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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 26

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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These chapters give with exceptional fulness and minuteness of detail the story of Christ’s last sufferings and relative incidents. The story finds a place in all four Gospels (Mark 14:15 ; Luke 22:23 ; John 18:19 ), showing the intense interest felt by Christians of the apostolic age in all that related to the Passion of their Lord. Of the three strata of evangelic tradition relating respectively to what Jesus taught , what He did , and what He suffered , the last-named probably came first in origin. Men could wait for the words and deeds, but not for the awful tale of suffering. Even Holtzmann, who puts the teaching first, recognises the Passion drama as the nucleus of the tradition as to memorable facts and experiences. In the formation of the Passion chronicle the main facts would naturally come first; around this nucleus would gather gradually accretions of minor incidents, till by the time the written records began to be compiled the collection of memorabilia had assumed the form it bears, say, in the Gospel of Mark; the historic truth on the solemn subject, at least as far as it could be ascertained. The passionless tone of the narrative in all four Gospels is remarkable; the story is told in subdued accent, in few simple words, as if the narrator had no interest in the matter save that of the historian: ἀπαθῶς ἅπαντα διηγοῦνται , καὶ μόνης τῆς ἀληθείας φροντίζουσι . Euthy. Zig. ad Matthew 26:67 .

Chapter 26 and parallels contain the anointing , the betrayal , the Holy Supper , the agony , the apprehension , the trial , the denial by Peter .

Verse 1

Matthew 26:1 . πάντας τ . λόγους τούτους , all these sayings, most naturally taken as referring to the contents of chaps. 24, 25, though a backward glance at the whole of Christ’s teaching is conceivable. Yet in case of such a comprehensive retrospect why refer only to words? Why not to both dicta et facta ?

Verses 1-2

Matthew 26:1-2 contain a prediction by Jesus two days before Passover of His approaching death; Matthew 26:3-5 a notice of a consultation by the authorities as to how they might compass His death. n the parallels the former item appears as a mere date for the latter, the prediction being eliminated.

Verses 1-5

Matthew 26:1-5 . Introductory (Mark 14:1-2 , Luke 22:1-2 ).

Verse 2

Matthew 26:2 . τὸ πάσχα , used both of festival, as here, and of victim, as in Matthew 26:17 . The Passover began on the 14th of Nisan; it is referred to here for the first time in our Gospel. παραδίδοται , present, either used to describe vividly a future event (Burton, M. T., § 15) or to associate it with the feast day as a fixture ( γίνεται ), “calendar day and divine decree of death fixed beyond recall” (Holtz., H. C.), or to imply that the betrayal process is already begun in the thought of the false-hearted disciple.

Verse 3

Matthew 26:3 . τότε , two days before Passover. συνήχθησαν points to a meeting of the Sanhedrim. εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν denotes the meeting place, either the palace of the high priest in accordance with the use of αὐλή in later Greek (Weiss), or the court around which the palatial buildings were ranged (Meyer) = atrium in Vulgate, followed by Calvin. In the latter case the meeting would be informal. In any case it was at the high priest’s quarters they met: whereupon Chrys. remarks: “See the inexpressible corruption of Jewish affairs. Having lawless proceedings on hand they come to the high priest seeking authority where they should encounter hindrance” (Hom. lxxix.). Καϊάφα , Caiaphas, surname, Joseph his name, seventeen years high priest ( vide Joseph. Ant., 18, 2, 2; 4, 3).

Verse 4

Matthew 26:4 . ἵνα with subjunctive after a verb of effort or plan; in classic Greek oftener ὅπως with future indicative (Burton, § 205). δόλῳ by, craft, a method characteristic of clerics; indigna consultatio (Bengel); cowardly and merciless.

Verse 5

Matthew 26:5 . ἔλεγον δὲ : δὲ points back to Matthew 26:1 , which fixes the passion in Passover time, while the Sanhedrists thought it prudent to keep off the holy season for reason given. μὴ , etc., to avoid uproar apt to happen at Passover time, Josephus teste (B. J., i., 4, 3).

Verse 6

Matthew 26:6 . τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ , etc.: indicates the scene, in Bethany, and in the house of Simon known as the leper (the one spoken of in Matthew 8:2 ?). The host of Luke 7:36 ff. was a Simon. On the other hand, the host of John 12:1 f., or at least a prominent guest, was Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary. This and other points of resemblance and difference raise the question: do all the four evangelists tell the same story in different ways? On this question endless diversity of opinion has prevailed. The probability is that there were two anointings, the one reported with variations by Mt., Mk., and John, the other by Lk.; and that the two got somewhat mixed in the tradition, so that the precise details of each cannot now be ascertained. Happily the ethical or religious import of the two beautiful stories is clear.

Verses 6-13

Matthew 26:6-13 . Anointing in Bethany (Mark 14:3-9 , cf. John 12:1-11 ). Six days before Passover in John; no time fixed in Mt. and Mk. Certainly within Passion week. The thing chiefly to be noted is the setting of this pathetic scene, between priestly plotting and false discipleship. “Hatred and baseness on either hand and true love in the midst” ( Training of the Twelve ).

Verse 7

Matthew 26:7 . ἀλάβαστρον , an “alabaster” (vase), the term, originally denoting the material, being transferred to the vessel made of it, like our word “glass” (Speaker’s Com. ), in common use for preserving ointments (Pliny, N.H., iii., 3). An alabaster of nard ( μύρου ) was a present for a king. Among five precious articles sent by Cambyses to the King of Ethiopia was included a μύρου ἀλάβ . (Herod., iii., 20). On this ointment and its source vide Tristram, Natural History of the Bible , p. 484 (quoted in notes on Mk.). βαρυτίμου (here only in N. T.), of great price; this noted to explain the sequel. κεφαλῆς : she broke the vase and poured the contents on the head of Jesus, feet in John; both possible; must be combined, say the Harmonists.

Verse 8

Matthew 26:8 . ἠγανάκτησαν , as in Matthew 20:24 . The disciple-circle experienced various annoyances from first to last: Syrophenician woman, mothers and children, ambition of James and John, Mary of Bethany. The last the most singular of all. Probably all the disciples disapproved more or less. It was a woman’s act, and they were men . She was a poet and they were somewhat prosaic. ἀπώλεια , waste, a precious thing thrown away. To how many things the term might be applied on similar grounds! The lives of the martyrs, e.g., cui bono? That is the question; not so easily answered as vulgar utilitarians think. Beside this criticism of Mary place Peter’s revolt against the death of Jesus (Matthew 16:22 ).

Verse 9

Matthew 26:9 . δοθῆναι , etc., to be given (the proceeds, subject easily understood) to the poor . How much better a use than to waste it in the expression of a sentiment!

Verse 10

Matthew 26:10 . γνοὺς , perceiving though not hearing. We have many mean thoughts we would be ashamed to speak plainly out. τί κόπους παρέχετε , etc., why trouble ye the woman? a phrase not frequent in classic authors, though similar ones occur, and even this occasionally ( vide Kypke); found not only here but in Luke 11:7 ; Luke 18:5 , Galatians 6:17 , the last place worthy to be associated with this; St. Paul and the heroine of Bethany kindred spirits, liable to “troubles” from the same sort of people and for similar reasons. καλὸν , noble, heroic: a deed done under inspiration of uncalculating love.

Verse 11

Matthew 26:11 suggests a distinction between general ethical categories and duties arising out of special circumstances. ommon men recognise the former. It takes a genius or a passionate lover to see and swiftly do the latter. Mary saw and did the rare thing, and so achieved an ἔργον καλὸν . ἐμὲ δὲ οὐ π ., “a melancholy litotes” (Meyer).

Verse 12

Matthew 26:12 . πρὸς τὸ ἐνταφ ., to prepare for burial by embalming; so near is my death, though ye thought not of it: effect of the woman’s act, not her conscious purpose. The Syriac version introduces a quasi . She meant nothing but to show her love, quickened possibly by instinctive foreboding of ill. But an act done in that spirit was the best embalming of Christ’s body, or rather of His act in dying, for the two acts were kindred. Hence naturally the solemn declaration following, an essential part of the story, of indubitable authenticity.

Verse 13

Matthew 26:13 . τὸ εὐ . τοῦτο , this gospel, the gospel of my death of love. ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ : after ὅπου ἐὰν might seem superfluous; not so, however: it serves to indicate the range of the “wheresoever”: wide as the world, universality predicted for Christianity, and also for the heroine of the anointing. Chrysostom, illustrating Christ’s words, remarks: Even those dwelling in the British Isles ( Βρεττανικὰς νήσους ) speak of the deed done in a house in Judaea by a harlot ( Hom. lxxx.: Chrys. identifies the anointing here with that in Luke 7:0 ).

Verse 14

Matthew 26:14 . τότε , then; the roots of the betrayal go much further back than the Bethany scene vide on Matthew 17:22-23 but that scene would help to precipitate the fatal step. Death at last at hand, according to the Master’s words. Then a base nature would feel uncomfortable in so unworldly company, and would be glad to escape to a more congenial atmosphere. Judas could not breathe freely amid the odours of the ointment and all it emblemed. εἷς τ . δ ., one of the Twelve (l).

Verses 14-16

Matthew 26:14-16 . Judas offers to betray Jesus (Mark 14:10-11 , Luke 22:3-6 ).

Verse 15

Matthew 26:15 . τί θέλετε , etc., what are ye willing to give me? Mary and Judas extreme opposites: she freely spending in love, he willing to sell his Master for money. What contrasts in the world and in the same small circle! The mercenary spirit of Judas is not so apparent in Mk. and Lk. κἀγὼ , etc.: καὶ introducing a co-ordinate clause, instead of a subordinate clause, introduced by ὥστε or ἵνα ; a colloquialism or a Hebraism: the traitor mean in style as in spirit. ἔστησαν , they placed (in the balance) = weighed out. Many interpret: they agreed = συνεφώνησαν . So Theophy.: “Not as many think, instead of ἐζυγοστάτησαν ”. This corresponds with Mk. and Lk., and the likelihood is that the money would not be paid till the work was done (Fritzsche). But Mt. has the prophecies ever in view, and uses here a prophetic word (Zechariah 11:12 , ἔστησαν τὸν μισθόν μου τρι . ἀργ ., Sept [137] ), indifferent as to the time when payment was made. Coined money was in use, but the shekels may have been weighed out in antique fashion by men careful to do an iniquitous thing in the most orthodox way. Or there may have been no weighing in the case, but only the use of an ancient form of speech after the practice had become obsolete (Field, Ot. Nor. ). The amount = about three or four pounds sterling, a small sum for such a service; too small thinks Meyer, who suggests that the real amount was not known, and that the sum was fixed in the tradition to suit prophecy.

[137] Septuagint.

Verse 16

Matthew 26:16 . εὐκαιρίαν , a good occasion, the verb, εὐκαιρέω (Mark 6:31 ), belongs to late Greek (Lobeck, Phryn. , p. 125).

Verse 17

Matthew 26:17 . τῇ δὲ πρώτῃ τ . ἀ . The sacred season which began on the 14th Nisan and lasted for seven days, was two feasts rolled into one, the Feast of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and it was called by either name indifferently. ποῦ , where? A much more perplexing question is: when? Was it on the evening of the 13th (beginning of 14th), as the Fourth Gospel seems to say, or on the evening of the following day, as the synoptical accounts seem to imply, that Jesus kept the Paschal Feast? This is one of many harmonistic problems arising out of the Gospel narratives from this point onwards, on which an immense amount of learned labour has been spent. The discussions are irksome, and their results uncertain; and they are apt to take the attention off far more important matters: the essentials of the moving tale, common to all the evangelists. We must be content to remain in doubt as to many points. θέλεις ἑτοιμάσωμεν , the deliberative subjunctive, without ἵνα after θέλεις .

Verses 17-19

Matthew 26:17-19 . Arrangements for Paschal Feast (Mark 14:12-16 , Luke 22:7-13 ).

Verse 18

Matthew 26:18 . ὑπάγετε , go ye into the city, i.e. , Jerusalem. πρὸς τὸν δεῖνα , to such a one, evidently no sufficient direction. Mk. and Lk. are more explicit. Mt. here, as often, abbreviates. Doubtless a previous understanding had been come to between Jesus and an unknown friend in Jerusalem. Euthy. suggests that a roundabout direction was given to keep Judas in ignorance as to the rendezvous. ὁ καιρός μου ., my time (of death). Some (Grotius, Speaker’s Com. , Carr, Camb. N.T.) find in the words a reason for anticipating the time of the Paschal Feast, and so one of the indications, even in the Synoptics, that John’s date of the Passion is the true one. ποιῶ τ . π ., I make or keep (present, not future), a usual expression in such a connection. Examples in Raphel. μετὰ τ . μ .: making thirteen with the Master, a suitable number ( justa φρατρία , Grotius), between the prescribed limits of ten and twenty. The lamb had to be entirely consumed (Exodus 12:4 ; Exodus 12:43 ). Did Jesus and the Twelve eat the Paschal lamb?

Verses 20-21

Matthew 26:20-21 . ὀψίας δὲ γ . It is evening, and the company are at supper, and during the meal ( ἐσθιόντων αὐ ., Matthew 26:21 ) Jesus made a startling announcement. At what stage is not indicated. Elsner suggests a late stage: “Cumfere comedissent; vergente ad finem coenâ,” because an early announcement would have killed appetite.

Verses 20-25

Matthew 26:20-25 . The presence of a traitor announced (Mark 14:18-21 , Luke 22:21-23 ).

Verse 21

Matthew 26:21 . παραδώσει με , shall betray me. General announcement, without any clue to the individual, as in Mk. Matthew 26:18 .

Verse 22

Matthew 26:22 . λυπούμενοι seems a weak word, and the addition of the evangelist’s pet word σφόδρα does not make it strong. None of the accounts realistically express the effect which must have been produced. ἤρξαντο helps to bring out the situation: they began to inquire after some moments of mute astonishment. μήτι ἐγώ , etc., can it be I? expecting or hoping for a negative answer; yet not too sure: probably many of them were conscious of fear; even Peter might be, quite compatibly with his boldness a little later.

Verse 23

Matthew 26:23 . ὁ ἐμβάψας , he who dipped, dips, or shall have dipped. The aorist participle decides nothing as to time, but merely points to a single act, as distinct from a process ( cf. the present in Mk.). The expression in Mt. does not necessarily identify the man unless we render: who has just dipped, and conceive of Jesus as dipping immediately after. (So Weiss.) In favour of this view it may be said that there was no sense in referring to a single act of dipping, when there would be many in the course of the meal, unless the circumstances were such as to make it indicate the individual disciple. The mere dipping in the same dish would not identify the traitor, because there would be several, three or four, doing the same thing, the company being divided into perhaps three groups, each having a separate dish. τὴν χεῖρα . The ancients used their hands, not knives and forks. So still in the East. τρυβλίῳ . Hesychius gives for this word ὀξοβάφιον = acetabulum, a vessel for vinegar. Hence Elsner thinks the reference is to a vessel full of bitter herbs steeped in vinegar, a dish partaken of at the beginning of the meal. More probably the words point to a dish containing a mixture of fruit dates, figs, etc. vinegar and spices, in which bread was dipped, the colour of bricks or mud, to remind them of the Egyptian bondage ( vide Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. , p. 831). The custom of dipping here referred to is illustrated by the following from Furrer ( Wanderungen , p. 133): “Before us stood two plates, one with strongly spiced macaroni, the other with a dish of fine cut leeks and onions. Spoons there were none. There were four of us who dipped into the same dish.”

Verse 24

Matthew 26:24 . ὑπάγει , goeth, a euphemism for death. Cf. John 13:33 . καλὸν ἦν without the ἄν , not unusual in conditional sentences of this sort: supposition contrary to fact ( vide Burton, M. T., §§ 248 9).

Verse 26

Matthew 26:26 . ἐσθ . δὲ αὐτῶν : same phrase as in Matthew 26:21 , with δὲ added to introduce another memorable incident of the paschal supper. No details are given regarding that meal, so that we do not know how far our Lord followed the usual routine, for which consult Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. , or Smith’s Dictionary , article Passover . Neither can we with certainty fix the place of the Holy Supper in the paschal meal, or in relation to the announcement of the traitor. The evangelists did not concern themselves about such subordinate matters. λαβὼν , etc., having taken a cake of bread and given thanks He broke it. The benediction may have been an old form put to a new use, or original. εὐλογήσας has not ἄρτον for its object, which would in that case have been placed after it. δοὺς , etc., giving to the disciples; the cake broken into as many morsels, either in the act of giving or before the distribution began. λάβετε φάγετε , take, eat. λάβετε only in Mk. (W. and H [138] ). φάγετε probably an interpretative addition, true but unnecessary, by our evangelist. τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου , this is my body. The ἐστι is the copula of symbolic significance. Jesus at this sacred moment uses a beautifully simple, pathetic, and poetic symbol of His death. But this symbol has had the fate of all religious symbolism, which is to run into fetish worship; in view of which the question is raising itself in some thoughtful minds whether discontinuance, at least for a time, of the use of sacraments would not be a benefit to the religion of the spirit and more in harmony with the mind of Christ than their obligatory observance.

[138] Westcott and Hort.

Verses 26-29

Matthew 26:26-29 . The Lord’s Supper (Mark 14:22-25 ; Luke 22:19-20 ).

Verse 27

Matthew 26:27 . ποτήριον , a cup, the article being omitted in best MSS. It is idle, and in spirit Rabbinical, to inquire which of the four cups drunk at the paschal feast. The evangelist had no interest in such a question. εὐχαριστήσας : a different word from that used in reference to the bread, but similar in import = having given thanks to God. Observe, Jesus was in the mood, and able, at that hour, to thank and praise, confident that good would come out of evil. In Gethsemane He was able only to submit . λέγων , etc.: Mk.’s statement that all drank of the cup, Mt. turns into a direction by Jesus to do so, liturgical practice influencing the report here as in φάγετε . Jesus would use the fewest words possible at such an hour.

Verse 28

Matthew 26:28 . τὸ αἷμά μου : the very colour of the wine suggestive; hence called αἷμα σταφυλῆς in Deuteronomy 32:14 ; my blood, pointing to the passion, like the breaking of the bread. τῆς διαθήκης (for the two gen. μου τ . δ . dependent on αἷμα , vide Winer, 30, 3, 3), the blood of me, of the covenant . The introduction of the idea appropriate to the circumstances: dying men make wills ( διατίθενται οἱ ἀποθνήσκοντες , Euthy.). The epithet καινῆς in T. R. is superfluous, because involved in the idea. The covenant of course is new. It is Jeremiah’s new covenant come at last. The blood of the covenant suggests an analogy between it and the covenant with Israel ratified by sacrifice (Exodus 24:8 ). τὸ περὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυνόμενον : the shedding for many suggests sacrificial analogies; the present participle vividly conceives that which is about to happen as now happening; περὶ πολλῶν is an echo of ἀντὶ πολλῶν in Matthew 20:28 . εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν : not in Mk., and may be a comment on Christ’s words, supplied by Mt.; but it is a true comment. For what else could the blood be shed according to Levitical analogies and even Jeremiah’s new covenant, which includes among its blessings the complete forgiveness of sin?

Verse 29

Matthew 26:29 contains an express statement of the fact implied in the preceding actions, iz. , that death is near. It is the last time I shall drink paschal ( τούτου τ . γ ., etc.) wine with you. I am to die at this passover. The second half of the sentence is not to be taken prosaically. It is the thought of meeting again, brought in to brighten the gloom of the leave-taking (“so tritt zu dem Lebewohl ein Gedanke an das Wiedersehen,” Holtz., H.C.). To disentangle figure from fact in this poetic utterance about the new wine is impossible. Hence such comments as those of Bengal and Meyer, to the effect that καινὸν points to a new kind of wine (“novitatem dicit plane singularem,” Beng.), serve no purpose. They turn poetry into prose, and pathos into bathos.

The remarkable transaction narrated in Matthew 26:26-29 was an acted parable proclaiming at once the fact and the epoch-making significance of the approaching passion. It sets in a striking light the personality of a Jesus; His originality, His tenderness, His mastery of the situation, His consciousness of being through His life and His death the inaugurator of a new era. Was Judas present? Who can tell? Lk.’s narrative seems to imply that he was. Mt. and Mk. give no sign. They cannot have regarded his absence as of vital importance.

Verse 30

Matthew 26:30 . ὑμνήσαντες . With this participle, referring to the last act within the supper chamber the singing of the paschal hymn (the Hallel, part 2, Psalms 115-118, or possibly a new song, Grotius) we pass without, and after talk between Jesus and the disciples, arising out of the situation, arrive at the scene of another sacred memory of the passion eve. If, as is said (Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. ), it was required of Jews that they should spend passover night in Jerusalem, the spirit of Jesus led Him elsewhere towards the Mount of Olives, to the garden of the agony.

Verses 30-46

Matthew 26:30-46 . Gethsemane (Mark 14:26-42 , Luke 22:39-46 ).

Verse 31

Matthew 26:31 . τότε , then, on the way through the valley between the city and Olivet, the valley of Jehoshaphat (Kedron), suggestive of prophetic memories (Joel 3:0 , Zechariah 13, 14), leading up, as well as the present situation, to the topic. πάντες , all; one false-hearted, all without exception weak. ἐν ἐμοὶ , in what is to befal me. ἐν τῇ ν . τ . So near is the crisis, a matter of hours. The shadow of Gethsemane is beginning to fall on Christ’s own spirit, and He knows how it must fare with men unprepared for what is coming. γέγραπται γάρ : in Zechariah 13:7 , freely reproduced from the Hebrew.

Verse 32

Matthew 26:32 predicts a brighter future to alleviate the gloom. he shepherd will yet again go before His flock ( προάξω , pastoris more , Grotius), leading them. εἰς τ . Γαλιλαίαν , the place of reunion. This verse is wanting in the Fayam Fragment, which Harnack regards as a sign of its great antiquity. Resch, Agrapha , p. 495.

Verse 33

Matthew 26:33 . εἰ πάντες σκανδαλισθήσονται , if, or although, all shall be offended; the future implies great probability of the case sussposed; Peter is willing to concede the likelihood of the assertion in reference to all the rest. ἐγὼ οὐδέποτε , I, never , vehemently spoken and truly, so far as he knows himself ; sincere in feeling, but weaker than he is aware of.

Verse 34

Matthew 26:34 . ἐν . τ . τ . ν ., repetition of statement in Matthew 26:31 , with added emphasis ( ἀμὴν , etc.), and = never? This night I tell you. πρὶν ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι : more exact specification of the time to make the statement more impressive = before the dawn. ἀλέκτωρ , poetic form for ἀλεκτρυών . This fowl not mentioned in O. T.; probably introduced into Palestine after the exile, possibly from Babylon (Benzinger, pp. 38, 94). Not allowed to be kept in Jerusalem according to Lightfoot, but this is contradicted by others (Schöttgen, Wünsche). In any case the prohibition would not apply to the Romans. Though no hens had been in Jerusalem, Jesus might have spoken the words to mark the time of night. τρὶς , thrice, suggestive of denial in aggravated form ; on which, not on the precise number of times, as an instance of miraculous prediction, stress should be laid.

Verse 35

Matthew 26:35 : intensified protestation of fidelity καὶ before ἐάν ( κἂν ) intensive, ntroducing an extreme case, death for the Master. οὐ μή , making the predictive future emphatically negative = I certainly will not. ὁμοίως , similarly, weaker than Mk.’s ὡσαύτως . Very improbable, thinks De Wette. But the disciples were placed in a delicate position by Peter’s protestations, and would have to say something, however faint-heartedly.

Verse 36

Matthew 26:36 . χωρίον , a place in the sense of a property or farm = villa in Vulgate, ager , Hilary, Grundstück , Weizsäcker’s translation. Γεθσημανῆ , probably = גַּת שֶׁסֶן , an oil press. Descriptions of the place now identified with it in Robinson’s Researches , Furrer’s Wanderungen , and Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine . καθίσατε αὐτοῦ : Jesus arranges that a good distance shall be between Himself and the body of the disciples when He enters the valley of the shadow of death. He expects no help from them. ἐκεῖ , there! pointing to the place visible in the moonlight.

Verses 36-46

Matthew 26:36-46 . The agony (so called from the word ἀγωνία in Luke 22:44 , a ἅπαξ λεγ .).

Verse 37

Matthew 26:37 . παραλαβὼν : He takes the same three as at the transfiguration along with Him that they may be near enough to prevent a feeling of utter isolation. ἤρξατο , He began. This beginning refers to the appearance of distress; the inward beginning came earlier. He did His feeling till He had reduced His following to three; then allowed them to appear to those who, He hoped, could bear the revelation and give Him a little sympathy. ἀδημονεῖν , of unvertain derivation. Euthy. gives as its equivalent βαρυθυμεῖν , to be dejected or heavy hearted.

Verse 38

Matthew 26:38 . τοτὲ λέγει αὐτ .: He confides to the three His state of mind without reserve, as if He wished it to be known. Cf. the use made in the epistle to the Hebrews of this frank manifestation of weakness as showing that Christ could not have usurped the priestly office, but rather simply submitted to be made a priest (chap. Matthew 5:7-8 ). περίλυπος , overwhelmed with distress, “über and über traurig” (Weiss). ἕως θανάτου , mortally = death by anticipation, showing that it was the Passion with all its horrors vividly realised that was causing the distress. Hilary, true to his docetic tendency represents Christ as distressed on account of the three, fearing they might altogether lose their faith in God. ὧδε : the three stationed nearer the scene of agony to keep watch there.

Verse 39

Matthew 26:39 . μικρὸν , a little space, presumably near enough for them to hear ( cf. Luke 22:41 ). ἐπὶ πρόσωπον , on His face, not on kness, summa demissio (Beng.). πάτερ , Father! Weiss in Markus-Evang. seems to think that the one word Abba was all the three heard, the rest of the prayer being an expansion and interpretation by the evangelist. But if they heard one word they could hear more. The prayer uttered in such a state of distress would be a loud outburst ( cf. μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς , Hebrews 5:7 ), at once , therefore before the disciples had time to fall asleep or even get drowsy. τὸ ποτήριον τ ., this cup (of death). πλὴν , etc., howbeit not as I wish, but as Thou, expressively elliptical; no doubt spoken in a calmer tone, the subdued accent suggestive of a change of mood even if the very words did not distinctly reach the ear of the three. Grotius, from theological solicitudes, takes θέλω = θέλοιμι , “vellem” (“more Hebraeorum, qui neque potentialem neque optativum modum habent”).

Verse 40

Matthew 26:40 . ἔρχεται : not necessarily immediately after uttering the foregoing prayer. Jesus may have lain on the ground for a considerable time silent. τῷ Πέτρῳ : all three were asleep, but the reproach was most fitly addressed to Peter, the would-be valiant and loyal disciple. οὕτως : Euthy. puts a mark of interrogation after this word, whereby we get this sense: So? Is this what it has come to? You were not able to watch with me one hour! A spirited rendering in consonance with Mark’s version.

Verse 42

Matthew 26:42 . λέγων , saying; whereupon follow the words. Mark simply states that Jesus prayed to the same effect. οὐ δύναται : οὐ not μὴ . He knows that it is not possible, yet the voice of nature says strongly: would that it were!

Verses 42-46

Matthew 26:42-46 . Further progress of the agony . That Jesus had not yet reached final victory is apparent from His complaint against the disciples. He came craving, needing a sympathy He had not got. When the moment of triumph comes He will be independent of them.

Verse 43

Matthew 26:43 . καθεύδοντας : again! surprising, one would say incredible on first thoughts, but not on second. It was late and they were sad, and sadness is soporific.

Verse 44

Matthew 26:44 . esus leaves them sleeping and goes away again for the final struggle, praying as before.

Verse 45

Matthew 26:45 . καθεύδετε λ . κ . ἀναπαύεσθε , sleep now and rest; not ironical or reproachful, nor yet seriously meant, but concessive = ye may sleep and rest indefinitely so far as I am concerned; I need no longer your watchful interest. The Master’s time of weakness is past; He is prepared to face the worst. ἡ ὥρα : He expects the worst to begin forthwith: the cup, which He prayed might pass, to be put immediately into His hands. παραδίδοται , betrayal the first step, on the point of being taken. ἁμαρτωλῶν , the Sanhedrists, with whom Judas has been bargaining. ἐγείρ . ἄγωμ .: sudden change of mood, on signs of a hostile approach: arise, let us go; spoken as if by a general to his army. ὁ παραδιδούς , the traitor is seen to be coming. It is noticeable that throughout the narrative, in speaking of the action of Judas the verb παραδίδωμι is used instead of προδίδωμι : the former expresses the idea of delivering to death, the latter of delivering into the hands of those who sought His life (Euthy. on Matthew 26:21 ).

The scene in the garden is intrinsically probable and without doubt historical. The temptation was to suppress rather than to invent in regard both to the behaviour of Jesus and to that of His disciples. It is not the creation of theology, though theology has made its own use of it. It is recorded simply because it was known to have happened.

Verses 47-56

Matthew 26:47-56 . The apprehension (Mark 14:43-52 , Luke 22:47-53 ). εἷς τ . δώδεκα , as in Matthew 26:14 , repeated not for information, but as the literary reflection of the chronic horror of the apostolic church that such a thing should be possible. That it was not only possible but a fact is one of the almost undisputed certainties of the passion history. Even Brandt, who treats that history very sceptically, accepts it as fact ( Die Evangelische Geschichte , p. 18). μετʼ αὐτοῦ , etc.: the description of the company to whom Judas acted as guide is vague; ὄχ . πολ . is elastic, and might mean scores, hundreds, thousands, according to the standard of comparison. ὄχλος does not suggest soldiery as its constituents, neither does the description of the arms borne swords and staves. Lk. (Luke 22:52 , στρατηγοὺς τ . ἱεροῦ ) seems to have in his mind the temple police, consisting of priests and Levites with assistants, and this view appears intrinsically probable, though Brandt ( E. G. , p. 4) scouts it. The Jewish authorities would make arrangements to ensure their purpose; the temple police was at their command, and they would send a sufficiently large number to overpower the followers of their victim, however desperate their resistance.

Verse 48

Matthew 26:48 . αὐτός ἐστιν , He and no other is the man.

Verse 49

Matthew 26:49 . κατεφίλησεν , kissed Him heartily. In late Greek there was a tendency to use compounds with the force of the simple verb, and this has been supposed, to be a case in point (De Wette). But coming after φιλήσω , Matthew 26:48 , the compound verb is plainly used with intention. It occurs again in Luke 7:38 ; Luke 7:45 ; Luke 15:20 , obviously with intensive force. What a tremendous contrast between the woman in Simon’s house (Luke 7:0 ) and Judas! Both kissed Jesus fervently: with strong emotion; yet the one could have died for Him, the other betrays Him to death. Did Jesus remember the woman at that moment?

Verse 50

Matthew 26:50 . ἑταῖρε : so might a master salute a disciple, and disciple or companion is, I think, the sense of the word here (so Elsner, Palairet, Wolf, Schanz, Carr, Camb. N. T.). It answers to ῥαββί in the salute of Judas. ἐφʼ ὃ πάρει , usually taken as a question: “ad quid venisti?” Vulg [140] Wherefore art thou come? A. V [141] “Wozu bist du da?” Weizsäcker. Against this is the grammatical objection that instead of ὃ should have been τὶ . Winer, § 24, 4, maintains that ὃς might be used instead of τίς in a direct question in late Greek. To get over the difficulty various suggestions have been made: Fritzsche renders: friend, for what work you are come! taking ὃ = οἷον . Others treat the sentence as elliptical, and supply words before or after: e.g. , say for what you are come (Morison), or what you have come for, that do , R. V [142] , Meyer, Weiss. The last is least satisfactory, for Judas had already done it, as Jesus instinctively knew. Fritzsche’s suggestion is ingenious, and puts a worthy thought into Christ’s mouth. Perhaps the best solution is to take the words as a question in effect , though not in form . Disciple, for which, or as which you are present? Comrade, and as a comrade here? So Judas pretended, and by the laconic phrase Jesus at once states and exposes the pretence, possibly pointing to the crowd behind in proof of the contrary. So in effect Beng.: “hoccine illud est cujus causa ades?”; also Schanz. The point is that the Master gives the false disciple to understand that He does not believe in his paraded affection.

[140] Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

[141] Authorised Version.

[142] Revised Version.

Verses 51-54

Matthew 26:51-54 . Blood drawn . ἰδού , introducing a second scene connected with the apprehension ( cf. Matthew 26:47 ); the use of a weapon by one of Christ’s disciples. A quite likely occurrence if any of them happened to have weapons in their hands, though we may wonder at that. It might be a large knife used in connection with the Paschal feast. Who used the weapon is not said by the Synop. Did they know? The article before μάχαιραν might suggest that the whole party were armed, each disciple having his sword. The fear that they might be explains the largeness of the band following Judas.

Verse 52

Matthew 26:52 . ἀπόστρεψον : Jesus could not encourage the use of arms by His disciples, and the order to sheathe the weapon He was sure to give. The accompanying word, containing a general legal maxim: draw the sword, perish with the sword (the subsequent history of the Jewish people a tragic exemplification of its truth), suitably enforces the order. Weiss thinks that this word recorded here was spoken by Jesus at some other time, if at all, for it appears to be only a free reproduction of Revelation 13:10 (Meyer, ed. Weiss). This and the next two verses are wanting in Mk. and Lk.

Verse 53

Matthew 26:53 gives another reason for not using the sword: if it were God’s will that His Son should be rescued it could be done in a different way. he way suggested is described in military language, the verbs παρακαλεῖν and παριστάναι being both used in classics in connection with military matters, and the word λεγεῶνας suggesting the battalions of the Roman army. δώδεκα , twelve legions, one for each of the twelve disciples. πλείω , even more than that vast number, Divine resources boundless. The free play of imagination displayed in this conception of a great army of angels evinces the elasticity of Christ’s spirit and His perfect self-possession at a critical moment.

Verse 54

Matthew 26:54 . πῶς οὖν : refers to both forms of aid, that of the sword and that of angels (Grotius, Fritzsche); rescue in any form inconsistent with the predicted destiny of Messiah to be a sufferer. ὅτι οὕτω , etc., the purport of all prophetic scripture is that thus it should be: apprehension and all that is to follow.

Verses 55-56

Matthew 26:55-56 . Jesus complains of the manner of His apprehension . ἐν ἐκ . τ . ὥρᾳ , connects with ἐκράτησαν αὐτόν in Matthew 26:50 . Having said what was necessary to the bellicose disciple, Jesus turns to the party which had come to arrest Him, here called τοῖς ὄχλοις . ὡς ἐπὶ λῃστὴν , etc.: the words may be taken either as a question or as a statement of fact. In either case Jesus complains that they have arrested Him as if He were a robber or other criminal. A robber as distinct from a thief ( vide Trench, Synonyms ) is one who uses violence to possess himself of others’ property, and Christ’s complaint is in the first place that they have treated Him as one who meant to offer resistance. But the reference to His past habit in the sequel seems to show that He has another complaint in His mind, viz. , that they have regarded Him as one hiding from justice . The allusion is to the invasion of His privacy in the garden, and the implied suggestion that they have put a false construction on His presence there. They think He has been seeking escape from His fate when in fact He has been bracing Himself up for it! To what misconstruction the holiest and noblest actions are liable, and how humiliating to the heroic soul! It was thoroughly characteristic of Jesus that He should feel the humiliation, and that He should at once give expression to the feeling. This against Brandt (p. 6), who thinks this utterance in no respect appropriate to the situation. καθʼ ἡμέραν , etc.: Jesus asks in effect why they did not apprehend Him while, for several days in succession, He sat in the temple precincts teaching. To this it might be replied that that was easier said than done, in midst of a miscellaneous crowd containing not a few friends of the obnoxious teacher (so Brandt). But what Jesus is concerned to point out is, not the practicability of arrest in the temple, but that His behaviour had been fearless. How could they imagine that a man who spoke His mind so openly could slink away into hiding-places like an evil-doer? Brandt remarks that the complaint is addressed to the wrong persons: to the underlings rather than to the hierarchs. It is addressed to those who actually apprehended Jesus, whoever they were. Who composed that crowd it would not be easy in the dark to know.

Verse 56

Matthew 26:56 . τοῦτο δὲ , etc.: a formula of the evangelist, introducing another reference by Jesus to the prophecies in these terms, ἵνα πληρωθῶσιν , etc. Jesus reconciles Himself to the indignity in the manner of His arrest, as to the arrest itself, and all that it involved, by the thought that it was in His “cup” as described by the prophets. The prophetic picture of Messiah’s experience acted as a sedative to His spirit. τότε , then, when the apprehension had been effected, and meekly submitted to by Jesus. πάντες , Peter included. ἔφυγον , fled, to save themselves, since their Master could not be saved. This another bitter drop in the cup: absolute loneliness.

Verses 57-68

Matthew 26:57-68 . Before Caiaphas (Mark 14:53-65 ; Luke 22:54 ; Luke 22:66-71 ). πρὸς Καιάφαν , to Caiaphas, who sent them forth, and who expects their return with their victim. ὄπου , where, i.e. , in the palace of Caiaphas. γρ . καὶ πρ .: scribes and presbyters, priests and presbyters in Matthew 26:3 . Mk. names all the three; doubtless true to the fact. συνήχθησαν , were assembled, waiting for the arrival of the party sent out to arrest Jesus. In Mk. the coming together of the Sanhedrim appears to be synchronous with the arrival of Jesus. This meeting happens when the world is asleep, and when judicial iniquity can be perpetrated quietly.

Verse 58

Matthew 26:58 is the prelude to the story of Peter’s denial, hich is resumed at Matthew 26:69 after the account of the trial. Similarly in Mk. Lk. gives the story without interruption. μακρόθεν , from afar: Peter followed his Master, having after a while recovered from the general panic; more courageous than the rest, yet not courageous enough; just enough of the hero in him to bring him into the region of temptation. ἕως τ . αὐ . Cf. Mk., Matthew 26:54 . ἰδεῖν τὸ τέλος , to see the end; a good Greek phrase. Motives: curiosity and honest interest in the fate of his loved Master. Jerome puts these alternatively: “vel amore discipuli vel humana curiositate”.

Verse 59

Matthew 26:59 . τ . συν . ὅλον , the whole Sanhedrim, cf. πάντες in Hebrews 3:16 , the statement in both cases admitting of a few exceptions. ψευδομαρτυρίαν , false evidence, of course in the first place from the evangelist’s point of view ( μαρτυρίαν in Mk.), but substantially true to the fact. They wanted evidence for a foregone conclusion; no matter though it was false if it only looked true and hung fairly well together. Jesus was apprehended to be put to death, and the trial was only a blind, a form rendered necessary by the fact that there was a Procurator to be satisfied.

Verses 59-68

Matthew 26:59-68 . The trial .

Verse 60

Matthew 26:60 . οὐχ εὗρον : they found not false witness that looked plausible and justified capital punishment. πολλῶν π . ψ .: it was not for want of witnesses of a kind; many offered themselves and made statements, but they did not serve the purpose: either trivial or inconsistent; conceivable in the circumstances: coming forward on the spur of the moment from the crowd in answer to an invitation from prejudiced judges eager for damnatory evidence. Those who responded deserved to be stigmatised as false. None but base, mea n creatures would have borne evidence in such a case. δύο , only two had anything to say worth serious attention.

Verse 61

Matthew 26:61 . οὗτος ἔφη , this person said: then follows a version of a word really spoken by Jesus, of a startling character, concerning destroying and rebuilding the temple. An inaccurate report of so remarkable a saying might easily go abroad, and the version given by the two witnesses seems from Matthew 27:40 to have been current. They might, therefore, have borne wrong evidence without being false in intention. δύναμαι , in an emphatic position, makes Jesus appear as one boasting of preternatural power, and τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ , as irreverently parading His power in connection with a sacred object. διὰ τ . ἡ ., literally through three days = after: for similar use of the preposition, vide Galatians 2:1 . The meaning is: after three days I will complete the rebuilding, so that διὰ in effect is = ἐν in John 2:19 .

Verse 62

Matthew 26:62 . ἀναστὰς ὁ ἀρ .: the high priest rose up not because he felt the evidence just led to be very serious, rather in irritation because the most damaging statements amounted to nothing more serious. A man could not be sentenced to death for a boastful word (Grotius). οὐδὲν ἀποκρίνῃ … καταμαρτυροῦσιν : either one question as in Vulg [143] : “nihil respondes ad ea quae isti adversum te testificantur?” or two as in A. V [144] and R. V [145] , so also Weizsäcker: answerest Thou nothing? what do these witness against Thee? It is an attempt of a baffled man to draw Jesus into explanations about the saying which will make it more damaging as evidence against Him. What about this pretentious word of yours; is it true that you said it, and what does it mean?

[143] Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

[144] Authorised Version.

[145] Revised Version.

Verse 63

Matthew 26:63 . ἐσιώπα : Jesus seeing the drift of the questions gave the high priest no assistance, but continued silent. ἐξορκίζω ( ἐξορκόω more common in classics). The high priest now takes a new line, seeing that there is no chance of conviction any other way. He puts Jesus on His oath as to the cardinal question of Messiahship. εἱ σὺ εἰ ὁ Χριστὸς , etc.: not two questions but one, Son of God being exegetical of the title Christ. If He was the one He was the other ipso facto .

Verse 64

Matthew 26:64 . σὺ εἶπας : in current phrase = I am. Was Jesus morally bound to answer? Why not continue silent? First, the whole ministry of Jesus had made the question inevitable. Second, the high priest was the proper person to ask it. Third, it was an important opportunity for giving expression to His Messianic self-consciousness. Fourth, silence would, in the cirumstances, have amounted to denial. πλὴν not = “nevertheless,” but rather = nay more: I have something more startling to tell you. What follows describes the future of the Son of Man in apocalyptic terms, and is meant to suggest the thought: “the time is coming when you and I shall change places; I then the Judge, you the prisoners at the bar”.

Verses 65-68

Matthew 26:65-68 . τότε : At last they have, or think they have, Him at their mercy. διέρρηξεν , etc.: a very imposing act as the expression of true emotion; in reality a theatrical action demanded by custom and performed in accordance with rule: length and locality of rent, the garments to be rent (the nether; all of them, even if there were ten, said the Rabbinical rule: note the plural here, τὰ ἱμάτια ), all fixed. A common custom among Eastern peoples. It was highly proper that holy men should seem shocked immeasurably by “blasphemy”. ἐβλασφήμησεν : Was it blasphemy for a man to call Himself Messiah in a country where a messiah was expected? Obviously not. It might be to call oneself Messiah falsely. But that was a point for careful and deliberate examination, not to be taken for granted. The judgment of the high priest and the obsequious vote of the Sanhedrim were manifestly premature. But it does not follow from this that the evangelist’s account of the trial is unhistorical (Brandt, p. 62). The Sanhedrists, as reported, behave uo more .

Verse 66

Matthew 26:66 . ἔνοχος θανάτου : death the penalty of blasphemy, Leviticus 24:15 , and of being a false prophet, Deuteronomy 18:20 .

Verses 67-68

Matthew 26:67-68 : to judicial injustice succeed personal indignities: spitting in the face ( ἐνέπτυσαν ), miting with the fist ( ἐκολάφισαν , not Attic, κονδυλίζω used instead), or with the open hand ( ἐρράπισαν , originally to beat with rods). Euthy. Zig. distinguishes the two last words thus: κολαφισμὸς is a stroke on the neck with the hollow of the hand so as to make a noise, ῥαπισμὸς a stroke on the face. The p petrators of these outrages in Mk. are τινὲς and οἱ ὑπηρέται , the former word presumably pointing to some Sanhedrists. In Mt. the connection suggests Sanhedrists alone. Incredible that they should condescend to so unworthy proceedings, one is inclined to say. Yet it was night, there was intense dislike and they might feel they did God service by disgracing a pretender. Hence the invitation to the would-be christ to prophesy ( προφήτευσον ) who smote him when he was struck behind the back or blindfolded (Mark 14:65 ). Thus did they fill up the early hours of the morning on that miserable night. Sceptical critics, e.g. , Brandt, p. 69, also Holtz., H. C., suggest that the colouring of this passage is drawn from O. T. texts, such as Micah 4:14 (Sept [146] Matthew 5:1 , A. V [147] ), Isaiah 50:6 ; Isa 53:3-5 , 1 Kings 22:24 , and that probably the texts created the “facts”. That of course is abstractly possible, but the statement of the evangelist is intrinsically probable, and it is to be noted that not even in Mt. is there a “that it might be fulfilled”.

[146] Septuagint.

[147] Authorised Version.

Verse 69

Matthew 26:69 . ὁ δὲ Π .: δὲ resumes the Peter-episode introduced at Matthew 26:58 . ἐκάθητο , was sitting, while the judicial proceedings were going on. αὐλῇ , here means the court, atrium ; the trial would take place in a chamber within the buildings surrounding the court. μία π ., one servant girl, to distinguish from another referred to in Matthew 26:71 ( ἄλλη ). καὶ σὺ , you too, as if she had seen Jesus in company with His disciples, Peter one of them, recognisable again, perhaps during the last few days. Γαλιλαίου : He a Galilean; you, too, by your tongue.

Verses 69-75

Matthew 26:69-75 . Peter’s denial (Mark 14:66-72 , Luke 22:54-62 ). The discrepancies of the four accounts here are perplexing but not surprising. It would be difficult for any one present in the confused throng gathered within the palace gate that night to tell exactly what happened. Peter himself, the hero of the tale, had probably only hazy recollections of some particulars, and might not always relate the incident in the same way. Harmonistic efforts are wasted time. Comparative exegesis may partly explain how one narrative, say Mt.’s, arose out of another, e.g. , Mk.’s (Weiss, Marcus-Evang.). But on the whole it is best to take each version by itself, as one way of telling a story, which in the main is accepted even by writers like Brandt as one of the certainties of the Passion history.

Verse 70

Matthew 26:70 . οὐκ οἶδα , etc.: affectation of extreme ignorance. So far from knowing the man I don’t even know what you are talking about. This said before all ( ἔμπ . πάντων ). First denial, entailing others to follow.

Verse 71

Matthew 26:71 . εἰς τ . πυλῶνα , to or towards the gateway, away from the crowd in the court. ἄλλη ( παιδίσκη ), another saw him, and said, not to him, but to others there (not easy to escape 1). οὗτος , etc., this person, pointing to him, was, etc.

Verse 72

Matthew 26:72 . μεθʼ ὅρκου : second denial, more emphatic, with an oath, and more direct: I know not the man ( τὸν ἄν .).

Verse 73

Matthew 26:73 . οἱ ἑστῶτες , loungers; seeing Peter’s confusion, and amusing themselves by tormenting him. ἀληθῶς , beyond doubt, you, too, are one of them; of the notorious gang. ἡ λαλιά : They had heard him speak in his second denial, which so leads up to a third. Galilean speech was defective in pronouncing the gutturals, and making שׁ = ת .

Verse 74

Matthew 26:74 . καταθεματίζειν (here only, καταναθ . in T. R., probably belonging to vulgar speech, Meyer), to call down curses on himself, sign of irritation and desperation; has lost self-control completely. καὶ εὐθὺς : just after this passionate outburst a cock crew . “Magna circumstantia,” Beng.

Verse 75

Matthew 26:75 . καὶ ἐμνήσθη : The cock crowing caused a sudden revulsion of feeling, and flashed in on Peter’s mind the light of a vivid recollection: the word his Master had spoken. πρὶν , etc., repeated as in Matthew 26:34 . ἐξελθὼν , going out, neither in fear of apprehension (Chrys., Euthy.) nor from shame (Orig., Jer.), but that he might give free rein to penitent feeling. ἔκλαυσεν , wept loudly, as distinct from δακρύειν (John 11:35 ), to shed tears.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 26". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/matthew-26.html. 1897-1910.
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