doubt as to who is meant by the high-priest (see on v . 15), but it will be safest to consider that Caiaphas is meant throughout. Neither hypothesis is free from difficulty. If the high priest here is Caiaphas, the difficulty is to explain v . 24 (see note there). But we may suppose that while Annas is conducting the examination Caiaphas enters and takes part in it.

of his disciples , &c.] It was hoped that some evidence might be obtained which would be of service in the formal trial that was to follow.

20. I spake ] The true reading gives, I have spoken . There is a strong emphasis on ‘I.’ Christ answers no questions about His disciples; He bears the brunt Himself alone. Moreover He seems to contrast the openness of His proceedings with the secrecy of His enemies.

openly ] See on 7:4, 26.

to the world ] Not to a secret society. Comp. 8:26.

in the synagogue ] All the best MSS. omit the article; in synagogue , as we say ‘in church.’ See on 6:59.

whither the Jews always resort ] The better reading gives, where all the Jews come together . The word rendered ‘resort’ is not the same as that rendered ‘resort’ in v . 2. ‘I always taught in public places, where all the Jews meet.’ Nothing could be more open than His teaching. Comp. Matthew 10:27 .

have I said ] Rather, I spake , the aorist of the verb in the first clause, which is in the perfect. See next verse.

21. which heard ] Better, who have heard ; and ‘I have said’ should again be I spake .

they know ] Or, these know , as if implying that they were present and ought to be examined. According to Jewish rule witnesses for the defence were heard first. ‘These’ cannot refer to S. Peter and S. John. S. Peter is still outside by the fire.

22. struck Jesus with the palm of his hand ] Literally, gave a blow , and the word for ‘blow’ (elsewhere 19:3, Mark 14:65 only) etymologically means a ‘blow with a rod,’ but is also used for a ‘blow with the open hand.’ The word used for ‘smite’ in v . 23 is slightly in favour of the former: but Matthew 5:39 and Acts 23:2 are in favour of the latter.

23. If I have spoken ] Rather (as at the end of vv . 20, 21), If I spake (comp. 13:14, 15:16). This seems to shew that Christ does not refer, as our version would lead us to suppose, to His answer to the high-priest, but to the teaching about which He is being examined. He here gives His own illustration of His own precept (Matthew 5:39 ); to exclude personal retaliation does not exclude calm protest and rebuke.

24. Now Annas had sent him bound ] The received text, following important authorities, has no conjunction. The Sinaitic MS. and some minor authorities insert ‘now’ or ‘but’ ( δέ ). But an overwhelming amount of evidence, including the Vatican MS., gives S. John’s favourite particle, therefore ( οὖν ). Moreover the verb is aorist, not pluperfect. Annas therefore sent Him . It is not necessary to enquire whether the aorist may not virtually be pluperfect in meaning. Even if ‘now’ were genuine and the remark were an after-thought which ought to have preceded v . 19, the aorist might still be rendered literally, as in Matthew 26:48 (‘ gave them,’ not ‘ had given them a sign’). Comp. Matthew 14:3 , Matthew 14:4 .

But ‘therefore’ shews that the remark is not an after-thought. Because the results of the preliminary investigation before Annas were such (there was a primâ facie case, but nothing conclusive), ‘Annas therefore sent Him’ for formal trial to Caiaphas, who had apparently been present (see on v . 19) during the previous interrogation and had taken part in it.

bound ] He had been bound by the Roman soldiers and Jewish officials when He was arrested ( v . 12). This was to prevent escape or rescue. During the examination he would be set free as possibly innocent. After the examination He was bound again as presumably guilty, or as before to prevent escape.

25. And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself ] Better, Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself ( v . 18).

They said therefore ] The movement in taking Jesus from Annas to Caiaphas once more attracted attention to the stranger by the fire.

Art not thou also ] Rather, Art thou also (see on v . 17). A look of sympathy and distress on S. Peter’s face, as His Master appears bound as a criminal, and perhaps with the mark of the blow ( v . 22) on His face, provokes the exclamation, Surely thou also art not one of His disciples?

26. his kinsman ] A kinsman of him . How natural that an acquaintance of the high-priest ( v . 15) and known to his portress ( v . 16) should know this fact also as well as Malchus’ name ( v . 10). This confirms the ordinary view that the ‘other disciple’ ( v . 15) is the Evangelist himself. This third accusation and denial was, as S. Luke tells us, about an hour after the second; so that our Lord must have ‘turned and looked upon Peter’ either from a room looking into the court, or as He was being led to receive the formal sentence of the Sanhedrin after the trial before Caiaphas, not as He was being taken from Annas to Caiaphas.

Did not I see thee ] ‘I’ is emphatic; ‘with my own eyes.’

27. Peter then denied again ] Again therefore ( v . 3) Peter denied ; because he had denied before. S. John, like S. Luke, omits the oaths and curses (Mark 14:71 ; Matthew 26:73 ). We may believe that S. Peter himself through S. Mark was the first to include this aggravation of his guilt in the current tradition.

the cock crew ] Rather, a cock crew . In none of the gospels is there the definite article which our translation inserts. This was the second crowing (Mark 14:72 ). A difficulty has been made here because the Talmud says that fowls, which scratch in dunghills, are unclean. But (1) the Talmud is inconsistent on this point with itself; (2) not all Jews would be so scrupulous as to keep no fowls in Jerusalem; (3) certainly the Romans would care nothing about such scruples.

Just as the Evangelist implies ( v . 11), without mentioning, the Agony in the garden, so he implies (21:15), without mentioning, the repentance of S. Peter. The question has been raised, why he narrates S. Peter’s fall, which had been thrice told already. There is no need to seek far-fetched explanations, as that “there might be contained in it some great principle or prophetic history, and perhaps both: some great principle to be developed in the future history of the Church, or of S. Peter’s Church.” Rather, it is part of S. John’s own experience which falls naturally into the scope and plan of his Gospel, setting forth on the one side the Divinity of Christ, on the other the glorification of His manhood through suffering. Christ’s foreknowledge of the fall of His chief apostle (13:38) illustrated both: it was evidence of His Divinity (comp. 2:24, 25), and it intensified His suffering. S. John, therefore, gives both the prophecy and the fulfilment. It has been noticed that it is “S. Peter’s friend S. John, who seems to mention most what may lessen the fault of his brother apostle;” that servants and officers were about him; that in the second case he was pressed by more than one; and that on the last occasion a kinsman of Malchus was among his accusers, which may greatly have increased Peter’s terror. Moreover, this instance of human frailty in one so exalted (an instance which the life of the great Exemplar Himself could not afford), is given us with fourfold emphasis, that none may presume and none despair.

On the difficulties connected with the four accounts of S. Peter’s denials see Appendix B.

28 19:16. The Roman or Civil Trial

As already stated, S. John omits both toe examination before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin at an irregular time and place, at midnight and at ‘the Booths’ (Matthew 26:57-40.26.68 : Mark 14:53-41.14.65 ), and also the formal meeting of the Sanhedrin after daybreak in the proper place (Matthew 27:1 ; Mark 15:1 ; Luke 22:66-42.22.71 ), at which Jesus was sentenced to death. He proceeds to narrate what the Synoptists omit, the conference between Pilate and the Jews ( vv . 28 32) and two private examinations of Jesus by Pilate ( vv . 33 38 and 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 ( v . 15), and stood by the Cross (19:26); it is therefore probable enough that he followed Him into the Procurator’s court.

28. Then led they ] Better, They led therefore ( v . 3). S. John assumes that his readers know the result of Jesus being taken to Caiaphas ( v . 24): He had been condemned to death; and now His enemies (there is no need to name them) take Him to the Roman governor to get the sentence executed.

the hall of judgment ] The margin is better, Pilate’s house , i.e. the palace . In the original it is praitorion , the Greek form of praetorium . Our translators have varied their rendering of it capriciously: Matthew 27:27 , ‘common hall,’ with ‘governor’s house’ in the margin; Mark 15:16 , ‘Praetorium;’ John 18:33 and 19:9, ‘judgment-hall.’ Yet the meaning must be the same in all these passages. Comp. Acts 23:35 , ‘judgment-hall;’ Philippians 1:13 , ‘the palace.’ The meaning of praetorium varies according to the context. The word is of military origin; (1) ‘the general’s tent’ or ‘head quarters.’ Hence, in the provinces, (2) ‘the governor’s residence,’ the meaning in Acts 23:35 : in a sort of metaphorical sense, (3) a ‘mansion’ or ‘palace’ (Juvenal I. 75): at Rome. (4) ‘the praetorian guard,’ the probable meaning in Philippians 1:13 . Of these leading significations the second is probably right here and throughout the Gospels; the official residence of the Procurator . Where Pilate resided in Jerusalem is not quite certain. We know that ‘Herod’s Praetorium,’ a magnificent building on the western hill of Jerusalem, was used by Roman governors somewhat later (Philo, Leg. ad Gaium , p. 1034). But it is perhaps more likely that Pilate occupied part of the fortress Antonia, on the supposed site of which a chamber with a column in it has recently been discovered, which it is thought may possibly be the scene of the scourging.

S. John’s narrative alternates between the outside and inside of the Praetorium. Outside ; 28 32; 38 40; 19:4 7; 12 16. Inside ; 33 37; 19:1 3; 8 11.

28 32. Outside the Praetorium ; the Jews claim the execution of the Sanhedrin’s sentence of death, and Pilate refuses it.

early ] The same word, proï , is rendered ‘morning’ Matthew 16:3 ; Mark 1:35 , Mark 1:11 :20, Mark 1:13 :35, Mark 1:15 :1; the last passage being partly parallel to this. In Mark 13:35 the word stands for the fourth watch (see on Mark 6:48 ), which lasted from 3.0 to 6.0 a.m. A Roman court might be held directly after sunrise; and as Pilate had probably been informed that an important case was to be brought before him, delay in which might cause serious disturbance, there is nothing improbable in his being ready to open his court between 4.0 and 5.0 a.m. The hierarchy were in a difficulty. Jesus could not safely be arrested by daylight, and the Sanhedrin could not legally pronounce sentence of death by night: hence they had had to wait till dawn to condemn Him. Now another regulation hampers them: a day must intervene between sentence and execution. This they shuffled out of by going at once to Pilate. Of course if he undertook the execution, he must fix the time; and their representations would secure his ordering immediate execution. Thus they shifted the breach of the law from themselves to him.

As in the life of our Lord as a whole, so also in this last week and last day of it, the exact sequence and time of the events cannot be ascertained with certainty. Chronology is not what the Evangelists aim at giving us. For a tentative arrangement of the chief events of the Passion see Appendix C.

they themselves ] In contrast with their Victim, whom they sent in under a Roman guard.

lest they should ] Better, that they might not , omitting ‘that they’ in the next clause.

be defiled ] by entering a house not properly cleansed of leaven (Exodus 12:15 ).

eat the passover ] It is quite evident that S. John does not regard the Last Supper as a Paschal meal. Comp. 13:1, 29. It is equally evident that the synoptic narratives convey the impression that the Last Supper was the ordinary Jewish Passover (Matthew 26:17 , Matthew 26:18 , Matthew 26:19 ; Mark 14:14 , Mark 14:16 ; Luke 22:7 , Luke 22:8 , Luke 22:11 , Luke 22:13 , Luke 22:15 ). Whatever be the right solution of the difficulty, the independence of the author of the Fourth Gospel is manifest. Would anyone counterfeiting an Apostle venture thus to contradict what seemed to have such strong Apostolic authority? Would he not expect that a glaring discrepancy on so important a point would prove fatal to his pretensions? Assume that S. John is simply recording his own vivid recollections, whether or no we suppose him to be correcting the impression produced by the Synoptists, and this difficulty at any rate is avoided. S. John’s narrative is too precise and consistent to be explained away. On the difficulty as regards the Synoptists see Appendix A; also Excursus V at the end of Dr Farrar’s S. Luke .

29. Pilate then ] Pilate therefore ( v . 3). Because they would not enter, he went out to them. The Evangelist assumes that his readers know who Pilate is, just as he assumes that they know the Twelve (6:67) and Mary Magdalene (19:25); all are introduced without explanation.

went out ] The verb stands first in the Greek for emphasis. The best MS. add ‘outside’ to make it still more emphatic; went out therefore Pilate outside unto them ; as if attention were specialy called to this Roman concession to Jewish religiousness.

What accusation ] Not that he does not know, but in accordance with strict procedure he demands a formal indictment?

30. a malefactor ] Literally, ‘doing evil’ or an evil-doer ; not the same expression as Luke 23:32 . The Jews are taken aback at Pilate’s evident intention of trying the case himself. They had expected him merely to carry out their sentence, and had not come provided with any definite accusation. Blasphemy, for which they had condemned Him (Matthew 26:65 , Matthew 26:66 ), might be no crime with Pilate (comp. Acts 18:16 ). Hence the vagueness of their first charge. Later on (19:7) they throw in the charge of blasphemy; but they rely mainly on three distinct charges, which being political, Pilate must hear; (1) seditious agitation, (2) forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, (3) assuming the title, ‘King of the Jews’ (Luke 23:3 ).

31. Then said Pilate ] Pilate therefore ( v . 3) said . If they will not make a specific charge, he will not deal with the case. Pilate, impressed probably by his wife’s dream (Matthew 27:19 ) tries in various ways to avoid sentencing Jesus to death. (1) He would have the Jews deal with the case themselves; (2) he sends Jesus to Herod; (3) he proposes to release Him in honour of the Feast; (4) he will scourge Him and let Him go. Roman governors were not commonly so scrupulous, and Pilate was not above the average: a vague superstitious dread was perhaps his strongest motive. Thrice in the course of these attempts does he pronounce Jesus innocent ( v . 39, 19:4, 6).

Take ye , &c.] Literally, Take him yourselves , and according to your law judge Him . ‘Yourselves’ and ‘your’ are emphatic and slightly contemptuous. The ‘therefore’ which follows is wanting in most of the best MSS.

It is not lawful , &c.] These words are to be taken quite literally, and without any addition, such as ‘at the Passover’ or ‘by crucifixion,’ or ‘for high treason.’ The question whether the Sanhedrin had or had not the right to inflict capital punishment at this time is a vexed one. On the one hand we have (1) this verse; (2) the statement of the Talmud that 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem the Jews lost this power; (3) the evidence of Josephus ( Ant . xx. ix. 1; comp. xviii. i. 1; xvi. ii. 4, and vi.) that the high priest could not summon a judicial court of the Sanhedrin without the Procurator’s leave; (4) the analogy of Roman law. To this it is replied (Döllinger, First age of the Church , Appendix II.); (1) that the Jews quibbled in order to cause Jesus to be crucified at the Feast instead of stoned after all the people had dispersed; and Pilate would not have insulted the Jews from the tribunal by telling them to put Jesus to death, if they had no power to do so; (2) that the Talmud is in error, for the Roman dominion began 60 years before the destruction of Jerusalem; (3) that Josephus (xx. ix. 1) shews that the Jews had this power: Ananus is accused to Albinus not for putting people to death , but for holding a court without leave: had the former been criminal it would have been mentioned; (4) that the analogy of Roman law proves nothing, for cities and countries subject to Rome often retained their autonomy: and there are the cases of Stephen, those for whose death S. Paul voted (Acts 26:10 ), and the Apostles, whom the Sanhedrin wished to put to death (Acts 5:33 ); and Gamaliel in dissuading the council never hints that to inflict death will bring trouble upon themselves. To this it may be replied again; (1) that Pilate would have exposed a quibble had there been one, and his dignity as judge was evidently not above shewing ironical contempt for the plaintiffs; (2) that the Talmud may be wrong about the date and right about the fact; possibly it is right about both; (3) to mention the holding of a court by Ananus was enough to secure the interference of Albinus, and more may have been said than Josephus reports; (4) autonomy in the case of subject states was the exception; therefore the burden of proof rests with those who assert it of the Jews. Stephen’s death (if judicial at all) and the other cases (comp. John 5:18 , John 5:7 :1, John 5:25 , John 5:8 :37, 59; Acts 21:31 ) only prove that the Jews sometimes ventured on acts of violence of which the Romans took little notice. Besides we do not know that in all these cases the Sanhedrin proposed to do more than to sentence to death, trusting to the Romans to execute the sentence, as here. Pilate’s whole action, and his express statement 19:10, seem to imply that he alone has the power to inflict death.

32. the saying ] Or word , 12:32; Matthew 20:19 .

what death ] Rather, by what manner of death , as in 12:33 and 21:19. So in 10:32 the Greek means ‘for what kind of a work,’ not merely ‘for which work.’ Comp. Matthew 21:23 ; Matthew 22:36 ; Luke 6:32 , Luke 24:19 . Had the Sanhedrin executed Him as a blasphemer or a false prophet, He would have been stoned. The Jews had other forms of capital punishment, but crucifixion was not among them.

33 37. Inside the Praetorium ; Jesus is privately examined by Pilate and makes ‘a good confession’ (1 Timothy 6:13 ).

33. Then Pilate ] Pilate therefore ( v . 3). Because of the importunity of the Jews Pilate is obliged to investigate further; and being only Procurator, although cum potestate , has no Quaestor, but conducts the examination himself.

called Jesus ] Probably the Roman guards had already brought Him inside the Praetorium: Pilate now calls Him before the judgment-seat. The conversation implies that Jesus had not heard the previous conversation with the Jews.

Art thou the King of the Jews? ] In all four Gospels these are the first words of Pilate to Jesus, and in all four there is an emphasis on ‘Thou.’ The pitiable appearance of Jesus was in such contrast to the royal title that Pilate speaks with a tone of surprise (comp. 4:12). The question may mean either ‘Dost Thou claim to be King?’ or, ‘Art Thou the so-called King?’ The royal title first appears in the mouth of the wise men, Matthew 2:1 , next in the mouth of Pilate.

34. answered him ] Omit ‘him:’ the introductions to vv . 34, 35, 36 are alike in form and are solemn in their brevity. The Synoptists give merely a portion of the reply in v . 37.

tell it thee ] ‘It’ is not in the original and need not be supplied. Jesus claims a right to know the author of the charge. Moreover the meaning of the title, and therefore the truth of it, would depend on the person who used it. In Pilate’s sense He was not King; in another sense He was.

35. Am I a Jew? ] ‘Is it likely that I, a Roman governor, have any interest in these Jewish questions?’

have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? ] Better, delivered Thee unto me: what didst Thou do to make Thine own people turn against Thee?

36. My kingdom ] There is a strong emphasis on ‘My’ throughout the verse; ‘the kingdom that is Mine, the servants that are Mine;’ i.e. those that are truly such (see on 14:27). The word for ‘servants’ here is the same as is rendered ‘officers’ in vv . 3, 12, 18, 33, 7:32, 45, 46 (comp. Matthew 5:25 ), and no doubt contains an allusion to the officials of the Jewish hierarchy. In Luke 1:2 , the only other place in the Gospels where the word is used of Christians, it is rendered ‘ministers,’ as also in 1 Corinthians 4:1 , the only place where the word occurs in the Epistles. Comp. Acts 13:5 .

is not of this world ] Has not its origin or root there so as to draw its power from thence. Comp. 8:23, 20:19, 17:14, 16.

if my kingdom ] In the original the order is impressively reversed; if of this world were My kingdom . For the construction comp. 5:46.

fight ] Better, be striving (comp. Luke 13:24 ; 1 Corinthians 9:25 ). For the construction comp. 5:46, 8:19, 42, 9:41, 15:19.

but now ] The meaning of ‘now’ is clear from the context and also from 8:40, 9:41, 15:22, 24, ‘as it is,’ ‘as the case really stands.’ It does not mean ‘My kingdom is not of this world now , but shall be so hereafter;’ as if Christ were promising a millenium.

37. Art thou a king then ] The Greek for ‘then’ ( oukoun ) occurs here only in N.T. The ‘Thou’ is even more emphatic than in v . 33. The two together give a tone of scorn to the question, which is half an exclamation. ‘So then, Thou art a king!’ Comp. 1:21.

Thou sayest that , &c.] This may be rendered, Thou sayest (truly); because , &c. But the A. V. is better: Christ leaves the title and explains the nature of His kingdom the realm of truth.

To this end … for this cause ] The Greek for both is the same, and should be rendered in the same way in English; to this end . Both refer to what precedes; not one to what precedes and one to what follows. To be a king, He became incarnate; to be a king, He entered the world.

was I born … came I ] Better, have I been born … am I come . Both verbs are perfects and express not merely a past event but one which continues in its effects; Christ has come and remains in the world. The pronoun is very emphatic; in this respect Christ stands alone among men. The verbs point to His previous existence with the Father, although Pilate would not see this. The expression ‘come into the world’ is frequent in S. John (1:9, 9:39, 11:27, 16:28): as applied to Christ it includes the notion of His mission (3:17, 10:36, 12:47, 49, 17:18).

that I should ] This is the Divine purpose of His royal power.

bear witness unto the truth ] Not merely ‘witness the truth,’ i.e. give a testimony that is true, but bear witness to the objective reality of the Truth: again, not merely ‘bear witness of ,’ i.e. respecting the Truth (1:7, 15, 2:25, 5:31 39, 8:13 18, &c.), but ‘bear witness to ,’ i.e. in support and defence of the Truth (5:33). Both these expressions, ‘witness’ and ‘truth,’ have been seen to be very frequent in S. John (see especially chaps. 1, 3, 5, 8. passim ). We have them combined here, as in 5:33. This is the object of Christ’s sovereignty, to bear witness to the Truth. It is characteristic of the Gospel that it claims to be ‘the Truth.’ “This title of the Gospel is not found in the Synoptists, Acts, or Apocalypse; but it occurs in the Catholic Epistles (James 1:18 ; 1 Peter 1:22 ; 2 Peter 2:2 ) and in S. Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:12 ; 2 Corinthians 13:8 ; Ephesians 1:13 , &c.). It is specially characteristic of the Gospel and Epistles of S. John.” Westcott, Introduction to S. John , p. 44.

that is of the truth ] That has his root in it, so as to draw the power of his life from it. Comp. v . 36, 3:31, 8:47, and especially 1 John 2:21 , 1 John 3:19 .

“It is of great interest to compare this confession before Pilate with the corresponding confession before the high priest (Matthew 26:64 ). The one addressed to the Jews is in the language of prophecy, the other addressed to a Roman appeals to the universal testimony of conscience. The one speaks of a future manifestation of glory, the other of a present manifestation of truth … It is obvious how completely they answer severally to the circumstances of the two occasions.” Westcott, in loco .

38. What is truth? ] Pilate does not ask about ‘ the Truth,’ but truth in any particular case. His question does not indicate any serious wish to know what truth really is, nor yet the despairing scepticism of a baffled thinker; nor, on the other hand, is it uttered in a light spirit of ‘jesting’ (as Bacon thought). Rather it is the half-pitying, half-impatient, question of a practical man of the world, whose experience of life has convinced him that truth is a dream of enthusiasts, and that a kingdom in which truth is to be supreme is as visionary as that of the Stoics. He has heard enough to convince him that the Accused is no dangerous incendiary, and he abruptly brings the investigation to a close with a question, which to his mind cuts at the root of the Prisoner’s aspirations. Here probably we must insert the sending to Herod Antipas, who had come from Tiberias, as Pilate from Caesarea, on account of the Feast, the one to win popularity, the other to keep order (Luke 23:6-42.23.12 ).

38 40. Outside the Praetorium ; Pilate pronounces Him innocent and offers to release Him in honour of the feast: the Jews prefer Barabbas.

38. unto the Jews ] Apparently this means the mob and not the hierarchy. Pilate hoped that only a minority were moving against Jesus; by an appeal to the majority he might be able to acquit Him without incurring odium. By pronouncing Him legally innocent he would gain this majority; by proposing to release Him on account of the Feast rather than of His innocence he would avoid insulting the Sanhedrin, who had already pronounced Him guilty. From S. Mark (15:8, 11) it would appear that some of the multitude hoped to deliver Jesus on the plea of the Feast and took the initiative in reminding Pilate of the custom, but were controlled by the priests and made to clamour for Barabbas.

I find in him no fault at all ] Rather, I find no ground of accusation in him . As in 19:6, the pronoun is emphatic; ‘I, the Roman judge, in contrast to you Jewish fanatics.’ The word here and 19:4, 6 rendered ‘fault’ ( aitia ) is rendered ‘accusation’ Matthew 27:37 and Mark 15:26 , and ‘cause’ Acts 13:28 , Acts 28:18 . In all these passages it seems to mean ‘legal ground for prosecution.’

39. ye have a custom ] Nothing is known of this custom beyond what is told us in the Gospels. Prisoners were sometimes released at Rome at certain festivals, and it would be quite in harmony with the conciliatory policy of Rome to honour native festivals in this way in the case of subject nations. In Luke 23:17 the custom is said to be an obligation; ‘of necessity he must;’ but the verse is of very doubtful genuineness.

that I should ] Literally, in order that I should . See on 15:12.

the King of the Jews ] Expressive of scornful contempt. Comp. 19:15.

40. Then cried they all again ] Better, They cried out therefore ( v . 3) again all of them . S. John has not mentioned any previous shout of the multitude; he once more assumes that his readers know the chief facts. See on 19:6.

Barabbas ] Or, Bar-Abbas , son of Abba (father). The innocent Son of the Father is rejected for the blood-stained son of a father. In Matthew 27:16 and 17 some inferior authorities read ‘ Jesus Barabbas’ as his name, and Pilate asks ‘Which do ye wish that I release to you, Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus Who is called Christ?’ The reading is remarkable, but it is supported by no good MS.

Now Barabbas was a robber ] There is a tragic impressiveness in this brief remark. Comp. ‘Jesus wept’ (11:35), and ‘And it was night’ (13:30). It is to be regretted that ‘robber’ has not always been given as the translation of the Greek word used here ( ληστής not κλέπτης ). Thus we should have ‘den of robbers ’ or ‘ robbers ’ cave’ (Matthew 21:13 ); ‘as against a robber ’ (Matthew 26:55 ); ‘two robbers ’ (Matthew 27:38 , Matthew 27:44 ). The ‘robber’ is the bandit or brigand, who is more dangerous to persons than to property, and sometimes combines something of chivalry with his violence. In the case of Barabbas we know from S. Mark and S. Luke that he had been guilty of insurrection and consequent bloodshed rather than of stealing; and this was very likely the case also with the two robbers crucified with Jesus. Thus by a strange irony of fate the hierarchy obtain the release of a man guilty of the very political crime with which they charged Christ, sedition. The people no doubt had some sympathy with the insurrectionary movement of Barabbas, and on this the priests worked. Barabbas had done, just what Jesus had refused to do, take the lead against the Romans. “They laid information against Jesus before the Roman government as a dangerous character; their real complaint against Him was precisely this, that He was not dangerous. Pilate executed Him on the ground that His kingdom was of this world; the Jews procured His execution precisely because it was not.” Ecce Homo , p. 27.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 18". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/john-18.html. 1896.