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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

John 18

Verses 1-3

Vv. 1-3. The arrival of the band. “ After having said these things, Jesus went out with his disciples beyond the brook Cedron, where there was a garden, into which he entered as well as his disciples. 2. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew this place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3. Judas, then, having taken the cohort, with officers sent by the chief priests and Pharisees, comes thither with lanterns, torches and weapons.

The verb ἐξῆλθε , he went out, is ordinarily referred to the departure from the supper room See on John 14:31. In our view, this verb, being directly connected, as it is, with the limiting phrase πέραν τοῦ χειμάῤῥου , beyond the brook, designates a time farther removed, and signifies rather: “He went out from the city to pass across the brook.” This is acknowledged by de Wette, even though he holds, with so many others, that the discourses of chs. 13-17 were pronounced in the supper room.

The received reading, which is that of the Vatican MS. and of most of the Mjj. and Mnn., and of Origen, is τῶν Κέδρων , and would signify “the brook of the cedars; ” there would be evidently an error of John here, for the name Cedron comes from א ( Kidron), black (black water). In Josephus also the name Κέδρων is a nominative singular (for example, χείμαῤῥος Κεδρῶνος , Antiq. 8.1, 5).

The reading of the Sinaitic and Cambridge MSS. is τοῦ Κέδρου , of the cedar. It is evident that these two readings are the work of copyists, some of whom conformed the substantive to the article (by substituting Κέδρου for Κέδρων ), others the article to the substantive (substituting τῶν for τοῦ ), and that the true reading apparently very improbable is that of the Alexandrian MS. and of the Sangallensis, τοῦ Κέδρων , which alone easily explains the two others. Westcott, in honor of the Vatican, maintains the reading τῶν Κέδρων , by appealing to a legend of the Jerusalem Talmud, according to which there were some cedars on the Mount of Olives; Tischendorf, out of regard for the Sinaitic MS., reads τοῦ Κέδρου . Behold what prepossession can effect! The same variety of readings is found again in several MSS. of the Old Testament (LXX); see 2Sa 15:23 and 1 Kings 15:13.

The brook Cedron has its source half a league to the north of Jerusalem, and falls into the Dead Sea at the southward after a course of six or seven leagues. It is ordinarily dry during nine months of the year; for more than twenty years, as we were told in Jerusalem, not a sign of water had been seen in it. Its bed is at the bottom of the valley of Jehoshaphat, between the temple hill and the Mount of Olives. After having passed the little bridge by which this dried-up bed is crossed, one finds on the right a plot of ground planted with ancient olive trees, which is asserted to be the garden of Gethsemane. There is no valid reason, whatever Keim may say, against the truth of this tradition. The word πολλάκις , often, in John 18:2, might apply only to the preceding days; but it is more probable that it refers also to the earlier sojourns of Jesus in Jerusalem. This garden undoubtedly belonged to friends of Jesus. It ordinarily served as a place of meeting for the Lord and His disciples ( συνήχθη , the aorist: he met with), when they returned from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives and to Bethany, and wished to avoid passing all together through the streets of the city. Comp. Luke 21:37; Luke 22:39.

The term σπεῖρα always designates, in the New Testament (Matthew 27:27, Act 21:31 ), and in Josephus, the Roman legion or a part of the legion which occupied the citadel of Antonia, at the north-eastern angle of the temple. A detachment of Roman soldiers had seemed necessary to support the servants of the Sanhedrim. For Mar 14:2 proves that a rising in favor of Jesus was feared; and for this reason it had been necessary to ask for orders from the governor. This detachment was commanded by the tribune himself, the chiliarch, mentioned in John 18:12. The article ἡ , “ the cohort,” designates the well-known cohort; and, if it seems to indicate the presence of this entire body of soldiers (600 men), we must find here either a popular expression or a manner of speaking which is justified by the presence of the commander-in-chief.

The Synoptics do not speak of this escort. The message of Pilate's wife, however, which is related by Matthew, proves that, since the preceding evening, the governor had been occupied with this matter; and this circumstance confirms the fact of the participation of the Roman soldiery in the arrest. Keim turns this narrative into ridicule, by speaking ironically of “ half an army; ” this wretched piece of pleasantry is quite gratuitous. Baumlein and others have contended against the application of the term σπεῖρα to the Roman garrison, and have thought that the question was only of the guard of the temple. But the constant meaning of this word does not allow this explanation.

The ὑπηρέται , officers, are, as in John 7:32; John 7:45, the sergeants of the temple. They were the persons who had properly the task of arresting Jesus. The Roman cohort was only to give them aid in case of resistance. Joh 18:10 shows that servants belonging to the houses of the chief priests had also joined the band.

The meaning of the words φανοί and λαμπάδες is questionable. The first seems to us rather to designate lanterns; the second, resin torches. All this apparatus: “Lanterns and torches and weapons” (the two καί , and, are to be noticed), by its very uselessness casts a kind of ridicule upon this scene. It is feared that Jesus may hide Himself, and yet He surrenders Himself voluntarily ( Joh 18:4 ), or that He may defend Himself;...but what purpose would these weapons have served, if He had wished to make use of His power ( Joh 18:6 )?

Verses 1-11

First Section: 18:1-11. The Arrest of Jesus.

John omits here the account of the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane; but he clearly assigns to this fact its place by these words of John 18:1: where there was a garden into which he entered. In reading these words, no Christian, in possession of the first three Gospels, could fail to think of that narrative. The reason of this omission, as well as of the omission of the accounts of the transfiguration, the institution of the Holy Supper, and so many others, is that John knew that this scene was sufficiently well known in the church, and that it had no special relation to the end which he set before himself. There cannot be a dogmatic design in this omission; this is proved by the story in John 12:24-27, which belongs exclusively to John, and in which he has preserved for us the moral essence of the scene in Gethsemane.

Strauss exclaims: “Every attempt to insert in John's narrative, between chs. 17 and 18 the agony of Gethsemane is an attack upon the moral elevation and even the manly character of Jesus.” According to this, John would have been the first to commit an outrage of this kind ( Joh 12:27 ). Strauss concludes from this that the Synoptic narrative is “a more naive poetic fiction” than that of John, which presents to us “a more well-considered and carefully contrived poetic fiction.” Thus those who relate, lie in relating; he who omits, lies in omitting! This is the point at which criticism arrives by pursuing its course even to the end. It destroys itself.


Vv. 1-11.

1. The word ἐξῆλθεν , for the reasons suggested in Note 38.7, above, is to be understood as referring to the departure from the room. There can be no doubt that the place here indicated is the garden of Gethsemane, and thus that this Gospel represents Jesus and the apostles as going after the supper to this spot, which belonged probably to one of the friends of Jesus.

2. The σπεῖρα or detachment from the Roman cohort was called upon to accompany the officers of the Sanhedrim for the purpose, apparently, of intimidation, and of assistance in case of any attempt at rescue. They were thus a secondary and attendant body, and, after John 18:13, where Jesus was led to the house of Annas, they disappear. When Jesus was thus securely in the possession of the Jewish authorities, these Roman soldiers had accomplished their work, and they then returned, doubtless, to the place where they were stationed by the civil government. The body which went forth for the arrest took the lanterns and torches, as well as their arms, for the purpose of impression. The fact that the full moon was shining would make no difference in such a case.

3. Godet, Meyer and others think that ἐξῆλθεν of Joh 18:4 means that Jesus went out of the garden. This may be the meaning, but it cannot be regarded as certainly so. Weiss holds, and this is not improbably the right view, that He came forth from the depth of the garden, or, with perhaps less probability, from the circle of the disciples. Westcott thinks that the ἐξῆλθεν is opposed to the εἰσῆλθεν of John 18:1; this, however, is questionable.

4. There is a certain difficulty in bringing John's narrative in John 18:5 f. into accordance with Matthew 26:49 f., but it may probably be due to the brevity of the narrative in the latter case, or even in both cases. The approach of Judas to Jesus with a kiss and the words of Jesus in answer must be placed before the allusion to Judas in Joh 18:5 of this chapter.

5. The “falling to the ground” which is mentioned in Joh 18:6 can scarcely be explained, except by some special influence exerted by Jesus' supernatural power. Roman soldiers would hardly have been thus prostrated by the mere dignified or innocent bearing of an ordinary man, or by the unexpected calmness of Jesus' demeanor.

6. The words of the 9th verse, when connected with those to which they refer in John 17:12, must include more than the idea of a loss occasioned by arrest or death. The result of the arrest of the disciples, or any of them, He feared might be a danger to their faith and thus to their salvation, and so His mind turns again here to what had been His thought in the latter part of ch. 15 and elsewhere.

7. The last words of Joh 18:11 present a similar thought to that of the prayer in Gethsemane as recorded in the other Gospels. It seems not unnatural that the mind of Jesus should have been full of this thought on this last night.

Verses 1-40


The intention of the evangelist, in the following narrative, is certainly not to give a narration as complete as possible of the Passion, as if no narrative of this event existed side by side with his own. The most pronounced adversaries of the authenticity of our Gospel, Baur and Strauss, are at the present day in accord with the orthodox interpreters, Lange and Hengstenberg, on the point that the narrative of the fourth evangelist stands in constant relation to those of his three predecessors. The difference is only on the question of the end which the author proposes to himself in composing this fourth narrative. According to Baur and Strauss, the pseudo-John borrows from the Synoptics the materials which are indispensable to the end of giving some probability to his romance of Jesus-Logos. According to the commentators of the opposite side, John endeavors simply to fill up the vacancies in the earlier narrations, or to present the facts, already previously related, in their true light.

We are convinced that, as the latter writers think, the choice of materials is frequently determined by the intention of completing the accounts already current in the church. Thus, when John relates the examination of Jesus in the house of Annas, which the Synoptics omit, and omits the appearance before the Sanhedrim, which the first Gospels relate with detail, this intention seems evident. It will appear also from a multitude of other examples. But, on the other hand, the narrative of John has presented, up to this point, a too serious meditative character and too profound elaboration to allow the possibility of holding that, in the part which is to follow, it is not governed by any higher thought, and is obedient only to chance, as would be the case in a narrative which confined itself to relating that which others had not related.

In the narrative of the Passion in John, we shall find, as throughout his whole work, the triple point of view indicated in the introduction (Vol. I., p. 228f.). Jesus causes His glory to shine forth through the vail of ignominy by which it was covered, and this especially through the freedom with which He surrenders Himself to the fate which awaits Him; this is here, as always, the luminous foundation of the whole narrative. On this foundation there stands out in relief, as a dark figure, the Jewish unbelief unmasking its moral perversity by a series of odious acts and disloyal words, and, after having thus pronounced its own condemnation, reaching its consummation in the murder of the Messiah. Finally, in contrast with it, we discern the faith which is hidden in the person of the disciples gathering up the scattered rays of the glory of Jesus, and growing in silence, as plants during a storm. The second of these three features is that which prevails in the following narrative.

Three principal scenes:

1. The arrest of Jesus: John 18:1-11.

2. His double trial, ecclesiastical and civil: Joh 18:12 to John 19:16.

3. His punishment: John 19:17-42.

Verses 4-9

Vv. 4-9. The meeting of Jesus with the band. “ Jesus therefore, knowing all that which was to come upon him, went forth and says to them:Whom are you seeking for? 5. They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus says to them, I am he. Now Judas, who betrayed him, was also standing among them. 6. When therefore Jesus said to them, I am he, they went backward and fell to the ground. 7. Jesus asked them a second time, Whom are you seeking for? They said, Jesus of Nazareth. 8. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he; if therefore you are seeking me, let these go their way; 9, that the word might be fulfilled which he had spoken: I have lost none of those whom thou hast given me.

In coming forward spontaneously and as the first to meet the band, Jesus has a purpose which the sequel will explain. He desires, by giving Himself up, to provide for the safety of His disciples. The word He went forth might mean: from the remote part of the garden or from the midst of His disciples; but it is more natural to understand: from the garden itself. He comes forward boldly even before the gate, while His disciples remain grouped behind Him in the garden; thus are the words of Joh 18:26 easily explained.

The kiss of Judas, in the Synoptics, which is said to be incompatible with John's account, is naturally placed at the moment when Jesus, coming forth from the garden, meets the band, and thus immediately before the question: Whom are you seeking? John alone does not mention this incident, and yet he is accused of personal animosity against Judas! Jesus, after having experienced this last perfidy from His disciple, turns towards the band, addressing to them the question relative to their commission: He desires to have this distinctly stated, in order to shelter those who are not the object of it that is, His disciples. The insertion of the remark relating to Judas, at the end of John 18:5, has been explained in different ways. Luthardt rightly says: “These words are placed between the declaration I am he and the effect produced by it, because they are designed to explain this effect.” The impression of fear produced on the witnesses by the words I am he, which were pronounced with majesty and seemed to fall as a threatening from heaven this impression could have been felt by no one of those present so vividly as by the faithless disciple, who had so often heard this same word as the affirmation of the unique dignity of Jesus; and it was no doubt from him that the emotion was communicated to those who surrounded and followed him.

The same moral ascendency to which the traders and money-changers in the temple had yielded, and which had many times arrested the multitude at the moment of stoning Him (comp. also Luk 4:30 ), causes the band suddenly to fall back, and this unexpected movement on the part of those who were foremost occasions the falling down of a certain number of those who are following them. There is no direct act of God's omnipotence here overthrowing these persons, but it would be quite as much an error to see herein only an accidental effect. This result was desired on the part of Him who produced it. By thus making them feel His power, Jesus meant to show them that it would be dangerous for them to go beyond their commission, and thereby to secure the retreat of His disciples. We see how mistaken Weiss is in seeing in such a miracle only a miracle of display.

Then, in a milder tone, which leads the officers to approach Him again, Jesus interrogates them a second time; and after He has again caused them distinctly to declare that it is He, and He alone, whom they have the commission to arrest, He surrenders Himself while stipulating for the liberty of all His disciples. Then it was that the beautiful image was fulfilled which Jesus had used, John 10:12: The shepherd sees the wolf coming, and he does not flee, because he cares for the sheep. The question was not only of the preservation, but even of the salvation of the disciples.

John felt this indeed, and this is what gives the explanation of the remark in John 18:9. The example of Peter, the most courageous one among them, shows that an arrest would have been, at that moment, for some of the apostles the signal for a deep fall, perhaps for an irreparable denial. And Jesus, who had said to the Father: “ I have watched over those whom thou hast given me, and none of them is lost ” ( Joh 17:12 ), must fulfil to the end this serious task. All this causes Reuss to smile compassionately. He sees in the application which the author here makes of these words only a proof of his disposition to “indulge in double sense;” he even asks whether Jesus, in rendering an account to God of the care which He had had of His disciples, “would have hinted that He took care not to let them spend the following night in the guard-house.” For our own part, this quotation seems to us instructive. No one can suppose that John was ignorant of the spiritual sense of the words of Jesus in John 17:12: “I have kept those whom thou hast given me, and no one of them is lost;” and yet he applies it here to a material fact, which undoubtedly pertained, though only indirectly, to the salvation of the disciples. Here is an example fitted to make us see the broad way in which we should treat the Scriptural quotations in general.

Verses 10-11

Vv. 10, 11. Peter's attempt at defence. “ Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high-priest's servant and cut off his right ear.The servant was named Malchus. 11. Jesus therefore said to Peter, Put up the sword into the sheath; shall I not drink the cup which my Father has given me to drink?

Does not John allude to Peter's natural character by designating him by his name Simon? Comp. John 21:15-17.

Luk 22:38 proves that the apostles had, in fact, brought arms with them.

This fact had been already related by the Synoptics; why does John mention it? He wishes, no doubt, to restore to it the precision which it had lost in the oral narration: the name of Peter had been omitted, and, very probably, intentionally; that of Malchus had been forgotten.

The intention of depreciating Peter is again imputed to the author; but wherein? His action is certainly wanting neither in courage nor in faith nor in love.

And Malchus? How can there be discovered in this name the least trace of a speculative, ideal or religious intention? Nevertheless, Keim asks: “If these names were known, how should Mark and Luke omit them?” As if what Luke and Mark were ignorant of might not have been known by another who was better informed! How can any one persuade himself that a serious Christian of the second century, writing at a distance from Palestine, at Alexandria, in Asia Minor, or at Rome, would have set up the claim of knowing the name of a servant of the high-priest's house, and, besides, the part played by a relative of this servant ( Joh 18:26 )! Is such pitiable charlatanism compatible with the character of the author of the Fourth Gospel? The trifling detail: “the right ear,” is also found in Luke ( Luk 22:50 ): this is, according to Strauss, a legendary amplification. To what a degree of puerility is not the evangelical narrative thus brought down!

The act of Peter, while testifying of a powerful faith and of the sincerity of his declaration in John 13:37, was nevertheless compromising to his Master's cause. Peter, by this act, had almost taken away from Jesus the right of saying to Pilate ( Joh 18:36 ): “ If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have fought for me. ” The reply of Jesus has traced for the Church its line of conduct in times of persecution. It is that of passive resistance, which the Apocalypse calls ( Joh 13:10 ) “ the patience of the saints.

The image of the cup to designate the lot to be submitted to recalls the similar expression in Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, in the Synoptics. Luke alone mentions the miraculous healing of Malchus. This fact explains why Peter was not indicted for the crime of rebellion.

Verses 12-14

Vv. 12-14. “ The cohort and the tribune and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus, therefore, and bound him, 13, and they led him first to Annas; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high-priest of that year. 14. Caiaphas was he who had given this counsel to the Jews: that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

The word πρῶτον , first, contains a tacit correction of the Synoptics, according to which Jesus was led directly to the house of Caiaphas; comp. an altogether similar remark in John 3:24.

It has been supposed that this in the first place, or first, alludes to the subsequent sending of Jesus to Pilate; but see on John 18:24; John 18:28. According to these verses, the understood secondly is certainly the sending to Caiaphas.

Annas had himself been high-priest during the years 6-15 of our era, thus about fifteen years before this time. We see in Josephus that he was the influential man of the period. John, however, gives us to understand that the true reason why Jesus was led at this moment to his house was rather his relationship to Caiaphas, the high-priest. By virtue of this relationship, the two personages constituted, as it were, but a single one. Comp. the expression in Luke 3:2.

On John 18:13-14, comp. John 11:50-51. By establishing the identity of this personage with the one mentioned in ch. 11, John would give us to understand what kind of justice Jesus had to expect on the part of a judge who had already expressed himself in this way.

Verses 12-27

I. The Trial before the Sanhedrim: 18:12-27.

The following section contains the account of an appearance of Jesus in the house of Annas, the ex-high-priest, an account with which that of the denial of St. Peter is, as it were, interlaced. But this appearance is not mentioned in the Synoptics. On the other hand, they relate how Jesus was led from Gethsemane to the house of Caiaphas, where He appeared before the Sanhedrim and was condemned to death; and this solemn and decisive meeting is not mentioned by John.

Some think that there was in reality but one meeting, that of which the Synoptics give an account and which they place in the house of Caiaphas; whether, as Baur, Scholten, Keim, etc., they declare that the meeting in the house of Annas, related in our Gospel, is only an invention of its author, or, as some ancient writers, Calvin, Lucke, de Wette, Tholuck, Langen, Lutteroth, they think that there was only a momentary stay in the house of Annas, after which they went immediately (in Joh 18:15 ) to the house of Caiaphas, in which the appearance took place which is related by John John 18:19-23, an appearance which, in any case, must be regarded as identical with the scene of Jesus' condemnation in the Synoptics. Neither the one nor the other of these opinions is admissible. In what interest would the author of the Fourth Gospel have invented this appearance in the house of Annas? It is answered: In order to present the Jews in a more odious light by making Jesus to be condemned by two of their high-priests in succession. But by relating the story in this way, the pseudo-John would not even make Jesus to be condemned by one high- priest, since the session in the house of Annas is a simple inquiry without a judgment, and the session of the Synoptics, where the judgment was really pronounced, is omitted! The second opinion comes into collision with John 18:24, which proves that it was only after the inquiry in the house of Annas that Jesus was sent to the house of Caiaphas (see on that verse). If the locality of the two scenes is different, their contents are none the less so; the first is a mere preliminary investigation, the second a judicial act in all due forms, the official pronouncing of the judgment. Besides, what purpose would this stay at the house of Annas have served, and why should John have mentioned it so expressly if nothing occurred there? Lutteroth supposes that it was regarded as suitable to inform Annas, in passing, of the success of the arrest. But would it have been worth while to mention such a detail?

As it was not possible to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion, either by denying the examination in the house of Annas or by confounding it with the session in the house of Caiaphas, Beyschlag has tried the opposite method; he thinks that the meeting in the house of Annas took place as John relates it, but that after this there was no other during the night, like that which is related by Matthew and Mark; that the latter is nothing else than that which, according to Luke, took place on the following morning ( Luk 22:66-71 ); the first two Synoptics placed it in the course of the night, because they confounded it with the examination in the house of Annas, of which they do not speak. The reason alleged for this hypothesis is that, if the judgment had been given during the night, there would have been no need of a session on the following morning, such as that of which Luke gives an account. We shall discover the error of Beyschlag as to this last point. But what renders this view more suspicious is the gross error which is thus imputed to Mark and Matthew.

It does not seem to us that any question is to be raised as to the fact of two perfectly distinct night sessions, one of which took place in the house of Annas (John) and the other in that of Caiaphas (Matthew and Mark); this is acknowledged by most at the present day Neander, Meyer, Weiss, Luthardt, Keil, Reuss, etc. The Synoptics omitted the first, either because they were ignorant of it, or because it did not occasion any important result. John, on his part, was not ignorant of the second, for he clearly alludes to it in the first of John 18:13, which implies as secondly the appearance before Caiaphas (see on this word); then, in John 18:24, which expressly mentions as a subsequent fact the sending of Jesus to Caiaphas by Annas himself; finally, in John 18:28, where Jesus is led to Pilate, not from Annas' house, but from that of Caiaphas. Thus John, if he does not give an account of the session in the house of Caiaphas, very exactly indicates its place, as he had done in Joh 18:1 with reference to the scene of Gethsemane. Moreover, what completes the proof that John cannot either have been ignorant of or have denied the judgment-scene in the house of Caiaphas, is the whole of the sequel in his own narrative. He represents to us the Sanhedrim as going to ask of Pilate the confirmation and execution of the death-sentence which they had pronounced (John 18:31, John 19:7; John 19:11; Joh 19:16 ). Now in the session in Annas' house, of which John has given the description, no condemnation was pronounced. John's narrative itself therefore implies a meeting of the Sanhedrim in the proper sense of the word, exercising its functions as a high-court of justice for the judgment of the accused, and consequently the entire meeting in the house of Caiaphas as Matthew and Mark describe it.

It will be asked what, in this case, was the purpose of the appearance in the house of Annas. It was, above all, to serve the purpose of drawing from the mouth of Jesus some compromising expression suited to furnish a reason for His condemnation; for there was embarrassment on this subject, as the summoning of the false witnesses in the Synoptics proves. Besides, the judicial customs required this formality. A capital sentence could be pronounced by the Sanhedrim only on the day which followed that on which the accused had appeared in court. In this case it was impossible to observe this rule fully, since the decision had been made to hasten the time; comp. Mark 14:2. But they must at least try to save appearances as far as possible, and to offer the semblance of a first preliminary meeting, before that at which the sentence should be pronounced. The Synoptics, as was in harmony with the nature of the oral tradition, preserved only the remembrance of that which was historically conspicuous; John, in comformity with his ordinary course of action, omits the solemn session which was sufficiently well known through the Synoptic narrative, and restored the part of the facts which was omitted by them no doubt, not for the purpose of materially completing them, but that he might not suffer the radiance of the glory of Jesus to be lost, which had shone forth in the meeting held in the house of Annas. Luthardt and Weiss think that, if John has related the scene in the house of Annas, it is only with a view to Peter's denial, which is connected with it, and which he wished to relate in order to show the fulfilment of the words of Jesus in John 13:38. But if the story of this appearance had had this purpose only, it would have been sufficient to indicate it, without describing the scene in all its details.

Hilgenfeld explains the omission in John of the scene of the condemnation of Jesus by the Sanhedrim, by reason of the fact that the Jewish Messiahship of Jesus had been very strongly emphasized there, a thing which was displeasing to the pseudo-John. But with the freedom which the author used in respect to the history (according to this school), there was nothing easier for him than to modify the account of this scene, for example, by making the sentence of Jesus bear only upon the affirmation of His dignity as Son of God, which was perfectly in accordance with the spirit of his work. Besides, if the idea of the Messianic office was so repugnant to him, why should he have called it to mind from the first and even in the last words of his Gospel ( Joh 1:42-46 and Joh 20:31 )? Keim, however, gets excited, and says: “Who is so to seek for truth in a narrative which after having introduced the examination in the house of Annas as a fact of a decisive character sets aside ( ignorirt) in the most unpardonable way that which took place in the house of Caiaphas” (pp. 322, 323)! But what decisive result, then, did the meeting in Annas' house have? The result, according to John himself, was nothing, to the great annoyance of the enemies who counted on discovering some complaint against Him for the great judicial session which was about to follow. As to the session in the house of Caiaphas, it is by no means set aside ( ignorirt), as we have just seen, since John very correctly and repeatedly assigns to it its place ( Joh 18:24 ). Reuss, in his Histoire evangelique (p. 663), expresses himself thus: “John says nothing, and we will add, without falling into an error, knows nothing of the official examination and of the trial before the court, because all this takes place with closed doors.” We have proved, on the contrary, that John knows perfectly well the facts which he omits. How should he not have been aware of the judgment of Jesus by the Sanhedrim, if it were only through the oral tradition which passed into the Synoptics and through the Synoptics themselves, with which John was acquainted, as even Reuss himself now confesses. If, then, he did not relate this scene, it is because he did not wish to do so, and we know the reason why he did not. Though this fact may be contrary to the system of Reuss respecting the Fourth Gospel, it is nevertheless indisputable. As to Renan, with much more impartiality than the theologians, he is unsparing in his admiration of John's narrative. “Our author alone,” he says, “represents Jesus as brought to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. Josephus confirms the correctness of this account....This circumstance, of which the first two

Gospels give no hint, is a beam of light. How should a sectary, writing in Egypt or in Asia Minor, have known this?...It is a strong proof of the historical value of our Gospel” (pp. 522 and 407). In fact, the relationship of Annas and Caiaphas, which, as we shall see, is an important element in the explanation of the narrative, is a matter of information which John must have received at first hand, for Josephus himself does not mention this fact, although it is perfectly in accordance with his narrative.


Vv. 12-27. There are in this passage two great questions, one having reference to the examination of Jesus, and the other bearing upon Peter's denials. On these two questions the following brief suggestions may be offered:

I. The examination of Jesus. That this was not the one an account of which is given by the Synoptic Gospels is rendered probable by the following considerations:

( a) The fact that it was in the house of Annas. Joh 18:24 cannot be satisfactorily explained except as indicating that Jesus was not sent to Caiaphas until after the examination here recorded.

( b) The character of the examination itself. It was not of a judicial character. Jesus was simply inquired of as to His disciples and His teaching, as if in a conversation or an informal inquiry. In the Synoptic account, on the other hand, witnesses are called, and the whole proceeding is like that of a court, with the high-priest presiding as a judge.

( c) If the two accounts are carefully compared, we find, in connection with what has been said under ( b), that all the details are different in the two: the questions addressed to Jesus; His answers; the minor circumstances, and the persons participating in the scene. This is certainly the fact, with the possible exception that the high-priest who takes part in the two scenes was the same person, and that the blows inflicted upon Jesus by bystanders were given by the same persons. The latter supposition is neither necessary nor probable, for the language used by those who smote Him is not the same, nor to the same effect. As to the former supposition, see below.

( d) It is altogether improbable that if John was present at the judicial trial recorded in the Synoptics, he would have given an account of only a part of it, and would have omitted the most important part namely, that which contained the final result and decision. On the other hand, if what John relates was a more informal and private inquiry in the house of Annas, which preceded the judicial examination, it is very easy to believe that John was not admitted to the latter, and that he gives the account of what he heard, and passes over what he did not hear.

The question as to whether the high-priest mentioned in Joh 18:15-23 is Annas or Caiaphas is one of some difficulty. It is evident that Caiaphas is spoken of in this chapter, and elsewhere in this Gospel, as the high-priest, and that Annas is not thus spoken of, unless in these verses. It is also evident that Caiaphas was the actual high-priest at the time, and that Annas was not. Moreover, the allusion to the high-priest in John 18:15, following immediately as it does upon John 18:13, where Caiaphas is declared to be the high-priest, is such that, in the case of ordinary words, there would be no doubt that the reference in the two verses was the same. It is to be observed, however, on the other hand, that John 18:24, when compared with John 18:13, seems to separate Annas and Caiaphas altogether, and to limit what is said between Joh 18:15 and Joh 18:24 to the house and presence of Annas. Godet, as also Riggenbach, Ebrard, Hofmann, and others, suppose that the two lived in the same palace. The only improbability in such a supposition is, that they were dignitaries of such high position; but this is removed, provided we regard them as occupying two palatial residences which were on opposite sides of a common interior court, and were thus, in reality, one great building surrounding the court. There would seem to be an improbability, however, that the actual high-priest himself, who was to preside at the trial, would have entered into such a conversation and inquiry just before the trial began. His judicial position and dignity might seem inconsistent with it. But that Annas should do so might well have been in the plan of the leaders. It might well be a part of the attempt to prepare for the trial by involving Jesus, if possible, in some difficulty or self- accusation. As Annas, therefore, is called high-priest by Luke, both in his Gospel and in the Acts, and as he had held the office and was unquestionably in a very exalted position in the public opinion, it is more probable that the title is given to him in the verses under consideration, and that he was the person who conducted this inquiry.

II. The denials of Peter. John 18:15-27. In respect to these there are two points of inquiry:

1. As to the place where they occurred. That the first denial occurred in the court of the house of Annas is certain, if Jesus was not sent to the house of Caiaphas until John 18:24. But, if this was the fact respecting the first denial, the connection of Joh 18:25 with Joh 18:18 furnishes the strongest proof that the second and third denials also occurred in the same court. The opening words of Joh 18:25 evidently resume the closing ones of John 18:18, and the absence of any expressed subject for the verb εἶπον of Joh 18:25 can only be explained in a natural way by supposing that the subject is intended by the author to be the same persons as those who are mentioned in the 18th verse. We may believe, therefore, that all the denials took place in one and the same court; that this was the court of the house of Annas; and that the last of the three denials coincided in point of time with the moment when Jesus went forth from the house of Annas on His way to that of Caiaphas. If we now suppose that the house of Caiaphas stood on the opposite side of the same court, so that the latter belonged equally to the two houses, the accounts of all the Gospels, so far forth as the place of Peter's denials is concerned, can be easily brought into harmony.

2. As to what was said by Peter, and as to those who addressed him. That there were three denials, and three only, must be admitted as proved, beyond reasonable doubt, by the fact that Jesus predicted only three, and that each of the Gospels speaks of three only as having occurred. The attempt to escape the difficulties of the case by the supposition of two or three sets of denials, each consisting of two or more, is one which is contradictory to the impression produced by every one of the evangelists.

The most serious difficulties in the reconciling of the different narratives are, first: with respect to the persons, the fact that in the case of the second denial Mark represents the same person as speaking to Peter who had spoken to him in the first case, while the other Gospels represent that it was another person another maid (Matthew), ἕτερος (Luke), the servants and officers (John). If the maid was actually another (and not, as Mark intimates, the same), and if she moved the servants, etc., to unite with her, the other three writers may be harmonized; secondly: with respect to what was said to Peter, the fact that John states that the kinsman of Malchus, in the case of the third denial, said, Did I not see thee in the garden with him, while the other evangelists represent that the words (spoken, according to Matthew and Mark, by those who stood by, and, according to Luke, by another) were, Surely thou art one of them, for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth thereto, or words substantially like these. This may be easily explained, if we suppose that immediately upon the latter words, which came from several of the bystanders, this kinsman of Malchus pressed the matter home upon Peter by saying, Did I not see thee, etc.; thirdly: with respect to the interval between the denials, the fact that Luke represents that there was about an hour between the second and third, while, if we are to suppose any interval of this sort as indicated by John, it is apparently between the first and second. The differences in regard to what Peter said are scarcely worthy of notice. There would seem to be no need, therefore, of supposing any such multiplying of the number of denials as has been imagined by some writers. With regard to the time previous to which the three denials were, according to the prediction of Christ, to take place, it is the same undoubtedly in all the Gospels, for Mark means by the words before the cock crows twice precisely what the other writers mean by before the cock crows namely, the end of the watch called ἀλεκτοροφωνία .

Verses 15-18

Vv. 15-18. “ Now Simon Peter followed Jesus, as well as another disciple, and that disciple was known to the high-priest, and he entered in with Jesus into the court of the high-priest. 16. And Peter was standing without at the door; the other disciple, who was known to the high-priest, went out therefore and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought in Peter. 17. The maid that kept the door, therefore, says to Peter, Art not thou also of this man's disciples? Peter answers, I am not. 18. Now the servants and the officers were standing there, having made a fire of charcoal, because it was cold; and Peter was standing among them and warming himself.

While the Synoptics relate in a consecutive way the three denials of Peter, probably because in the oral preaching the narrative of this event formed an altogether peculiar little story, an ἀπομνημόνευμα , John separates the three acts of denial in the course of his narration, passing alternately from Peter to Jesus and from Jesus to Peter. This better articulated narrative certainly reproduces the true course of things, and nothing more clearly reveals in the author of our Gospel the witness of the facts, who through his own recollections exercised power over the received tradition. “The same superiority,” says Renan, rightly, “in the account of Peter's denials. All is more circumstantial, better explained.”

With the article ὁ , the, the term the other disciple could only be referred to the disciple whom Jesus loved, whose particular connection with Peter we have already ascertained in John 13:21; John 13:24. But this article is wanting in the Alexandrian documents and in the ancient Versions. Nothing, moreover, in the context justifies the use of the definite article. If we read, as we should, “ an other disciple,” it may be John himself; this is the more common supposition. The periphrasis, however, of which he makes use in order to preserve his anonymous character is rather this: “the disciple whom Jesus loved ” (John 13:23, Joh 19:26 ). I formerly attempted to justify this change of expression by saying that “it was not the occasion for using a term of tenderness when the disciples had just abandoned their Master;” but this explanation is somewhat subtle. Did not John designate by this phrase some other disciple, his brother James, for example, whom he does not mention by name anywhere in his whole Gospel, any more than he does himself or his mother?

We do not know the relations which Zebedee and his sons may have had with the household of the high-priest. Perhaps the very profession of Zebedee had furnished the occasion for it. Thanks to these relations, this disciple had been able to enter within the priestly palace with the company, and soon he was able to gain admission for Peter, who had undoubtedly asked of him this service.

But of what high-priest does John mean to speak when he says in John 18:15: into the court of the high-priest ( αὐλή , more probably here the interior court than the palace itself)? On the one hand, if the relation of ἠκολούθει , followed, John 18:15, to ἀπήγαγον , led him away, John 18:13, is considered, it seems that there can be no question except of the palace of Annas. On the other hand, according to John 18:13-14, how can we suppose that there can be a question of another high-priest than Caiaphas, who has just now expressly received the title? Undoubtedly, Annas is also called ἀρχιερεύς ( Act 4:6 ). Schurer has even shown that this title might be applied to all the members of the privileged families from which the high-priests were ordinarily taken. Nevertheless, this title has nowhere in our Gospel this broad sense, and it would be difficult indeed to believe that after having contrasted, as he has done in John 18:13, Caiaphas as “ the high-priest of that year,” with Annas, his father-in-law, John would designate this latter person, a few lines farther on, simply by the title of high-priest. How could the readers, who had never heard of Annas, have supposed that he also bore this title? It is, therefore, clearly the house of Caiaphas of which John means to speak, if he has not written in an unintelligible way. But, in that case, it is asked how the relations which the disciple sustained to the high-priest Caiaphas and the members of his household could open to him the entrance into the abode of Annas, to whom Jesus was first led. There is but one solution to this question, which the narrative of John itself suggests, setting aside that of the Synoptics; it is that these two personages lived in the same palace. The bond of close relationship which united them explains this circumstance, and it is for this reason, undoubtedly, that John has so expressly noticed this particular. Meyer is wrong, therefore, in saying that the text does not offer the least indication in favor of this opinion. John's account leads directly to it.

The Hebrews very commonly had female doorkeepers (Josephus, Antiq. 7.2, 1; Act 12:13 ; 2 Samuel 4:6, according to the text of the LXX).

The καί , also (“Art not thou also ”), shows that this woman already knew the unnamed disciple as one of the adherents of Jesus.

The three denials of Peter, as Luthardt observes, have three distinct historical starting-points, which are more or less distributed among the four evangelists: 1. The introduction of Peter into the court by a friend, who was himself known as a disciple of Jesus; 2. The recollection which had been retained of Peter by those who had seen him at the time of the arrest of Jesus; 3. His Galilean dialect. To these external circumstances, which called forth his trial, was added an internal one which facilitated his fall: the recollection of the blow which he had struck, and which exposed him, more than all the rest, to the danger of being involved in the judgment of his Master. Fear therefore combined with presumption; and thus was the warning which Jesus had given him verified: “ The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

The δοῦλοι , servants, John 18:18, designate the domestic servants attached to the priestly house; the ὑπηρέται , officers, are the official servants of the Sanhedrim, charged with the police duties of the temple.

The last words of John 18:18: Peter was standing with them and warming himself, are repeated literally in John 18:25. They are placed here, as a stepping-stone with a view to the approaching resumption of the story relating to Peter, after the appearance of Jesus in the house of Annas. Hence it follows: 1. That there is an absolute impossibility in the way of placing the last two denials in another locality than the first; and 2. That these last two denials took place, not after, but during the examination of Jesus.

The verbs in the imperfect tense are picturesque, and signify that the situation described continues during the whole examination which is about to be related, so that, according to the narrative, the scene of John 18:25-26 (Peter) took place simultaneously with that of John 18:19-23 (Jesus).

Verses 19-21

Vv. 19-21. “ The high-priest therefore asked Jesus concerning his disciples and his doctrine. 20. Jesus answered him: I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in open synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews come together, and I have said nothing in secret. 21. Why askest thou me?Ask those who have heard me what I have said to them: behold, these know what I have said.

It is generally held that, as the examination took place in the house of Annas, it was he who directed the investigation. But this would imply that the high-priest of Joh 18:13-16 was Annas, which we have seen to be contrary to the natural meaning of John's narrative. This session was a purely private one; it had its necessary place, as we have seen, in the course of the trial; the presence of the officer in Joh 18:22 implies the official character of the scene. The duty of presiding over it fell, therefore, to the high- priest officially. It has been supposed that Annas was exercising functions here in the character of Ab-beth-din (chief of the court of justice). But this dignity appertained to the high-priest himself (Schurer, p. 413). Keim rightly says (certainly not to support the narrative of John): “If Caiaphas was truly the acting high-priest and, at the same time, the soul of the sudden onset which was proposed against Jesus, it belonged to him, and not to his father-in-law, to acquaint himself with the matter and to make a report to the Sanhedrim” (iii. p. 322). If it was otherwise, according to John, what purpose would the characterizing of Caiaphas, in John 18:13, have served? When, in John 18:22, the officer says to Jesus: Answerest thou the high-priest so? it is unnatural to think of another personage than the actual high-priest, the one who has just been expressly designated as such in John 18:13-14. Reuss brings forward in opposition to our view John 18:24, in which the high-priest must necessarily be another personage than the one who is called thus in John 18:19. At the first glance, this observation appears just. But if Jesus was led away to the house of Annas, it was quite naturally Annas who gave the order to conduct Him to the house of Caiaphas, while yet it would not follow from this fact that it was Annas himself who presided over the preliminary session.

The question proposed to Jesus had as its design to draw from Him an answer suited to give a ground for His condemnation. For there was embarrassment felt respecting the course to be pursued in this matter, as the recourse to the false witnesses proves.

What is asked of Jesus is not the names of His disciples, as if the question were of a list of accomplices; it is information as to the number of His partisans and the principles which serve them as a standard.

Jesus, understanding that they were only seeking to wrest from Him an expression which might be turned to account against Him, simply appeals to the publicity of His teaching. He is not the head of a secret society, nor the propagator of principles which fear the light of day. Συναγωγῇ , without an article (according to the true reading): in synagogal assembly; the word ἱερόν , temple, has the article, because this edifice is unique. When Jesus instructed His disciples in private, it was not for the purpose of telling them something different from what He declared in public. The testimony of the ancient Versions decides in favor of the Alexandrian reading: “ all the Jews;” not, the Jews from all parts or continually.

Verses 22-23

Vv. 22, 23. “ When he had said this, one of the officers, who was at his side, struck him with a rod, saying, Answerest thou the high-priest so? 23. Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if I have spoken well, why dost thou smite me?

The answer of Jesus certainly contained a tacit rebuke intended for the one who thus interrogated Him. An officer who wished to court the favor of his chief takes occasion to remind Jesus of the respect due to the ruler of Israel. The word ῥάπισμα properly means: a blow with a rod. Undoubtedly in Mat 5:39 the verb ῥαπίζειν is taken in the sense of striking in the face. The proper sense, however, is here the more natural one; comp. the term δέρειν , to flay, John 18:23. Μαρτυρεῖν : to prove by a regular giving of testimony.

Jesus does not literally fulfil here His own precept, Matthew 5:39; but by this reply, full of dignity and gentleness, He endeavors to bring the man to himself, which is precisely the moral fulfilment of that precept.

Verse 24

Ver. 24. “ Annas therefore sent him bound to Caiaphas, the high- priest.

This verse has always perplexed those who have held that at Joh 18:15 Jesus was led to the house of Caiaphas, and that the session which John has just described is the great session of the Sanhedrim, which is related by the Synoptics. This twofold error is what has occasioned the transposition of this verse in some documents to a place after John 18:13 (see the critical note on that verse). It is this likewise which has led some interpreters, such as Calvin, Lucke, Tholuck, de Wette, Langen, to take ἀπέστειλαν in the sense of the pluperfect, had sent. But when the aorist has the sense of the pluperfect, the context clearly indicates it. Precisely the contrary is here the case. Besides, the particle οὖν , therefore, if it is authentic, excludes this explanation, and it is even probable that this is precisely the reason which has made some reject it and others change it into δέ , now: Now, Annas had sent....”

By inserting this notice here, the evangelist simply wished, as by the πρῶτον , first, of John 18:13, to reserve a place expressly for the session in the house of Caiaphas, which was indeed otherwise important, and of which he does not give an account. Comp. John 18:1 (for the scene in Gethsemane) and John 18:5 (for the kiss of Judas). Lutteroth gives to this verse a sentimental cast. There is, according to him, a picture here; John means to say: Behold! This Jesus, thus struck by the officer, was standing there with His hands bound, in the condition in which Annas had [previously] sent Him to Caiaphas! But this sense has nothing in common with the simplicity and sobriety of the apostolic narrative; it implies, moreover, the pluperfect sense as here given to the aorist.

Jesus had undoubtedly been unbound during the examination; after this scene, Annas causes Him to be bound again, in order to send Him to the house of Caiaphas. Probably He was unbound a second time during the session of the Sanhedrim. This explains why in Mat 27:2 and Mark 15:1, He is bound anew at the time of leading Him away to Pilate. To Caiaphas: in the part of the palace where Caiaphas lived, and where were the official apartments and the hall for the meetings of the Sanhedrim. This body had been called together in the interval; for all the members were in Jerusalem for the feast. The title of high-priest reminds us of the wholly official character of the session which was in preparation, as well as that of the place where it occurred.

Verses 25-27

Vv. 25-27. “ And Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said therefore to him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied and said, I am not. 26. One of the servants of the high-priest, a kinsman of him whose ear Peter cut off, says to him, Did I not see thee in the garden with him? 27. Peter denied again; and immediately the cock crew.

As far as John 18:18, according to John, all has happened in the house of Annas; and as Joh 18:25 expressly places us again in the situation of John 18:18, it is evident that the following facts also occur at his house; it is the same court, the same fire, the same persons; so that those who, like Weiss, are unwilling to admit that Caiaphas and Annas lived in two different apartments of the same priestly palace, are obliged to hold that Matthew and Mark have made a mistake in placing the denial of Peter in the house of Caiaphas. As for ourselves, we have already stated the reasons which seem to us to support the contrary opinion.

The sending of Jesus to Caiaphas, mentioned already in John 18:24, in reality followed the last denial ( Joh 18:27 ). For the facts of Joh 18:25-27 took place simultaneously with John 18:19-23. This circumstance explains the incident, related by Luke, of the look which Jesus cast upon Peter ( Luk 22:61 ). Jesus crossed the court to go from the apartments of Annas to those of Caiaphas ( Joh 18:24 ). He heard at this moment the cock-crowing ( Joh 18:27 ); and then it was that His eye met that of Peter. The epithet δεδεμένον , bound, makes us understand more fully the impression produced on the unfaithful disciple by the sight of his Master in this condition.

The subject of εἶπον , they said ( Joh 18:25 ), is indefinite. According to Matthew, it is a maid-servant who sees Peter approaching the gate to go forth from the court to the front of the house. According to Mark, it is the same maid-servant who had already troubled him in the first instance and who denounces him to the servants who were gathered about the fire. In Luke, it is indefinitely έτερος , another person. It is probable that the portress spoke of Peter to one of her companions, who denounced him to the assembled servants. From this group came forth instantly the question addressed to Peter.

After the second denial, Peter seems to have played the bold part, and to have set himself to speak more freely with the persons present. But his Galilean accent was soon noticed, and attracted the more particular attention of a kinsman of Malchus, a fact which occasioned the third denial.

John does not mention the imprecations which Matthew puts into Peter's mouth. If, then, any one was animated by hostile feelings towards this disciple, it was the first evangelist, and not the author of our narrative. Though he does not speak of Peter's repentance, the narrative of the scene in John 21:15 ff. evidently implies it.

The story of the denial of Peter is, besides those of the multiplication of the loaves and of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, the only one which is related at once by John and the Synoptics. There is no discourse here to be accounted for, as in ch. 6, and no series of events to be explained, as in ch. 12 John's purpose, therefore, could only have been to reproduce in all their grievous reality the two simultaneous scenes of the appearance of the Master before the authorities and the disciple's denial, which had formed the prelude of the Passion. In any case, we may discover here how the oral tradition related the facts with less of life and flexibility than is done by the pen of an eye-witness. The latter alone has reproduced the minutest articulations of the history; and it is not without reason that Renan speaks of “its varied and sharply defined points.”

Verse 28

Ver. 28. “ They lead Jesus therefore from Caiaphas to the Praetorium. Now it was early. And they did not themselves enter into the Praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.

The Praetorium was at Rome the place where the praetor sat when he administered justice. This name had been applied to the palaces of the Roman governors in the provinces. Most interpreters hold that this term designates here the palace of Herod, which was in the western part of the upper city. In proof of this the passage of Josephus, Bell. Jude 1:2; Jude 1:2.14, Jude 1:8, is cited, where it is said that “Florus lived at that time ( τότε ) in the royal palace;” but this passage proves precisely that the Roman governor did not ordinarily live there. It is more probable that Pilate occupied a palace contiguous to the citadel Antonia, where the Roman garrison was stationed, at the north-west corner of the temple. It is there, at all events, that tradition places the starting- point of the Via Dolorosa. Πρωΐ (T. R. πρωΐα ), in the early morning, includes the time from three to six o'clock ( Mar 13:35 ). The Roman courts opened their sessions at any hour after sunrise ( Westcott). Pilate, as we have seen, was forewarned, since the previous evening, of what was taking place, and he had no doubt consented to receive the Jews at this early hour.

The scruple which prevents the Jews from entering into the governor's house places us again face to face with the contradiction which seems to exist between the narrative of John and that of the Synoptics. If, as these latter seem to say, the Jews had already on the previous evening celebrated the Paschal meal, how can we explain the fact that, through defiling themselves by contact with the leaven which would necessarily be found in a Gentile house, they fear that they may be unable to celebrate this meal on this same evening? The only way of escaping this contradiction, it seems, would be to give a wider sense to the expression to eat the Passover, by referring it, not to the Paschal meal properly so called, but to the food of the feast in general, such as the unleavened bread and the flesh of the peace-offerings which were celebrated during the seven days of the feast.

Some passages are thought to have been found in the Old Testament where the word Passover is taken in this more general sense; thus Deuteronomy 16:2-3: “ Thou shalt sacrifice the Passover to the Lord, of the flock and of the herd, and with it (these meats) thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days. ” Comp. the analogous expression 2 Chronicles 30:22 (literally): “ And they ate the feast (the feast- sacrifices) seven days, offering sacrifices of peace offerings and praising the Lord;2 Chronicles 35:7-9: “ And Josiah gave to those of the people who were there lambs and kids, to the number of thirty thousand, all of them for Passover offerings, and three thousand bullocks, of the king's substance. ” To confirm this conclusion it is alleged that, according to the Talmud, the defilement which the Jews would have contracted by entering the Praetorium would have continued in any case only until the end of the day, and consequently would not have prevented them from eating the Paschal meal in the evening.

But the passages cited do not prove what they would need to prove. As to the first ( Deu 16:2-3 ), the term Passover is applied exclusively, in John 18:5-6, which immediately follow, to the Paschal lamb; hence it follows that in Joh 18:2 the expression of the herd and of the flock is not an explanatory apposition of the word pesach (Passover), but a supplementary addition by which all the secondary sacrifices which complete the Paschal supper during the course of the week are designated. At all events, if the term Passover really included here, together with the Paschal lamb, all the other sacrifices of the feast, it would not follow therefrom that it could designate, as would be the case in our passage, these last apart from the first. As to the with it, it refers to all the sacrificial meats which were to be accompanied by unleavened bread during the entire week.

In 2 Chronicles 30:0 the name Passover is applied in 2 Chronicles 30:15; 2Ch 30:17-18 exclusively to the Paschal lamb. Why, then, should the chronicler in Joh 18:22 substitute for the proper term: to eat the Passover, the more general expression to eat the feast, if it was not because he wished now to speak of the sacrifices of the feast, exclusive of the eating of the Paschal lamb? Besides, the reading: and they ate (vajokelou) the feast, is very doubtful. The LXX certainly read: vajekallou, and they finished the feast; for they translate: καὶ συνετέλεσαν .

In the third passage ( 2Ch 35:7-9 ) the distinction between the lambs or kids which were intended to serve for the Paschal meal ( pesachim) and the bullocks which were consecrated to the other sacrifices and feasts is obvious.

But even supposing that in some passages of the Old Testament the term Passover had received from the context a wider meaning than ordinary, would it follow from this that a phrase so common in the New Testament, in Josephus and in the Talmud, as that of eating the Passover, could be applied, without any explanatory indication, to entirely different meals from the Paschal supper, and this even to the exclusion of the latter?

As to the objection derived from the duration of the defilement which the Jews would have contracted:

1. It is impossible to form any certain conclusion, with reference to the time of Jesus, from a passage of the Rabbi Maimonides written about the year 1200.

2. This passage refers to a defilement arising from contact with dead animals, etc., and not to the defilement arising from leaven, and with special relation to the Paschal feast.

The same is the case with the examples borrowed from other kinds of defilement (Leviticus 15:5 ff., Leviticus 15:19 ff.). After the analogy of Numbers 9:6 ff., the Jews would simply have been obliged to put off the celebration of the Passover until the 14th of the following month.

3. If the question were only of the feast-meals in general, the members of the Sanhedrim might have abstained altogether from taking part in them; for these meals were voluntary; the Paschal supper alone did not allow of abstention.

4. The defilement thus contracted would, in any case, have forced the priests, who were members of the Sanhedrim, to abstain from participating in the sacrifice of the lamb in the afternoon, an abstention which was incompatible with their official duty.

For all these reasons it is impossible for me to adopt the opinion of many and learned interpreters who refer the expression to eat the Passover in our verse to the peace-offering (the Chagigah), which the Jews offered on the 16th of Nisan at mid-day; we will mention among the modern writers only Tholuck, Olshausen, Hengstenberg, Wieseler, Hofmann, Lange, Riggenbach, Baumlein, Langen, Luthardt, Kirchner and Keil.

The pronoun αὐτοί , themselves, contrasts the Jews, with their Levitical purity, to Jesus, whom nothing could any longer defile, so defiled was He already in their eyes. He was immediately delivered over to the governor, and introduced into the Praetorium. From this time, therefore, Pilate will go from the Praetorium to the Jews (John 18:29; John 18:38, Joh 19:4-12 ) and from the Jews to the Praetorium (John 18:33, John 19:1; Joh 19:9 ). Keim judges this situation to be historically impossible, and jests about this ambulant judge, this peripatetic negotiator, whom the narrative of John presents to us. But the apostle clearly perceived that this situation had an exceptional character, and he has precisely explained it by this John 18:28. Pilate does not feel himself free in his position with regard to the Jews; the sequel shows this only too clearly. This is the reason why he bears with their scruples.

The first position taken by the Jews:

Verses 28-40

II. The Trial before Pilate: 18:28-19:16.

Had the Romans, in making Judea a province of the empire, taken away from the Jews the right of capital punishment? Our narrative affirms this positively by putting in the mouths of the latter the words ( Joh 18:31 ): “ It is not permitted us to put any one to death. ” To this have been objected the execution of Stephen, Acts 7:57 ff., and the permission which Titus had granted the Jews to put foreigners, even Romans, to death who had invaded the inclosure of the temple court (Josephus, Antiq. 6.2, 4). But the first event was an extra-legal act of popular fury, and the permission given by Titus is quite an exceptional case. According to the Talmud, as according to John, the right of inflicting capital punishment belonged no longer to the Sanhedrim. And it was precisely at the time of the judgment of Jesus that this change took place, “forty years before the destruction of the temple.” Probably, in the time which followed the annexation, the governors desired to use moderation towards the conquered people. But the despotic Pilate had reduced the Jews to the common law of the provinces. This was the reason which obliged the rulers to bring Jesus before this governor in order to obtain from him the confirmation and execution of the sentence which they had just pronounced.

Pilate was from the year 26 procurator of Judea, under the order of the proconsul of Syria. He was deposed in 36 by Vitellius and sent to Rome, to be judged there for all the wrongs which he had committed. According to “Greek historians” (Euseb. Joh 2:7 ), he was put to death under Caligula.

Such were the reasons which made the Jews hold a third session that of the morning, which took place very early, no longer in the high-priest's house, but in the vicinity of the temple, either in the famous hall paved with mosaic ( lischkath haggazith), situated in the interior court at the south of the temple, or in the synagogue Beth midrasch, between the court of the women and the outer court (see Keim, III. p. 351). This is confirmed by Matthew ( Mat 27:1 ), Mark ( Mar 16:1 ), and especially Luke (Luke 22:66 ff.) The last mentioned has preserved for us the most complete account of this session, perhaps mingling in it some particulars borrowed from the great session in the night, which he passes over in silence. In any case, the examination and the judgment of Jesus must have been repeated a second time, though summarily, and confirmed in this morning session, which was the only legal and plenary one ( πάντες , all, Matt.). We must observe the expression of Matthew, ώστε θανατῶσαι αὐτόν , to put him to death, which indicates the seeking for ways and means to succeed in obtaining from Pilate the execution of the sentence, as well as the expression of Luke: “ They led him into their assembly,” Luke 22:66, which can only refer to the passage from the house of Caiaphas ( Luk 22:54 ) to one of the two meeting-halls near the temple, of which we have just spoken.

The Jews ask Pilate to confirm their sentence without an examination ( Joh 18:30 ). The latter refuses; this is the first phase of the negotiations: John 18:28-32. Then they set forth a political accusation: He made Himself a king. Pilate judges this accusation unfounded; then he makes two ineffectual attempts to deliver Jesus with the support of the people; this is the second phase: Joh 18:33 to John 19:6. The Jews then bring forward a religious charge: He made Himself Son of God. On hearing this accusation Pilate endeavors still more to deliver Jesus; this is the third phase: John 19:7-12 a. At this moment, the Jews, seeing their prey ready to escape them, put aside all shame, and employ the odious expedient of personal intimidation to make the judge's conscience yield. On this path they suffer themselves to be carried away even to the point of the denial of their dearest hope that of the Messiah; they declare themselves vassals of Caesar; this is the fourth phase: John 19:12-16.

Verses 29-32

Vv. 29-32. “ Pilate therefore went out to them and said, What accusation do you bring against this man? 30. They answered him, saying, If he were not an evil doer, we should not have delivered him to thee. 31. Pilate therefore said to them, Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law. Whereupon the Jews answered him, It is not permitted us to put any one to death; 32, that the word might be fulfilled which Jesus had spoken, signifying by what death he should die.

The ordinary residence of the governor was Caesarea; but he went to Jerusalem at the time of the feasts. Pilate was fond of displaying before the eyes of the people on these occasions the pomp of Roman majesty. Philo ( Leg. ad Caium) represents him as a proud, obstinate, intractable man. Nevertheless, it is probable that the fanaticism of the Jews was also an important element in the contentions which they continually had with him. “All the acts of Pilate which are known to us,” says Renan, “show him to have been a good administrator.” This portrait is somewhat flattering; but it is partially confirmed by the picture which Josephus himself has drawn of his government, Antiq. John 18:2-4. Οὖν , therefore: in consequence of the fact that the Jews were unwilling to enter into his palace.

The answer of the Jews to Pilate ( Joh 18:30 ) is skilful; it is dictated by two reasons: on the one hand, they endeavor to keep the largest possible share of their ancient autonomy, by continuing in the main the judges, and leaving to Pilate the part of executioner; and, on the other hand, they undoubtedly are also apprehensive of not succeeding before him with their political and religious grievances. The manoeuvre was well contrived. But Pilate understands them; he refuses the position which they wish to give him. He plays cautiously with them. Entering apparently into their thought, delighted at finding a means of relieving himself of the affair, he replies without hesitation: “Very good! Since you wish to be sole judges of the case, be so! Take the accused and punish Him yourselves ( ὑμεῖς , Joh 18:31 ), of course within the limits of your competency.” The Sanhedrim had, in fact, certain disciplinary rights, like that of excommunicating, scourging, etc. There was no need of Pilate in order to inflict these punishments; only this was not death. Some interpreters have thought that Pilate really authorized them to put Jesus to death, but with this understood reservation: “If you can and dare” ( Hengstenberg). But this is to make Pilate say yes and no at the same time. Joh 19:6 proves nothing in favor of this meaning, as we shall see.

This answer did not suit the Jews; for they wished that, at any cost, Jesus might be put to death. It forced them, therefore, to make confession of their dependence, at least in this regard ( Joh 18:31 ). And this circumstance seems to the evangelist significant ( Joh 18:32 ); for, if they had been their own masters, or had allowed themselves to be carried away, as afterwards in the murder of Stephen, to act as if they still were so, Jesus would have undergone the Jewish, and not the Roman punishment; He would have been stoned; this was the punishment of the false prophets, according to the Talmud (see Westcott). But He would not have been lifted up upon the cross, from which, by His calmness, His submission, His patience, His pardon, His love, He incessantly draws all men to Himself as He had announced beforehand (John 3:14, John 8:28, Joh 12:32 ); what a difference from the tumultuous punishment of stoning! Comp. also John 19:36-37.

The second position taken by the Jews:

Verses 33-35

Vv. 33-35. “ Pilate entered again therefore into the Praetorium, and he called Jesus and said to him, Art thou the king of the Jews? 34. Jesus answered him:Sayest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? 35. Pilate answered: Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee to me; what hast thou done?

John's narrative evidently presents a gap here. There is nothing in what precedes to give a reason for the question of Pilate to Jesus: Art thou the king of the Jews? Such an inquiry implies, therefore, an expression on the part of the accusers which gives occasion for it. This supposition is changed into certainty when we compare the narrative of the Synoptics, particularly that of Luke. “ We found him,” say the Jews on approaching Pilate, “ troubling the nation, forbidding to pay tribute to Caesar, saying that he is the Christ, the King ” ( Luk 23:2 ). Luke, as well as Mark and Matthew, has omitted the whole first phase of the accusation, which has just been related by John. The Synoptics begin their narrative at the moment when the Jews come down again to their more humble part as accusers, and concede to Pilate his position as judge. Hence it follows that John, after having supplied in what precedes that which the Synoptics had omitted, now implies as known to his readers the political accusation mentioned by them. We see how intimate and constant is the relation between his narrative and theirs. Keil concludes from the words he called Jesus, that up to this moment Jesus had remained outside. But see above. He called Him aside in the Praetorium itself, to a place where he could speak with Him alone.

To his question, Pilate certainly expected a frank negative answer. But the position was not as simple as he imagined. There was a distinction to be made here, not to the thought of Pilate, but to that of Jesus. In the political sense of the term king of the Jews, the only one known to Pilate, Jesus might reject this title; but in the religious sense which every believing Jew gave to it and in which it was equivalent to Messiah, Jesus must accept it, whatever the consequences of this avowal might be. Jesus must know, then, whether this title, with regard to which Pilate was interrogating Him, was put forward by Pilate himself, or whether it had been put forward by the Jews in the conversation which he had just had with them. The objections of Meyer and Weiss (in his Commentary) against this explanation do not seem to me sufficient to shake it. According to Meyer, Jesus asks of Pilate simply an explanation which He had the right to ask. But He nevertheless did it with some purpose. According to Weiss, Jesus wished to know whether He must now give an explanation respecting the Messianic idea! Finally, according to Tholuck, Luthardt, Keil, etc., He thereby called Pilate's attention to the suspicious source of this accusation ( others, the Jews). It would, in that case, have been more simple to answer by a No only; but, after this, the really affirmative answer of Jesus in Joh 18:36-37 would become an absurdity. These two verses are compatible with the question of Jesus only on our explanation, which is that of Olshausen, Neander, Ewald, and at present, it seems to me, of Weiss himself ( Life of Jesus, II. p. 563). We must conclude from these words that Jesus had not Himself heard the accusation of the rulers, and consequently that He was already, as we have stated, John 18:28, in the Praetorium at the time when it was brought forward by them.

Pilate, not understanding clearly what is the aim of this distinction, answers abruptly: “What have I to do with your Jewish subtleties?” There is profound contempt in the antithesis: ἐγώ ... ᾿Ιουδαῖος ( I...a Jew?). Then, abandoning the Jewish jargon which he had allowed his accusers to impose on him for the moment, he interrogates Him as a frank and simple Roman: “Now then, to the point! By what fault hast thou brought upon thyself all that which is taking place at this moment?”

Verses 36-37

Vv. 36, 37. “ Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have fought that I might not be delivered to the Jews. But now is my kingdom not from hence. 37. Thereupon Pilate said to him, Art thou a king, then? Jesus answered him, Thou sayest it; I am a king; I was born and am come into the world to bear witness to the truth.Whoever is of the truth hears my voice.

Jesus does not answer directly; but the answer appears from what He is about to say. He certainly possesses a kingship; this kingship, however, is not of a nature to disturb Pilate.

The expression ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου , of this world, is not synonymous with ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ , in this world. For the kingdom of Jesus is certainly realized and developed here on earth; but it does not have its origin from earth, from the human will and earthly force. Jesus gives as a proof of this the manner in which He has surrendered Himself to the Jews. His servants are that multitude of adherents who had surrounded Him on Palm-day, and not merely, as Lucke and Luthardt suppose, hypothetical beings: “the servants whom I should have in that case.” The meaning given by Bengel and Stier: the angels, could not have been even dimly seen by Pilate.

The attempt has been made to give to νῦν , now, a temporal sense: “My kingdom is not now of this world, but it will be otherwise hereafter.” But, at the coming of the Lord, His kingdom will be no more of this world than it is to-day. Now must be taken, as often, in the logical sense: it contrasts the ever-present reality of the truth with the non-existence of error.

Pilate certainly expected a simple denial. His answer expresses surprise. The meaning of the particle ουκουν , if it were accented οὔκουν , would be: certainly not. Pilate would say: “Thou art certainly not a king,” with or without an interrogation point. But the reply of Jesus: “Thou sayest it,” by which He appropriates to Himself the contents of Pilate's words while reaffirming them for Himself, favors the accentuation οὐκοῦν , not...then. “It is, then, not false, the claim that is imputed to thee?”

The affirmative formula employed by Jesus: Thou sayest it, is foreign to the classic Greek and even to the Old Testament, but it is very common with the Rabbis. Its meaning cannot be that which Reuss would give to it ( Hist. ev ., p. 676): “It is thou who sayest that I am a king; as for me, I am come into the world to bear testimony,...” which would mean simply: I am not a king, but a preacher of the truth, a prophet. In this sense, a σύ , thou, in contrast with an ἐγώ , I, would have been absolutely necessary; and then, a but, to contrast the saying of Jesus with that of Pilate. Besides, the meaning of the formula: thou sayest it, is well known; comp. Matthew 26:64. ῞Οτι might signify: seeing that: “Thou sayest it rightly, seeing that I really am such.” It is more natural, however, to explain this conjunction in the sense of that: “Thou sayest (it) well, that I am a king.” The importance of the idea makes Jesus feel the need of again formulating it expressly. Hengstenberg separates altogether from this declaration the following words, which he applies simply to the prophetic office of Jesus Christ. But it is very evident that Jesus means to explain by what follows the sense in which He is a king. He comes to conquer the world, and for this end His only weapon is to bear witness to the truth; His people are recruited from all men who open themselves to the truth. The first of the two consecutive ἐγώ , I, which are read in the T. R., must be rejected. Jesus certainly did not say: “I am a king, I. ” The two εἰς τοῦτο , for this, refer to the following ἴνα ( that), contrary to the translation of Ostervald and Arnaud: “I was born for this (to be a king) and...” “ I was born ” refers to the fact of birth which is common to Him with all men, while the words: “I am come into the world” set forth the special mission with a view to which He has appeared here on earth. It is His work as prophet which is the foundation of His kingly office.

The truth, the revelation of God this is the sceptre with which He bears sway over the earth. This mode of conquest which Jesus here unveils to Pilate is the opposite of that by which the Roman power was formed, and Lange brings out with much reason that, as Joh 12:25 contained the judgment of the Greek genius, this declaration of Jesus to Pilate contains the judgment of the Roman genius by the Gospel.

The expression to be of the truth recalls to mind John 3:21, John 7:17, John 8:47, John 10:16, etc. It denotes the moral disposition to receive the truth and to put oneself under its holy power when it presents itself in living form in the person of Jesus Christ. By the word whoever, Jesus addressed no longer merely the conscience of the judge, but also that of the man, in Pilate ( Hengstenberg).

Verse 38

Ver. 38. “ Pilate says to him, What is truth? And after he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and says to them, As for me, I find no crime in him.

Pilate's exclamation is neither the expression of a soul eager for the truth (the Fathers), nor that of a heart in despair, which has long sought it in vain ( Olshausen). It is the profession of a frivolous scepticism, such as is often met with in the man of the world, and particularly in statesmen, who are quite indifferent in general to this class of questions; witness the manner in which Napoleon was accustomed to speak of ideologists! If Pilate had seriously sought for the truth, it would have been the moment to find it and lay hold of it. In any case, what he is now convinced of is that the person whom he has before him, whether He is a dreamer or a sage, is not a rival of Caesar. Thus with “that broad sentiment of justice and civil government which,” as Renan says, “the most ordinary Roman carried with him everywhere,” he declares to the Jews his conviction of the innocence of Jesus as to the political accusation raised against Him.

After this, what was his duty? To discharge Jesus purely and simply. But, fearing to displease the Jews, who had well-founded reasons to accuse him to his superiors, he wishes to avoid taking a step which would make them his sworn enemies, and he has recourse to a series of expedients. The first is not related by John; it is the remitting of the affair to Herod, on account of the mention which had been made of the Galilean origin of Jesus in the accusation of the rulers ( Luk 23:5 ); this scene is described by Luke 23:6-12; it is omitted by John as well known and not having led to any result. It was the appearance before Pilate which John was especially anxious to reproduce. In the declaration which, in John, closes John 18:38, are united the two expressions of Pilate related by Luke 23:4; Luke 23:14, which preceded and followed the sending of Jesus to Herod.

The second expedient is that of which John gives an account very summarily in John 18:39-40, and which is related in detail by the Synoptics.

Verses 39-40

Vv. 39, 40. “ But you have a custom that I should release unto you a prisoner at the Passover feast. Will you therefore that I release unto you the king of the Jews? 40. They all cried out therefore again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas! Now Barabbas was a robber.

In the very brief narrative of John with relation to this episode, it is Pilate who seems to take the initiative in the proposal made to the people, while, in the dramatic picture of Mark, it is the people who rush forward with loud cries and demand the liberation of a prisoner. Evidently there is a vacancy here in John like that which we have noticed between Joh 18:32 and John 18:33. It is easy to establish the harmony with Mark. The people take advantage of a favorable moment perhaps of that when Jesus had been sent to Herod to ask for what was always granted them. And on Jesus' return, Pilate tries to give Him the benefit of this circumstance.

The origin of the custom to which this scene refers is unknown. It has been supposed that, since this custom was connected with the Passover feast, it involved an allusion to the deliverance of the Jews from the captivity in Egypt. This is possible. In any case, it is proper to hold that it was something which remained from an ancient prerogative, which the people themselves exercised at the time of their national independence (see Hase). The words ἐν τῷ πάσχα , at the Passover, do not by any means contain, as Lange, Hengstenberg, etc., allege, the proof that the Paschal supper had been already celebrated. The 14th of Nisan already formed a part of the feast (see on Joh 13:1 ). It is even more probable that the deliverance of the prisoner took place on the 14th than the 15th, in order that he might take part in the Paschal supper with the whole people. In making this proposal to the Jews, Pilate certainly counted on the sympathy of the people for Jesus, as it had manifested itself so strikingly on Palm-day. For Pilate knew perfectly that it was for envy that the rulers desired the death of Jesus ( Mat 27:18 ), and that the feeling of a portion of the people was opposite to theirs.

In the designation king of the Jews irony prevails, as in John 18:14. Only the sarcasm is not addressed to Jesus, for whom Pilate from the beginning feels a sentiment of increasing respect, but to the Jews. Their king: this, then, is the only rival whom they will ever have to oppose to Caesar! But it is said in Mark 15:11, “ the chief priests stirred up the people, that he should release Barabbas unto them. ” The friends of Jesus remained silent, or their feeble voices were drowned by those of the rulers and their creatures. Some resolute agitators imposed their will on the multitude. Thus is the πάντες , all, of John explained, which answers to the παμπληθεί of Luke, and which is no doubt wrongly omitted in the Alexandrian documents. For why should it have been added?

Until this point in John's narrative the Jews had not uttered any exclamations, and it surprises us to read the words, “ All cried out again. ” But it is otherwise in the narratives of Mark (Mark 15:8: ἀναβοήσας ό ὄχλος ) and Luke (Luke 23:5; Luke 23:10: “ They were urgent saying...they vehemently accused him ”). Here also the narrative of John fits perfectly into that of his predecessors.

The word ληστής does not always mean robber, but sometimes a violent man in general. According to Mark and Luke, Barabbas had taken part in an insurrection in which a murder had been committed. Westcott justly observes that in these troublous times acts of violence were frequently committed under the mask of patriotism.

The gravity of the choice made by the people is indicated by one of those brief clauses by which John characterizes an especially solemn moment. Comp. John 11:35, John 13:30.

The name of the person who was proposed with Jesus for the choice of the people admits of two etymologies: Bar-abba, son of the father, or Bar-rabban, son of the Rabbin. In the first case, it should be written with only one r; in the second with two r's. The first mode of writing the word is found in almost all the MSS.; it is also that of the Talmud, where this name occurs very frequently ( Lightfoot, p. 489). But the term “son of the father” may mean two very different things; either: son of the father, God; or: son of the father, the Rabbin. This second meaning is more applicable to an ordinary name. That this incident should have been occasioned or skilfully taken advantage of by Pilate, to deliver Jesus in this way, was, in any case, so far as concerned him, a denial of justice. For after the declaration of John 18:38, he should have released Him as innocent, and not as a malefactor liberated by way of grace. This first weakness was soon followed by another more serious one. We come to the third expedient which was tried by Pilate: the scourging of Jesus.

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 18". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books".