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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 27

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

Matthew 27:1 . συμβούλιον ἔλαβον : this consultation took place at a meeting of Sanhedrim, which was probably only a continuation of the night meeting, though regarded as formally a second meeting, to keep right with the law which humanely required, at least, two sittings in a grave criminal case; the Sanhedrists in this, as in all things, careful to observe the letter, while sinning against the spirit of the law. Those who were present at the night meeting would scarcely have time to go home, as the hearing of many witnesses (Matthew 26:59 ) would take hours. Absent members might be summoned to the morning meeting (Elsner), or might come, knowing that they were expected. πάντες points to a full meeting, as does also τοῦ λαοῦ after πρεσβύτεροι . The meeting was supremely important, though in one respect pro formâ . The law or custom required a death sentence to be pronounced during day-time. Therefore, the vote of the night meeting had to be formally confirmed. Then they had to consider in what shape the case was to be put so as to ensure the consent of Pilate to the execution of their sentence; a most vital matter. ὥστε θανατῶσαι αὐτόν , so that they might compass His death; the phrase seems meant to cover both aspects of the business on hand: the formal sentence of death, and the adoption of means for securing that it might be carried into effect. ὥστε , with infinitive, here expresses tendency: that He should die, the drift of all done. The result as yet remained uncertain.

Verses 1-2

Matthew 27:1-2 . Morning meeting of the Sanhedrim (Mark 15:1 , Luke 22:66 ; Luke 23:1 ).

Verse 2

Matthew 27:2 . δήσαντες : no mention of binding before in Mt.’s narrative. If Jesus was bound at His apprehension the fetters must have been taken off during the trial. ἀπήγαγον , etc., they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate. No mention at this point what they had resolved to say to Pilate. That comes out in Pilate’s questioning. Pilate was a very undesirable judge to come to with such a cause a poor representative of Roman authority; as described by Philo. and Josephus, as destitute of fear of God or respect for justice, as the unjust judge of the parable; but, like him, accessible on the side of self-interest, as, no doubt, the Sanhedrists knew very well. τῷ ἡγεμόνι , the governor; a general title for one exercising supreme authority as representing the emperor. The more specific title was ἐπίτροπος , procurator. The ordinary residence of procurators was Caesarea, on the sea coast, but it was their custom to be in Jerusalem at passover time, with a detachment of soldiers, to watch over the public peace.

Verse 3

Matthew 27:3 . τότε connects the repentance of Judas with the leading of Jesus away to Pilate which he regarded as sealing his fate. What happened was but the natural result of the apprehension which he himself had brought about, and he doubtless had the natural issue in view at the moment of apprehension. But reaction had set in, partly as a matter of course in a “two-souled” man, partly at sight of the grim reality: his Master led to death by his assistance ( ὅτι κατεκρίθη ). μεταμεληθεὶς , regretting, rueing what he had done: wishing it were undone. ἀπέστρεψε ( ἔστρεψε W.H [148] as in Isaiah 38:8 ), returned the thirty pieces of silver, a sign in such a nature that the repentance as far as it went was very real.

[148] Westcott and Hort.

Verses 3-10

Matthew 27:3-10 . The despair of Judas . Peculiar to Matthew; interesting to the evangelist as a testimony even from the false disciple to the innocence of Jesus, and the wickedness of His enemies, and as a curious instance of prophecy fulfilled.

Verse 4

Matthew 27:4 . ἥμαρτον , I sinned, I did wrong. παραδοὺς α . ἀ . explains how. The sinning and the betraying are one, therefore the participle does not point to an act antecedent to that of the main verb. αἷμα ἀθῶον , innocent blood, for the blood of an innocent person. So in Deuteronomy 27:25 . Palairet cites examples to prove that Greek writers used αἷμα as = ἄνθρωπος . τί πρὸς ἡμᾶς : that is not our concern. σὺ ὄψει , look thou to that = “tu videris,” a Latinism. The sentiment itself a Cainism . “Ad modum Caini loquuntur vera progenies Caini” (Grotius).

Verse 5

Matthew 27:5 . εἰς τὸν ναόν : not in that part of the temple where the Sanhedrim met (Grotius), or in the temple at large, in a place accessible to laymen (Fritzsche, Bleek), or near the temple (Kypke), but in the holy place itself (Meyer, Weiss, Schanz, Carr, Morison); the act of a desperate man determined they should get the money, and perhaps hoping it might be a kind of atonement for his sin. ἀπήγξατο , strangled himself; usually reconciled with Acts 1:18 by the supposition that the rope broke. The suggestion of Grotius that the verb points to death from grief (“non laqueo sed moestitiâ”) has met with little favour.

Verse 6

Matthew 27:6 . κορβανᾶν , the treasury, referred to by this name by Joseph. (B. J. ii. 9, 4). τιμὴ αἵματός ἐστι : exclusion of blood money from the treasury, an extension of the law against the wages of harlotry (Deuteronomy 23:18 ).

Verse 7

Matthew 27:7 . τὸν ἀγρὸν τ . κεραμέως , the field of the potter. The smallness of the price has suggested to some (Grotius, e.g. ) that it was a field for potter’s clay got cheap because worked out. But in that case it would naturally be called the field of the potters. ξένοις most take as referring to Jews from other lands dying at Jerusalem at passover time.

Verse 8

Matthew 27:8 . ἀγρὸς αἵματος = aceldama , Acts 1:18 , name otherwise explained there. ἕως τῆς σήμερον : phrase frequent in O. T. history; sign of late date of Gospel, thinks De Wette.

Verses 9-10

Matthew 27:9-10 . Prophetic reference , τότε , as in Matthew 2:17 , not ἵνα or ὅπως . διὰ Ἰερεμίου , by Jeremiah, in reality by Zechariah (Zechariah 11:13 ), the reference to Jeremiah probably due to there being somewhat similar texts in that prophet (Jeremiah 18:2-3 , Jeremiah 32:6-15 ) running in the evangelist’s mind. A petty error. More serious is the question whether this is not a case of prophecy creating “facts,” whether the whole story here told is not a legend growing out of the O. T. text quoted. So Brandt, who thinks the betrayal the only fact in the story of Judas, all the rest legendary ( E. G. , p. 11). The truth rather seems to be that facts, historical traditions, suggested texts which otherwise would never have been thought of. This may be inferred from the manipulation necessary to make the prophecy correspond to the facts: ἔλαβον , 1st person singular in Sept [149] , 3rd person plural here = they took; the expression “the children of Israel” introduced with apparent intention to make the nation responsible for the betrayal; the substitution of the phrase “the field of the potter” for “the house of the Lord”. And after all the manipulation how different the circumstances in the two cases! In the one case it is the prophet himself, valued at a petty sum, who cast his price into the House of the Lord; in the other, it is the priests, who bought the life of the prophet of Nazareth for a small sum, who give the money for a potter’s field. The only real point of resemblance is the small value set upon a prophet in either case. It is a most unsatisfactory instance of prophetic fulfilment, almost as much so as that in Matthew 2:23 . But its very un-satisfactoriness makes for the historicity of the story. That the prophetic text, once associated with the story in the minds of believers, reacted on the manner of telling it, e.g. , as to the weighing of the price (Matthew 26:15 ), and the casting of the money into the holy place (Matthew 27:5 ), is conceivable.

[149] Septuagint.

Verse 11

Matthew 27:11 . ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς : δὲ resumes an interrupted story (Matthew 27:2 ). σὺ εἶ , etc.: Art Thou the King of the Jews? The question reveals the form in which the Sanhedrists presented their accusation. They had translated “Christ” into “King of the Jews” for Pilate’s benefit, so astutely giving a political aspect to what under the other name was only a question of religion, or, as a Roman would view it, superstition. A most unprincipled proceeding, for the confession of Jesus that He was the Christ no more inferred a political animus than their own Messianic expectations. σὺ λέγεις = yes. One is hardly prepared for such a reply to an equivocal question, and there is a temptation to seek escape by taking the words interrogatively = dost thou say so? or evasively, with Theophy. = you say, I make no statement. Explanations such as are given in John 18:33-37 were certainly necessary.

Verses 11-26

Matthew 27:11-26 . Jesus before Pilate (Mark 15:2-15 , Luke 23:2-7 ; Luke 23:13-25 ).

Verse 12

Matthew 27:12 . he accusations here referred to appear to have been made on the back of Pilate’s first question and Christ’s answer. Mark indicates that they were copious. In Luke the charge is formulated before Pilate begins to interrogate (Matthew 23:2 ). The purpose of their statements would be to substantiate the main charge that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews in a sense hostile to Roman supremacy. What were the materials of proof? Possibly perverse construction of the healing ministry, of the consequent popularity, of Christ’s brusquely independent attitude towards Rabbinism, suggesting a defiant spirit generally. οὐδὲν ἀπεκρίνατο (note use of 1st aorist middle instead of the more usual ἀπεκρίθη ). Jesus made no reply to these plausible mendacities, defence vain in such a case.

Verse 13

Matthew 27:13 . ilate noting His silence directs His attention to what they have been saying.

Verse 14

Matthew 27:14 . καὶ οὐκ ἀπεκρίθη : still no reply, though no disrespect to the governor intended. ὤστε θαυμάζειν , etc., the governor was very much ( λίαν , at the end, emphatic) astonished: at the silence , and at the man ; the silence attracting attention to the Silent One. A new type of Jew this. The result of his observation is a favourable impression; how could it be otherwise? Pilate was evidently not alarmed by the charge brought against Jesus. Why? Apparently at first glance he saw that the man before him was not likely to be a pretender to royalty in any sense that he need trouble himself about. The σὺ in an emphatic position in Matthew 27:11 suggests this = You the King of the Jews! Then there was nothing to bear out the pretension: no position, prestige, wealth, following; no troops, etc. (Grotius).

Verse 15

Matthew 27:15 . κατὰ ἑορτὴν , at feast time ( singulis festis , Hermann, Viger , p. 633), not all feasts, but the passover meant. εἰώθει , was accustomed; time and circumstances of the origin of this custom unknown; a custom likely to arise sooner or later, as it symbolised the nature of the passover as a passing over (Weiss-Meyer), and helped to make the governor’s presence at that season wear a gracious aspect; on that account probably originating under the Romans.

Verses 15-18

Matthew 27:15-18 . Appeal to the people . Pilate, not inexperienced in Jewish affairs, nor without insight into the ways of the ruling class, suspects that there are two sides to this matter. The very accusation suggests that the accused may be innocently popular, and the accusers jealous. An existing custom gives the opportunity of putting this to the test.

Verse 16

Matthew 27:16 . εἶχον : they, the people ( ὄχλῳ , Matthew 27:15 ). ἐπίσημον : pointing not to the magnitude of his crime, but to the fact that for some reason or other he was an object of popular interest. Βαραββᾶν , accusative of Βαραββᾶς = son of a father, or with double ρ , and retaining the v at the end, Bar-Rabban = son of a Rabbi. Jerome in his Commentary on Mt. mentions that in the Hebrew Gospel the word was interpreted filius magistri eorum . Origen mentions that in some MSS. this man bore the name Jesus , an identity of name which makes the contrast of character all the more striking. But the reading has little authority.

Verse 17

Matthew 27:17 . τίνα θέλετε ἀπολύσω . Here Pilate seems to take the initiative; in Mk. he is first reminded of the custom (Matthew 15:8 ). Mk.’s whole account is fuller and clearer. Βαρ . ἢ Ἰησ . The two names put before the people, as presumably both popular more or less, Barabbas for some unknown reason, Jesus by inference from being called “Christ”. No favouritism implied. Pilate is feeling his way, wants to do the popular thing as safest for himself.

Verse 18

Matthew 27:18 . ᾔδει , he knew, perhaps too strong a word, the fact being that he shrewdly suspected knew his men, and instinctively divined that if Jesus was a popular favourite the Pharisees would be jealous. This explains his sang froid in reference to the title “King of the Jews,” also his offering the name of Jesus to the people.

Verse 19

Matthew 27:19 . μηδὲν , etc., nothing to thee and that just one = have nothing to do with proceedings against Him. πολλὰ γὰρ : reason for the advice, an unpleasant dream in the morning ( σήμερον , to-day, early). The historicity of this incident is of course doubted, the use made of it, with embellishments, in apocryphal writings (Acta Pilati) being pressed into the service. But it is quite credible nevertheless. First, the wife of Pilate might be there, for it had become customary for wives to accompany provincial governors. Tacitus, Ann. iii. 33, 34, mentions an unsuccessful attempt in the senate to put down the practice. Second, she had a husband that much needed good advice, and would often get it from a good wife. Third, it was a womanly act.

Verses 19-20

Matthew 27:19-20 . Interlude of Pilate’s wife , in Mt. alone, probably introduced to explain the bias of Pilate in favour of Jesus apparent in the sequel (Weiss-Meyer).

Verse 20

Matthew 27:20 . οἱ δὲ ἀρχ ., etc.: the Sanhedrists saw the danger, and set themselves to bias the popular judgment, not sure what might otherwise happen with success, ἔπεισαν . So when, after due interval, the governor put the question, the reply was (Matthew 27:21 ) τὸν Βαραββᾶν , and to the further question what then was to be done with Jesus: the unanimous ( πάντες ) reply was Σταυρωθήτω . Where were the men who had a few days ago shouted Hosanna? If there, how fickle; if absent, why? Or were they silent, cowed by the prevailing mood?

Verses 20-26

Matthew 27:20-26 . Result of the appeal to the people .

Verse 23

Matthew 27:23 . τί γὰρ κακὸν : elliptical, implying unwillingness to carry out the popular will. (Fritzsche, Grotius.) Some, Palairet, Raphel, etc., take γὰρ as redundant. περισσῶς ἔκραζον , they kept crying out more loudly. Cf. Mk., where the force of περισσῶς comes out more distinctly.

Verse 24

Matthew 27:24 . ὅτι οὐδὲν ὠφελεῖ , that it was no use, but rather only provoked a more savage demand, as is the way of mobs. λαβὼν ὕδωρ , etc.: washed his hands, following a Jewish custom, the meaning of which all present fully understood, accompanying the action with verbal protestations of innocence. This also, with the grim reply of the people (Matthew 27:25 ), peculiar to Mt.; a “traditional addition” (Weiss).

Verse 26

Matthew 27:26 . τότε ἀπέλυσεν : Pilate, lacking the passion for justice, judges not according to the merits but according to policy. When he discovered that Jesus was not a popular favourite, in fact had no friends, he had no more interest in Him, but acted as the people wished, loosing Barabbas and delivering Jesus to be crucified, after having first subjected Him to scourging ( φραγελλώσας = flagello , a Latinism probably borrowed from Mk.). Such was the barbarous practice of the Romans. It is alluded to by Josephus (B. J., Matthew 27:11 ; Matthew 27:1 ) in these terms: μαστιγούμενοι δὴ καὶ προβασανιζόμενοι τοῦ θανάτου πᾶσαν αἰκίαν ἀνεσταυροῦντο τοῦ τείχους ἀντικρύ . Brandt thinks that the alleged custom of releasing a prisoner had no existence, and that the story in the Gospels arose out of an occurrence at a later time, the release of a prisoner the son of a Rabbi concerned in a tumult. The Christians said: they release the son of the Scribe and they crucified our Jesus, and at last the incident was read back into the story of the Passion ( E. G. , pp. 94 105).

Verse 27

Matthew 27:27 . τότε : when Jesus had been sentenced to crucifixion. οἱ στρατιῶται τ . ἡ ., the soldiers of the governor, i.e. , his bodyguard. παραλαβόντες , etc.: they conducted Jesus from the scene of judgment (without) to the πραιτώριον , i.e. , the official residence of the procurator, either Herod’s palace, or more probably a palace connected with the fort Antonia, with barracks attached. The word has various meanings: a general’s tent, a governor’s residence, the barracks of the Praetorian guard, the Praetorian guard itself. συνήγαγον , etc.: gathered about Him (for sport) the whole σπεῖραν , at most a cohort of 600, more probably a maniple of 200. (“ σπεῖρα , anything twisted round like a ball of thread, is a translation of ‘manipulus’; a wisp of hay.” Carr in Cam. N. T., ad loc. ) A large number to assemble for such a purpose, but Roman soldiers at passover time would always be on the alert for serious work or sport, and here was no ordinary chance of both, a man sentenced to be crucified who passed for King of the Jews. What more natural than to make sport of Him, and through Him to show their contempt for the Jewish people? (Holtzmann, H.C.).

Verses 27-31

Matthew 27:27-31 . Jesus the sport of the soldiery (Mark 15:16-20 ).

Verse 28

Matthew 27:28 . ἐκδύσαντες (or ἐνδ .) α .: taking off (or putting on) His clothes. If we adopt the former reading, the implied situation will be this: Jesus first stripped for scourging, then reclothed; then stripped again at the commencement of the mocking process. If the latter, this: Jesus after scourging led naked to the praetorium, there clothed, all but His upper garment, instead of which they put on χλαμύδα κ . (Meyer). χλαμ . κοκκίνην , a scarlet cloak, probably a soldier’s sagum . Carr renders a soldier’s scarf , and suggests that it may have been a worn-out scarf of Pilate’s (Herod’s, Elsner). The ridicule would be more lifelike if it was really a fine article that might be, or had been, worn by a potentate. πλέξαντες στ . ἐξ ἀ ., weaving out of thorns a crown; not, say Meyer and Weiss, hard and sharp, so as to cause great pain, but young, flexible, easily plaited, the aim being to ridicule not to inflict torture. Possibly, but the soldiers would not make a point of avoiding giving pain. They would take what came first to band. κάλαμον , a reed; apparently under the gov. of ἐπέθηκαν , but really the object of ἔθηκαν , understood. γονυπετήσαντες : after the investiture comes the homage, by lowly gesture and worshipful salutation: χαῖρε βασιλεῦ τ . Ἰ . Hail, King of the Jews. A mockery of the nation in intention quite as much as of the particular victim. Loesner ( Observ. ad N. T. ) adduces from Philo. ( in Flaccum , 6) a historic parallel, in which the youth of Alexandria treat similarly a half-witted person, Karabas, the real design being to insult Herod Agrippa. Schanz and Holtzmann also refer to this incident.

Verse 30

Matthew 27:30 . t this point rough sport turns into brutal treatment, as the moment for execution of the sentence approaches. ἐμπτύσαντες : spitting, substituted for kissing, the final act of homage, followed by striking with the mock sceptre ( ἔτυπτον ε . τ . κ .).

Verse 31

Matthew 27:31 . ἐξέδυσαν , etc.: they took off the mock royal robe, and put on again His own garments ( τὰ ἱμάτια , the upper garments, but why the plural?). No mention of the crown; left on according to some of the ancients, Origen, e.g. : “semel imposita et nunquam detracta”; and, according to the same Father, consumed by the head of Jesus (“consumpta a capite Jesu”). Taken off doubtless along with the rest, for there must be no mockery of Jesus or Jews before the public. Such proceedings only for the barracks (Holtz., H.C.).

Verse 32

Matthew 27:32 . ἐξερχόμενοι : going out (of the city) according to later Roman custom, and in harmony also with Jewish usage (Numbers 15:35 , 1 Kings 21:23 , Acts 7:58 ). ἄνθρ . Κυρ .: a man of Cyrene, in Libya, presumably recognisable as a stranger, with whom liberties might be taken. ἠγγάρευσαν , compelled; a military requisition. cf. at chap. Matthew 5:41 . ἵνα ἄρῃ τ . σ . Jesus, carrying His cross according to the custom, has broken down under His burden; Gethsemane, betrayal, the ordeal of the past sleepless night, scourging, have made the flesh weak. No compassion for Him in finding a substitute; the cross must be carried, and the soldiers will not. σταυρὸν : see on Matthew 27:35 . Γολγοθᾶ : Weiss remarks on the double λεγόμενον before the name, and in the following interpretation and thinks it a sign that Mt. is copying from Mk. One wonders indeed why Mt., writing for Jews, should explain the word at all. κρανίου τόπος , place of a skull (“Calvariae locus,” Vulg [150] , whence “Calvary” in Lk., A. V [151] ), of skulls rather, say many interpreters; a place of execution, skulls lying all about (Jerome started this view). Recent interpreters (including Schanz) more naturally take the word as pointing to the shape of the hill. The locality is quite uncertain.

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

[151] Authorised Version.

Verses 32-38

Matthew 27:32-38 . Crucifixion (Mark 15:21-27 ; Luke 23:26 ; Luke 23:35-38 ). This part of the story begins with the closing words of Matthew 27:31 : “they led Him away to be crucified”.

Verse 34

Matthew 27:34 . οἶνον μετὰ χολῆς μ ., wine mingled with gall. Mk. has ἐσμυρνισμένον οἶν ., wine drugged with myrrh, a drink given by a merciful custom before execution to deaden the sense of pain. The wine would be the sour wine or posca used by Roman soldiers. In Mk. Jesus declines the drink, apparently without tasting, desiring to suffer with clear mind. In Mt. He tastes ( γευσάμενος ) and then declines, apparently because unpalatable, suggesting a different motive in the offerers, not mercy but cruelty; maltreatment in the very drink offered. To this view of the proceeding is ascribed the μετὰ χολῆς of Mt.’s text, not without the joint influence of Psalms 69:22 (Meyer and Weiss). Harmonists strive to reconcile the two accounts by taking χολή as signifying in Hellenistic usage any bitter liquid ( quamvis amaritiem , Elsner), and therefore among other things myrrh. Proverbs 5:4 , Lament. Matthew 3:15 (Sept [152] ), in which χολή stands for wormwood, לַעֲנָה , are eited in proof of this. Against the idea that Mt’s text has been altered from Mk.’s under the influence of Psalms 69:22 , is the retention of οἶνος ( ὄξος in Ps. and in T. R.) and the absence of any reference to the passage in the usual style “that it might be fulfilled,” etc.

[152] Septuagint.

Verse 35

Matthew 27:35 . σταυρώσαντες (from σταυρόω , to drive stakes; in later Greek, and in N. T., to impale on a stake, σταυρός ). All the evangelists touch lightly the fact of crucifixion, hurrying over the painful subject as quickly as possible; Mt., most of all, disposing of it in a participial clause. Many questions on which there has been much discussion suggest themselves, e.g. , as to the structure and form of the cross: did it consist of an upright beam ( palus, stipes ) and a cross beam ( patibulum, antenna ), or of the former only, the hands being nailed to the beam above the head? (so Fulda, Das Kreuz und die Kreuzigung , 1878). Was Christ’s cross a crux commissa (T) or a crux immissa (†)? Or is this distinction a purely imaginary one, as Fulda (p. 126) maintains against Justus Lipsius, till Fulda the great authority on the subject of crucifixion? The work of the more recent writer should certainly be consulted before coming to a final decision on the form of the cross or the method of crucifixion. Another question is, what did Jesus carry to the place of execution: the upright post or the cross beam? (the latter according to Marquhardt, Röm. Alter. vii. 1, 1). And how was His body fixed to the cross: were the feet, e.g. , nailed as well as the hands, or only tied to the beam with a rope or with wands or left free? The passages cited from ancient authors bearing on the subject, Artemidorus, Plautus, Seneca, are diversely interpreted, and the practice does not seem to have been invariable. Crucifixion was at best a rude mode of executing justice, and, especially in time of war, seems to have been performed by soldiers in diverse fashions, according to their whim ( ἄλλον ἄλλῳ σχήματι πρὸς χλεύην , Joseph., Matthew 27:11 ; Matthew 27:1 ; plates showing various forms in Fulda). Still there would be a normal mode, and in the case of Jesus, when only one or two were put to death, it would probably be followed. His cross has generally been supposed to have been a crux immissa , with the accusation on the point of the upright post above the cross beam, with a peg whereon to sit. Whether His feet were pierced with nails cannot be certainly determined. Paulus took the negative side in the interest of the hypothesis that Jesus did not really die on the cross; Meyer strongly maintains the contrary, vide ad loc . The fragment of the Gospel of Peter speaks of nails in the hands only: “then they drew the nails from the hands of the Lord”. Fulda takes the same view, representing the hands as nailed, the feet as tied to the beam. τὰ ἱμάτια : the probability is that Jesus had been stript absolutely naked ( γυμνοὶ σταυροῦνται , Artemid., Oneirocritica , ii. 58). On the dividing of the garments vide John 19:23 f. The prophetic reference ἵνα πληρωθῇ in T. R. has little authority, and seems inserted from John 19:24 , by a scribe who thought it what the first evangelist should say. This is a second instance where a chance of prophetic citation is not taken advantage of.

Verse 36

Matthew 27:36 : this statement about the executioners sitting down to watch Jesus takes the place of a statement as to the time of execution in Mk. he purpose apparently was to guard against a rescue.

Verse 37

Matthew 27:37 : this fact is mentioned out of its proper place. t is probable that the placard with the accusation was fixed up before the cross was erected. As it stands in Mt.’s narrative, it looks like an after-thought of the soldiers as they sat keeping watch, their final jest at the expense of their victim and the nation to which He belonged. What the custom was as to this is not known. Of the various versions of the inscription Mk.’s is the shortest: THE KING OF THE JEWS; to this Mt. prefixes: This is Jesus.

Verse 38

Matthew 27:38 : τότε introduces the fact mentioned as an accompaniment of the crucifixion of Jesus, ithout indicating its precise place in the course of events. σταυροῦνται , the historical present with lively effect; and passive, probably to imply that this act was performed by other soldiers. This very slight notice grows into a considerable incident in the hands of Luke.

Verse 39

Matthew 27:39 . οἱ παραπορευόμενοι , the passers by: the place of crucifixion therefore near a road; going to or from the temple services ( Speaker’s Com. ); or on work-day business, the 13th not the 14th of the month? (Fritzsche, De Wette). κινοῦντες τ . κ . α ., shaking or nodding the head in the direction of the cross, as if to say: that is what it has come to.

Verses 39-44

Matthew 27:39-44 . Taunts of spectators (Mark 15:29-32 ; Luke 23:35-37 ; Luke 23:39 ). The last drop in Christ’s bitter cup. To us it may seem incredible that even His worst enemies could be guilty of anything so brutal as to hurl taunts at one suffering the agonies of crucifixion. But men then felt very differently from us, thanks to the civilising influence of the Christian faith, which has made the whole details of the Passion history so revolting to the Christian heart. These sneers at the great Sufferer are not invented fulfilments of prophecy (Psalms 22:7-8 ; so Brandt), but belong to the certainties of the tragic story as told by the synoptists.

Verse 40

Matthew 27:40 . ὁ καταλύων ( cf. ἡ ἀποκτείνουσα , Matthew 23:37 ), this and the other taunts seem to be echoes of words said to or about Jesus at the trial, of which a report has already gone abroad among the populace. Whether the saying about destroying the temple was otherwise known can only be a matter of conjecture. εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τ . θ .: Jesus had confessed Himself to be the Son of God at the trial (Matthew 26:64 ). κατάβηθι : the God of this world and all men of the world have but one thought as to Sonship; of course it means exceptional privilege . What can a Son of God have to do with a cross?

Verse 41

Matthew 27:41 . ὁμοίως , etc.: one might have expected the dignitaries, priests, scribes, elders, to have left that low-minded work to the mob. But they condescend to their level, yet with a difference. They speak about the Sufferer, not to Him, and in a tone of affected seriousness and fairness.

Verse 42

Matthew 27:42 . ἄλλους ἔσωσεν , etc., He saved others, Himself He cannot save. Both facts ; the former they can now afford to admit, and they do so all the more readily that it serves as a foil to the other fact patent to everybody. βασιλεὺς Ἰ . Messianic King the claim involved in the confession before the Sanhedrim, refuted by the cross, for who could believe that Messiah would be crucified? καταβάτω νῦν , etc.: yet let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe on Him at once. These pious scoffers profess their readiness to accept descent from the cross as the conclusive sign from heaven they had always been asking for.

Verse 43

Matthew 27:43 . his looks like a mere echo of Psalms 22:9 (not a literal quotation from the Sept [153] , however, rather recalling Isaiah 36:5 ) rather than a word likely to be spoken by the Sanhedrists. What did they know about the personal piety of Jesus? Probably they were aware that He used to call God “Father,” and that may be the basis of the statement, along with the confession of Sonship before the Sanhedrim: θεοῦ εἰμι υἱός . νῦν , now is the time for testing the value of His trust; a plausible wicked sneer. εἰ θέλει αὐτόν , if He love Him, an emphatic if, the love disproved by the fact. θέλει is used in the sense of love in the Sept [154] (Psalms 18:20 ; Psalms 41:12 ). Palairet gives examples of a similar use in Greek authors.

[153] Septuagint.

[154] Septuagint.

Verse 44

Matthew 27:44 : the co-crucified brigands join with the mob and the priests in ribaldry. τὸ αὐτὸ : Fritzsche supplies ἐποίουν after this phrase and renders: the same thing did the robbers, or they too reproached Him (“idem vero etiam latrones fecerunt, nempe ei conviciati sunt”). It seems simpler to take αὐτὸ as one of two accusatives, depending on ὠνείδιζον , αὐτόν following (the true reading) being the other. Vide Winer, § 32, 4.

Verse 45

Matthew 27:45 . ἀπὸ δὲ ἕκτης ὥρας : three hours, according to Mark (Matthew 27:25 , cf. Matthew 27:33 ), after the crucifixion the darkness came on. This is the first reference in Matthew to a time of day. The definiteness of the statement in this respect seems to vouch for the historicity of the fact stated. Those who find in it legend or myth point to the Egyptian darkness, and prophetic texts such as Amos 8:9 , Joel 2:31 , etc. (none of which, however, are cited by the evangelist), as explaining the rise of the story. The cause of this darkness is unknown ( vide notes on Mark). It could not, of course, be an eclipse of the sun at full moon. Origen saw this and explained the phenomenon by the hypothesis of dense masses of cloud hiding the sun. Others (Paulus, De Wette, etc.) have suggested a darkening such as is wont to precede an earthquake. To the evangelist the event probably appeared supernatural. ἐπὶ π . τ . γῆν , Origen and many after him restrict the reference to Palestine. The fragment of the Gospel of Peter limits it to Judaea ( πᾶσαν τ . Ἰουδαίαν ). In the thought of the evangelist the expression had probably a wider though indefinite range of meaning, the whole earth (Weiss) or the whole Roman world (Grotius). ἕως ὥ . ἐννάτης : the end as exactly indicated as the beginning, another sign of historicity. The fact stated probably interested the evangelist as an emblem of the spiritual eclipse next to be related.

Verses 45-49

Matthew 27:45-49 . Darkness without and within (Mark 15:33-36 , Luke 23:44-46 ).

Verse 46

Matthew 27:46 . ἠλί , ἠλί , etc.: the opening words of Psalms 22:0 , but partly at least in Aramaic not in Hebrew, wholly so as they stand in Codex [155] (W.H [156] ), ἐλωί , ἐλωί , etc., corresponding exactly to the version in Mark. ἠλί , ἠλί , if the true reading in Matthew, seems to be an alteration made to suit what follows, whereby the utterance of Jesus becomes a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic. It is not likely that Jesus would so express Himself. He would speak wholly either in Hebrew or in Aramaic, saying in the one case: “eli eli lamah asavtani”; in the other: “eloi eloi lema savachtani”. The form the utterance assumed in the earliest evangelic report might be an important clue. This Resch finds in the reading of Codex [157] , which gives the words in Hebrew. Resch holds that [158] often preserves the readings of the Urevangelium , which, contrary to Weiss, he believes to have contained a Passion history in brief outline ( Agrapha , p. 53). Brandt expresses a similar view ( E. G. , pp. 228 232). The probability is that Jesus spoke in Hebrew. It is no argument against this that the spectators might not understand what He said, for the utterance was not meant for the ears of men. The historicity of the occurrence has been called in question on the ground that one in a state of dire distress would not express his feelings in borrowed phrases. The alternative is that the words were put into the mouth of Jesus by persons desirous that in this as in all other respects His experience should correspond to prophetic anticipations. But who would have the boldness to impute to Him a sentiment which seemed to justify the taunt: “Let Him deliver Him if He love Him”? Brandt’s reply to this is: Jewish Christians who had not a high idea of Christ’s Person ( E. G. , p. 245). That in some Christian circles the cry of desertion was an offence appears from the rendering of “eli eli” in Evang. Petri ἡ δύναμίς μου ἡ δ . μ . = my strength, my strength. Its omission by Luke proves the same thing.

[155] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[156] Westcott and Hort.

[157] Codex Bezae

[158] Codex Bezae

Verse 47

Matthew 27:47 . τινὲς δὲ : not Roman soldiers, for they knew nothing about Elias; might be Hellenistic Jews who did not understand Hebrew or Aramaean (Grotius); more probably heartless persons who only affected to misunderstand. It was poor wit, and showed small capacity for turning to advantage the words spoken. How much more to the purpose to have said: Hear Him! He actually confesses that His God in whom He trusted has forsaken Him.

Verse 48

Matthew 27:48 . εἷς ἐξ αὐτῶν , one of the bystanders, not one of the τινὲς , with some human pity, acting under the impression, how got not indicated, that the sufferer was afflicted with thirst. ὄξους , sour wine, posca , the drink of Roman soldiers, with sponge and reed at hand, for use on such occasions.

Verse 49

Matthew 27:49 . ἄφες : either redundant coalescing with ἴδωμεν = let us see ( cf. chap. Matthew 7:4 ), age videamus , Grotius ( vide also Burton, M. T., § 161), or meaning: hold, stop, don’t give Him the drink, let us see whether Elias will come ( ἔρχεται , comes without fail) to help Him. The latter is the more probable. The λοιποὶ belong to the scoffing crew. The remainder of this verse about the spear thrust another, final, act of mercy, though attested by important MSS., seems to be imported from John 19:34 . It is omitted in R. V [159]

[159] Revised Version.

Verse 50

Matthew 27:50 . πάλιν , pointing back to the cry in Matthew 27:46 . φωνῇ μεγάλῃ . The Fathers found in the loud cry a proof that Jesus died voluntarily, not from physical exhaustion. Some modern writers, on the contrary, regard the cry as the utterance of one dying of a ruptured heart (Dr. Stroud on The Physical Cause of Christ’s Death ; Hanna, The Last Day of Our Lord’s Passion ). Mt.’s narrative, like Mk.’s, gives the impression that the cry was inarticulate. Brandt recognises this cry as historical.

Verses 50-56

Matthew 27:50-56 . Death and its accompaniments (Mark 15:37-41 , Luke 23:46-49 ).

Verse 51

Matthew 27:51 . καὶ ἰδοὺ , introducing solemnly a series of preternatural accompaniments, all but the first peculiar to Mt. τὸ καταπέτασμα , the veil between the holy place and the most holy. ἐσχίσθη : this fact, the rending of the veil, is mentioned by all the Synoptists, though Lk. introduces it at an early point in the narrative. It might have happened, as a natural event, an accidental coincidence, though it is not so viewed by the evangelist. A symbolic fiction, according to Brandt. The legendary spirit took hold of this event, magnifying the miracle. In the Hebrew Gospel the rending of the veil is transformed into the fracture of the lintel of the temple: “Superliminare templi in finitae magnitudinis fractum esse atque divisum” (Jerome, Com. ). καὶ ἡ γῆ , etc.: an earthquake, preceding and conditioning the greatest marvel of all, the opening of the graves and the resurrection of many saints (Matthew 27:52-53 ). We seem here to be in the region of Christian legend. Certainly the legendary spirit laid hold of this feature with great eagerness, expanding and going into details, giving, e.g. , the names of those who rose: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. ( vide Evang. Nicod. , c. 17, and The Acts of Pilate in Thilo’s Codex Apocryphus , N. T., p. 810).

Verse 53

Matthew 27:53 . μετὰ τὴν ἔγερσιν αὐτοῦ , after the raising (active) of Jesus (by God), i.e. , after Christ’s own resurrection: not after the raising (of them) by Him, as if αὐτοῦ were genitive subjective. So Fritzsche, who, however, brackets the phrase as a doubtful reading. ἔγερσιν occurs here only in N. T.

Verse 54

Matthew 27:54 . ἑκατόνταρχος = κεντυρίων in Mk., the officer in charge of the detachment entrusted with the execution, not hitherto mentioned. οἱ μετʼ αὐτοῦ , etc.: the whole military party make pious reflections in Mt.; in Mk., with more probability, the centurion only. καὶ τὰ γινόμενα , and (generally) the things happening, the earthquake included. For a similar use of καὶ vide Matthew 26:59 . υἱὸς θεοῦ : Lk. substitutes for this “a just man”. In the centurion’s mouth the words would mean more than that and less than the sense they bear for a Christian = a hero, an extraordinary man. Yet Lk.’s rendering is to the point, because the Roman soldier is conceived as seeing in the events the anger of the gods at the treatment of an innocent man.

Verse 55

Matthew 27:55 . γυναῖκες , women , bolder than men, love casting out fear. Lk. associates with them others called οἱ γνωστοὶ αὐτῷ , His acquaintance, which might include the disciples. Though they fled panic-stricken they may have rallied and returned to see the end, either along with the women or mixed in the crowd, and so have become qualified afterwards for witnessing to what happened. It is no argument against this that no mention is made of them in the narratives. It is no part of the plan of the evangelists to indicate the sources of their information. The women are not mentioned for this purpose, but because they have a part to play in the sequel. If they had been introduced as witnesses it would not have been made so clear that they stood “afar off” ( ἀπὸ μακρόθεν ). In like manner that Peter followed his Master to the judgment hall is told, not that he may be available as a witness, but because there is a story of denial to relate about him. πολλαὶ , many , a tribute to the impression made on feminine hearts by the Galilean ministry; for it was from Galilee they came, as the following clause states ( αἵτινες , etc., defining them as women who knew Him well, loved Him warmly, and served Him devotedly).

Verse 56

Matthew 27:56 . ἐν αἷς : three out of the many named, with a reference to the sequel, or as the best known. Mary of Magdala (first mention in Mt.), Mary, the mother of a well-known pair of brothers, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Salome in Mk.).

Verses 57-66

Matthew 27:57-66 . Burial (Mark 15:42-47 , Luke 23:50-56 ). ἦλθεν , etc., there came (to the place of crucifixion, the centre of interest in the preceding narrative) a man (unknown to readers), rich (this fact put in the forefront by Mt. εὐσχήμων βουλευτής in Mk. On εὐσχήμων Phrynichus remarks that the vulgar take it as = rich, or in good social position, while the ancients took it as applying to the noble or symmetrical. Mt. may be following vulgar usage, but also with an eye to Isaiah 53:9 : “with the rich in His death”); from Arimathaea (Ramathaim Zophim, 1 Samuel 1:1 ); the name Joseph , and the relation to Jesus that of a disciple ( ἐμαθήτευσε , which, if the correct reading, is an instance of the use of this verb in a neuter sense. Cf. Matthew 13:52 , Matthew 28:19 , Acts 14:21 ).

Verse 58

Matthew 27:58 . προσελθὼν : from the cross Joseph returns, and approaches Pilate to beg the body of Jesus for burial. In the case of the crucified such a request was necessary, but was generally granted (“Eorum in quos animadvertitur corpora non aliter sepeliuntur quam si fuerit petitum et permissum”. Ulpian. de Cadav. punit. in Justinian, Corpus Jur. Civ. xlviii. 24, 1). The general practice was to leave the bodies to waste. The privilege of burial was sometimes granted for money. There is nothing to show that Pilate condescended to such meanness, at least in the present instance, though Theophy. suggests that he did. ἐκέλευσεν ἀποδοθῆναι , he ordered it to be delivered.

Verse 59

Matthew 27:59 . ἐνετύλιξεν (little used, found in Aristophanes), wrapped. σινδόνι καθαρᾷ , in clean, i.e. , never before used linen. σινδών is of uncertain derivation and varying sense, being applied to cloths of diverse material, but here generally understood as meaning linen cloth, wrapped in strips round the body as in the case of mummies in Egypt, the body being first washed (Acts 9:37 ). As to this way of preparing dead bodies for burial we have no details in O. T. (Benzinger, p. 163).

Verse 60

Matthew 27:60 . ἐν τῷ καινῷ αὐτοῦ μνημείῳ , in his own new tomb, recently prepared for himself. This not brought out in parallels. ἐλατόμησεν ( λᾶς τέμνω ): the aorist for the pluperfect, as in Matthew 27:55 ; he had hewn out of the rock = ἐν τῇ πέτρᾳ , the article pointing to the custom of making sepulchres in rock. λίθον μέγαν : the usual mode of shutting the door of the tomb; the Jews called the stone golal , the roller. ἀπῆλθεν : the entombment over, Joseph went away; but the Dead One was not left alone.

Verse 61

Matthew 27:61 . ἦν δὲ ἐκεῖ , etc., but, in contrast to Joseph, there was there Mary, the woman of Magdala, also the other Mary, sitting in front of the tomb. τάφου here, as in Matthew 23:27 ; Matthew 23:29 , used of a place of burial, not of the act of burial. The word is peculiar to Mt. in the N. T.

Verse 62

Matthew 27:62 . τῇ ἐπαύριον , the next day, i.e. , the Jewish Sabbath, curiously described as the day ( ἥτις ) μετὰ τὴν παρασκευήν , the more important day defined by reference to the less important, suggesting that Mt. has his eye on Mk.’s narrative (Mark 15:42 ). So Weiss-Meyer.

Verses 62-66

Matthew 27:62-66 . Precautions against theft of the body ; peculiar to Mt., and among the less certain elements of the Passion history, owing its origin and presence in this Gospel apparently to the exigencies of the primitive Christian apologetic against Jewish unbelief, which, as we gather from Matthew 27:64 , must have sought to invalidate the faith in the resurrection of Jesus by the hypothesis of theft accounting for an empty grave. The transactions here recorded effectually dispose of that hypothesis by making theft impossible. Is the story true, or must we, with Meyer, relegate it to the category of unhistorical legend? Meyer founds largely on the impossibility of Christ predicting so distinctly as is here implied, even to His own disciples, His resurrection. That means that the priests and Pharisees could have had no such solicitude as is ascribed to them. All turns on that. If they had such fears, so originating, it would be quite natural to take precautions against a trick. I think it quite possible that even independently of the saying in chap. Matthew 12:40 , given as spoken to Pharisees, it had somehow reached their ears that Jesus had predicted His Passion, and in speaking of it was wont to connect with it the idea of rising again, and it was natural that at such a time they should not despise such reports.

Verse 63

Matthew 27:63 . ἐκεῖνος : contemptuous reference, as to one not worthy to be named, and far off, a thing of the past removed for ever by death. ὁ πλάνος : a wanderer in the first place, then derivatively, from the character of many wanderers, in N. T. a deceiver. ἐγείρομαι , present for future, expressing strong confidence.

Verse 64

Matthew 27:64 . ἕως τ . τρίτης ἡμέρας : the definite specification of time here and in Matthew 27:63 may have been imported into the story in the course of the tradition. ἡ ἐσχάτη πλάνη , the last delusion = faith in the resurrection, belief in the Messiahship of Jesus being the first. χείρων , worse, not so much in character as in consequences, more serious.

Verse 65

Matthew 27:65 . ἔχετε : probably imperative, not indicative = have your watch, the ready assent of a man who thinks there is not likely to be much need for it, but has no objections to gratify their wish in a small matter. So most recent interpreters Meyer, Weiss, Holtz., Weizsäcker, Morison, Spk., Com. , Alford. The Vulgate takes it as indicative = habetis , which Schanz follows. This rendering implies that Pilate wished them to be content with what they had already, either their own temple watch or soldiers already put at their disposal. Carr (Camb. N. T.) doubts the correctness of the modern interpretation on the ground that no clear example of the use of ἔχειν in the sense of “to take” occurs in either classical or Hellenistic Greek. κουστωδίαν , a guard, a Latinism, a natural word for the Roman Pilate to use. ὑπάγετε ἀσφαλίσασθε , the three verbs: ἔχ . ὑπάγ . ἀσφαλ ., following each other without connecting particles form an asyndeton “indicating impatience on the part of Pilate” (Camb. N. T.). ὡς οἴδατε , as ye know how.

Verse 66

Matthew 27:66 . ἠσφαλίσαντο is to be taken with the last clause μετὰ τῆς κουστωδίας , which points to the main means of securing the tomb against plunder. The participial clause σφραγίσαντες τὸν λίθον is a parenthesis pointing to an additional precaution, sealing the stone, with a thread over it and sealed to the tomb at either end. The worthy men did their best to prevent theft, and the resurrection!

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 27". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/matthew-27.html. 1897-1910.
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