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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

John 18

Verse 1

1. ἐξῆλθεν. From the upper room. The word is used of leaving the room, Matthew 22:39; Mark 14:26; Luke 22:39. Those who suppose that the room is left at John 14:31 (perhaps for the Temple), interpret this of the departure from the city.

τῶν Κέδρων. Of the Cedars, rather than τοῦ Κεδρών, of the Kedron. Kedron or Kidron=‘black,’ and is commonly referred to the dark colour of the water or to the gloom of the ravine. But it might refer to the black green of the cedars, and thus both names would be united. χειμαρροῦς or φάραγξ (Josephus uses both words) indicates the ravine rather than the water: even in winter the stream is small. This detail of Jesus crossing the ‘Wady’ of the Kidron is given by S. John only; but he gives no hint of a reference to the flight of David from Absalom and Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:23). If we are to seek a reason for his noting the fact, we may find it in his characteristic symbolism: ἐκ χειμάρρου ἐν ὁδῷ πίεται (Psalms 110:7); χείμαρρου διῆλθεν ἡ ψυχή (Psalms 124:4). This gloomy ravine with its dusky waters is a figure of the affliction through which the Messiah is passing. See on John 3:2, John 10:22, John 13:30.

κῆπος. Garden or orchard. Gethsemane means ‘oil-press,’ and olives probably 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.

Verses 1-11


Verse 2

2. ὁ παραδιδούς. Who was betraying; he was at that moment at work: his knowing the place disproves the sneer of Celsus, that Jesus went thither to hide and escape. Origen (Cels. II. x.) appeals to John 18:4-5 as shewing that He deliberately surrendered Himself. Συνήχθη (literally, assembled) suggests that they met for a definite purpose, such as teaching or devotion. The owner must have known of these frequent gatherings and may have been a disciple.

Verse 3

3. ὁ οὖν Ἰ. Judas therefore. It was because he knew that Jesus often went thither that he came hither to take Him. The details which follow are minute and accurate as of an eyewitness.

τὴν σπεῖραν. The band of soldiers: this is one part of the company; Roman soldiers sent to prevent ‘an uproar’ among the thousands of pilgrims assembled for the Passover (see on Matthew 26:5). Επεῖρα 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 σπεῖρα 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 (John 18:12). 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.

ἐκ τ. ἀρχ. κ. τ. Φ. From the Sanhedrin (see on John 7:32; John 7:45, John 11:47). These ὑπηρέται 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 (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. The φανοί and λαμπάδες were the common equipment for night duty, not rendered useless by the Paschal full moon. Dark woods or buildings might need searching. Φανός occurs here only in N.T. Both A.V. and R.V. vary between ‘torch,’ ‘light,’ and ‘lamp’ for λαμπάς (Matthew 25:1-8; Acts 20:8; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 8:10). Torches were fed with oil carried in a vessel for the purpose, and perhaps ‘torch’ would be best everywhere for λαμπάς, leaving ‘lamp’ for the translation of λύχνος (John 5:35; Matthew 5:15; Matthew 6:22; Luke 8:16, &c.). There is a suppressed irony in the details of this verse: ‘all this force against one; against one who intended no resistance; against One who with one word (John 18:6; Matthew 26:53) could have swept them all away.’

Verse 4

4. ἐξῆλθεν. 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 is right; the last is not contradicted by John 18:26. The kiss of Judas is by some placed here, by others after John 18:8. While ‘His hour was not yet come’ (John 7:30, John 8:20), He had withdrawn from danger (John 8:59, John 11:54, John 12:36); now He goes forth to meet it. He who had avoided notoriety (John 5:13) and royalty (John 6:15), goes forth to welcome death. His question may have had two objects; to withdraw attention from His disciples (John 18:8), and to make His captors realise what they were doing.

Verse 5

5. . τ. Ναζωραῖον. Jesus the Nazarene (Matthew 2:23), a rather more contemptuous expression than ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ (John 1:46; Acts 10:38; comp. Matthew 21:11). ‘The Nazarene’ in a contemptuous sense occurs John 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).

ἐγώ εἰμι. These words to Jewish ears were the name of Jehovah. We have had the same expression several times in this Gospel (John 4:26), John 6:20, John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58, John 13:1 (see notes). 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.

εἱστήκειὁ παραδιδούς. Judas, who was betraying Him (John 18:2) was standing with them. This tragic detail is stamped on the Evangelist’s memory: that one dark figure standing as the chief representative of the ἐξουσία τοῦ σκότους. S. John has been accused of personal hatred towards Judas; but he alone of the four Evangelists omits the traitor’s kiss. For εἱστήκει, John 18:16, comp. John 1:35, John 7:35, John 19:25, John 20:11.

Verse 6

6. ὡς οὖν εἶπεν. When therefore He said; intimating that what followed was the immediate consequence of His words. They fell backwards, recoiling from the majesty of goodness, not forwards in adoration of it. Whether their falling 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 (John 10:18). Once before, the majesty of His words had overwhelmed those who had come to arrest Him (John 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.

Verse 7

7. πάλιν οὖν. Again therefore. Their first onset had been baffled: He Himself gives them another opening. They repeat the terms of their warrant; they have been sent to arrest ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’

Verse 8

8. ἄφετε τούτους ὑπάγειν. He is no hireling (John 10:12); His first thought is for the sheep. At first Jesus had gone forward (John 18:4) from His company, as Judas, to give the kiss, from his. Judas has fallen back on his followers, while the disciples gather round Christ. Thus the two bands and two leaders confront one another.

Verse 9

9. οὓς δεδ. μ., οὐκ ἀπ. Of those whom Thou hast given Me, I lost not one. The reference is to John 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 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 might have been the result, as was actually the case with S. Peter.

Verse 10

10. Σ. οὖν Π. Simon Peter therefore; because he ‘saw what would follow’ (Luke 22:49). The position of οὖν is remarkable, as if Πέτρος had been added as an after-thought, possibly in allusion to the significance of the name. 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 (John 18:15) the servant’s name. This impetuous boldness of ὁ θερμὸς Πέτρος illustrates his impetuous words John 13:37 and Mark 8:32. The sword was probably one of the two produced in misunderstanding of Christ’s words at the end of the supper (Luke 23:38). To carry arms on a feast-day was forbidden; so that we have here some indication that the Last Supper was not the Passover. No doubt Malchus had been prominent in the attack on Jesus; hence τὸν τ. ἀρχ. δοῦλον, which does not mean that only one servant was there (John 18:26). Or τὸν δ. may mean ‘the servant of whom you have so often heard.’ S. Peter had aimed at his head. S. Luke also mentions that it was the right ear that was out, and he alone mentions the healing, under cover of which S. Peter probably escaped.

Verse 11

11. βάλε. See on John 5:7. S. John alone gives the words about the cup: the Synoptists alone (Matthew 26:39, &c.) give the prayer to which they obviously refer. Thus the two accounts confirm one another. Comp. John 2:19, John 12:8; and for the metaphor Psalms 75:8; Psalms 60:3; Job 21:20; Revelation 14:10; Revelation 16:19. S. Matthew gives another reason for sheathing; ‘all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword’ (Matthew 26:52). “Any zeal is proper for religion but the zeal of the sword and the zeal of anger” (Jeremy Taylor). For οὐ μή interrogative comp. Ruth 3:1; οὐ μὴ εὕρω σοι ἀνάπαυσιν; See on John 4:48.

Verse 12

12. ἡ οὖν σπ. Therefore the band; because of S. Peter’s violent attempt at rescue. The χιλίαρχος is the tribune of the Roman cohort. His presence with the detachment shews that the hierarchy had prepared the Romans for serious resistance. Peter’s violence confirms these representations. Jesus the Nazarene is a dangerous character who incites His followers to rebellion; He must be secured and bound. And the incident in John 18:6 would suggest great caution, as in dealing with a powerful magician.

Verses 12-27

12–27. Much space is given in all four Gospels to the Jewish and Roman trials, space apparently disproportionate to the brief account of the Crucifixion. But the two trials illustrate the two great elements of Christ’s Messiahship. By the Sanhedrin He was condemned as claiming to be the Son of God, by Pilate as claiming to be the King of the Jews. The Crucifixion would be unintelligible if we did not clearly understand Who was crucified, and why.

Verse 13

13. πρὸς Ἄνναν πρῶτον. The πρῶτον shews that S. John is aware of the subsequent examination before Caiaphas given by the Synoptists. Whether Annas was ‘chief’ of the priests (2 Kings 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 Caiaphas 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 scandalized serious Jews. There were probably five or six deposed high-priests in the Sanhedrin which tried our Lord (see on John 11:49 and Luke 3:2). Other forms of the name Annas are Ananias, Ananus, and Hanan.

ἦν γὰρ πενθ. 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. 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.

Verse 14

14. συμφέρει. See on John 11:50-52. S. John intimates that a trial conducted under such auspices could have but one issue.

Verse 15

15. ἠκολούθει. Was following; the descriptive imperfect. Some good authorities (א3 C) insert before ἄλλος, but the balance is decidedly against it. There is no very strong reason for rejecting the almost universal opinion that this ἄλλος μαθητής is S. John himself. It agrees with his habitual reserve about himself (John 1:40, John 13:23-25, John 19:26, John 20:2-8, John 21:20-24); with his being often found with S. Peter (Luke 22:8; Acts 3:1; Acts 4:13; Acts 8:14); and with his knowledge of the high-priest’s servant’s name (John 18:10). Yet the opinion is not a certainty; the facts just mentioned would fit his brother S. James almost equally well; and the fact of S. John’s elsewhere designating himself as the μαθητὴς ὂν ἠγάπα ὁ Ἰησοῦς is slightly against the opinion. But on the other hand that designation would have no point here; the unnamed disciple is not receiving any mark of favour from Jesus. See Introduction, p. xxxiv.

γνωστὸς τ. ἀρχ. Comp. Luke 2:44; Luke 23:49. The nature of the acquaintance is not explained: in connexion with it we may remember the tradition that S. John himself wore the high-priestly badge in later life; p. xvii. Τῷ ἀρχ. is probably Caiaphas (John 18:13; John 18:24): deposed high-priests were thus designated sometimes (Luke 3:2; Acts 4:6), but never by S. John. Possibly Annas lived in his son-in-law’s official residence; but if not, there is nothing improbable in his conducting a preliminary examination there. The αὐλή (John 10:1; John 10:16) is the court or open space in the centre or in front of the house (Luke 22:55): ἔξω (John 18:16) agrees better with an interior court.

Verse 16

16. εἱστήκει. Was standing; descriptive imperfect, as in John 18:5; John 18:15; John 18:18. The details again indicate an eyewitness. Female door-keepers were common among the Jews: LXX. in 2 Samuel 4:6; Rhoda, Acts 12:13; Josephus, Ant. VII. ii. 1.

Verse 17

17. μὴ καὶ σύ. Art thou also (shewing that she knew his companion to be a disciple), or, surely thou also art not. see on John 4:29 and comp. John 4:33, John 6:67, John 7:47, John 9:40; where, as here, the μὴ anticipates a negative answer. S. Peter’s denial is thus put into his mouth. Τούτου and the turn of the sentence are contemptuous; John 9:16; John 9:24, John 11:47. S. John had hurried on to the room where Christ was being examined; as at the Cross (John 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.

Verse 18

18. εἱστήκ. δὲ οἱ δ. Now the servants and the officers were standingand were warming themselves. The tribune (John 18:12) has withdrawn his men, having completed the arrest. Only the officials of the Sanhedrin remain, joined now by the household servants of the high-priest. Ἀνθρακιά means charcoal in a brazier, πρὸς τὸ φῶς of which S. Peter stood and sat, pretending to be indifferent, but restlessly changing his posture (Luke 22:56): comp. John 21:9; Sirach 11:32. Cold nights in April are exceptional but not uncommon in Palestine, and Jerusalem stands high.

μετ' αὐτῶν. Peter also is with the Lord’s enemies, making himself comfortable in this night of cold. Otia pulvinar Satanae.

Verse 19

19. ὁ οὖν ἀρχ. The οὖν connects what follows with John 18:13-14. Again we are in doubt as to who is meant by the high-priest (see on John 18:15), 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 John 18:24 (see note there). But we may suppose that while Annas is conducting the examination Caiaphas enters and takes part in it. It was hoped that some evidence might be obtained which would be of service in the formal trial that was to follow.

Verse 20

20. ἐγώ. With strong emphasis. He answers no questions about His disciples, but bears the brunt alone. Moreover He seems to contrast His openness with the secrecy of His enemies: for παρρησίᾳ see on John 7:13, and for ἐν συναγωγῇ on John 6:59. ‘I always taught in public places, where all the Jews come together. I am not the head of a secret society; nor am I ashamed of My doctrine.’ Comp. Matthew 10:27 Veritas nihil erubescit praeter abscondi (Tertullian)

Verse 21

21. ἴδε οὖτοι. As if implying that they were present and ought to be examined. Witnesses for the defence were heard first. Οὖτοι cannot mean S. Peter and S. John: S. Peter is still outside by the fire. For ἴδε see on John 1:29.

Verse 22

22. ῥάπισμα. Elsewhere only John 19:3 and Mark 14:65. Literally, ‘a blow with a rod,’ and δέρεις (John 18:23) agrees with this. But ῥάπισμα is also used for ‘a blow with the open hand:’ comp. ῥαπίζειν, Matthew 5:39. In later Greek this meaning prevailed, perhaps exclusively. Christ’s conduct here shews how Matthew 5:39 is to be understood: personal retaliation is forbidden, but not calm protest and rebuke.

Verse 23

23. εἰ κ. ἐλάλησα. If I spake evil is perhaps better than If I have spoken evil. Like ἐλάλησα in John 18:20 and εἶπον in John 18:21, this seems to refer to Christ’s teaching, about which He is being examined, rather than to His reply to the high-priest. For the construction comp. John 13:14, John 15:20.

Verse 24

24. ἀπέστ. οὖν. The οὖν (see critical note) shews that the remark is not an afterthought. Because the preliminary examination before Annas produced a primâ facie case, but nothing conclusive, Annas therefore sent Him for formal trial to Caiaphas, who had apparently been present during the previous examination and had taken part in it (John 18:19). Hence there is no need to discuss whether ἀπέστειλεν may be equivalent to a pluperfect: comp. Matthew 26:48; Matthew 14:3-4.

Christ had been bound at His arrest (John 18:12) to prevent escape. During the examination He would be unbound as possibly innocent. He is now bound again. Apparently He was unbound a second time before the Sanhedrin, and then bound afresh to be taken to Pilate (Matthew 27:2).

Verse 25

25. The narrative is resumed from John 18:18 : But Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. Dramatic contrast: the Lord stands bound; His disciple stands and warms himself. A look of distress on his face, when his Master appears bound as a criminal, and perhaps with the mark of the blow (John 18:22) on His face, provokes (οὖν) the exclamation, Surely thou also art not one of His disciples: see on John 18:17.

Verse 26

26. συγγενής. How natural that an acquaintance of the high-priest (John 18:15) known to his portress (John 18:16) should know this fact also as well as Malchus’ name (John 18:10). This confirms the ordinary view that the ‘other disciple’ (John 18:15) is the Evangelist himself. This third accusation and denial was, as S. Luke tell 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. The ἐγώ is emphatic; ‘with my own eyes:’ the man speaks with bitterness and assurance. Comp. διισχυρίζετο λέγων (Luke 22:59).

Verse 27

27. πάλιν οὖν. Again therefore, because he had denied before and yet another denial had become necessary. 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.

ἀλέκτωρ ἐφ. 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 (John 18:11), without mentioning, the Agony in the garden, so he implies (John 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 (John 13:38) illustrated both: it was evidence of His Divinity (comp. John 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.

Verse 28

28. ἄγουσιν οὖν. They lead therefore (John 18:3). S. John assumes that his readers know the result of Jesus being taken to Caiaphas (John 18:24): 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.

ἀπὸ τ. Κ. From the house of Caiaphas. Comp. Mark 5:35; Acts 16:40.

τὸ πραιτώριον. The palace, Pilate’s house, the praetorium. Our translators have varied their rendering of it capriciously: Matthew 27:17, ‘common hall,’ with ‘governor’s house’ in the margin; Mark 15:16, ‘Praetorium;’ John 18:33; John 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, John 19:4-7; John 19:12-16. Inside; 33–37, John 19:1-3; John 19:8-11.

Verses 28-32

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

πρωζ. This is rendered ‘morning’ Matthew 16:3; Mark 1:35; Mark 11:20; Mark 13:35; Mark 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.

αὐτοί. The “most characteristic trait of a religious and godless nation ever put on record” (Maurice). They themselves (in contrast to their Victim, whom they sent in under a Roman guard) entered not into the palace, that they might not be defiled by entering a house possibly polluted by heathen abominations and certainly not cleansed from leaven (Exodus 12:15). But Jewish zeal had taught the Romans that idols could not be tolerated in the Holy City.

ἵνα φάγωσιν τὸ π. It is evident that S. John does not regard the Last Supper as a Paschal meal. Comp. John 13:1; John 13:29. It is equally evident that the synoptic narratives convey the impression that the Last Supper was the ordinary Jewish Passover (Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:14; Mark 14:16; Luke 22:7-8; Luke 22:11; Luke 22:13; Luke 22:15). Whatever be the right solution, 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 see also Excursus V at the end of Dr Farrar’s S. Luke.

Verses 28-40


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 29

29. ἐξῆλθεν οῦν ὁ Π. ἔξω. Because they would not enter, therefore Pilate went out to them. The emphatic position of ἐξῆλθεν and the addition of ἔξω seem to call attention to this Roman concession to Jewish religiousness. The Evangelist assumes that his readers know who Pilate is, just as he assumes that they know the Twelve, Martha and Mary, and Mary Magdalene (John 6:67, John 11:1, John 19:25).

τίνα κατηγορίαν. No doubt Pilate knew, but in accordance with strict procedure he demands a formal indictment.

κακὸν ποιῶν. An evil-doer: distinguish from κακοῦργος (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 26:65-66), might be no crime with Pilate (comp. Acts 18:16). Hence the vagueness of their first charge. Later on (John 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).

Verse 30

30. κακὸν ποιῶν (א3BL) for κακοποιός (Acts 3 for simplification; the word perhaps comes from 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 2:14; 1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 4:15).

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 sections. 1. The Betrayal (John 18:1-11); 2. The Jewish Trials (12–27); 3. The Roman Trial (John 18:28 to John 19:16); 4. The Death and Burial (17–42).

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; John 18:4; John 18:8; John 18:11; John 18:36; John 19:28; John 19:30.

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

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

“The narrative in this sense becomes a commentary on earlier words which point to the end; [1] John 10:17-18; [2] John 13:1; [3] John 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. John 18:11; John 18:33; John 18:40, John 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, 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 (Luke 23:34; Luke 23:43; Luke 23:46), 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 (John 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. John 18:1-2; John 18:10-12; John 18:15-16; John 18:26; John 18:28, John 19:14; John 19:17; John 19:41. 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.”

Verse 31

31. εἶπεν οὖν αὐτοῖς ὁ Π. Because of their vague accusation. 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 (John 18:39, John 19:4; John 19:6). Note the emphatic and somewhat contemptuous ὑμεῖς and ὑμῶν; Take Him yourselves and according to your law judge Him. Pilate disdains to interfere in Jewish religious disputes.

οὐκ ἔξεστιν. 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 6) 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 S. 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. S. Stephen’s death and the other cases (comp. John 5:18; John 7:1; John 7:25; John 8:3; John 8:59; Acts 21:31) only prove that the Jews sometimes ventured on acts of judicial rigour and 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 John 19:10, seem to imply that he alone has the power to inflict death.

ποίῳ θανάτῳ. By what manner of death (John 12:33, John 21:19; comp. John 10:32; 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 (see on [John 8:5]), but not crucifixion; and by them He could not have been lifted up (John 8:28) like the Brazen Serpent (John 3:14).

Verse 33

33. Because of the importunity of the Jews (οὗν) Pilate is obliged to investigate further; and being only Procurator, although cum potestate, has no Quaestor, but conducts the examination himself. Probably the Roman guards had already brought Jesus inside the Praetorium: Pilate now calls Him before the judgment-seat. What follows implies that He had not heard the previous conversation with the Jews.

σὺ εἶ ὁ β. τ. . In all four Gospels these are Pilate’s first words to Jesus, and S. Luke (Luke 23:2) gives the Jewish accusation which suggested them; ‘saying that He Himself is Christ a king.’ In all four Σύ is emphatic. The appearance of Jesus is in such contrast to royalty that Pilate speaks with surprise (comp. John 4:12, John 8:53): his meaning is either ‘Dost Thou claim to be King?’ or, ‘Art Thou the so-called King?’ The civil title, ‘the King of the Jews,’ first appears in the mouth of the wise men (Matthew 2:1), next in the mouth of Pilate: contrast the theocratic title, ‘the K. or Israel’ (John 1:50).

Verses 33-37

33–37. Inside the Praetorium; Jesus is privately examined by Pilate, and makes τὴν καλὴν ὁμολογίαν (1 Timothy 6:13).

Verse 34

34. Note the solemn brevity of the introductions to John 18:34-36. Jesus demands that the responsibility of making this charge against Him be laid on the right persons. Moreover the meaning of the charge, and therefore the truth of it, would depend on the person making it. In Pilate’s sense He was not King; in another sense He was. Note that He asks for information; see on John 11:17; John 11:34.

Verse 35

35. ‘Is it likely that I, a Roman governor, have any interest in Jewish questions? Am I likely to call Thee King? It was Thine own nation (double article; see next note) that delivered Thee to me. What made them do it?’

Verse 36

36. ἡ β. ἡ ἐμή. This emphatic form, ‘the kingdom that is Mine’ (see on John 8:31) prevails throughout the verse. ‘Υπηρέται must be rendered ‘servants,’ not ‘officers,’ although there is doubtless an allusion to the officials of the hierarchy (John 18:3; John 18:12; John 18:18; John 18:22, John 7:32; John 7:45-46; Matthew 5:25). In Luke 1:2 and 1 Corinthians 4:1, the only places in Gospels and Epistles in which the word is used of Christians, it is rendered ‘ministers,’ both in A. V. and R.V. ‘Officers’ would here suggest military officers. ‘The kingdom that is really Mine does not derive its origin (ἐκ) from this world (John 4:22, John 8:23, John 15:19, John 17:14; John 17:16, John 10:16): if from this world sprang My kingdom, then would the servants that are really Mine be striving’ (Luke 13:24; 1 Corinthians 9:25). For the construction see on John 5:46, and for τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις see on John 13:33.

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

Verse 37

37. οὐκοῦν. Here only in N.T. Combined with the position of σύ it gives a tone of scorn to the question, which is half an exclamation: ‘So then, Thou art a King!, We might write οὔκουν and render, ‘Art Thou not then a King?’ or, ‘Thou art not then a King.’ But οὐκοῦν is simpler and is preferred by most editors. See Winer, p. 643.

σὺ λέγεις ὅτι. The rendering, Thou sayest (well), because, is much less natural than Thou sayest that. Christ leaves the royal title which Pilate misunderstands and explains the nature of His kingdom—the realm of truth.

εἰς τοῦτο. To this end have I been born and to this end am I come into the world. To be a King, He became incarnate; to be a King, He entered the world: and this in order to witness to the truth. The second εἰς τοῦτο does not, any more than the first, refer exclusively to what follows; both refer partly to what precedes, partly (1 John 3:8) to what follows. The perfects express a past act continuing in the present; Christ has come and remains in the world. Ἐγώ is very emphatic; in this respect Christ stands alone among men. Ἔρχεσθαι εἰς τ. κόσμον is frequent in S. John (John 1:9, John 9:39, John 11:27, John 16:28). Applied to Christ it includes the notions of His mission and of His pre-existence: but Pilate would not see this.

ἵνα μαρτ. τῇ ἀλ. This is the Divine purpose of His royal power: 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 (John 1:7; John 1:15, John 2:25, John 5:31-39, John 8:13-18, &c.), but ‘bear witness to,’ i.e. in support and defence of the Truth (John 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 John 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 1:19; 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. xliv.

ὁ ὢν ἐκ τ. ἀλ. That has his root in the Truth, so as to draw the power of his life from it: comp. John 18:36, John 3:31, John 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.

Verse 38

38. τ. Ἰουδαίους. 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 (Mark 15:8; Mark 15:11) 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.

ἐγώαἰτίαν. ‘Whatever you fanatics may do, I find no ground of accusation in Him:’ comp. John 19:6. Αἰτία means ‘legal ground for prosecution, crime’ (Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Acts 13:28; Acts 28:18).

Verses 38-40

38–40. Outside the Praetorium; Pilate pronounces Him innocent and offers to release Him for the Feast: the Jews prefer Barabbas.

Verse 39

39. συνήθεια. Nothing is known of this custom beyond what the Gospels tell us. It may have been a memorial of the deliverance from Egypt. But 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, ἀνάγκην εἶχεν: but the verse is of very doubtful genuineness. For ἵνα comp. John 11:57, John 15:12. Ἐν τ. πάσχα is no evidence that the Passover had been already celebrated: the prisoner would naturally be released in time to share in the Paschal meal. The Synoptists use the less definite expression, κατὰ ἑορτήν (Matthew 27:15; Mark 15:6). For the construction βούλεσθε ἀπολύσω comp. θέλεις συλλέξωμεν, ποῦ θέλεις ἑτοιμάσωμεν (Matthew 13:28; Matthew 26:17; Luke 12:9), where in each case the fut. ind. is found as a various reading, perhaps from the LXX. (Hebrews 8:5). Matthew 20:32; Matthew 27:17; Matthew 27:21; Mark 10:51; Mark 15:9; Mark 15:12; Luke 18:41, like this, are ambiguous; but the aor. subj. is much more intelligible (though not as a kind of deliberative subjunctive; comp. 1 Corinthians 3:21) than the fut. ind. Luke 9:54 must be aor. subj. Comp. βούλει φράσω, Arist. Eq. 36. The subj. intensifies the demand: would ye have me release.

Verse 40

40. ἐκραύγασαν. They cried out therefore again: πάντες is of very doubtful authority. S. John has mentioned no previous shout, but, as usual, assumes that his readers know the main facts. Pilate declared Jesus innocent both before and after sending Him to Herod, and in both cases this provoked an outcry (Luke 23:4-7; Luke 23:14-21): S. John in narrating the later clamour implies the earlier. Κραυγάζω expresses a loud cry, and (excepting Matthew 12:19; Acts 22:23) occurs only in S. John (John 11:43, John 12:13, John 19:6; John 19:12; John 19:15).

τ. Βαραββᾶν. Bar-Abbas, son of Abba (father): the derivation Barrabban, son of a Rabbi, seems fanciful. The innocent Son of the Father is rejected for the blood-stained son of a father. The name has the article, although S. John has not mentioned him before. The Jews who speak had mentioned him before. In Matthew 27:16-17 some inferior authorities give ‘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.

ἦν δὲ ὁ Β. λῃστής. For the tragic brevity of this remark comp. ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς (John 11:35) and ἧν δὲ νῦξ (John 13:30). The λῃστής as distinct from the κλέπτης (John 10:1) is the man of violence, the bandit or brigand, more dangerous to persons than to property. 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". 1896.