Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 28th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
John 18

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Friedrich Spitta ( Zur Geschichte und Litteratur des Urchristentums , i. 157 ff.) believes that the second section of this chapter has been accidentally dislocated, and that its original order was as follows: (1) 12, 13, Jesus is brought: to Annas; (2) 19 23, He is examined before the high priest; (3) 24, 14, He is passed on to Caiaphas; (4) 15 18, 25 b 27, the triple denial of Peter; (5) 28, Jesus is sent to the Praetorium.

But this arrangement also has its difficulties. It requires us to suppose that Caiaphas had come to the house of Annas and conducted the examination recorded in 19 23, and that when it is said that Annas sent the prisoner to Caiaphas, after this examination, it is only meant that he sent Him to the house or palace of Caiaphas where the Sanhedrim sat.

Verse 1

John 18:1 . Having finished His prayer and His discourse, Jesus ἐξῆλθε , “went out” from the city, as is suggested by πέραν τοῦ χειμάρρου , “to the other side of the torrent,” cf. John 6:1 . χείμαρρος sc. χειμάρροος ποταμός , a stream that flows in winter, a torrent; of Jabbok, Genesis 32:22 ; of Kidron, 2 Samuel 15:23 . τῶν Κέδρων , “the Kidron,” described in Henderson’s Palestine , 90. ὅπου ἦν κῆπος “where was a garden,” in Mark 14:32 , described as χωρίον (a country place, or estate), and called Γεθσημανῆ . The owner was probably a friend of Jesus. Into this garden He went with His disciples.

Verses 1-12

John 18:1-12 . The arrest of Jesus .

Verse 2

John 18:2 . ἤδει δὲ καὶ Ἰούδας . “And Judas also knew the place, because Jesus and His disciples had frequently assembled there” on previous visits to Jerusalem, Luke 21:37 . This is inserted to account for what follows, and to remind the reader of the voluntariness of the surrender. There was no attempt to escape or hide.

Verse 3

John 18:3 . ὁ οὖν Ἰούδας λαβών τὴν σπεῖραν καὶ … ὑπηρέτας . σπεῖρα (Spira, anything rolled up or folded together), a Roman cohort (Polyb., xi. 23, 1) or tenth part of a legion, and therefore containing about 600 men. The cohort denotes the garrison of the castle Antonia, which, during the Passover, was available to assist the Sanhedrim in maintaining order. Part of it was now used in case “the servants of the Sanhedrim,” ἐκ τῶν … ὑπηρέτας , should not prove sufficient. A considerable body of troops would obviate the risk of a popular rising, John 7:32-49 , John 12:42 ; especially Mark 14:2 . They were furnished with φανῶν καὶ λαμπάδων καὶ ὅπλων . φανός was a link or torch, consisting of strips of resinous wood tied together, and in late Greek was used for λυχνοῦχος , a lantern; λαμπάς was the open torch. See Rutherford’s New Phryn. , p. 131, and Wetstein. Both open lights and lanterns were in use in the Roman army, and would be at hand. “The soldiers rushed out of their tents with lanterns and torches.” Dion. Hal., John 11:5 . It was new moon, but it might be cloudy, and it would certainly be shady in the garden.

Verse 4

John 18:4 . Jesus, then, not with the boldness of ignorance, but knowing πάντα τὰ ἐρχόμενα ἐπʼ αὐτόν , “all that was coming upon Him,” cf. Luke 14:31 , ἐρχομένῳ ἐπʼ αὐτόν , “went out” from the garden, or more probably, John 18:26 , from the group of disciples, “and says, Whom seek ye?” to concentrate attention on Himself and prevent a general attack.

Verse 5

John 18:5 . Ἰησοῦν τὸν Ναζωραῖον “Jesus the Nazarene,” cf. Acts 24:5 , Ναζαρηνός occurs Mark 14:67 , etc. ἐγώ εἰμι , “I am He”. He had already been identified by Judas’ kiss, Matthew 24:47 , but Jesus wished to declare Himself as one who did not fear identification. That the kiss was superfluous is, however, no proof that it was not given. Εἱστήκει δὲ καὶ Ἰούδας … This remark is inserted not to bring o t that Judas fell to the ground with the rest (Holtzmann), but to point out that Judas had not only given directions, but had actually come, and now confronted his Lord and companions.

Verse 6

John 18:6 . The immediate effect of His calm declaration was: ἀπῆλθον εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω καὶ ἔπεσον χαμαί , “they went backwards and fell to the ground”. Job 1:20 , πεσὼν χαμαί ; similarly used by Homer, etc., as = χαμᾶζε . This might have been considered a fulfilment of Psalms 27:2 , οἱ θλίβοντές με … ἔπεσαν . The recoil, which necessarily causes stumbling and falling in a crowd, was natural, especially if the servants here employed were the same as those who had been sent to take Him on a former occasion, John 7:46 . No one wished to be the first to lay hands on Him. Similar effects were produced by Mohammed (when Durthur stood over him with drawn sword), Mark Antony, Marius, Coligny. But the object in narrating the circumstance may have been to illustrate the voluntariness of Christ’s surrender.

Verse 7

John 18:7 . Declaring His identity a second time, Jesus explicitly reminds the officials that by their own acknowledgment they are instructed to arrest none but Himself, εἰ οὖν ἐμὲ ζητεῖτε … οὐδένα . In thus protecting His companions, Jesus, according to John, fulfils John 17:12 ; although here the fulfilment is more superficial than that which was intended. ( Cf. 2 Samuel 24:17 .)

Verse 10

John 18:10 . Peter did not wish to be thus dissociated from the fate of his Master, John 13:38 , and thinks a rescue possible, as only the Sanhedrim officials would enter the garden, leaving the soldiers outside. ἔχων μάχαιραν , “having a sword,” “pro more peregrinantium in iis locis,” Grotius, and cf. Thucyd., i. 6; Luke 22:36 . He struck τὸν τοῦ ἀρχιερέως δοῦλον , “the high priest’s servant”. The δοῦλοι are distinguished from the ὑπηρέται , John 18:18 . John, being acquainted with the high priest’s household, both identified the man and knew his name, which was a common one, see Wetstein, and cf. Nehemiah 10:4 ; also, Porphyry, Life of Plotinus , 17. “In my native dialect I (Porphyry) was called Malchus, which is interpreted, king.” ἀπέκοψεν αὐτοῦ τὸ ὠτίον τὸ δεξιόν . In Mark 14:47 ἀφεῖλεν τὸ ὠτάριον . τὸ δεξιόν indicates eye-witness or subsequent intimate knowledge. Peter meant, no doubt, to cleave the head.

Verse 11

John 18:11 . Peter’s action, however, was not commended. βάλε … θήκην . “Res evangelica non agitur ejusmodi praesidiis.” Erasmus. θήκη , a receptacle; sometimes ξιφοθήκη ; usually κολεός . τὸ ποτήριον … αὐτό . For the figure of the cup, see Ezekiel 23:31-34 ; Matthew 20:22 ; Matthew 26:39 . Shall I refuse the lot appointed me by the Father?

Verse 12

John 18:12 . Ἡ οὖν σπεῖρα … αὐτόν . The Roman soldiers, ἡ σπεῖρα , under the orders of their Chiliarch (Tribune, Colonel), abetted the officers of the Sanhedrim, ὑπηρέται τῶν Ἰουδαίων , in the apprehension of Jesus. As a matter of course and following the universal practice ἔδησαν αὐτόν , “they bound Him,” with His hands shackled behind His back.

Verse 13

John 18:13 . καὶ απήγαγον αὐτὸν , “and they led Him to Annas first”. πρῶτον refers to the subsequent examinations, John 18:24 ; John 18:28 . The reason for taking Him to Annas first was that he was father-in-law of the actual high priest, Caiaphas, and was a man of commanding influence. He had himself been high priest from A.D. 7 14, while five of his sons occupied the office in succession. Caiaphas held office till 37 A.D. On ἀρχιερεὺς τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ ἐκείνου see John 11:49 .

Verses 13-24

John 18:13-24 . Examination before Annas .

Verse 14

John 18:14 . The attitude Caiaphas was likely to assume towards the prisoner is indicated by his identification with the person who uttered the principle, John 11:50 , ὅτι συμφέρει … ἀπολέσθαι .

Verse 15

John 18:15 . Ἠκολούθει … μαθητής . “There followed Jesus Simon Peter” with whom the narrative is now concerned “and another disciple,” in all probability John. He is mentioned to explain how Peter found access to the high priest’s residence. “That disciple was known to the high priest,” i.e. , probably to Caiaphas, and accordingly went in with Jesus εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν τοῦ ἀρχιερέως , “into the palace (or court) of the high priest”. αὐλή , originally the court or quadrangle round which the house was built, was used of the residence itself. Apparently, and very naturally, Annas had apartments in this official residence now occupied by Caiaphas.

Verse 16

John 18:16 . Peter, not being known to the household, was excluded and stood outside at the door, πρὸς τῇ θύρᾳ ἔξω , cf. John 20:11 . John, missing him, spoke to the doorkeeper and introduced him. τῇ θυρωρῷ , female doorkeepers appear 2 Samuel 4:6 , Acts 12:13 , and see Wetstein.

Verse 17

John 18:17 . Naturally he concluded from John’s introducing him that Peter was also a disciple, and as a mere innocent and purposeless remark says: Μὴ καὶ σὺ … τούτου ; “Are you also one of this man’s disciples?” He says, οὐκ εἰμί , “I am not”.

Verse 18

John 18:18 . Εἱστήκεισαν … θερμαινόμενος . The household servants and the Sanhedrim servitors had made a fire in the open court of the house and were standing round it warming themselves. Peter, unabashed by his lie, joined himself to this group and stood in the light of the fire. Cf. Luke 22:56 , πρὸς τὸ φῶς . Jerusalem, lying 2500 feet above sea-level, is cold at night in spring.

Verse 19

John 18:19 . Ὁ οὖν ἀρχιερεὺς ἠρώτησε … “The high priest then interrogated Jesus about His disciples and about His teaching,” apparently wishing to bring out on what terms He made disciples, whether as a simple Rabbi or as Messiah. But Jesus answered: Ἐγὼ παρρησίᾳ ἐλάλησα … οὐδέν . The high priest’s question was useless. Jesus had nothing to tell which He had not publicly and frequently proclaimed. Similarly Socrates replied to his judges (Plato, Apol. , 33), “If any one says that he has ever learned or heard anything from me in private which the world has not heard, be assured he says what is not true”. παρρησίᾳ “without reserve,” rückhaltslos , Holtzmann. τῷ κόσμῳ , “to everybody,” to all who cared to hear; cf. Socrates’ δημοσίᾳ . “I always taught in synagogue and in the temple”; the article dropped as we drop it in the phrase “in church”; “where,” i.e. , in both synagogue and temple, πάντες “all the Jews assemble”.

Verse 21

John 18:21 . “Why do you interrogate me? Ask those who have heard, what I said to them.” Similarly Socrates appeals to his disciples. The οὗτοι might be construed as if Jesus looked towards some who were present.

Verse 22

John 18:22 . Ταῦτα … ἀρχιερεῖ ; ῥάπισμα . The older meaning of ῥαπίζειν was “to strike with a rod” sc. ῥαβδίζειν ; but in later Greek it meant “to give a blow on the cheek with the open hand”. This is put beyond doubt by Field, Otium Noru. , p. 71; cf. Rutherford’s New Phryn. , p. 257. R.V [90] marg. “with a rod” is not an improvement on R.V [91] text.

[90] Revised Version.

[91] Revised Version.

Verse 23

John 18:23 . The calmness and reasonableness of Jesus’ retort to this blow impressed it on the memory of John, whose own blood would boil when he saw his Master struck by a servant.

Verse 24

John 18:24 . As nothing was to be gained by continuing the examination, Jesus is handed on to Caiaphas, Ἀπέστειλεν … ἀρχιερέα .

Verse 25

John 18:25 resumes the narrative interrupted at John 18:18-19 , and resumes by repeating the statement that Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. While he did so the servants and officers, John 18:18 , who were round the fire said, Μὴ καὶ σὺ … “Are you also of His disciples?”

Verse 26

John 18:26 . Λέγει εἶς ἐκ τῶν δούλων … ὠτίον , “one of the servants of the high priest, who was a kinsman of him,” etc., “a detail which marks an exact knowledge of the household (John 18:15 ),” Westcott.

Verse 27

John 18:27 . Πάλιν οὖν … ἐφώνησεν … A cock crew, the dawn approaching, and the warning of John 13:38 was fulfilled. See on John 13:38 .

Verse 28

John 18:28 . Ἄγουσιν , “They lead,” i.e. , the Sanhedrists who had assembled lead: in Luke 23:1 , ἀναστὰν ἅπαν τὸ πλῆθος αὐτῶν . ἀπὸ τοῦ Καϊάφα . Field prefers translating “from the house of Caiaphas,” cf. Mark 5:35 ; Acts 16:40 . πραιτώριον , praetorium , lit. “the general’s tent”; here probably the governor’s quarters in Antonia, but possibly the magnificent palace of Herod used by the Roman governor while in Jerusalem; see especially Keim, Jesus of Nazareth , vi. 79 E. Tr. ἦν δὲ πρωΐα καὶ αὐτοὶ οὐκ εἰσῆλθον … “It was early morning (the fourth watch, from 3 to 6 A.M., see Mark 13:35 ; see on John 13:38 ) and they themselves entered not into the palace that they might not be defiled but might eat the passover.” The dawning of the day seems to have reminded them of its sacred character. To enter a house from which all leaven had not been removed was pollution. Probably too the mere entrance into the house of a Gentile was the gnat these men strained at. The plain inference from the word is that the Paschal Supper was yet to be eaten. But see Edersheim’s Life of Jesus , ii. 566.

Verses 28-40

John 18:28 to John 19:16 . Jesus before Pilate .

Verse 29

John 18:29 . ἐξῆλθεν οὖν ὁ Πιλάτος … The examination began therefore in the open air in front of the building; cf. John 19:13 . Pilate opened the case with the formal inquiry, Τίνα κατηγορίαν κ . τ . λ .; To this reasonable demand the Sanhedrists evasively and insolently reply (John 18:30 ): “Had He not been a κακοποιός we should not have delivered Him to you”. It appears therefore that having already condemned Him to death (see Matthew 26:60 . ἔνοχος θανάτου ἐστί . Mark 14:64 ) they handed Him over παρεδώκαμεν to Pilate, not to have their judgment revised, but to have their decision confirmed and the punishment executed. κακοποιός is found in Arist., Eth. , iv. 9, Polybius, and frequently in 1 Peter.

Verse 31

John 18:31 . This does not suit Roman ideas of justice; and therefore Pilate, ascribing their reluctance to lay a definite charge against the prisoner and to have the case reopened to the difficulty of explaining to a Roman the actual law and transgression, bids them finish the case for themselves, λάβετε αὐτὸν ὑμεῖς … cf. Acts 18:14 .

Verse 32

John 18:32 . This, however, they decline to do, because it is the death penalty they desire, and this they have no right to inflict: ἡμῖν οὐκ ἔξεστιν ἀποκτεῖναι οὐδένα . In the Roman provinces the power of life and death, the jus gladii , was reserved to the governor. See Arnold’s Roman Prov. Administration , pp. 55, 57; and Josephus, Bell. Jud. , ii. 8, 1, who states that when the territory of Archelaus passed to the provincial governor, Coponius, the power of inflicting capital punishment was given to him, μέχρι τοῦ κτείνειν λαβὼν παρὰ τοῦ Καίσαρος ἐξουσίαν . See also Stapfer’s Palestine , p. 100. By being thus handed over to the Roman magistrate it came about that Jesus was crucified , a form of capital punishment which the Jews never inflicted even when they had power; and thus the word of Jesus was fulfilled which He spake intimating that He would die by crucifixion, John 12:32-33 .

Verse 33

John 18:33 . Pilate, being thus compelled to undertake the case, withdraws within the Praetorium to conduct it apart from their prejudices and clamours. He calls Jesus and says to Him, Σὺ εἶ ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων ; How did Pilate know that this was the κατηγορία against Jesus? John omits the information given in Luke 23:2 that the Sanhedrists definitely laid this accusation. And the answer of Jesus implies that He had not heard this accusation made in Pilate’s presence. The probability therefore is that Pilate had privately obtained information regarding the prisoner. There is some contempt as well as surprise in Pilate’s Σύ . “Art Thou,” whose appearance so belies it, “the king of the Jews?”

Verses 33-37

John 18:33-37 . Jesus examined by Pilate in private .

Verse 34

John 18:34 . Jesus answers by asking: Ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ σὺ τοὺτο λέγεις …; Pilate’s reply, “Am I a Jew?” precludes all interpretations, however inviting (see especially Alford and Oscar Holtzmann), but the simple one: “Do you make this inquiry from any serious personal interest and with any keen apprehension of the blessings attached to the Kingdom of God, or are you merely echoing a formal charge brought against me by others?”

Verse 35

John 18:35 . To this Pilate with some heat and contempt replies: Μήτι ἐγὼ Ἰουδαῖός εἰμι ; “Am I a Jew?” How can you suppose that I have any personal interest in such a matter? τὸ ἔθνος τὸ σὸν … ἐμοί . “Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.” It is their charge I repeat. τί ἐποίησας ; “what hast Thou done?” He scouts the idea that he should take any interest in the Jewish Messiah, and returns to the practical point, “what have you done?”

Verse 36

John 18:36 . But Jesus accepts the allegation of the Jews and proceeds to explain in what sense He is king: Ἡ βασιλεία ἡ ἐμὴ κ . τ . λ . My kingdom is not of a worldly nature, nor is it established by worldly means. Had it been so, my servants would have striven to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But as things are, νῦν , since it is indisputable that no armed resistance or rescue has been attempted, it is put beyond question that my kingdom is not from hence. “The substitution of ‘hence’ for ‘of this world’ in the last clause appears to define the idea of the world by an immediate reference to the representatives of it close at hand.” Westcott. Perhaps this rather limits the reference. Jesus uses ἐντεῦθεν as one who has other worlds than this in view.

Verse 37

John 18:37 . Pilate understands only so far as to interrupt with Οὐκοῦν … σύ ; “So then you are a king?” On οὐκοῦν see Klotz’s Devarius , p. 173. To which Jesus replies with the explicit statement: Σὺ λέγεις … ἐγώ . “Thou sayest.” This, says Schoettgen (Matthew 26:25 ), is “solennis adfirmantium apud Judaeos formula”; so that ὅτι must be rendered with R.V [92] marg. “because” I am a king. Erasmus, Westcott, Plummer, and others render, “Thou sayest that I am a king,” neither definitely accepting nor rejecting the title. But this interpretation seems impossible in the face of the simple σὺ λέγεις of the synoptists, Matthew 27:2 , Mark 15:2 , Luke 23:3 . We must then render, “Thou art right, for a king I am”. In what sense a king, He explains: ἐγὼ εἰς τοῦτο γεγέννημαι κ . τ . λ . “For this end have I been born, and for this end am I come into the world;” the latter expression, by being added to the former, certainly seems to suggest a prior state. Cf. John 1:9 . The end is expressed in ἵνα μαρτυρήσω τῇ ἀληθείᾳ , “that I might witness to the truth,” especially regarding God and His relation to men. The consequence is that every one who belongs to the truth (moral affinity expressed by ἐκ ) obeys Him, ἀκούει in a pregnant sense, cf. John 10:8-16 . They become His subjects, and form His kingdom, a kingdom of truth. For which Pilate has only impatient scorn: τί ἐστιν ἀλήθεια ; “Tush, what is Aletheia?” It was a kingdom which could not injure the empire. What have I to do with provinces that can yield no tribute, and threaten no armed rebellion?

[92] Revised Version.

Verse 38

John 18:38 . Pilate waited for no reply to his question, but τοῦτο εἰπὼν , πάλιν ἐξῆλθε . The noting of each movement of Pilate suggests the eye-witness, and brings out his vacillation. Ἐγὼ οὐδεμίαν αἰτίαν … “I for my part find no fault, or ground of accusation in Him.” Naturally, therefore, Pilate will acquit and dismiss Him; but no. He attempts a compromise: ἔστι δὲ συνήθεια ὑμῖν “You have a custom,” of which we have no information elsewhere; although Josephus ( Antiq. , xx. 9, 3) relates that at a passover Albinus released some robbers. Analogies in other countries have been produced. This custom Pilate fancies they will allow him to follow in favour of Jesus: βούλεσθε … Ἰουδαίων ; ἀπολύσω , aorist subjunctive; cf. Matthew 13:28 , θέλεις συλλέξωμεν ; Luke 9:54 , θέλεις εἴπωμεν ; βούλεσθε καλῶμεν ; βούλεσθε εἴπω , etc., commonly occur in Aristophanes and other classical writers. Ἐκραύγασαν … Μὴ τοῦτον , ἀλλὰ τὸν Βαραββᾶν , “They shouted,” showing their excitement: πάλιν , previous shoutings have not been mentioned by John, but this word reflects light on the manner in which the accusations had been made. ἦν δὲ ὁ Βαραββᾶς λῃστής . Bar-Abbas, son of a father, or of a Rabbi, διδασκάλου υἱός . In Matthew 27:16 , Origen read Ἰησοῦν τὸν Βαρ ., but added “in multis exemplaribus non continetur”. He found a mystery in the circumstance that both prisoners were called “Jesus, the Son of the Father”. Barabbas is designated λῃστής , or, as Luke (Luke 23:19 ) more definitely says, he had been imprisoned for sedition in the city and for murder. John does not bring out the irony of the Jews’ choice, which freed the real and crucified the pretended mover of sedition.

Verses 38-40

John 18:38-40 . Pilate declares the result of his examination .

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 18". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/john-18.html. 1897-1910.
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