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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

John 19

Verses 1-99

Chap. 19

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

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

2. And the soldiers ] Herod and his troops (Luke 23:11 ) had set an example which the Roman soldiers were ready enough to follow. Pilate countenances the brutality as aiding his own plan of satisfying Jewish hatred with something less than death. The soldiers had inflicted the scourging; for Pilate, being only Procurator, would have no lictors.

a crown of thorns ] The context seems to shew that this was in mockery of a royal crown rather than of a victor’s wreath. The plant is supposed to be the thorny nâbk , with flexible branches, and leaves like ivy, abundant in the Jordan valley and round about Jerusalem.

a purple robe ] S. Mark has ‘purple,’ S. Matthew ‘scarlet,’ S. Luke is silent. ‘Purple’ with the ancients was a vague term for bright rich colour and would be used of crimson as well as of violet. The robe was a military chlamys , or paludamentum , perhaps one of Pilate’s cast-off cloaks. The garment in which Herod had mocked Jesus was probably white. Comp. 1 Macc. 8:14, 10:20, 62. The scourging and mockery were very possibly visible to the Jews outside.

3. And said ] The best authorities add a graphic touch not given by the Synoptists; and they kept coming unto Him and saying . We see each soldier coming up in turn to offer his mock homage.

Hail, King of the Jews ] Like the Procurator, they mock the Jews as well as their Victim.

smote him with their hands ] Literally, gave Him blows, but whether with a rod, as the root of the word implies, or with the hand, as is more probable, we are uncertain (see on 18:22). The old Latin version adds in faciem .

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

4. Pilate therefore ] The true text gives, and Pilate . What follows is a continuance rather than a consequence of what has preceded.

I find no fault in him ] There is a slight change from 19:38, the emphasis here being on ‘crime’ instead of on ‘I’; ground of accusation I find none in Him .

5. Then came Jesus ] Better, Jesus therefore came . The Evangelist repeats the details of v . 2; they are details of a picture deeply imprinted on his memory. Whether or no he went into the Praetorium, he no doubt witnessed the Ecce Homo .

wearing ] Not simply ‘having’ or ‘bearing’ ( phorôn not pherôn ). The crown and robe are now His permanent dress.

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

6. and officers ] Better (as in 18:18), and the officers . The leaders take the initiative, to prevent any expression of compassion on the part of the crowd. The sight of ‘the Man’ maddens rather than softens them.

cried out ] The verb ( kraugazo ) expresses a loud cry, and (excepting Matthew 12:19 ; Acts 22:23 ) occurs only in this Gospel in N.T. Comp. 11:43, 12:13, 18:40, 19:12, 15.

Crucify him ] Omit the pronoun, which is not in the Greek. The simple imperative better expresses the cry which was to give the cue to the multitude. According to all four Evangelists the demand for crucifixion was not made at first, but after the offer to release Jesus in honour of the Feast.

Take ye him ] Better, Take Him yourselves , as in 18:31. We may admit that it ought to have been beneath the dignity of a Roman judge to taunt the people with a suggestion which he knew that they dare not follow; but there is nothing so improbable in it as to compel us to believe that the Jews had the power of inflicting capital punishment (see on 18:31). Pilate is goaded into an exhibition of feeling unworthy of his office.

for I find ] As in 18:38, the ‘I’ is emphatic; ‘for I do not find in Him a ground of accusation.’

7. We have a law ] The Jews answer Pilate’s taunt by a plea hitherto kept in the background. He may think lightly of the seditious conduct of Jesus, but as a Procurator he is bound by Roman precedent to pay respect to the law of subject nationalities. He has challenged them to take the law into their own hands; let him hear what their law is.

by our law ] Rather, according to the law ; ‘of us’ is not genuine. They refer to Leviticus 24:16 .

the Son of God ] Omit ‘the.’ Pilate had said, ‘Behold the Man! ’ The Jews retort, ‘He made Himself Son of God .’ Comp. 5:18, 10:33. They answer his appeal to their compassion by an appeal to his fears.

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

8. that saying ] Better, this word ( logos ), the charge of blasphemy.

he was the more afraid ] The message from his wife and the awe which Christ’s presence was probably inspiring had already in some degree affected him. This mysterious claim still further excites his fears. Was it the offspring of a divinity that he had so infamously handled? Comp. Matthew 27:54 .

9. judgment-hall ] See on 18:28.

Whence art thou? ] Pilate tries a vague question which might apply to Christ’s dwelling-place, which he already knew (Luke 23:6 ), hoping for an answer as to His origin . Would the prisoner assert his mysterious claim to him, or explain it?

no answer ] Pilate could not have understood the answer; and what had it to do with the merits of the case? Comp. Matthew 27:12-14 and Christ’s own precept, Matthew 7:6 .

10. Then saith , &c.] Better, Pilate therefore saith to Him, To me Speakest thou not? Whatever He might do before His Jewish persecutors, it was folly to refuse an answer to the Roman governor.

power ] Or, authority . See on 1:12 and comp. 5:27, 10:18, 17:2. In the best texts ‘to release’ is placed first, ‘to crucify’ second.

11. Thou couldest ] Or, wouldest . This is Christ’s last word to Pilate; a defence of the supremacy of God, and a protest against the claim of any human potentate to be irresponsible.

from above ] i.e. from God. This even Pilate could understand: had Jesus said ‘from My Father’ he would have remained uninstructed. The point is not, that Pilate is an instrument ordained for the carrying out of God’s purposes (Acts 2:23 ); he was such, but that is not the meaning here. Rather, that the possession and exercise of all authority is the gift of God; 3:27; Romans 13:1-7 (see notes there). To interpret ‘from above’ of the higher tribunal of the Sanhedrin is quite inadequate. Comp. 3:3, 7, 31; James 1:17 , James 1:3 :15, James 1:17 , where the same adverb, anôthen , is used: see notes in each place.

therefore ] Better, for this cause (12:18, 27); comp. 1:31, 5:16, 18, 7:22, 8:47.

he that delivered me unto thee ] Caiaphas, the representative of the Sanhedrin and of the nation. The expression rendered ‘he that delivered’ is used in 13:11, 18:2, 5 of Judas. But the addition ‘to thee’ shews that Judas is not meant; Judas had not betrayed Jesus to Pilate but to the Sanhedrin. The same verb is used of the Sanhedrin delivering Him to Pilate, 18:35.

hath the greater sin ] Because he had the opportunity of knowing Who Jesus was. Once more we have the expression, peculiar to S. John, ‘to have sin’ (9:41, 15:22, 24; 1 John 1:8 ).

12 16. Outside the Praetorium ; the power from above controlled from below pronounces public sentence against the Innocent.

12. And from thenceforth ] Or (as in 6:66), Hereupon . Result rather than time seems to be meant; but the Greek (here and 6:66 only in N.T.) may mean either. Omit ‘and.’

sought ] Imperfect tense, of continued efforts. Indirect means, such as the release in honour of the Feast, the appeal to compassion, and taunts having proved unsuccessful, Pilate now makes more direct efforts to release Jesus. What these were the Evangelist does not tell us.

If thou let this man go ] Better, If thou release this man ; it is the same verb as in the first clause. The Jews once more shift their tactics and from the ecclesiastical charge ( v . 7) go back to the political, which they now back up by an appeal to Pilate’s own political interests. They know their man: it is not a love of justice, but personal feeling which moves him to seek to release Jesus; and they will overcome one personal feeling by another still stronger. Pilate’s unexplained interest in Jesus and supercilious contempt for His accusers must give way before a fear for his own position and possibly even his life.

Cesar’s friend ] Whether or no there was any such title of honour as amicus Cesaris , like our ‘Queen’s Counsel,’ there is no need to suppose that any formal official distinction is intended here. The words probably mean no more than ‘loyal to Cesar.’

whosoever ] Literally, every one who .

maketh himself ] Comp. v . 7, 10:33. The phrase perhaps implies action as well as words.

speaketh against Caesar ] ipso facto declares himself a rebel; and for a Roman governor to countenance and even protect such a person would be high treason ( majestas ). The Jews perhaps scarcely knew how powerful their weapon was. Pilate’s patron Sejanus (executed a.d. 31) was losing his hold over Tiberius, even if he had not already fallen. Pilate had already thrice nearly driven the Jews to revolt, and his character therefore would not stand high with an Emperor who justly prided himself on the good government of the provinces. Above all, the terrible Lex Majestatis was by this time worked in such a way that prosecution under it was almost certain death.

13. that saying ] The better reading gives, these words . Pilate’s mind seems to be made up at once.

brought Jesus forth ] Sentence must be pronounced in public. Thus we find that Pilate, in giving judgment about the standards, which had been brought into Jerusalem, has his tribunal in the great circus at Caesarea, and Florus erects his in front of the palace (Josephus, B. J . ii. ix. 3, xiv. 8).

sat down ] The Greek verb ( kathizo ) may be either transitive, as in 1 Corinthians 6:4 ; Ephesians 1:20 , or intransitive, as in Matthew 19:28 ; Matthew 25:31 . If it is transitive here, the meaning will be, ‘placed him on a seat,’ as an illustration of his mocking exclamation, ‘Behold your King!’ i.e. ‘There He sits enthroned! But [8:2;] 12:14; Revelation 3:21 , Revelation 20:4 , the only places where S. John uses the word, and Acts 12:21 , Acts 12:25 :6, Acts 12:17 , where we have the same phrase as here, are against the transitive meaning in this place.

in the judgment seat ] In the true text there is no article, which may mean that it was not the usual Bema but a temporary one. Every where else in N.T. ‘judgment seat’ has the definite article.

Pavement ] Literally, stone-paved . Josephus ( Ant. v. v. 2) says that the Temple-mount, on part of which the fortress of Antonia stood, was covered with a tesselated pavement.

in the Hebrew, Gabbatha ] Omit ‘the,’ as in v . 20, and see on 20:16. It was, we may conclude “from its having a Hebrew name, a fixed spot, and not the portable mosaic work which Roman generals sometimes carried about with them.” S. p. 250. The fact that there was a fixed pavement supports this view; but Gabbatha (= Gab Baitha ) means ‘the ridge of the House’ i.e. ‘the Temple-mound,’ and refers to the shape of the ground (like a back ), not to the pavement upon it.

14. the preparation ] i.e. the day before the Passover, the ‘eve,’ See Appendix A.

and about the sixth hour ] The best MSS. have ‘it was’ for ‘and;’ it was about the sixth hour . In two abrupt sentences S. John calls special attention to the day and hour; now it was the eve of the Passover: it was about the sixth hour . It is difficult to believe that he can be utterly mistaken about both. The question of the day is discussed elsewhere (Appendix A); the question as to the hour remains.

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

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

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

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

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

Behold your King .] Like the title on the cross and unlike the “ Ecce Homo ,” these words are spoken in bitter irony. This man in His mock insignia is a fit sovereign for the miserable Jews. Perhaps Pilate would also taunt them with their own glorification of Him on Palm Sunday.

15. But they ] The true text gives. They therefore , with the pronoun of opposition ( ekeinoi ) in harmony with their cry. They will have nothing to do with such a king.

Shall I ] Or, must I . There is a strong emphasis on ‘King,’ which stands first in the original. Pilate begins (18:33) and ends with the same idea, the one dangerous item in the indictment, the claim of Jesus to be King of the Jews.

The chief priests ] This depth of degradation was reserved for them. “The official organs of the theocracy themselves proclaim that they have abandoned the faith by which the nation had lived.” Sooner than acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah they proclaim that a heathen Emperor is their King. And their baseness is at once followed by Pilate’s: sooner than meet a dangerous charge he condemns the innocent to death.

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

And they took ] The best authorities give, They therefore took . The word for ‘took’ should rather be rendered received , as in the only other places in which it occurs in this Gospel, 1:11, 14:3. It means to ‘accept what is offered, receive from the hands of another.’ A comparison of the three texts is instructive. The eternal Son is given by the Father, comes to his own inheritance, and His own people received Him not (1:11). The Incarnate Son is given up by Pilate to His own people, and they received Him to crucify Him (19:16). The glorified Son comes again to His own people, to receive them unto Himself (14:3).

and led him away ] These words are of very doubtful authority.

17 42. The Death and Burial

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

The section falls into four double parts of which the second and fourth contain a marked dramatic contrast, such as S. John loves to point out:

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

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

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

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

17 22. The Crucifixion and the Title on the Cross

17. bearing his cross ] The better reading gives, bearing the cross for Himself . S. John omits the help which Simon the Cyrenian was soon compelled to render, as also (what seems to be implied by Mark 15:22 ) that at last they were obliged to carry Jesus Himself. Comp. the Lesson for Good Friday morning, Genesis 22:0 , especially v . 6.

went forth ] “The place of public execution appears to have been situated north of the city. It was outside the gate (Hebrews 13:12 ) and yet ‘nigh unto the city’ ( v . 20). In the Mishna it is placed outside the city by a reference to Leviticus 24:14 . It is said to have been ‘two men high’ (Sanh. vi. 1). The Jews still point out the site at the cliff, north of the Damascus gate, where is a cave now called ‘Jeremiah’s Grotto.’ This site has therefore some claim to be considered as that of the Crucifixion. It was within 200 yards of the wall of Agrippa, but was certainly outside the ancient city. It was also close to the gardens and the tombs of the old city, which stretch northwards from the cliff; and it was close to the main north road, in a conspicuous position, such as might naturally be selected for a place of public execution.” Conder, Handbook to the Bible , pp. 356, 7.

of a skull ] Probably on account of its shape. It would be contrary to Jewish law to leave skulls unburied; and if this were the meaning of the name we should expect ‘of skulls’ rather than ‘of a skull.’

18. two other ] Robbers or bandits (not ‘thieves’), as S. Matthew and S. Mark call them, probably guilty of the same crimes as Barabbas (see on 18:40). Jesus is crucified with them as being condemned under a similar charge of sedition and treason.

Jesus in the midst ] Here also we seem to have a tragic contrast the Christ between two criminals. It is the place of honour mockingly given to Him as King.

19. a title ] Better, a title also . It was common to put on the cross the name and crime of the person executed, after making him carry it round his neck to the place of execution. S. John alone tells us that Pilate wrote the title himself. The meaning of the ‘also’ is not quite clear; perhaps it looks back to v . 16. S. John uses the Latin term, titulus , in a Greek form, titlos . S. Matthew has ‘His indictment’ (27:37); S. Mark, ‘the inscription of His indictment’ (15:26); S. Luke, ‘an inscription’ (23:38).

the writing was ] Literally, there was written (see on 2:17). The other three give the inscription thus; S. Matthew, ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews;’ S. Mark, ‘The King of the Jews;’ S. Luke, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

20. nigh to the city ] Pictures are often misleading in placing the city a mile or two in the background of the Crucifixion. S. John’s exact topographical knowledge comes out again here.

in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin ] The better texts give, In Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek . The national and the official languages would naturally be placed before Greek, and for different reasons either Hebrew or Latin might be placed first. In Luke 23:38 the order is Greek, Latin, Hebrew; but the clause is of very doubtful authority. In any case the three representative languages of the world at that time, the languages of religion, of empire, and of intellect, were employed. Thus did they ‘tell it out among the heathen that the Lord is king,’ or (according to a remarkable reading of the LXX. in Psalms 96:10 ) ‘that the Lord feigned from the tree.’ (See on 20:16.)

21. Then said ] Better, said therefore . Now that they have wrung what they wanted out of Pilate they see that in granting it he has insulted them publicly before the thousands present at the Passover, and in a way not easy to resent.

the chief priests of the Jews ] The addition ‘of the Jews’ is remarkable, ‘and it occurs nowhere else in N.T. It probably refers to the title: these ‘chief priests of the Jews ’ objected to His being called ‘the King of the Jews .’

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

23 27. The four Enemies and the four Friends

23. Then the soldiers ] Better, The soldiers therefore . The ‘therefore’ looks back to v . 18.

his garments ] The loose, outer garment, or toga, with the girdle and fastenings. This was large enough to be worth dividing, and in some cases was the only garment worn.

four parts ] A mark of accurate knowledge; a quaternion of soldiers has charge of the prisoner, as in Acts 12:4 ; but there the prisoner has to be guarded and kept alive, so four quaternions mount guard in turn, one for each watch. The clothes of executed criminals were the perquisite of the soldiers on duty.

his coat ] Better, the coat or shirt : it fitted somewhat close to the body, reaching from the neck to the knees or ancles.

without seam ] Josephus tells us that that of the high-priest was seamless, whereas in other cases this garment was commonly made of two pieces ( Ant. iii. vii. 4).

24. that the scripture ] It was in order that the Divine purpose, already declared by the Psalmist, might be accomplished, that this twofold assignment of Christ’s garments took place. S. John quotes the LXX. verbatim, although there the difference, which both he and the original Hebrew mark between the upper and under garment, is obliterated. It is from this passage that the reference to Psalms 22:18 has been inserted in Matthew 27:35 ; none of the Synoptists refer to the Psalm.

my raiment ] A capricious change of translation; the same word is rendered garments in v . 23.

25. Now there stood ] Or, But there were standing . By two small particles ( men in v . 23 and de here), scarcely translatable in English, S. John indicates the contrast between the two groups. On the one hand, the four plundering soldiers with the centurion; on the other, the four ministering women with the beloved disciple.

his mother’s sister, Mary ] The Greek, like the English, leaves us in doubt whether we here have two women or one, whether altogether there are four women or three. The former is much the more probable alternative. (1) It avoids the very improbable supposition of two sisters having the same name. (2) S. John is fond of parallel expressions; ‘His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene’ are two pairs set one against the other. (3) S. Mark (15:40) mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less, and Salome. Mary Magdalene is common to both narratives, ‘Mary the mother of James the Less’ is the same as ‘Mary of Clopas:’ the natural inference is that Salome is the same as ‘His mother’s sister.’ If this is correct, (4) S. John’s silence about the name of ‘His mother’s sister’ is explained: she was his own mother, and he is habitually reserved about all closely connected with himself. We have seen already that he never mentions either his own name, or his brother’s, or the Virgin’s. (5) The very ancient Peshito or Syriac Version adopts this view by inserting ‘and’ before ‘Mary the (wife) of Clopas.’

the wife of Cleophas ] Rather, the wife of Clopas . The Greek is simply ‘the of Clopas,’ and ‘the daughter of Clopas’ may be right, or ‘the mother ,’ or even ‘the sister: ’ but ‘wife’ is more probably to be supplied. There is no reason for identifying Clopas here with Cleopas in Luke 24:18 : Clopas is Aramaic, Cleopas is Greek. The spelling Cleop h as is a mistake derived from Latin MSS. All Greek authorities have Cleopas. If ‘wife’ is rightly inserted, and she is the mother of James the Less, Clopas is the same as Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3 ; comp. 27:56). It is said that Clopas and Alphaeus may be different forms of the same Aramaic name.

Mary Magdalene ] Introduced, like the Twelve (6:67) and Pilate (18:29) abruptly and without explanation, as being quite familiar to the readers of the Gospel. See on Matthew 27:56 and Luke 8:2 .

26. whom he loved ] See on 18:23. The expression here is not a mere periphrasis to avoid giving the name, still less a boastful insertion: it explains why Jesus committed the two to one another. (See Introduction, ii. iii. 3 b .)

Woman ] See on 2:4.

behold thy son .] If, as has just been maintained (2nd note on v . 25), S. John was the Virgin’s nephew, and if, as is probable (see on 2:12), Christ’s ‘brethren’ were the sons of Joseph by a former marriage, the fact that Christ committed His mother to her nephew and His own beloved disciple rather than to her step-sons requires no explanation. Even if His ‘brethren’ were the sons of Joseph and Mary, their not believing on Him (7:5) would sufficiently account for their being set aside; and we have no evidence that they believed until after the Resurrection (Acts 1:14 ).

27. from that hour ] Quite literally, as soon as all was over ( v . 30); or he may have led her away at once and then have returned ( v . 35).

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

28 30. The two words from the Cross, ‘I Thirst,’ ‘It is Finished’

28. After this ] See on v . 38.

knowing ] Comp. 13:1.

were now accomplished ] Rather, are already finished . The very same word is used here as in v . 30, and this identity must be preserved in translation.

that the scripture , &c.] Many critics make this depend on ‘are already finished,’ in order to avoid the apparent contradiction between all things being already finished and something still remaining to be accomplished. But this construction is somewhat awkward. It is better to connect ‘that … fulfilled’ with ‘saith,’ especially when Psalms 69:21 speaks so plainly of the thirst. The apparent contradiction almost disappears when we remember that the thirst had been felt sometime before it was expressed. All things were finished, including the thirst; but Christ alone knew this. In order that the prophecy might be accomplished , it was necessary that He should make known His thirst. ‘Brought to its due end’ or ‘made perfect’ is the natural meaning of the very unusual expression translated ‘fulfilled.’

29. Now … vinegar ] Omit ‘now.’ S. John’s precise knowledge appears once more: the other three do not mention the vessel, but he had stood close to it. The ‘vinegar’ was probably the sour wine or posca in a large jar ‘set’ by the soldiers for their own use while on guard. Criminals sometimes lived for many hours, even a day or two, on the cross.

and they filled , &c.] The true text gives, having placed therefore a sponge full of the vinegar upon hyssop they put it to his mouth . The difference between the two verbs rendered ‘put’ is very graphic; the one expresses the placing of the sponge round the stalk (comp. Matthew 21:33 , Matthew 21:27 :28, 48), the other the offering (16:2) and applying (Mark 10:13 ) it to his lips.

hyssop ] The plant cannot be identified with certainty. The caper-plant, which is as likely as any, has stalks which run to two or three feet, and this would suffice. It is not probable that Christ’s feet were on a level with the spectators’ heads, as pictures represent: this would have involved needless trouble and expense. Moreover the mockery of the soldiers recorded by S. Luke (see on 23:36) is more intelligible if we suppose that they could almost put a vessel to His lips. S. John alone mentions the hyssop; another mark of exact knowledge.

put it to his mouth ] The actors and their motive are left doubtful. Probably soldiers, but possibly Jews, and probably in compassion rather than mockery; or perhaps in compassion under cover of mockery (comp. Mark 15:36 ).

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

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

he bowed his head ] Another detail peculiar to the Evangelist who witnessed it.

gave up the ghost ] The two apostles mark with special clearness that the Messiah’s death was entirely voluntary. S. Matthew says, ‘He let go His spirit’ (27:50); S. John, ‘He gave up His spirit.’ None of the four says ‘He died.’ The other two have ‘ He breathed out ;’ and S. Luke shews clearly that the surrender of life was a willing one by giving the words of surrender ‘Father into Thy hands I commend my spirit.’ ‘No one taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself’ It was the one thing which Christ claimed to do ‘of Himself’ (10:18). Contrast 5:30, 7:28, 8:28, 42.

On ‘the seven words from the cross’ see on Luke 23:34 ; Mark 15:34 ; Matthew 27:46 . Between the two words recorded in these verses (28 30) there is again a contrast. ‘I thirst’ is an expression of suffering; the only one during the Passion. ‘It is finished’ is a cry of triumph; and the ‘therefore’ in v . 30 shews how the expression of suffering led on to the cry of triumph. S. John omits the ‘loud voice’ which all the Synoptists give as immediately preceding Christ’s death. It proved that His end was voluntary and not the necessary result of exhaustion.

31 42. The petition of the Jews and the petition of Joseph

31. As in 18:28, the Jews shew themselves to be among those ‘who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.’ In the midst of deliberate judicial murder they are scrupulous about ceremonial observances.

The Jews therefore ] The ‘therefore,’ as in v . 23, probably does not refer to what immediately precedes: it looks back to vv . 20, 21. The Jews still continue their relentless hostility. They do not know whether any one of the three sufferers is dead or not; their request shews that; so that ‘therefore’ cannot mean in consequence of Jesus’ death. In order to save the Sabbath, and perhaps also to inflict still further suffering, they ask Pilate for this terrible addition to the punishment of crucifixion. Certainly the lesson ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice,’ of which Christ had twice reminded them, and once in connexion with the Sabbath (Matthew 12:7 , Matthew 9:13 ), had taken no hold on them.

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

that … high day ] Literally, the day of that Sabbath was great (comp. 7:37).

legs might be broken ] The crurifragium , like crucifixion, was a punishment commonly reserved for slaves. The two were sometimes combined, as here. Lactantius (iv. xxvi) says, ‘His executioners did not think it necessary to break His bones, as was their prevailing custom ;’ which seems to imply that to Jewish crucifixions this horror was commonly added, perhaps to hasten death. For even without a Sabbath to make matters more urgent, corpses ought to be removed before night-fall (Deuteronomy 21:23 ); whereas the Roman custom was to leave them to putrefy on the cross, like our obsolete custom of hanging in chains.

32. Then came the soldiers ] The soldiers therefore came , in consequence of the fresh order from Pilate which the Jews would bring. Two probably went to each of the robbers.

34. pierced ] To make quite sure that He was dead. The Greek word is not the same as that used in v . 37; this means either to ‘prick’ or to ‘stab,’ that to ‘pierce deeply.’

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

We can scarcely be wrong in supposing that the blood and water are symbolical. The order confirms this. Blood symbolizes the work of redemption which had just been completed by His death; and water symbolizes the ‘birth from above,’ with its cleansing from sin, which was the result of His death, and is the means by which we appropriate it. Thus the two great Sacraments are represented.

35. And he … is true ] Rather, He that hath seen hath borne witness and his witness is true (comp. 1:19, 32, 34, 8:13, 14, 12:17). Besides the change from ‘record’ to witness , for the sake of marking by uniform translation S. John’s fondness for this verb and substantive, the correction from ‘saw’ to hath seen must be noted. The use of the perfect rather than the aorist is evidence that the writer himself is the person who saw. If he were appealing to the witness of another person he would almost certainly have written, as the A. V., ‘he that saw .’ The inference that the author is the person who saw becomes still more clear if we omit the centre of the verse, which is somewhat parenthetical: ‘ He that hath seen hath borne witness, in order that ye all also may believe .’ The natural sense of this statement is that the narrator is appealing to his own experience. Thus the Apostolic authorship of the Gospel is again confirmed. (See Westcott, Introduction , p. xxvii.)

is true ] Not simply truthful, but genuine, perfect: it fulfils the conditions of sufficient evidence. (See on 1:9 and comp. 8:16, 7:28)

saith true ] Better, saith things that are true . There is no tautology, as in the A. V. S. John first says that his evidence is adequate; he then adds that the contents of it are true. Testimony may be sufficient (e.g. of a competent eyewitness) but false: or it may be insufficient (e.g. of half-witted child) but true. S. John declares that his testimony is both sufficient and true; both alêthinos and alêthês .

that ye might ] Better, that ye also may; ye as well as the witness who saw for himself.

Why does S. John attest thus earnestly the trustworthiness of his narrative at this particular point? Four reasons may be assigned. This incident proved (1) the reality of Christ’s humanity against Docetic views; and these verses therefore are conclusive evidence against the theory that the Fourth Gospel is the work of a Docetic Gnostic (see on 4:22): (2) the reality of Christ’s Divinity , against Ebionite views; while His human form was no mere phantom, but flesh and blood, yet He was not therefore a mere man, but the Son of God: (3) the reality of Christ’s death , and therefore of His Resurrection , against Jewish insinuations of trickery (comp. Matthew 28:13-15 ): (4) the clear and unexpected fulfilment of two Messianic prophecies.

36. were done ] Better, came to pass . Note that S. John uses the aorist ( ἐγένετο ), where S. Matthew, writing nearer to the events, uses the perfect ( γέγονεν ). ‘Hath come to pass’ implies that the event is not very remote: Matthew 1:22 , Matthew 21:4 , Matthew 26:56 . The ‘for’ depends upon ‘believe.’ Belief has the support of Scripture; for the two surprising events, Christ’s escaping the crurifragium and yet having His side pierced, were evidently preordained in the Divine counsels.

shall not be broken ] Exodus 12:46 . Thus he who at the opening of this Gospel was proclaimed as the Lamb of God (1:29, 36), at the close of it is declared to be the true Paschal Lamb. Once more we have evidence that S. John’s consistent and precise view is, that the death of Christ coincided with the killing of the Paschal Lamb . And this seems also to have been S. Paul’s view (see on 1 Corinthians 5:7 ).

37. They shall look ] All present, especially the Jews. The whole world was represented there.

pierced ] See on v . 34. The word here used occurs nowhere else in N.T. excepting Revelation 1:7 , and forms a connexion worth noting between the Gospel and the Apocalypse (see on 11:44, 15:20, and 20:16); all the more so because S. John here agrees with the present Masoretic Hebrew text and in every word differs from the Greek of the LXX. The Greek softens down ‘pierced through’ (which seemed a strange expression to use of men’s treatment of Jehovah) into ‘insulted.’ See on 6:45, 12:13, 15, where there is further evidence of the Evangelist having independent knowledge of Hebrew, and therefore being a Jew of Palestine.

38. And after this ] More literally, But after these things . The ‘but’ marks a contrast between the hostile petition of the Jews and the friendly petition of Joseph. ‘These things’ as distinct from ‘this’ will shew that no one event is singled out with which what follows is connected: the sequence is indefinite. Comp. 3:22, 6:14. ‘After this ’ in v . 28 is right: there the sequence is direct and definite. Comp. 2:12, 11:7, 11.

Joseph of Arimathea ] See notes on Matthew 27:57 ; Mark 15:43 ; Luke 23:50 . The Synoptists tell us that he was rich, a member of the Sanhedrin, a good and just man who had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s counsel and crime, one who (like Simon and Anna) waited for the kingdom of God, and had become a disciple of Christ.

secretly for fear of the Jews ] This forms a coincidence with S. Mark, who says of him (15:43) that ‘ having summoned courage he went in unto Pilate,’ implying that like Nicodemus he was naturally timid. Joseph probably went to Pilate as soon as he knew that Jesus was dead: the vague ‘after these things’ need not mean that he did not act till after the piercing of the side.

took the body ] As the friends of the Baptist (Matthew 14:12 ) and of S. Stephen (Acts 8:2 ) did in each case.

39. Nicodemus ] Another coincidence. Nicodemus also was a member of the Sanhedrin (iii. 1), and his acquaintance with Joseph is thus explained. And it is S. Mark who tells us that Joseph was one of the Sanhedrin, S. John who brings him in contact with Nicodemus. It would seem as if Joseph’s unusual courage had inspired Nicodemus also. We are not told whether or no Nicodemus had ‘consented to the counsel and deed of them.’

at the first ] Either the first time that he came to Jesus, in contrast to other occasions; or simply at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Comp. 10:40).

myrrh and aloes ] Myrrh-resin and pounded aloe-wood, both aromatic substances: ‘All thy garments are myrrh and aloes’ (Psalms 45:8 ). Comp. Matthew 2:11 . Aloes are not mentioned elsewhere in N.T. For ‘mixture’ ( migma ) the two best MSS. read roll ( eligma ), and the purpose of this large quantity was probably to cover the Body entirely. Comp. 2 Chronicles 16:14 .

about an hundred pound ] 1200 ounces. There is nothing incredible in the amount. It is a rich man’s proof of devotion, and possibly of remorse for a timidity in the past which now seemed irremediable: his courage had come too late.

40. Then took they ] They took therefore .

wound it , &c.] Or, bound it in linen cloths . The ‘cloths’ seem to refer to the bandages which kept the whole together rather than the large ‘linen sheet’ mentioned by the other Evangelists, which Joseph had bought on purpose (Mark 15:46 ). The word here used for ‘linen cloths’ occurs also in Luke 24:12 : see note there.

the manner of the Jews ] As distinct from the manner of the Egyptians, whose three methods of embalming are elaborately described by Herodotus (ii. 86 ff.). The Egyptians in all cases removed part of the intestines and steeped the body in nitre.

to bury ] The Greek verb is rare in Scripture; in N.T. only Matthew 26:12 . The cognate substantive occurs 12:7; Mark 14:8 . In Genesis 50:2 it is used by the LXX. for the embalming of Jacob.

41. there was a garden ] Contrast 18:1. S. John alone tells of the garden, which probably belonged to Joseph, for S. Matthew tells us that the sepulchre was his.

a new sepulcher ] S. Matthew also states that it was new, and S. Luke that no one had ever yet been laid in it. S. John states this fact in both ways with great emphasis. Not even in its contact with the grave did ‘His flesh see corruption.’

S. John omits what all the others note, that the sepulchre was hewn in the rock.

42. the Jews’ preparation day ] Perhaps another slight indication that the Gospel was written outside Palestine. Or the addition ‘of the Jews’ may point to the time when there was already a Christian ‘preparation-day.’ See notes on ‘the Passover of the Jews ’ (2:13; 11:55).

It would seem as if the burial was hastily and temporarily performed. They probably intended after the Sabbath to make a more solemn and complete burial elsewhere.

was nigh at hand ] Perhaps this fact suggested to Joseph the thought of going to Pilate. He had a sepulchre of his own close to Golgotha.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 19". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/john-19.html. 1896.