Wednesday, June 7th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Godet's Commentary on Selected Books Godet on Selected Books
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 19". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ gsc/ john-19.html.
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 19". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
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Vv. 1-3. “ Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged him; 2, and the soldiers, having plaited a crown of thorns, placed it upon his head and arrayed him in a purple robe;and they said, Hail, king of the Jews! And they struck him with rods. ”
Pilate had ascended his tribunal to pronounce the liberation of Barabbas. It was at this time that he received the message from his wife ( Mat 27:19 ). Hengstenberg thinks that his washing his hands must also be placed at this time. But this act must have accompanied the pronouncing of the condemnation, which did not take place until later ( Joh 19:13-16 ). After the two ineffectual efforts which have been described, Pilate has recourse to a third and last expedient. According to the Roman criminal code, scourging must necessarily precede the punishment of crucifixion. This is proved by a multitude of passages from Josephus and the ancient historians. Comp. Matthew 20:19, Luke 18:33, where Jesus, when predicting His Passion, does not separate scourging from crucifixion; Mat 27:26 and Mar 15:15 imply the same thing. But on this occasion a strange thing occurs. Pilate orders the punishment by scourging, without yet pronouncing the decision as to the penalty of crucifixion; he does not expressly make the first of these two punishments the preliminary step to the second. He evidently hopes, by giving this satisfaction to the enemies of Jesus, to awaken the pity of the more moderate ones among them, as well as the compassion of the multitude and the zeal of His friends, and thus to succeed in averting the extreme punishment. Scourging, as it was practised among the Romans, was a punishment so cruel that the condemned person very often succumbed to it. The scourge was made of rods or thongs armed at the extremity with pieces of bone or lead. The condemned person received the blows while fastened to a small post so as to have the back bent and the skin stretched. With the first blows, the back became raw and the blood spurted out. Sometimes death followed immediately.
The maltreatment described in Joh 19:2-3 is only the act of the soldiers; Pilate allows it with the design of turning to account that which takes place.
The crown of thorns, the purple robe, the salutation this whole masquerade is a parody on Jewish royalty.
The thorny plant is probably the Lycium spinosum, which grows abundantly about Jerusalem, and the flexible stalk of which, armed with strong thorns, can be easily plaited. The red mantle was a common soldier's mantle, representing the purple robe worn by kings. This mockery was addressed far less to Jesus personally, whom the soldiers did not know, than to the whole nation, despised and detested by the Romans. It is the Jewish Messianic expectations that the soldiers ridicule in the person of Him who passes for having desired to realize them.
This maltreatment and this scourging are evidently the same as those which are spoken of in Mat 27:27 and Mark 15:16; only these evangelists place them after the condemnation was pronounced, the reason of which fact we shall see. If the accomplishment of the scourging which was ordered by Pilate in these passages of the two Synoptics is not mentioned afterwards in them, it is perhaps because it had already taken place at an earlier moment (John).
Pilate, having allowed things to take their course, pursues his purpose:
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.
FOURTH PART: THE PASSION. 18:1-19:42.
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.
Vv. 4-6. “ Pilate went out again and says to them, Behold, I bring him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him. 5. Jesus therefore went out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And he says to them, Behold the man! 6. When therefore the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out:Crucify, crucify! Pilate says to them, Take him yourselves and crucify him; for, as for me, I find no crime in him. ”
The scourging had taken place in the court of the Praetorium ( Mar 15:15-16 ), as had also the maltreatment which had followed. As soon as this scene is ended, Pilate goes out with Jesus. This spectacle, as he thought, could not fail to call forth a favorable interference of the people and furnish him the means of resisting the hatred of the priests. A strange way, however, of proving that he finds no fault in Jesus to inflict on Him such a punishment! In John 19:4, Pilate means to say: “Well, you must understand; there is enough of it now. I have consented to this in the way of compliance with your requests; I will go no farther!” The term φορεῖν is more grave than the simple φέρειν ; comp. Romans 13:4.
In the expression: Behold the man! there is a mingling of respect and pity for Jesus and a bitter sarcasm with reference to the absurd part which the Jews impute to Him: “There is the wretched being against whom you are enraged!” But once again Pilate is baffled; no voice rises from the multitude on behalf of the victim, and he finds himself face to face with the will of the rulers, who persist in pushing matters to extremity, without being satisfied with this half-way punishment. The previous concessions have only emboldened them. Full of indignation and vexation, Pilate then said to them: Take Him yourselves, and crucify Him! words which, in this context, can only mean: “Do it yourselves, if you will! I leave you free; for myself, it is impossible for me to take part in such a murder!” This emotion was noble; but it was nevertheless fated to remain barren; for three times already Pilate had abandoned the ground of strict right, on which alone he could have resisted the violent pressure which was exerted upon him.
Of course, the Jews could not think of using the impunity which Pilate offered them. How could they have themselves provided for the execution? When once the people were delivered from the fear which the Roman power inspired, the rulers clearly perceived that they could not themselves successfully conduct this great affair. By a sudden reaction, the partisans of Jesus might turn violently against them and, drawing on the common mass of the people, might wreck everything. Measuring the dangers of this offer, therefore, they have recourse to a third expedient:
Vv. 7-9. “ The Jews answered him, We have a law, and according to our law, he ought to die; for he made himself Son of God. 8. When therefore Pilate heard this saying, he was the more afraid. 9. And he entered into the Praetorium again, and says to Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. ”
The Romans generally allowed the conquered nations the enjoyment of their laws and their national institutions, exactly as at present the French do with relation to the Mussulmen of Algiers, says Renan. The Jews, placing themselves at this point of view, appeal to the article of their law ( Lev 24:16 ), which condemns blasphemers to death, and they imperiously demand of Pilate the application of this article. We may here lay our finger upon the difference, which is so often misapprehended, between the title Son of God and that of Messiah, or king of the Jews. The inquiry as to the Messianic or royal claim of Jesus is ended: they pass now to an entirely new complaint. And how happened it that the Jews came so late to base the accusation of blasphemy on a title with regard to which there had been a dispute so long from a wholly different point of view? In vain does Weiss try to escape this result by alleging that the question is not of a new complaint, but that the Jews are simply seeking to clear themselves of the matter of asking for the death of an innocent man. The sequel clearly shows that the examination begins altogether anew.
The words of the Jews produced on Pilate an effect which they did not expect. They confirmed a dreadful presentiment which was more and more forming itself within him. He had heard of the miracles of Jesus, of His elevated and mysterious character, of His teachings and His conduct; he had just received from his wife a strange message; Jesus Himself was producing on him an impression such as he had never received from any man; he asks himself if all this is not explained by this title of Son of God! What if this extraordinary man were really a divine being who had appeared on the earth? The truth presents itself to his mind naturally under the form of heathen superstitions and mythological recollections. We know, indeed, how sudden is the passing from scepticism to the most superstitious fears. Reuss is not willing to admit that this was the ground of the increase of fear which John indicates in Pilate. He explains this fact by the authority of the law, which was opposed to his own, and which threw him into an ever-increasing embarrassment. But, in what follows, everything turns upon the dignity of the Son of God. It is this idea which, as we shall see, preoccupies the mind of Pilate, and becomes the subject of his new conversation with Jesus. Here, therefore, is the foundation of his fear. Pilate, having heard the word: Son of God, brings Jesus back to the Praetorium, that he may converse with Him respecting it privately. The question: Whence art thou? cannot refer to the earthly origin of Jesus; Pilate knows full well that He is from Galilee. The meaning certainly is: “Art thou from the earth or from heaven?” It is in vain, therefore, that Reuss claims that it should be applied simply to the mission, and not to the origin of His person, supporting his view by John 9:29. In the Sanhedrim one might, indeed, propose the question as to the mission of Jesus: whether He was a true or a false prophet. But this distinction had no meaning for a man like Pilate.
We are surprised at the refusal of Jesus to answer. According to some, He kept silence because He feared that, by answering in accordance with the truth, He would keep alive a pagan superstition in the mind of His judge. According to others, He refused to answer a question which is for Pilate a mere matter of curiosity. Lampe, Luthardt, Keil, think that He does not wish, through revealing His divine greatness to Pilate, to prevent the plan of God from being carried out even to the end. The true answer appears to me to follow from all that precedes: Pilate knew enough about the matter with regard to Jesus to set Him free; he had himself declared Him innocent. This should have sufficed for him. What he would know beyond this “did not appertain to his province” ( Ebrard). If he did not deliver Jesus as an innocent man, he deserved the responsibility of crucifying Him, the Son of God. His crime became His punishment.
Moreover, Hengstenberg justly remarks that this silence is an answer. If the claim which the Jews had accused Jesus of making had not been well founded, He could not have failed to deny it.
Vv. 10, 11. “ Pilate says to him: Speakest thou not to me? Knowest thou not that I have power to release thee and power to crucify thee? 11. Jesus answered, Thou wouldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above; therefore, he that delivered me unto thee is guilty of a greater sin. ”
Pilate feels that there is a reproach in this silence. He reassumes all his haughtiness as judge and Roman governor. Hence the ἐμοί , to me, at the beginning of the clause (“ to me, if not to others”), and the repetition of the words, I have power.
The T. R. places the to crucify thee before the to release thee. Undoubtedly the idea of the impending punishment is that which prevails in the conversation; but the expression becomes still more weighty if it closes with the terrible word to crucify thee. Pilate thinks that he has the disposal of Jesus; he speaks only of his power, without thinking of his dependence and his responsibility. Jesus reminds him that in reality he has not the disposal of anything; for his power is given him.
The word given is opposed to the twofold I have of Pilate. The reading ἔχεις , thou hast, of א A, etc., is evidently an error.
This time Jesus speaks; He also assumes His dignity; He takes the position of judge of His judge, or rather of all His judges; and as if He were already Himself seated on His tribunal, He weighs in His infallible scales both Pilate and the Sanhedrim. The διὰ τοῦτο , because of this, refers to the word given. “Because this position, in virtue of which thou hast power over me, is given thee this is the reason why thou art less guilty than the one who delivers me to thee in virtue of a power which he has arrogated to himself.” In fact, God, by subjecting His people to the Roman power, had made it subject to the imperial jurisdiction which was at that moment delegated to Pilate. But the Sanhedrim, by taking possession of the person of their King, notwithstandstanding all the proofs which He had given of His divine mission, and by delivering Him to the pagan authority, arrogated to itself a right which God had not assigned to it, and committed an act of theocratic felony. He who delivered me to thee, therefore, is neither Judas,
Jesus could not, with this meaning, have said: to thee, nor Caiaphas, who only acts in the name of the body which he represents, and who is not named in this whole scene. It is the Sanhedrim, the official representative of the Jewish people, in whose name this body acted.
The explanation of this saying of Jesus which we have just given approaches that of Calvin: “He who delivers me to thee is the more guilty of the two, because he makes a criminal use of thy legitimate power.” Some interpreters think that Jesus means to distinguish between the function of judging, which is official, and that of accusing, which is voluntary. But the Jews did not merely accuse, they had judged. The other explanations do not account for because of this. Thus the following ones: Pilate is less guilty “because he sins through weakness rather than through wickedness” ( Euthymius); “because he has less knowledge than the Jews” ( Grotius).
Far from being irritated by this answer, Pilate is profoundly impressed by the majesty which breathes in it. Hence the fourth phase of the trial: it is the last effort of Pilate to deliver Jesus, but one which fails before a fourth and last expedient held in reserve by the Sanhedrim. As Hengstenberg observes, “it is a bad policy to gain the world, that of beginning by granting it the half of what it asks.”
Ver. 12. “ From this time Pilate sought to release him; but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou releasest this man, thou art not Caesar's friend; for whoever makes himself a king, opposes Caesar. ”
᾿Εκ τούτου : from and by reason of this word uttered by Jesus; comp. John 6:66. John seems to say that all the efforts which had been previously made by Pilate with the aim of releasing Jesus had been nothing in comparison with those which he made from now on, under the impression of this last saying which he had just heard. Weiss rejects this meaning, and sees in the he sought only this idea: he was proposing to end the matter by releasing Him, when the words of the Jews prevented him from doing so. But the imperfect: he was seeking, implies a series of efforts and of new attempts with the Jews.
Only the latter had prepared a weapon which they had resolved not to use except in the last extremity; so ignoble was it in their view both for him who was its object and for those who employed it. It was that of personal intimidation.
The reigning emperor, Tiberius, was the most suspicious of despots. The accusation of high treason was always well received by this tyrant. Qui atrocissime exercebat leges majestatis, says Suetonius. The most unpardonable offence was that of having suffered his authority to be imperilled. Such is the danger which the Jews call up before the dismayed view of Pilate. This equivocal term King of the Jews, with the political coloring which it could not fail to have in the eyes of Tiberius, would infallibly make Pilate appear as an unfaithful administrator, who had attempted to screen from punishment an enemy of the imperial authority; and his trial would be a short matter; this Pilate knew well. It is true that the trial of this last expedient was, on the part of the Jews, a renouncing of their great national hope, the very idea of the Messiah, and a making themselves vassals of the empire. Such a victory was a suicide. In this regard also it is easy to understand how, in their plan of battle, they should have reserved this manoeuvre for the last; it was the stroke of desperation. The effect of it was immediate:
Vv. 13-16 a. “ Having therefore heard these words, Pilate brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat, in the place called the Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14. Now it was the Preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he says to the Jews, Behold your King! 15. They cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him! Pilate says to him, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no King but Caesar. 16a. Then he delivered him to them to be crucified. ”
The plural τῶν λόγων τούτων , these words, in the Alexandrian documents and others, shows that Joh 19:12 only summarizes the words of the Jews. Before the threat which it implied, the judge, who was already so long renouncing his own proper part, bows his head and submits. Without saying a word more, he brings Jesus forth from the Praetorium; for the sentence must be pronounced in the presence of the accused; and he ascends his tribunal a second time.
The name λιθόστρωτον signifies: place paved with stones. Before the Praetorium there was one of the pavements of mosaic on which the Roman magistrates had the custom of placing their judgment-seats. The Aramaean name Gabbatha is not the translation of the preceding; it is borrowed from the character of the place. It signifies: eminence, hill.
John inserts here the indication of the day and the hour when the sentence was pronounced. With what purpose? Is it because of the solemnity and importance of this decisive moment for the destiny of mankind? Or does he desire by this means to explain the impatience of the Jews, which manifests itself in John 19:15, to see this long trial come to its close at last and the punishment consummated before the end of this day? It was the Preparation of the Passover, says John. The interpreters who think that the Paschal supper had been celebrated on the preceding evening give to παρασκευή , preparation, the technical signification which it sometimes has in the Patristic language, that of Friday, this day being the one on which the food for the Sabbath was prepared: “ the Preparation of the Sabbath. ” Comp. Matthew 27:62, Luke 23:54, and especially Mark 15:42: “ the Preparation, which is the day before the Sabbath. ” The complement τοῦ πάσχα , of the Passover, must necessarily in this case recall the Passover week, to which this Friday belonged. But from the fact that παρασκευή in itself took this technical meaning of Friday, it does not follow that, when this word is followed by a complement like τοῦ πάσχα , of the Passover, it does not preserve its natural sense of preparation: “the preparation of the Passover. ” This complement has as its precise purpose to distinguish this preparation of the Passover from the simple ordinary preparation for the Sabbath. If the question were only that of indicating the day of the week, why add the complement here: of the Passover, which gives the reader absolutely no information, since after John 13:1, John 18:28, etc., no one would be ignorant that it was the Passover week at this time. Every Greek reader, when hearing this phrase, would necessarily think of the 14th of Nisan, known as the day on which the Passover supper was prepared. This date agrees with those of John 13:1; John 13:29, John 18:28, and leads us, as do all these passages, to the idea that the Passover supper was not yet celebrated, but was to take place on the evening of this day.
According to John, the sentence of Jesus was pronounced about the sixth hour that is, about noon, at least if we do not adopt the method of reckoning according to which John would make the day begin at midnight, in accordance with the custom of the Roman courts. It is certainly difficult to bring this hour of noon into harmony with the account of Matthew, according to which at that hour Jesus had been already for some time suspended on the cross, and still more difficult to reconcile it with Mark 15:25, where it is said that it was at the third hour that is, at nine o'clock, that Christ was crucified. But is the difficulty really any less if, with Rettig, Tholuck, Wieseler, Keil, Westcott, etc., we hold that John reckons from midnight, and that the hour indicated is consequently six o'clock in the morning? Was not this, according to the Synoptics, the hour when, following upon the session of the morning, the Sanhedrim brought Jesus to Pilate? Keil makes the reckoning thus: At five o'clock, the last session of the Sanhedrim until six or half past six; then the negotiations with Pilate, and the pronouncing of the sentence a little later. But is it possible to confine within so brief a space 1. The first appearance before Pilate; 2. The sending to Herod; comp. the words ἐν λόγοις ἱκανοῖς ( Luk 23:9 ); 3. The discussion relative to the release of Barabbas; 4. The scourging, with the scene of the Ecce homo; 5. The renewal of the examination after this scene, and finally the pronouncing of the condemnation? No; the greater part of the morning is not too much for so many things. The reading τρίτη , third (nine o'clock), in some MSS. of John, would therefore be in itself very suspicious, even if it were not so evidently a correction intended to reconcile the two narratives. Eusebius supposed that some ancient copyist made of the gamma ( Γ = 3) a stigma ( ζ = 6).
This supposition in itself has little probability. Let us rather call to mind, the fact that the day as a whole was divided, like the night, into four portions of three hours each. This fact explains why in the whole New Testament mention is scarcely ever made of any hours except the third, sixth and ninth (comp. Mat 20:1-5 ), and also why, as Hengstenberg remarks, the expressions nearly, about, are so frequent in it (Matthew 22:46, Luke 23:44, John 4:6, Acts 10:3; Act 10:9 ). This word about is also added by John in our passage. It is certainly allowable, therefore, to take the middle course, either in Mark or in John, especially if we recall the fact that, as Lange says, the apostles did not have watch in hand. As the third hour of Mark, properly nine o'clock, may include all the time from eight to ten, so the sixth hour in John certainly includes from eleven to twelve. The difference, therefore, is no longer so very great. But especially, 2, account must be taken of an important circumstance, noticed by Lange: it is that Matthew and Mark, having given to the scourging of Jesus the meaning which it ordinarily had in such a case, made it the beginning of the punishment. We see this clearly from the manner in which they both speak of it, connecting it closely with the pronouncing of the condemnation, Matthew 27:26: “ He gave Jesus up to them after having scourged Him. ” Comp. Mark 15:15. They have therefore united in one the two judicial acts so clearly distinguished by John, that of the scourging and that of the final condemnation, and they have thus quite naturally dated the second at the same moment as the first. How can Weiss call this solution an affirmation without proof? It clearly follows from the comparison of the narratives. Hofmann has proposed the following solution: a mark of punctuation must be placed after the word παρασκευή , and we must translate: “It was Friday, and the sixth hour of the Passover” (omitting the δέ after ὥρα with the principal Mjj.).
But the hours of the day, not those of the feast, are reckoned.
There is a bitter irony in the words of Pilate: Behold your King! But it is directed towards the Jews, not towards Jesus. Towards the latter, Pilate constantly shows himself full of a respectful interest, which, near the end, amounts even to fear. In this sarcasm there is at the same time a serious side. Pilate understands that, if there is a man through whom the Jewish people are to fulfil a mission in the world, it is this man.
The rage of the rulers increases on hearing this declaration. The three aorist imperatives express the impatience and haste to have the matter ended. Pilate henceforth consents to yield; but first he wishes to give himself the pleasure of yet once more striking the dagger into the wound: Shall I crucify your king? He avenges himself thus for the act of baseness to which they compel him. The Jews are driven thereby to the memorable declaration by which they themselves pronounced the abolition of the theocracy and the absorption of Israel into the world of the Gentiles. They who cherished only one thought the overthrow of the throne of the Caesars by the Messiah suffer themselves to be carried away by hatred of Jesus so far as to cry out before the representative of the emperor: “We have no other king but Caesar.” “Jesum negant,” says Bengel, “usque eo ut omnino Christum negent.”
After this, all is said. By denying the expectation of the Messiah, Israel has just denied itself; at such a price does it secure the end that Jesus should be surrendered to it. ᾿Αυτοῖς , to them, says John, and not to the Roman executioners. For the latter will be only the blind instruments of the judicial murder which is about to be committed.
Modern criticism ( Baur, Strauss, Keim) regards this entire representation of Pilate's conduct as fictitious. The thought of the author is to personify in Pilate the sympathy of the pagan world for the Gospel, and to throw upon Israel almost the whole responsibility of the crime. But 1. The fact is not presented otherwise in the Synoptics, in the Acts and in the Epistles. In Matthew, the governor marvelled ( Joh 19:14 ); he knows that it is for envy that the rulers deliver Jesus to him ( Joh 19:18 ); he endeavors by means of the people to effect His release, rather than that of Barabbas (John 19:17; Joh 19:22 ). He asks indignantly: “ What evil, then, has he done? ” ( Joh 19:23 ). He sees that he prevails nothing, and ends by yielding, while he declares himself, by a solemn act, innocent of the blood of this righteous man ( Joh 19:24 ). Such is the description of the condemnation of Jesus by Pilate in the Gospel which is called Jewish- Christian. Does it really differ from John's description? Mark brings out still more clearly than Matthew the eagerness with which Pilate takes advantage of the spontaneous request of the multitude that a prisoner should be released to them, and the support which he counts upon finding in the popular sympathy for the saving of Jesus ( Joh 19:8-10 ).
Luke adds to the other attempts of Pilate that of the sending of Jesus to Herod, and the twice repeated proposal to release Him at the cost of a simple scourging (John 19:16; Joh 19:22 ). “ Having the desire to release Jesus ” is expressly said in John 19:20. Then in John 19:22: “And he said to them the third time, Why, what evil has he done?” In the Acts, the conciliatory tendency of which book towards Judaism is made prominent at the present time, Peter, as well as John, charges the Jews with the whole responsibility for the murder: “ You have crucified him by the hands of wicked men,” John 2:23; comp. John 3:15. Even James, when addressing the rich men of his nation, says to them: “ You have condemned and put to death the Righteous One ” ( Joh 19:6 ). Finally, the Apocalypse that book which is represented as the most pronounced manifestation of Jewish-Christianity designates Jerusalem as “the Sodom and spiritual Egypt where our Lord was crucified,” John 11:8.
The notion of place ( where) in this passage very evidently includes those of causality and responsibility. 2. Moreover, the second century, in which it is claimed that the composition of the Fourth Gospel must be placed, was, from Trajan to Marcus Aurelius, a time of bloody persecution on the part of the pagan world against the Church, and it would be very strange that at that epoch an author should have attributed to the Roman governor an imaginary character with the purpose of personifying in him the sympathy of the pagan world for the Gospel ! 3. Finally, the scene described by John is its own defence. It is impossible to portray more to the life, the astuteness, the perseverance and the impudent suppleness of the accuser, determined to succeed, at any cost, on the one side, and, on the other, the obstinate struggle, in the heart of the judge, between the consciousness of his duty and the care for his own interests, between the fear of sacrificing an innocent man, perhaps more formidable than He appeared to be outwardly, and that of driving to extremity a people already exasperated by crying acts of injustice, and of finding himself accused before a suspicious emperor, one stroke of whose pen ( Reuss) might precipitate him into destruction; finally, between cold scepticism and the transient impressions of natural religiousness and even pagan superstition. Reuss acknowledges that it is “the Fourth Gospel which gives the true key of the problem” of Pilate's inconceivable conduct: “Jesus was sacrificed by him to an exigency of his position” (p. 675). Excepting the natural vacancies resulting from “the fact that no witness saw the whole from one end to the other,” the Gospel narrative (that of John included) “bears, according to this author, the seal of entire authenticity” ( ibid).
These two figures, in fact one of a cold and diabolical perversity (Caiaphas, as the representative of the Sanhedrim), the other of a cowardice and pitiable vacillation both contrasting with the calm dignity and holy majesty of the Christ, form a picture which we do not hesitate to call the masterpiece of the Gospel of John, and which, by itself alone, might, if necessary, serve as a certification of authenticity for this entire work.
Whence did he derive such complete information? Perhaps he saw everything himself. The judicial sessions among the Romans were public, and he was not prevented from entering the court of the Praetorium by the same scruples as the Jews. For he did not have to eat the Passover supper in the evening.
Vv. 16b-18. “ Now they took Jesus;and, bearing his cross, he went out of the city [going] to the place called the place of the skull, in Hebrew Golgotha, 18, where they crucified him, and with him two others, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. ”
These two verses sum up very briefly the Synoptic narrative. The subject of they took is: the Jews (John 19:16 a); it was they who executed the sentence by the hands of the soldiers. It would be otherwise if the following words: and they led Him away, in the T. R., were authentic. For the subject would then be: the soldiers.
According to ancient testimonies, condemned persons were obliged to bear their own cross, at least the horizontal piece of wood. This is implied, moreover, in the figurative expression used by Jesus in the Synoptics: “ If any man will come after me,...let him take up his cross ” ( Mat 16:24 and parallels). John alone mentions this particular in the sufferings of Jesus. And in this he does not contradict the Synoptics, who relate that Simon of Cyrene was compelled to perform this office. For the participle βαστάζων , bearing, is closely connected with the verb ἐξῆλθεν , he went forth bearing. At the moment of setting out, Jesus was subjected to the common rule. Afterwards it was feared, no doubt, that He might succumb, and advantage was taken of the meeting with Simon to free Him from the burden.
Moses had prohibited capital executions in the enclosure of the camp (Leviticus 24:14, Num 15:35 ), and the people remained faithful to the spirit of this law, by putting criminals to death outside of the walls of cities (1 Kings 21:13, Act 7:58 ). It is on this custom that the exhortation in Heb 13:12-13 is founded. ᾿Εξῆλθεν accordingly means: He went forth from the city. The Holy Sepulchre is now quite a distance within the interior of Jerusalem; but the city wall may have been displaced. The bare rock in this place seems to prove, even now, that this part of the city was formerly not inhabited. Moreover, there exists no certain tradition respecting the place of the crucifixion and that of the burial of Jesus.
The name place of the skull does not come from the executions which took place on this spot; the plural would then be necessary: place of skulls; and among the Jews such remains would not have been left uncovered. The origin of the name was undoubtedly the rounded form and the bare aspect of the hill. Golgotha: גֻּלְ ‡ ֹגּלֶת , H1653, in Aramaic גּוּלְגֹּלֶתא , skull, from גָּלַל , H1670, to roll. The word ἑβραιστί , which is found four times in our Gospel, is found again twice in the Apocalypse, but nowhere else in the whole New Testament.
The cross had the form of a T. It was not very high (see Joh 19:29 ). Sometimes it was laid on the ground, the condemned person was nailed to it, then it was raised up. But most frequently it was made firm in the ground; the condemned person was raised to the proper height by means of cords ( in crucem tollere); then the hands were nailed to the transverse piece of wood. That they might not be torn by the weight of the body, the latter rested on a block of wood fastened to the shaft of the cross, on which the condemned sat as on horseback. There has been a long discussion, in modern times, on the question whether the feet were also nailed. The passages from ancient writers cited by Meyer (see on Mat 27:35 ) and Keim are decisive; they prove that, as a rule, the feet were nailed. Luk 24:39 leads us to think that this was the case with Jesus. The condemned commonly lived on the cross twelve hours, sometimes even to the third day.
This kind of death united in the highest degree the pains and infamy of all other punishments. Cradelissimum teterrimumque supplicium, says Cicero ( in Verrem). The increasing inflammation of the wounds, the unnatural position, the forced immobility and the rigidity of the limbs which resulted from it, the local congestions, especially in the head, the inexpressible anguish resulting from the disturbance of the circulation, a burning fever and thirst tortured the condemned without killing him.
Was it the Jews who had demanded the execution of the other two condemned persons, in order to render the shame of Jesus more complete? Or must we find here an insult on Pilate's part to the Jewish people represented by these two companions in punishment of their King? It is difficult to say.
Third Section: 19:16b-42. The Execution of Jesus.
1. The crucifixion: John 19:16-18; John 19:16-18;
2. The inscription: John 19:19-22;
3. The parting of the garments: John 19:23-24;
4. The filial legacy: John 19:25-27;
5. The death: John 19:28-30;
6. The breaking of the legs and the spearthrust: John 19:31-37;
7. The burial: John 19:38-42.
John does not desire to present a complete picture of the crucifixion of Jesus. He brings out some circumstances omitted by his predecessors, and at the same time completes and gives precision to their narratives.
Vv. 19-22. “ Pilate also caused an inscription to be made and to be put upon the cross; there was written: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. 20. Many of the Jews therefore read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin. 21. The chief priests of the Jews said therefore to Pilate: Write not, The King of the Jews, but that he said, I am King of the Jews. 22. Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written. ”
John here completes the very brief account of the Synoptics. According to the Roman custom, the cruciarius carried himself, or there was carried before him, on the road to the crucifixion, an inscription ( titulus, τίτλος , ἐπιγραφή , σανίς , αἰτία ) which contained the indication of his crime, and which was afterwards fastened to the cross. Pilate took advantage of this custom to stigmatize the Jews by proclaiming even for the last time this malefactor to be their King.
Tholuck and de Wette have thought that ἔγραψε must be explained in the sense of had written; Meyer and Weiss hold that Pilate had the inscription written during the crucifixion, and placed on the cross after it. But the δὲ καί , now also, is a connection sufficiently loose to allow us to place these acts at the very time of the crucifixion, which is more natural. The mention of the three languages in which this inscription was written is found also in Luke, according to the ordinary reading; but this reading is uncertain. Hebrew was the national language, Greek the language universally understood, and Latin that of the conquering nation. Pilate wished thus to give the inscription the greatest publicity possible. Jesus, therefore, at the lowest point of His humiliation, was proclaimed Messiah-King in the languages of the three principal peoples of the world.
The expression: the chief priests of the Jews, John 19:21, is remarkable. It is found nowhere else. Hengstenberg explains it by an intentional contrast with the term King of the Jews. The struggle, indeed, was between these two theocratic powers. This explanation, however, is far- fetched; the expression means, more simply, that they were acting here as defenders of the cause of the theocratic people.
The imperfect they said characterizes the attempt which fails. The present write not is the present of the idea. Pilate answers with the twice repeated perfect: I have written; it is the tense of the accomplished fact. We find Pilate here again as Philo describes him: inflexible in character ( Hengstenberg).
The parting of the garments:
Vv. 23, 24. “ The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments and made four parts, one for every soldier, and then the tunic;now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top throughout. 24. They said therefore one to another:Let us not rend it, but let us cast lots for it whose it shall be. That the Scripture might be fulfilled which says:They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. ”
Here, also, John completes his predecessors, so far as the description of the tunic and the accomplishment of the prophecy are concerned. The Roman law De bonis damnatorum adjudged to the executioners the garments of the condemned. It is generally held that the entire detachment was composed of four men. Keim thinks that each cross had its particular detachment. The soldiers performed two operations. They divided among themselves either the different pieces of clothing, such as the caps, girdles, under-garments, sandals and tunics of the two malefactors, or the garments of Jesus alone ( αὐτοῦ , of him, Joh 19:23 ), if the question is only of the particular detachment which had to do with Him.
Then, as the tunic of Jesus could not be divided, and was too precious to be placed in one of the parts, they cast lots for it. This tunic was undoubtedly a gift of the women who ministered to Jesus (Luke 8:2-3, Mat 27:55 ). It was woven throughout its whole length, as, according to Josephus, the garment of the priests was. Hence the use of the lot ( therefore, Joh 19:24 ). Thus was realized to the very letter the description of the Psalmist, as he drew the picture of the King of Israel at the height of His sufferings. Criticism claims, it is true, that the two members of the verse quoted by the evangelist ( Psa 22:19 ) are entirely synonymous, and that John is the sport of his own imagination in wishing to distinguish either between the verbs to divide and to cast lots, or between the substantives ἱμάτια , garments, and ἱματισμός , robe (LXX). But a more profound study of the parallelism in Hebrew poetry shows that the second member always adds a shade or a new idea to the idea of the first. Otherwise the second would be merely an idle tautology. It is not repetition, but progression. Thus, in this verse, the gradation from the plural בְּגָדִים , garments, to the singular לְבוּשׁ , H4230, tunic, is manifest.
The first term designates the different pieces making up the outer clothing and the second the vestment, properly so called, after the removal of which one is entirely naked, the tunic. The passage in Job 24:7-10 confirms this natural distinction. The advance from one verb to the other is no less perceptible. It is already a great humiliation to the condemned person to see his garments divided. After this he must say to himself that there is nothing left for him except to die. But what greater humiliation than to see lots drawn for his garments, and thus see them treated like a worthless plaything! David meant to describe the two degrees, and John calls to the reader's notice the fact that in the crucifixion of Jesus they are, both of them, literally reproduced; not that the fulfilment of the prophecy was dependent on this detail, but it appeared more distinctly by reason of this coincidence; and this the more because everything was carried out by the instrumentality of rude and blind agents, the Roman soldiers; comp. the remarks on John 12:15-16.
It is on this last idea that John wishes to lay stress when he concludes the narrative of this scene with the words: These things therefore the soldiers did. The Roman governor had proclaimed Jesus the King of the Jews; the Roman soldiers, without meaning it, pointed Him out as the true David promised in Psalms 22:0.
Strauss thinks (new Vie de Jesus, p. 569ff.) that, when the Messianic pretensions of Jesus had been proved false by the cross, the Church sought in the Old Testament the idea of the suffering Messiah, and found it there, especially in Psalms 22, 69. Thenceforward there was imagined in this programme a whole fictitious picture of the Passion. Thus the facts, in the first place, created the exegesis; then the exegesis created the facts. But 1. The idea of the suffering Messiah existed in Jewish theology before and independently of the cross (Vol. I., pp. 311f. 324). 2. It will always be difficult to prove that some righteous person, whoever he may have been, under the Old Covenant could have hoped, as the author of Psalms 22:0 does, that the effect of his deliverance would be the conversion of the Gentile nations and the establishment of the kingdom of God even to the ends of the earth ( Joh 19:26-32 ).
The filial legacy:
Vv. 25-27. “ Now there stood near the cross of Jesus his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26. Jesus, therefore, seeing his mother and beside her the disciple whom he loved, says to his mother, Woman, behold thy son. 27. Then he says to the disciple, Behold thy mother. And from that hour that disciple took her to his home. ”
This incident has been preserved for us by John alone. Matthew and Mark say, indeed, that a certain number of Galilean women were present, but “ beholding from afar. ” It follows from John's narrative either that some of them, particularly the mother of Jesus, were standing nearer the cross this detail may easily have been omitted in the Synoptic tradition or that, at the moment of Jesus' death, they had withdrawn out of the way, in order to observe what was about to take place; for it is then only that the presence of these women is mentioned in the Synoptics. Παρά does not mean at the foot, but beside; the cross was not very high ( Joh 19:29 ).
We have already stated, in the Introduction (Vol. I., pp. 29, 30), that Wieseler, holding to the reading of the Peshito (see critical note 1), finds in this verse the mention, not of three women, but of four. He thus escapes the difficulty that two sisters should bear the same name, Mary the mother of Jesus and the wife of Clopas. The sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus, according to him, is not named; and she is consequently no other than Salome, the mother of John, indicated by Mat 27:56 and Mar 15:40 as also present at the crucifixion. Wieseler's opinion has been adopted by Meyer, Luthardt, Weiss, Westcott, etc. The incident here related becomes, it is said, much more intelligible; for if the mother of the apostle John was the sister of Mary, and this apostle the first cousin of Jesus, we can explain more easily how Jesus could entrust His mother to him, notwithstanding the presence of her sons. This interpretation seems to me inadmissible.
By omitting a καί , and, before the words: Mary, the wife of Clopas (at least, if the text of all our MSS. without exception is correct), the evangelist would have expressed himself in a quite equivocal way. And if this so close relationship between Jesus and the sons of Zebedee had existed, how should there not have been the slightest trace of it in the entire Gospel history? Is it not more simple to hold that John abstained from mentioning his mother, as he does in the rest of the Gospel? Undoubtedly it is scarcely possible that two sisters should bear the same name. But the Greek term γαλόως , which means sister-in-law, was so little used that John might prefer to avail himself of the simpler term ἀδελφή ( sister) to express this idea. These words of Jesus, thus understood, contain nothing unkindly either to His own brothers, who did not even yet believe on Him, or to the mother of John himself, who was by no means separated thereby from her son. Hegesippus declares positively that Joseph's brother, whom he also calls the uncle of Jesus (or of James), was named Clopas (Vol. I., p. 358f.). This name must in this case be regarded as the Greek form of the Aramaic חלפי , Alphaeus. Reuss sees herein “one of the grossest mistakes of modern exegesis,” and thinks that Clopas is a Jewish corruption of the Greek name Kleopatros. But in speaking thus Reuss himself confounds Clopas with Cleopas, a name which is also known in the New Testament ( Luk 24:18 ).
Respecting Mary, the wife of Clopas, see Vol. I., p. 358f. The Synoptics do not mention the presence of Jesus' mother, perhaps because she left the cross immediately after the fact reported by John, and because they do not speak of the presence of the friends of Jesus and of the women except at the end of the whole story.
Stripped of everything, Jesus seemed to have nothing more to give. Nevertheless, from the midst of this deep poverty, He had already made precious gifts; to His executioners He had bequeathed the pardon of God, to His companion in punishment, Paradise. Could He find nothing to leave to His mother and His friend? These two beloved persons, who had been His most precious treasures on earth, He bequeathed to one another, giving thus at once a son to His mother, and a mother to His friend. This word full of tenderness must have completely broken Mary's heart. Not being able to endure this sight, she undoubtedly at this moment left the sorrowful spot. The word to his home does not imply that John possessed a house in Jerusalem, but simply that he had a lodging there; comp. the same εἰς τὰ ἴδια applied to all the apostles, John 16:32. From this time, Mary lived with Salome and John, first at Jerusalem and then in Galilee ( Introduction, Vol. I., p. 35). According to the historian Nicephorus Kallistus (died in 1350), she lived eleven years with John at Jerusalem, and died there at the age of fifty-nine. Her tomb is shown in a grotto a few paces from the garden of Gethsemane. According to others, she accompanied John to Asia Minor and died at Ephesus.
On the word: Woman, which has nothing but respect in it, see on John 2:4.
Keim, after the example of Baur, regards this incident as an invention of pseudo-John, intended to exalt the apostle whose name he assumes, and to make him the head of the Church, superior even to James and Peter. Renan attributes this same fiction to the school of John, which yielded to the desire of making its patron the vicar of Christ. For every one who has the sense of truth, this scene and these words do not admit of an explanation of this kind. Besides, is it not Peter whom our evangelist presents as the great and bold confessor of Jesus ( Joh 6:68-69 )? Is it not to the same apostle that the direction of the Church is ascribed in ch. 21 and this by a grand thrice repeated promise ( Joh 19:15-17 )? Finally, this supposition would imply that the mother of Jesus is here the type of the Church, a thing of which there is no trace either in this text or in the whole Gospel.
Vv. 28-30. “ After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, says, I thirst. 29. There was a vessel there full of vinegar; and the soldiers, having filled a sponge with vinegar and having put it on the end of a hyssop stalk, brought it to his mouth. 30. When Jesus therefore had taken the vinegar, he said, It is finished. Then, having bowed his head, he gave up his spirit. ”
John completes by means of some important details the narrative already known respecting the last moments of Jesus. Μετὰ τοῦτο , after this, must be taken in a broad sense, as throughout our whole Gospel. It is between the preceding incident and this one that the unspeakable anguish of heart is to be placed from the depth of which Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
The expression: All is finished, refers to His task as Redeemer, so far as He was able to accomplish it during His earthly existence, and, at the same time, to the prophetic picture in which this task had been traced beforehand. There remained, however, a point in the prophecy which was not yet accomplished. Many interpreters ( Bengel, Tholuck, Meyer, Luthardt, Baumlein, Keil) make ἵνα , that, depend on τετέλεσται : “Knowing that all was accomplished to this end, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” This sense does not seem to me admissible. The fulfilment of the Scriptures cannot be regarded as the end of the accomplishment of the work of Jesus. Moreover, it follows precisely from Joh 19:28-29 that, if the redemptive work was consummated, there was, nevertheless, a point still wanting to the fulfilment of the prophetic representation of the sufferings of the Messiah, and that Jesus does not wish to leave this point unfulfilled. The that depends therefore on the following verb λέγει : Jesus says. So Chrysostom, Lucke, de Wette, Weiss, etc.
Only we must not, with Weiss, attribute the purpose to God; it is that of Jesus Himself, as the εἰδώς , knowing that, shows. By saying I thirst, Jesus really meant to occasion the literal fulfilment of this last point of the sufferings of the Messiah: “ They gave me vinegar to drink ” ( Psa 69:22 ). Jesus had been for a long time tormented by thirst it was one of the most cruel tortures of this punishment and He could have restrained even to the end, as He had done up to this moment, the expression of this painful sensation. If He did not do it, it was because He knew that this last point must still be fulfilled, and because He desired that it should be fulfilled without delay. John says τελειωθῇ , and not πληρωθῇ (which is wrongly substituted by some documents). The question, indeed, is not of the fulfilment of this special prophecy, but of the completing of the fulfilment of the Scripture prophecies in general. Keil thinks that this momentary refreshment was necessary for Him, in order that He might be able Himself to give up His soul to God.
The drink offered to Jesus is not the stupefying potion which He had refused at the moment of the crucifixion, and which was a deadening wine mixed with myrrh (Mark) or wormwood (Matthew). Jesus had refused it, because He wished to preserve the perfect clearness of His mind until the end. The potion which the soldier offers Him now is no longer the soldiers' wine, as it was ordinarily called; for, in that case, the sponge and the stalk of hyssop would have been to no purpose. It was vinegar prepared for the condemned themselves.
In the first two Gospels, the cry of Jesus: “Eli, Eli!...My God! my God!...” had called forth from a soldier a similar act, but three hours had elapsed since then.
Hyssop is a plant which is only a foot and a half high. Since a stalk of this length was sufficient to reach the lips of the condemned person, it follows from this that the cross was not so high as it is ordinarily represented.
Ostervald and Martin translate altogether wrongly: “They put hyssop around [the sponge];” or “ surrounding it with hyssop.” A Dutch critic, de Koe ( Conjecturaal Critik en het Evangelie naar Johannes, 1883), has proposed to substitute for ὑσσώπῳ , ( hyssop) ὑσσῷ , a lance. The conjecture is ingenious, but not sufficiently well founded. “ I thirst ” was the fifth expression of the Saviour, and “ all is finished ” the sixth. The first three of His seven expressions on the cross had reference to His personal relations: they were the prayer for His executioners (Luke), the promise made to the thief, His companion in punishment (Luke), the legacy made to His mother and His friend (John). The following three referred to His work of salvation: the cry “My God...” (Matthew and Mark), to the moral sufferings of the expiatory sacrifice; the groan: “ I thirst ” (John), to His physical sufferings; the triumphant expression: “ It is finished,” to the consummation of both. Finally, the seventh and last, which is expressly mentioned only by Luke: “ Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” is implied in John in the word παρέδωκε , he gave up; it refers to Himself, to the finishing of His earthly existence. This Greek term is not exactly rendered by our phrase to give up the ghost. It expresses a spontaneous act. “ No one takes my life,” Jesus had said; “ I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again ” ( Joh 10:18 ); it would be necessary to translate by the word hand over (commit). Such was also the meaning of the loud cry with which, according to Matthew and Mark, Jesus expired.
The word κλίνας , “ having bowed His head,” indicates that until then He had held His head erect. The breaking of the legs: John 19:31-37. John 19:31. “ The Jews therefore, that the bodies might not remain on the cross during the Sabbath, because it was the preparation (for the day of that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that the legs of the crucified might be broken, and that they might be taken away. ”
John describes here a series of Providential facts, omitted by his predecessors, which occurred in quick succession, and which united in impressing on the person of Jesus, in His condition of deepest humiliation, the Messianic seal. The Romans commonly left the bodies of the condemned on the cross; they became the prey of wild beasts or of dissolution. But the Jewish law required that the bodies of executed criminals should be put out of the way before sunset, that the Holy Land might not, on the following day, be polluted by the curse attached to the lifeless body, a monument of a divine condemnation (Deuteronomy 21:23, Joshua 8:29; Joshua 10:26, Josephus, Bell. Jude 1:4; Jude 1:4.5, Jude 1:2). Ordinarily, no doubt, the Romans did not trouble themselves about this law. But, in this particular case, the Jews would have been absolutely unable to bear the violation of it, because, as John observes, the following day was neither an ordinary day nor even an ordinary Sabbath; it was a Sabbath of an altogether exceptional solemnity. Those who think that, according to John himself, the Jewish people had already celebrated the Passover on the preceding evening, and that at this time the great Sabbatic day of the 15th Nisan was ending, give to the word παρασκευή , preparation, the technical sense of Friday, and explain the special solemnity of the Saturday which was to follow by the fact that this Sabbath belonged to the Passover week.
They call to mind also the fact that on the 16th of Nisan the offering of the sacred sheaf was celebrated, a well- known act of worship by which the harvest was annually opened. But neither the one nor the other of these reasons can explain the extraordinary solemnity which John ascribes to the Sabbath of the next day. The 16th of Nisan was in itself so little of a Sabbath that, in order to cut the ears on the evening of the 15-16th, which were intended to form the sacred sheaf, the messengers of the Sanhedrim were obliged to wait until the people cried out to them: “The sun is set;” then only did the 16th begin, and then only could they take the sickle. Thus in Lev 23:11-14 the 16th is called “the day after the Sabbath. ” How could the weekly Sabbath derive its superior sanctity from its coincidence with this purely working day? As to the technical sense of Friday, given to παρασκευή , it is set aside here by the absence of the article. Finally, the γάρ , for, clearly puts the idea of preparation in a logical relation to that of the extraordinary sanctity of the Sabbath which was to begin at six o'clock in the evening, and thus obliges us to keep for this word its natural sense of preparation. Hence it follows that the time of Jesus' death was the afternoon of the 14th, and not that of the 15th, since the Sabbatic day was on the point of beginning, not of ending. The words: “ For it was the preparation,” signify at once preparation for the Sabbath (as Friday) and preparation for the great Paschal day (as the day before the 15th of Nisan). There was, therefore, on this day a double preparation, because there was an accumulation of Sabbath rest on the following day, which was at once the weekly Sabbath and the great Sabbath, the first day of the feast. By the words: “it was the preparation,” the evangelist reminds us indirectly that the essential act of the preparation, the slaying of the lamb, took place in the temple at that very moment, and that the Paschal supper was about to follow in a few hours.
This was the reason why it was a matter of absolute necessity, from the Jewish point of view, that the bodies should be put out of the way without delay, before the following day should begin (at six o'clock in the evening).
Pilate, respecting this scruple, consented to the thing which was asked of him. The breaking of the legs did not occasion death immediately, but it was intended to make it certain, and thus to allow of the removal of the bodies. For it rendered any return to life impossible, because mortification necessarily and immediately resulted from it. The existence of this custom ( σκελοκοπία , crurifragium), among the Romans, in certain exceptional cases, is fully established (see the numerous passages cited by Keim). Thus Renan says: “The Jewish archaeology and the Roman archaeology of Joh 19:31 are exact.” If Keim himself has, notwithstanding this, raised difficulties, asking why the Synoptics do not mention this fact if it is historical, it is easy to answer him: Because Jesus Himself was not affected by it. But His person alone was of importance to them, not those of the two malefactors. Neither would John have mentioned this detail except for its relation to the fulfilment of a prophecy, which had so forcibly struck him.
Is it necessary to understand ἀρθῶσι , might be taken away, simply of removal from the cross. I think not. What concerned the Jews who made the request was not that the bodies should be unfastened, but that they should be put out of sight. The law Deuteronomy 21:23, which required of them this request, had no reference to the punishment of the cross, which was unknown to Israel.
ADDITIONAL NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR.
1. If the Sabbath referred to in Joh 19:31 was the 15th of Nisan, we have a very simple and satisfactory explanation of the expression that it was “a great day.” In that case it was a weekly Sabbath, as being Saturday, and also the feast Sabbath. This verse, therefore, points towards the conclusion that the day of Jesus' death was the 14th. The supposition that this Sabbath was the day of the sheaf-offering is far less probable. If the Sabbath mentioned was the 15th, the readers in Ephesus and its neighborhood, for whom John wrote, might be able to understand from the narrative itself and from the indications that all took place in connection with the Passover, how this day should be a Sabbath of a special character and special solemnity. But such a familiarity with the Jewish arrangements as to make them readily understand that the day of the sheaf-offering was referred to could hardly be supposed by him, so that he could allude to it without any more definite designation.
2. The reference in the words he that has seen it ( Joh 19:35 ) is to what is mentioned in John 19:33-34, and not merely to John 19:34 b. This is indicated by the fact that the two quotations from the Old Testament point to John 19:33-34 a. The statement of John 19:34 b can scarcely be regarded, therefore, as the one of sole prominence in connection with this scene.
3. With reference to the 35th verse as pointing to the author of the Gospel, see, in addition to Godet's note, the remarks in Vol. I., pp. 502, 503. A further consideration may be presented here, as connected with John 19:36-37. These verses are so related to Joh 19:35 that they seem clearly to show that the witness referred to was confirmed in his belief by means of this fulfilment of prophecy. The allusion to this point corresponds, on the one hand, with what the author says elsewhere respecting the disciple whom Jesus loved that is, himself and, on the other, there is an additional improbability (in the line of that which is mentioned in Vol. I.) that he would bring forward the conviction of a person wholly unknown to the readers, and also unnamed, that a certain prophecy was true, as a matter of emphasis and importance.
The proof that the witness here is the author is found in every indication of the passage: ( a) in the valuelessness of the testimony as coming from an unknown person; ( b) in the statement that his testimony is ἀληθινή (that which corresponds to the true idea of testimony); ( c) in the emphatic assertion, “he knows that he says what is true;” ( d) in the declaration that he bears the testimony to the end that you (the readers) may believe; ( e) in the matter of the quotation from the prophetic writings. How impossible that a witness, necessarily insignificant because utterly unknown to any one who read the book, should be thus introduced.
4. The action of Nicodemus, as recorded in John 19:39, is certainly indicative of love and devotion to Jesus. It is worthy of notice that the evangelist does not say of Nicodemus, as he does of Joseph of Arimathea, that he was “a disciple, but secretly for fear of the Jews.” This fact, when brought into connection with the position which he is represented as taking in the meeting of the Sanhedrim in ch. John 7:50-51, is worthy of consideration in forming our estimate of the character of Nicodemus.
Vv. 32-34. “ The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first, then of the other who was crucified with him. 33. But, when they came to Jesus, seeing that he was already dead, they did not break his legs; 34, but one of the soldiers pierced his side with his spear, and immediately there came thereout blood and water. ”
The word: they came, is more naturally explained if we hold with Storr, Olshausen and Weiss that they were different soldiers from those who had accomplished the work of crucifixion. They had been sent especially for this purpose with the necessary instruments.
If the purpose for which the limbs of the condemned were broken was that of which we have spoken, this treatment was made useless with respect to Jesus by the fact of His death. The spear-thrust of the soldier was, therefore, as it were, only a compensation for the operation which was omitted; it signified: If thou art not dead already, here is what will finish thee. It would be absurd to demand examples for such an act, which had in it nothing judicial.
The verb νύσσειν indicates a more or less deep thrust, in contrast to a cut. This term is sometimes used in Homer to designate mortal wounds.
Is the fact of the outflowing of the blood and water to be regarded as a natural phenomenon? In general, undoubtedly, when a dead body is pierced, no liquid comes forth from it; nevertheless, if one of the large vessels is reached, it may happen that there will flow from the wound a blackish blood covered with a coating of serum. Can this be what John calls blood and water? This is improbable. Ebrard accordingly supposes that the lance reached the deposits of extravasated blood. Gruner ( Commentatio de morte Jesu Christi vera, Halle, 1805) also has this opinion. He thinks that the lance pierced the aqueous deposits which, during this long-continued torture, had been formed around the heart, and then the heart itself. William Stroud (London, 1847) alleges phenomena observed in cases of sudden death in consequence of cramp of the heart. These explanations are all of them quite improbable. The expression: blood and water, naturally denotes two substances flowing simultaneously, but to the eyes of the spectators distinct, a thing which has no place in any of these suppositions. Baur, Strauss, etc., conclude from this that there is a necessity for a symbolic interpretation, and find here again the purely ideal character of the narrative. The author meant to express by this fact of his own invention the abundance of spiritual life which will, from this moment, flow forth from the person of Christ ( Baur); the water more especially represents the Holy Spirit, the blood the Holy Supper, with an allusion to the custom of mixing the wine of this sacrament with water ( Strauss, in his new Life of Jesus). But what idea must we form of the morality of a man who should solemnly affirm that he had seen ( Joh 19:35 ) that which he had the consciousness of having beheld only in idea. In favor of this allegorical explanation an appeal has been made to the words in 1 John 5:6: “ He came not by water only, but by water and blood. ” But these words do not have the least connection with the fact with which we are occupied.
The water of which John speaks in his epistle denotes, as John 3:5, baptism: Jesus did not come, like the forerunner, only with the baptism of water, the symbol of purification, but with the blood which brings the expiation itself. In our view there remains but one explanation: it is that which admits that this mysterious fact took place outside of the laws of common physiology, and that it is connected with the exceptional nature of a body which sin had never tainted and which moved forward to the resurrection without having to pass through dissolution. At the instant of death, the process of dissolution, in general, begins. The body of Jesus must have taken at that moment a different path from that of death: it entered upon that of glorification. He who was the Holy One of God, in the absolute sense of the word, was also absolutely exempt from corruption ( Psa 16:10 ). This is the meaning which the evangelist seems to me to have ascribed to this unprecedented phenomenon, of which he was a witness.
Thus is explained the affirmation, having somewhat the character of an oath, by which, in the following verse, he certifies its reality; not that the affirmation of Joh 19:35 refers only to this fact; for it certainly has reference to the totality of the facts mentioned John 19:33-34 (see below). Weiss holds that there is a natural phenomenon here which cannot be certainly explained; but he thinks that John saw in the blood the means of our redemption and in the water the symbol of its purifying force. In this case, a grossly superstitious idea must be imputed to the apostle: by what right? The text says not a word of such a symbolic sense. According to Reuss, also, the blood designates the redemptive death, and the water baptism, and we have here a mystical explanation of a fact which struck the author. All this has no better foundation than the opinion of those who think that the evangelist wished to combat the idea that Jesus was not really dead (Lucke, Neander), or the idea that He had only an apparent body ( Olshausen). The first of these ideas is entirely modern; the second ascribes to the author an argument which has no force, since the Docetae did not in the least deny the sensible appearances in the earthly life of Jesus.
The absence of all corruption in the Holy One of God implied the beginning of the restoration of life from the very moment when, at death, in the case of every sinner the work of dissolution which is to destroy the body commences.
Vv. 35-37. “ And he who saw it has borne witness, and his testimony is true, and he knows that he says true, that you also may believe. 36. For these things came to pass that the Scripture might be fulfilled: No one of his bones shall be broken. 37. And another word also says: They shall look on him whom they pierced. ”
Some ( Weisse, Schweizer, Hilgenfeld, Weizsacker, Keim, Baumlein, Reuss, Sabatier) claim that in these words of Joh 19:35 the author of the Gospel expressly distinguishes himself from the apostle, and that he professes to be only the reporter of the oral testimony of the latter. He declares to the readers of the Gospel that John the apostle saw this, that he bore witness of it, and that he had the inward consciousness of saying a true thing in relating this fact. Thus these words, which have always been regarded as one of the strongest proofs of the Johannean composition of our Gospel, are transformed into a formal denial of its apostolic origin. We have already examined this question in the Introduction, Vol. I., pp. 193-197. We will also present here the following observations:
1. As to the school of Baur, which asserts that the author all along wishes to pass himself off as the apostle, it should evidently have been on its guard against accepting this explanation. It has not been able, however, to refrain from catching at the bait; but it has clearly perceived the contradiction into which it is brought thereby; see the embarrassment of Hilgenfeld with respect to this question, Einl., p. 731. In fact, if the author wishes throughout his entire work to pass himself off as the apostle John, how should he here openly declare the contrary? The reply of Hilgenfeld is this: “He forgets (falls out of) his part” (p. 732). A singular inadvertence, surely, in the case of a falsarius of such consummate skill as the one to whom these critics ascribe the composition of our Gospel!
Other critics, such as Reuss, find themselves no less embarrassed by the apparent advantage which they yet try to derive from these words. In fact, there exists in ch. Joh 21:24 an analogous passage in which the depositaries of our Gospel those who received the commission to publish it expressly attest the identity of the redactor of this work with the apostle-witness of the facts, with the disciple whom Jesus loved. How can we explain such a declaration on the part of the depositaries of the work, if the author had in our passage himself attested his non-identity with the apostle, the eye-witness? Do they knowingly falsify? Reuss does not dare to affirm this. Are they mistaken? It would be necessary to conclude from this that those who published the book had themselves never read the work to which they give the attestation in opposition to his. Still more, if they received from the author his book to be published, they must have known him personally; moreover, it is from the personal knowledge which they have of him and his character that they come forward as vouchers for his veracity. How, then, could they be deceived with respect to him?
2. And on what reasons are suppositions so impossible made to rest? Above all, the pronoun ἐκεῖνος is alleged, by which the author designates the apostle, distinguishing him from himself. But throughout the whole course of our Gospel we have seen this pronoun employed, not to oppose a nearer subject to a more remote subject, but in an exclusive or strongly affirmative sense, with the design of emphasizing somewhat the subject to which it refers; comp. John 1:18, John 5:39, John 7:20, John 9:51, John 19:37, etc., and very particularly John 9:37, where we see that when the one who speaks does so by presenting himself objectively and speaking of himself in the third person, he can very properly use this pronoun. Being forced to speak of himself in this case, John uses this pronoun, because he had alone been witness of the special fact which he relates.
3. Keim no longer insists on this philological question; he makes appeal to “rational logic,” which does not allow us to hold that a writer describes himself objectively at such length. But comp. St. Paul, 2Co 12:3 ! And it is precisely “rational logic” which does not allow us to ascribe to another writer, different from John, the affirmation: And his testimony is true. A disciple of John declaring to the Church that the apostle, his master, did not falsify or was not the dupe of an illusion! The first of these attestations would be an insult to his master himself; the second, an absurdity; for has he the right of affirming anything respecting a fact which he has not seen and which he knows only by the testimony of John himself?
4. Reuss rests upon the perfect μεμαρτύρηκε , has borne witness. The narrative of the witness, according to this, is presented as a fact which was long since past. But comp. John 1:34, where the: I have borne witness, applies to the declaration which John the Baptist has just uttered at the very moment. The same is the case here; this verb applies to the declaration which the author has just made in the preceding lines respecting the fact related: “It is said; the testimony is given and it continues henceforth;” such is the sense of the perfect.
5. It seems to me that we must, above all, take account of the expression: “ He knows that he says true. ” Here is the meaning which we are forced to give to these words: “The witness from whom I have the fact knows that he says true.” But by what right can the writer bear testimony of the consciousness which this witness has of the truth of what he says? One testifies as to one's own consciousness, not that of another.
6. Hilgenfeld, Keim, Baumlein, Reuss, Sabatier, cite as analogous John 21:24. “ This is the disciple (the beloved disciple) who testifies these things and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. ” But the very similarity in the expressions makes us perceive so much more clearly the difference between them. The attestants say, not as in our passage: “ he knows ( οἰδε ) that he says true,” but: “ we know ( οἴδαμεν ) that he says true;” they do what the evangelist should have done in our passage, if he had, like them, wished to distinguish himself from the apostle; they use the first person: we know.
The adjective ἀληθινή does not here, any more than elsewhere, mean true ( ἀληθής ); the meaning is: a real testimony, which truly deserves the name, as announcing a fact truly seen. Καὶ ὑμεῖς , you also: “you who read, as well as I who have seen and testified.” The question is not of belief in the fact reported, but of faith in the absolute sense of the word, of their faith in Christ, which is to derive its confirmation from this fact and from those which are mentioned afterwards, as it was these facts which had already confirmed the faith of the author himself. It is not only from the fact of the outflowing of the blood and water that this result is expected. The for of Joh 19:36 proves that the question is of the way in which the two prophecies recalled to mind in Joh 19:36-37 were fulfilled by the three facts related in John 19:33-34.
The first prophecy is taken from Exo 12:46 and Numbers 9:12; not from Psalms 34:21, as Baumleinand Weiss think; for this last passage refers to the preservation of the life of the righteous one, not to that of the integrity of His body. The application which the evangelist makes of the words implies as admitted the typical significance of the Paschal lamb; comp. John 13:18, a similar typical application.
The Paschal lamb belonged to God and was the figure of the Lamb of God. This is the reason why the law so expressly protected it against all violent and brutal treatment. It is also the reason why the remains of its flesh were to be burned immediately after the supper.
As the prophecy was fulfilled by what did not take place with reference to Jesus (the breaking of the legs), it was also fulfilled at the same time by what did take place in relation to Him (the thrust of the lance), John 19:37. Zechariah ( Joh 12:10 ) had represented Jehovah as pierced by His people, in the person of the Messiah. The action of the Jews in delivering Jesus up to the punishment of the cross had fully realized this prophecy. But this fulfilment must take a still more literal character (see on John 12:15, John 18:9, Joh 19:24 ). The meaning of the Hebrew term דָָּקרוּ , they have pierced, was considerably weakened by the LXX, who undoubtedly deemed this expression too strong as applied to Jehovah, and rendered it by κατωρχήσαντο , they insulted, outraged God by idolatry. The evangelist goes back to the Hebrew text; comp. also Revelation 1:7. The term they shall look on, ὄψονται , refers to that which will take place at the time of the conversion of the Jews, when in this Jesus, rejected by them, they shall recognize their Messiah. The look in question is that of repentance, of supplication, of faith, which they will then cast upon Him ( εἰς ὄν ); a striking scene magnificently described in the same prophetic picture, Zechariah 12:8-14.
In order to understand clearly what John felt at the moment which he here describes, let us imagine a believing Jew, thoroughly acquainted with the Old Testament, seeing the soldiers approaching who were to break the legs of the three condemned persons. What is to take place with regard to the body of the Messiah, more sacred even than that of the Paschal lamb? And lo, by a series of unexpected circumstances, he sees this body rescued from any brutal operation! The same spear-thrust which spares it the treatment with which it was threatened realizes to the letter that which the prophet had foretold! Were not such signs fitted to strengthen his faith and that of the Church? This is what John had experienced as an eye-witness and what he meant to say in this passage, John 19:31-37.
The entombment of Jesus: John 19:38-42. Here, as in the preceding passage, John completes the narrative of his predecessors. He makes prominent the part which was taken by Nicodemus in the funeral honors paid to Jesus, and sets forth clearly the relation between the advanced hour of the day and the place of the sepulchre where the body was laid. He thus accounts for facts whose relation the Synoptics do not indicate.
Vv. 38-40. “ After this Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, went and asked Pilate that they might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took away the body of Jesus. 39. Nicodemus, who at the first came to Jesus by night, came also, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight. 40. They took therefore the body of Jesus and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices, according as the Jews are accustomed to bury. ”
The request of the Jews, John 19:31, refers to the three condemned persons; but, as John has observed, the order of Pilate had only been executed with reference to two of them. Joseph then presents himself before him with an entirely new request, which applies to Jesus only. Baumlein : “Sometimes, especially on occasion of a feast, the bodies of those crucified were given up to relatives. Philo in Flacc., §10.” Mark relates that Pilate, on hearing this request, was astonished that Jesus was already dead a fact which, according to Strauss, contradicts the permission which he had just given for the breaking of the legs. But this operation did not cause death immediately, as Strauss himself acknowledges; it served only to make it sure. Pilate therefore might be astonished that the death of Jesus was so speedily accomplished. Perhaps also his surprise was caused by the fact which was reported to him, that Jesus was dead even before the performing of this operation. For, as is also attested by Mark 15:44, he caused a detailed account of the way in which the things had taken place to be given him by the centurion who had taken charge of the crucifixion.
Arimathea probably denotes, not the city of Rama, two leagues north of Jerusalem, or the other Rama, now Ramleh, ten leagues north-west of the capital, near to Lydda, but Ramathaim (the noun, with the article represented by the syllable ar), in Ephraim, the birthplace of Samuel ( 1Sa 1:1 ).
In any case, Joseph was now settled at Jerusalem with his family, since he possessed here a burial-place, but only recently, because the sepulchre had not yet been used.
By mentioning Joseph and Nicodemus, John brings out, in the case of both, the contrast between their present boldness and the cautiousness of their previous conduct. That which, as it seemed, must completely dishearten them the ignominious death of Jesus causes the faith of these members of the Jewish aristocracy to break forth conspicuously, and delivers them from all human fear. No doubt, on seeing the Lord suspended on the cross, Nicodemus recalls to mind the type of the brazen serpent which Jesus had set before him at first ( Joh 3:14 ). τὸ πρῶτον designates here, as in John 10:40, the beginning of Jesus' ministry. If Nicodemus had been for John, as Reuss seems to affirm, merely a fictitious type, how could he make him appear again here as a real and acting person, and this while expressly recalling the scene of ch. 3?
Myrrh is an odoriferous gum; aloes, a sweet-scented wood. After they had been pounded, there was made of them a mixture which was spread over the whole shroud in which the body was wrapped. Probably this cloth was cut into bandages to wrap the limbs separately. The words: “As the Jews are accustomed,” contrast this mode of embalming with that of the Egpytians, who removed the intestines and, by much longer and more complicated processes, secured the preservation of the corporeal covering.
The hundred pounds recall to mind the profusion with which Mary had poured the spikenard over the feet of Jesus, ch. 12; it is a truly royal homage. The Synoptics tell us that the holy women had the intention also, on their part, to complete this provisional embalming, but only after the Sabbath.
Vv. 41, 42. “ Now there was in the place where he was crucified a garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre wherein no one had ever yet been laid. 42. It was there that they laid Jesus, because of the Preparation of the Jews; for the sepulchre was near. ”
According to Matthew, the sepulchre belonged to Joseph himself, and this was the reason of the use which was made of it. According to John, this sepulchre was chosen because of its proximity to Golgotha, since the Sabbath was about to begin. These two reasons, far from contradicting, complete each other. What purpose would the proximity of the sepulchre have served, if it had not belonged to one of the Lord's friends? And it was certainly the circumstance that Joseph owned this sepulchre near the place of crucifixion, which suggested to him the idea of asking for the body of Jesus.
John and Luke ( Luk 23:53 ) remark that the sepulchre was new. Comp. Luke 19:30: “ You shall find a colt tied whereon yet never man sat. ” These are providential facts, which belong to the royal glory of Jesus. When a king is received, objects which have not yet been used are consecrated to his service.
The expression . the Preparation of the Jews, signifies, according to those who hold that the death of Jesus took place, not on the 14th, but on the 15th: the Friday of the Jews. But what would be the object of so singular an expression? It was designed, answers Rotermund, to give us to understand how it happened that the day following a Sabbatic day (the 15th) was again a Sabbath (Saturday). By this means the first Sabbath became, as it were, the preparation for the second. But if the first of the two days was Sabbatic, like the following one, the carrying away of the body, which they did not wish to do on the next day, could not any more have been done on this day. The quite simple meaning is that it was the hour when the Jews (thus is the complement the Jews explained) prepared their great national and religious feast by sacrificing the lamb. They were obliged to hasten because, with the setting of the sun, this day of preparation, the 14th, a non-Sabbatic day, came to its close, and because the following day, the 15th, was in that year a doubly Sabbatic day ( Joh 19:31 ); comp. Luke 23:56.
On the Day of Jesus' Death.
Respecting the day of the week on which the death of Jesus took place, the agreement of the four evangelists is manifest; it was a Friday (Matthew 27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, Joh 19:31 ). But they appear to differ as to the question whether this Friday was the 14th or the 15th of the month Nisan an apparently insignificant difference, but yet one which implies a more considerable one. For on this depends the question whether Jesus had celebrated on the preceding evening the Paschal supper with all the rest of the Jewish people, in that case Jesus would have died on the 15th, or whether the people were to celebrate this supper later, on the evening of the day of His death, in this case the day of His death was the 14th. For the Paschal supper was celebrated on the evening which formed the transition from the 14th to the 15th.
I. The View of John.
According to John 13:1, Jesus celebrated His last supper before the feast of the Passover. Rotermund (in the article which is cited above) affirms, no doubt, with Langen, that the Passover feast began only on the 15th, and that, as a consequence, this supper, which took place before the feast, must be placed on the evening of the 14th, and must therefore be identified with the Paschal supper. But see on John 13:1. John would not have designated this supper simply by the words: “ A supper,” or even, if one will have it so, “ the supper.” For the benefit of his Greek readers, he could not have refrained from designating this supper as that of the Passover.
The passage John 18:28, notwithstanding all the efforts of some scholars (comp. also Kirchner, Die judische Passahfeier, 1870), plainly declares that the Jewish Paschal supper was not yet celebrated on the morning when Jesus was condemned, and consequently that Jesus was put to death on the 14th, and not on the 15th. The passages John 19:14; John 19:31; Joh 19:42 lead to the same result. Neither Kirchner nor Rotermund has succeeded in proving that expressions such as these: the Passover Friday, the Friday of the Jews, are natural. That it was a Friday is certain; that the word παρασκευή ( preparation) may designate Friday, as the preparation for the Sabbath, is unquestionable. But that in John's context this term paraskeue8, preparation, can have the technical sense of Friday, is inadmissible.
After the observations of Kirchner and Luthardt, I give up alleging Joh 13:19 as decisive, although one still asks oneself how a purchase could have been made during the Passover night, all families, whether rich or poor, being at that time gathered around the Paschal table, and all the shops being consequently closed.
II. The Apparent View of the Synoptics.
This view seems to follow evidently from the three parallels, Matthew 26:17: “The first day of unleavened bread (the 14th of Nisan), the disciples of Jesus came to him saying, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee the Passover supper?” Mark 14:12: “And on the first day of unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the Passover, the disciples said to him;” Luke 22:7: “The day of unleavened bread came, when the Passover must be sacrificed, and he sent Peter and John.” It seems altogether natural to place this question of the disciples, or (according to Luke) this commission which Jesus gives to two of them, on the morning of the 14th, when the preparations of the Paschal supper were made for the evening. And from this fact precisely it is that the apparent contradiction to the narrative of John arises; for, if Jesus gave this order on the 14th in the morning, the supper which the disciples were to prepare for the evening could only be the Paschal supper, from which it would follow that His last supper coincided with the Paschal supper of that year.
Now, according to John, as we have just proved, the Jewish Paschal supper must have taken place only on the evening which followed that of the last supper of Jesus, on the evening of the day of His death.
Here is one of the greatest differences between the Synoptics and John. Since the earliest times it has attracted the notice of all those who have closely studied the Scriptures. And already in the second century, as we shall see, we encounter numerous traces of the discussions which it has raised.
III. The Attempts at Solution.
From the time of St. Jerome, the view of the Synoptic narrative became prevalent in the Church; it continued so even until the Reformation: Jesus had celebrated the Passover with the whole people before He died. But at that epoch the revival of Biblical studies caused the need to be felt of giving a more exact account of the Gospel narratives; their apparent disagreement was obvious, and the attempt was made to resolve it. Calvin and Theodore Beza, then Scaliger and Casaubon, brought out the idea, already expressed by Eusebius and Chrysostom (see Tholuck, p. 41), that the Jews, in order that they might not have to celebrate two successive Sabbatic days (Friday, the 15th of Nisan, as the first day of the feast, and the next day, the 16th, which fell in this year on Saturday), had exceptionally delayed by one day the great day of the feast, while Jesus had, for Himself, kept the legal day. Thus would the fact be explained that He, at this time, celebrated the Passover a day sooner than the rest of the people. It appears that, at the present day also, when the 15th of Nisan falls on a Friday, the Jews transfer the feast from this day to Saturday. This solution is very simple and natural. Only we do not find either in the New Testament, or in Josephus, or in the Talmud, any trace of such a transposition, which would constitute a grave derogation from the law. Other reasons have been sought which might lead Jesus in this circumstance to deviate from the generally-received usage. Stier has thought that He attached Himself to the mode of action of some sects, like that of the Karaites, who had the custom of celebrating the Paschal supper, not on the evening of the 14th-15th, but on that of the 13th-14th. Ebrard has supposed that because of the great number of lambs to be slain in the temple (sometimes more than 250,000, according to Josephus) from three to six o'clock in the afternoon, the Galileans had been authorized to sacrifice and eat the lamb on the 13th instead of the 14th. Serno applies the same supposition to all the Jews of the dispersion. But these hypotheses have no historical basis, and are, in any case, much less probable than that of the Reformers. Rauch has affirmed that the Israelites in general celebrated the Paschal supper, legally and habitually, on the evening of the 13th-14th, and not that of the 14th-15th. But this opinion, which, even if adopted, would yet not resolve the difficulty, strikes against all the known Biblical and historical data.
Lutteroth, in his pamphlet, Le jour de la preparation, 1855, and in his Essai d' interpretation de l' Evangile de saint Matthieu, 1876, places the day of the conversation of Jesus with His disciples much earlier, on the 10th of Nisan, when the Jews set apart the lamb which was to be sacrificed on the 14th. It was, according to him, on the same 10th day that Jesus was crucified; He remained in the tomb on the 11th, 12th, and 13th; the 14th was the day of
His resurrection. This entirely new chronology is shattered by the first word of the conversation. How is it possible that the 10th of Nisan should be called by the evangelists the first day of unleavened bread, especially when this determination of the time is made still more precise, as it is in Mark, by the words: “ when the Passover is sacrificed. ” It is true that Lutteroth tries to make this when refer only to the idea of unleavened bread: “the unleavened bread which is to be eaten when the Passover is sacrificed” (!). The words of Luke 22:7: “The day of unleavened bread came, when the Passover must be sacrificed,” are still more rudely handled: it is not an historical fact which Luke relates, it is a moral reflection by means of which the evangelist announces at the beginning that the Passion will have an end (!) ( Essai, pp. 410, 411). After all these fruitless attempts, one can understand how a large number of critics limit themselves at the present day to establishing the disagreement and declaring it insoluble; this is what is done by Lucke, Neander, Bleek, de Wette, Steitz, J. Muller, Weiss, de Pressense, etc.
IV. The Truth of John's Narrative.
But if the contradiction exists, it remains to determine which of the two narratives deserves the preference. Then it must be explained how so grave a difference can have arisen in the Gospel narrative.
The critics of the Tubingen school Baur, Hilgenfeld, Keim are not embarrassed: it is the Synoptics that have preserved the true historical tradition. As to John's narrative, it is a deliberate alteration of the real history, intended, on the one hand, to make the death of Jesus, as the true Paschal lamb, coincide with the time of the sacrificing of the lamb in the temple, and, on the other hand, to throw into the shade the Jewish Paschal supper by making the last supper of Jesus a simple farewell meal. But neither the one nor the other of these ends required a means so compromising as that which is thus ascribed to pseudo-John. Such a disagreement with the first three Gospels, which were already received throughout the whole Church, and with the apostolic tradition, of which these writings were known to be the depositaries, exposed the work of the fourth evangelist to the danger of being greatly suspected, and that in a very useless way for him. For to present Jesus as the true Paschal lamb, there was no need of such a desperate expedient as that of misplacing the well-known day of His death; it was enough that this event should be placed in the Paschal week; there was, therefore, nothing to be changed in the tradition of the Church; comp. the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7: “Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us;” those of Peter, 1 Peter 1:19, and all the passages of the Apocalypse where Christ is called the Lamb. As to the Jewish Passover, there was no need in the second century to depreciate it; it was already replaced everywhere, both in the Church and in the sects, by the Christian supper (Schurer, pp. 29-34).
A second class of critics, as we have seen, try to interpret the texts of John so as to put them in accord with what they think to be the meaning of the Synoptic narrative. They are, for example, Lightfoot, Tholuck, Olshausen, Hengstenberg, Wieseler, Luthardt, Wichelhaus, Hofmann, Lichtenstein, Lange, Riggenbach, Ebrard, Baumlein, Langen, Keil. But all their efforts have been unsuccessful in bringing out from John's text a sense contrary to that which is obvious on reading it.
As to the third class, which concedes a real difference between our Gospel narratives, the greater part give the preference to that of John; thus, among the moderns, Weiss, Pressense (see note on p. 400), Reuss himself (Theol . joh. pp. 59, 60). And, in fact, if the conflict is real, the choice cannot be doubtful. The witnesses in favor of the historical exactness of John's narrative are the following:
1. The Synoptics themselves. These writings contain a series of facts, and a certain number of words, which are in complete accord with John's narrative and in no less evident disagreement with the view which is attributed to them. If there was an hour sacred to the Jewish conscience, it was that of the Paschal supper; and yet it was at this hour that a multitude of officers and servants of the chief priests and elders had left their houses and their families, assembled around the Passover table, to go and arrest Jesus in Gethsemane! Still more, we know that everything which was reprehensible on the Sabbath, as, e.g., to climb a tree, to ride on horseback, to hold a session of a court, was also prohibited on the festival day (Traite Beza, 5.2); and yet there were held, on that Sabbatic night of the 14th-15th, at least two sessions of the court, in one of which the sentence of death for Jesus was pronounced; and then all those long negotiations with Pilate, as well as the sending to Herod, took place; all this, notwithstanding the festival and Sabbatic character of the 15th of Nisan! It is answered that a session of the court was nermitted on the festival day, provided that the sentence was not put in writing, and that, in general, the rule of the festival days was less rigorous than that of the Sabbaths properly so called. But, at the foundation, all the difference between these two kinds of days is limited to the authorization to prepare the necessary articles of food on the festival day, if even we are allowed to draw a general conclusion from Exodus 12:16. Now would so slight a difference be sufficient to justify the use of such a day which is here implied?
That Simon of Cyrene, who is returning from the fields ( Mat 27:32 ); that Joseph of Arimathea, who is going to purchase a linen cloth ( Mar 15:46 ); those women who give up embalming the body, because the Sabbath is drawing near ( Luk 23:56 ) is all this explicable on the supposition that the day when these things happened thus was itself a Sabbatic day, the 15th of Nisan? No doubt it is answered that Simon was returning from a simple walk in the country, or that he was a countryman who was going to the city; then, that purchases might be made on a festival day, provided they were not paid for on the same day. It is nevertheless true that the impression made by the narrative of the Synoptics is that the day of Jesus' death was a working day, entirely different from the Sabbatic day which was to follow; that it was, consequently, the 14th, and not the 15th of Nisan.
This is what appears also from a certain number of expressions scattered throughout the Synoptic narrative. Thus Matthew 26:18: “My time is at hand; let me keep the Passover at thy house with my disciples.” What is the logical connection which unites the two propositions of this message? The only satisfactory relation to be established between them is this: “It is necessary for me to hasten; for to-morrow it will be too late; I shall be no longer here; act, then, so that I may be able to eat the Passover at thy house immediately with my disciples ( ποιῶ , the present).”
Matthew 27:62: The evangelist calls the Saturday during which the body of Jesus reposed in the tomb: “ the morrow which is after the preparation. ” In this phrase it is impossible that the word preparation should have the sense of Friday, as if Matthew had meant to say that the Sabbath during which Jesus was in the tomb was the next day after a Friday! We do not designate the more solemn day by that which is less so, but the reverse. If the day of the 15th is designated here from its relation to the less solemn day of the preparation which had preceded it, it is because this day of preparation had become much more important, as the day of Jesus' death. From this singular phrase, therefore, it follows that Jesus was crucified on the 14th.
The same conclusion must be drawn from Mark 15:42: “Seeing it was the Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath. ” It is of the day of Jesus' death that Mark thus speaks. Now, it is impossible that Mark, a Jew by birth, should have characterized a day like the 15th of Nisan as a simple Friday, preceding the Sabbath (Saturday), this 15th day being itself a Sabbath of the first rank. And if the expression: preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, can in the ordinary usage designate a Friday, this technical sense is inapplicable in a context where the reason is explained why a work was allowed which could not be done on the following day. The term preparation has here its general sense according to which it is applied to any day of the week preceding a Sabbath. Mark explains thereby the act of Joseph of Arimathea in burying Jesus, after having bought a linen cloth. “All this was possible,” he says, “because it was the preparation, the day before the Sabbath and not the Sabbath. This is what the expression in Luk 23:54 also signifies: “That day was the preparation, and the Sabbath was about to dawn.”
All these facts and words, no doubt, do not imply that the redactors of the Synoptic narratives fully understood the conclusion to be drawn from them as to the day of Jesus' death. But they are indications, which are so much the more significant since they seem to be unconscious, of the real tradition relative to the day of this death and of the complete conformity of this tradition with the narrative of John.
2. The Talmud. Some passages of this monument of the Jewish memorials and usages declare expressly that Jesus was suspended on the cross on the evening of the Passover (beerev happesach), that is to say, in the Jewish language, the evening before the Passover. The erroneous details which are sometimes mingled in these passages with this fundamental statement do not at all diminish the value of the latter, because it is reproduced several times and identically a fact which indicates an established tradition. If it is objected that the Jewish scholars derived this statement, not from their own tradition, but from our Gospels, this is to acknowledge that they understood the latter as we ourselves understand them.
3. St. Paul. Keim cites this apostle as a convincing witness in favor of the Synoptic view. We recognize, he says, in the institution of the Holy Supper (1 Corinthians 11:0), all the forms of the Jewish Paschal supper a fact which can be explained only if this last supper of Jesus coincided with the Passover, and if it consequently took place on the evening of the 14th-15th, and not on the evening of the 13th-14th. But Jesus may very well have used the forms of the Paschal supper on an evening before that on which that supper was celebrated; for, as He says Himself, “his time was at hand,” and He was forced to anticipate. From the expression of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23: “The Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed,” it follows rather that that night was not the night of the Paschal supper; otherwise Paul would have characterized it in another way than by the betrayal of Judas.
All the witnesses whom we are able to consult, even the Synoptics, who are set in opposition to John, do homage, therefore, to the accuracy of his narrative.
V. The real Meaning of the Synoptic Narrative.
But, I would ask, is it indeed certain that the Synoptics really say what they are made to say? They say expressly that “the first day of unleavened bread” (Matt., Mark, Luke), “when the Passover was sacrificed” (Mark), “came” (Luke), and that “the disciples asked Jesus” (Matt., Mark), or that Jesus Himself, taking the initiative, sent John and Peter from Bethany to Jerusalem (Luke), with a view to seeking a place for celebrating the Passover. This conversation is unhesitatingly placed on the morning of the 14th of Nisan for the very simple reason that the days are reckoned, as we ourselves reckon them, making the official day coincide with the natural day. But, in calculating thus, it is forgotten that among the Jews the official day began at six o'clock in the evening, and that thus, when it is said: “The day of unleavened bread came,” this indication, properly understood, places us, not in the morning of the 14th, but in the evening of the 13th-14th. Taking the Synoptics literally, we are obliged to hold that the conversation between Jesus and the disciples of which they tell us took place, not on the 14th in the morning, but late in the afternoon of the 13th, between the two evenings, according to the customary expression that is, between the moment when the sun sinks to the horizon and that when it disappears, a moment which is the transition point between the civil day and the day following.
Rotermund asserts, no doubt, that, notwithstanding this official way of reckoning the days, it was always the beginning and the end of the natural day which determined the popular language. But the contrary follows from Luke 23:54, which designates the last moment of Friday evening by the words: “It was the preparation, and the Sabbath was about to dawn,” as well as from the phrase which was customary among the Jews, according to which erev haschabbath, evening of the Sabbath, denotes the evening, not of Saturday, but of Friday. Moreover, we can cite a telling fact taken from Jewish life at the time of Jesus. On the 16th of Nisan, in the morning, the sacred sheaf was offered as the first-fruits of the entire harvest of the year. This sheaf was cut in a field near to Jerusalem, on the preceding day at evening, or, as we should say, on the 15th at evening. The messengers of the Sanhedrim arrived in the field followed by the people: “Has the sun set?” they asked. “It has,” answered the people. “Am I to cut?” “Yes, cut.” “With this sickle?” “Yes.” “Into this basket?” “Yes.” And why all these formalities? Because the 15th was a Sabbatic day, and because manual labor, like that of the reaper, must not be done until after it was established that the 15th was ended, and until the 16th, a working day, had begun. We see from this how deeply the way of reckoning days, which we attribute here to the Synoptics (from evening to evening, and not from morning to morning), had penetrated into the Jewish social life. There is also a circumstance which comes to the support of what we are here saying.
It was already alleged by Clement of Alexandria, and its importance has been acknowledged by Strauss. The crowd of pilgrims was so great in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, that no one waited until the morning of the 14th to secure for himself the place where he might celebrate the Paschal supper with his family in the evening. It was on the 13th that this search for a place was attended to. So Clement of Alexandria calls the 13th the προετοιμασία , the pro-preparation; for the preparation itself was the day of the 14th. It was certainly, therefore, on the day of the 13th, and not that of the 14th, that the disciples spoke to the Lord, or He to them, with the purpose of procuring the place which they needed for the next day at evening. The conversation reported by the Synoptics must have taken place, therefore, at the latest, about five or six o'clock in the afternoon of the 13th, according to our mode of reckoning the days. Jesus, at that time, sent to Jerusalem the two disciples in whom He felt most confidence, charging them to secure a room. In the thought of all the disciples, it was for the next day at evening; but Jesus gives His two messengers to understand that it was for that same evening. This is what the terms of the message imply which He intrusted to them for the host whom He had in view: “ My time is at hand: I must hasten.” And why this course of action, which was full of mystery? The reason for it is simple. Judas must not know in advance the house where Jesus would spend this last evening with His disciples.
From six to eight or nine o'clock, the disciples would have time enough for preparing the supper, even for killing and preparing the lamb, which was already set apart since the 10th of Nisan. Undoubtedly they did not sacrifice it in the temple. But could they have done this, even on the official day and at the official hour they who must have been excommunicated as adherents of Jesus ( Joh 9:22 )? However this may be, according to the primitive institution of the Passover ( Exo 12:6-7 ), it belonged to every Israelite to sacrifice his lamb in his own house; the sacrificing in the temple was a matter of human tradition. And at that time, when the Israelitish Passover was about to come to an end, to be replaced by the sacramental supper of the new covenant, it was altogether natural to return to the simplicity of the starting point. The priestly sacrificing was useless when the typical lamb had no longer any other part to fill than that of serving as the inauguration of the new supper which was to replace the old. It has been objected ( Keim, Luthardt) that Jesus did not have the right to change the legal day of the Passover. But if He was the Lord of the Sabbath, the corner-stone of the whole ceremonial law ( Mar 2:28 ), He was certainly the same also with respect to the Passover. The legal Paschal supper was no longer for Him, at that moment, anything but the calyx, withered henceforth, from the bosom of which the commemorative supper of the perfect Redemption was about to blossom.
Let us also observe an interesting coincidence between the well-known Jewish usages and the narrative of the Synoptics, as we have just explained it. On the evening of the 13th, about six o'clock, the lamps were lighted in order to search the most obscure corners of the houses and to remove every particle of leaven. Then, before the stars appeared, a man went from every house to draw the pure water with which the unleavened bread must be kneaded. Does not this usage very naturally explain the sign given to Peter and John when Jesus said to them: “On entering the city, you will meet a man bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he shall enter” ( Luk 22:10 )?
The solution which we here present is not new; it is at the foundation the same which was already set forth in the second century by the two writers who were especially occupied with this question at the time when it seems to have deeply engaged the attention of the Church, Apollinaris of Hierapolis and Clement of Alexandria. The first expresses himself thus: “The day of the 14th is the true Passover of the Lord, the great sacrifice, in which the Son of God, put in the place of the lamb, was delivered up to be crucified.” The second says, with still more precision: “In the preceding years, Jesus had celebrated the feast by eating the Paschal lamb according as [on the day when] the Jews sacrificed it. But on the 13th, the day on which the disciples interrogated Him, He taught them the mystery [of the type of the lamb]....It was on this day (the 13th) that the consecration of the unleavened bread and the pro-preparation of the Passover took place;...and our Saviour suffered on the day following (the 14th): for He was Himself the true Passover....And this is the reason why the chief priests and scribes, when leading Him to Pilate, did not enter into the Praetorium, that they might not be defiled and might eat the Passover in the evening without any hindrance.”
In reality, therefore, we have only reproduced Clement's solution in the most violent of the Paschal disputes of the second century, of which we shall soon speak. Weiss, who rejects every solution, yet acknowledges that, strictly speaking, Mar 14:12 is the only passage which is opposed to what we have just set forth. What seems to him incompatible with it is the remark: “The first day of unleavened bread, when the Passover was sacrificed. ” But why could not these last words be applied to the evening of the 13th, if this evening, according to the Jewish manner of reckoning, belonged already to the 14th, on the afternoon of which the lamb was sacrificed? Weiss cannot himself refrain from adding that, in any case, the question of the disciples, if placed in the morning of the 14th, is improbable, for the people did not ever expect to occupy themselves at that time with the place of the supper. De Pressense has nothing else to object except the words of Matthew 26:20: “And when the evening was come, he reclined at table with the Twelve,” which implies, he says, that the preparations for the supper were made, not a few moments earlier in the evening, but during the course of the day. This remark would perhaps be well founded if the evangelist had had in view, in writing these lines, the question which occupies us. But Matthew does not seem, any more than the other two Synoptics, to have accounted for the problem which is raised by the traditional account; he simply meant to say that this last supper of Jesus took place, not in the daytime, but in the evening.
It is probable that two circumstances contributed to the want of clearness which prevails in the Synoptical narration: first, the very easy confounding of the civil and natural day, and then the fact that the institution of the Holy Supper had impressed on this last supper a character very similar to that of the Paschal feast.
Finally, let us recall to memory the lights which exegesis has asked from astronomy with respect to this question. The question being to determine whether, in the year of Jesus' death, the great Sabbatic day of the 15th of Nisan fell on Friday, as the Synoptic narrative, or on Saturday, as the narrative of John implies, the calculation of the lunar phases might serve, it was thought, to decide the question. Two astronomers set themselves to the work, Wurm, of Gottingen ( Bengel's Archiv., 1816, II.), and Oudemann, Professor at Utrecht ( Revue de theologie, 1863, p. 221).
But it is necessary to begin by determining the year of Jesus' death, and scholars still differ on this point. Ideler and Zumpt place it in 29; Winer, Wieseler, Lichtens'ein, Caspari, Pressense, etc., in 30; Ewald, Renan, in 33; Keim, in 35; Hitzig, in 36. In this state of things, the two astronomers have extended their calculation to the whole series of years 29-36 of our era. The result, as to the year 30, which we think, with most of the critics, to be the year of the death, is the following: In this year, the 15th of Nisan fell on a Friday. This result would condemn our explanation; but Caspari, taking up anew the calculation of Wurm, starting from the same data as this astronomer, has arrived at the opposite result. According to him, in the year 30 the 15th of Nisan was Saturday, as it must be according to our explanation. The fact is, that we find ourselves here face to face with the incalculable uncertainties and subtleties of the Jewish calendar. Wurm himself declares that one can speak here only of probabilities, that there will ever remain an uncertainty of one or two days. Now, everything depends on a single day ( Keim, III., p. 490-500). It is safer to work upon positive texts than upon such unsettled foundations. And as for ourselves, everything being carefully weighed, we think that the most probable date of Jesus' death may be stated thus: Friday, the 14 th of Nisan (7 th of April), in the year 30.
We are happy to agree, on the question of the relation between John and the Synoptics, with some modern scholars: Krummel, Darmstadt Litteraturblatt, Feb., 1858; Baggesen, Der Apostel Johannes, 1869; Andreae, in the Beweis des Glaubens, Der Todestag Jesu, July to September, 1870. On the consequences of the historical superiority of John's narrative, with reference to the authenticity of the Fourth Gospel, see Introd., Vol. I., pp. 77-79.
VI. Glance at the History of the Paschal Controversies.
The fact which lies at the foundation of that long disagreement between the primitive churches is the following: The churches of Asia Minor celebrated the Paschal feast by fasting during the whole of the 14th of Nisan and by communicating on the evening of this day, at the time when the Jews were eating the lamb. The other churches of Christendom, Rome at their head, fasted, on the contrary, during the days which preceded the Passover Sunday, which was always the Sunday that followed the 14th; then they received the sacrament in the morning of this Passover Sunday. In both cases the communion terminated the fast.
First phase of the discussion. About 155, Polycarp, in a visit which he makes to Rome, has a conversation on this subject with Anicetus, the bishop of Rome. Each defends the rite of his own church in the name of an apostolic tradition of which it claimed to be the depositary (originating at Ephesus from John and Philip, at Rome from Paul and Peter). There is no proof that on this occasion they entered within the exegetical and dogmatic domain of the question. The ecclesiastical peace remained undisturbed. “The diversity in the rite served rather,” as Irenaeus says, “to establish agreement in faith.”
Second phase. Fifteen years later, in 170, there breaks out in the midst even of the churches of Asia, at Laodicea, a disagreement on the subject of the Passover. There are persons there who are they? we shall have to examine this point who, like the Asiatics, celebrate the 14th in the evening, but resting upon this fact: that it was on the 14th in the evening that Jesus instituted the Supper, in conformity with the time prescribed by the law for the Paschal supper, and they rest upon the narrative of Matthew, according to which the Lord was crucified on the 15th. We see that from the domain of tradition the question is carried to that of exegesis. Melito is the first who writes on this subject, with what view we do not know. Then, on occasion ( ἐξ αἰτίας ) of his book not against him, as Schurer still claims Apollinaris and Clement of Alexandria also take up the pen. Both, according to the fragments quoted in the Chronicon Paschale, prove that Jesus celebrated His last supper on the 13th, and that He died on the 14th. They specially allege John's narrative in favor of this view.
But who are the Laodicean adversaries whom these two writers oppose? Baur, Hilgenfeld, Schurer, Luthardt, answer: They are the churches of Asia themselves, with their celebration of the 14th. Apollinaris was even in Asia the adversary of the Asiatic rite. It is difficult to believe this. For, 1. Eusebius presents the churches of Asia before us as unanimous: “The churches of the whole of Asia thought, according to an ancient tradition, that they must observe the 14th by the celebration of the Holy Supper.” If this consensus of all the churches of Asia had been broken by so considerable a bishop and doctor as Apollinaris of Hierapolis, Eusebius, the pronounced adversary of the Asiatic rite, would not have failed to notice it. Baur alleges that a little later Polycrates, when enumerating in his letter to Victor, a bishop of Rome, all the illustrious personages who practised the Asiatic rite, does not mention Apollinaris. But he names only the dead. Apollinaris might also be found among the numerous bishops of whom Polycrates speaks without naming them, who surrounded him at the time when he was writing his letter, and who gave their assent to it. 2. If Apollinaris had made a division as related to his colleagues in Asia, the dispute would, no doubt, have broken out in his home, at Hierapolis, rather than at Laodicea. 3. The polemic of Apollinaris by no means implies opposition to the Asiatic rite and adhesion to the occidental rite. The adversaries justified their observance of the 14th by resting upon the fact that this was the evening on which Jesus had instituted the Supper. Apollinaris remarks that this view puts the first three Gospels in contradiction to that of John. But this does not prevent him from celebrating the 14th also only for another reason. In any case, it is impossible to understand how this view of Apollinaris, according to which Jesus died on the 14th, not the 15th, could have favored the Roman observance, according to which the Holy Passover Supper was celebrated on the following Sunday. 4. Schurer is embarrassed here by a manifest contradiction: According to him, the Asiatic rite did not rest on any fact of the Gospel history, neither on the time of the institution of the Supper nor on the day of Jesus' death. It arose only from the fact that the 14th was the day of the Jewish Paschal supper, which had been simply transformed, in Asia, into the Christian Supper. But, on the other hand, in the presence of the polemics of Apollinaris, he is forced to acknowledge that his adversaries fixed the Supper on the 14th, in remembrance of the day of the institution of the Supper. These two grounds of the same observance not coinciding, he ought not to maintain that the Laodiceans combated by Apollinaris are no others than the churches of Asia in general.
It is with reason, therefore, that Weitzel and Steitz, with whom are associated Ritschl, Meyer, Reville, etc., have been led to see in the Laodiceans, contended against by Apollinaris, a Judaizing party which arose in the Church of Asia, and which had as its aim to preserve for the Holy Supper the character of a complete Jewish Passover supper, as they imagined that the Lord also had celebrated that supper before He died. Then the polemic of Apollinaris and Clement takes effect. These people said: “We wish to do as the Lord did [celebrate the Paschal supper on the 14th], and this by eating the Paschal lamb as He did.” The two Fathers answer: “The Lord did not do this. He carried back the Paschal supper of the 14th to the 13th in the evening, and this by instituting the Supper.” This opinion evidently did not prevent Apollinaris from remaining faithful to the rite of his Church, since, as Schurer himself acknowledges, if the churches of Asia celebrated the 14th, as did the Laodiceans, it was not as having been the day of the institution of the Supper.
I would differ in opinion from Weitzel and Steitz only on two points: 1. The Laodicean adversaries, against whom Apollinaris contends, do not seem to me to have been an Ebionite sect properly so called, but only a branch of the Church of Asia, with a more pronounced Judaizing tendency. 2. The rite of the churches of Asia did not arise, probably, as these scholars think, from the fact that, in their view, Jesus died on the 14th, but quite simply from the fact that in these churches the day of the Israelitish Paschal supper was maintained. This is what results from the following words of Eusebius: “The churches of Asia thought they must celebrate the 14th, the day on which the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb; ” then more clearly still from those of Polycrates: “And all my relatives (bishops before me) celebrated the day when the people removed the leaven. ” The Asiatic rite is expressly placed in connection with the day of Christ's death only in two passages of the fourth and fifth centuries one in Epiphanius, the other in Theodoret (see Schurer, pp. 57, 58) a fact which shows clearly that this point of view was not the prevailing one at the beginning of the discussion.
Third phase. Between 180 and 190 a certain Blastus (comp. the Adv. Haer. of the pseudo-Tertullian, c. 22) attempted to transplant the Asiatic rite to Rome. It was probably this circumstance which reawakened the dispute between the Churches of Rome and Asia, represented at this epoch, the one by Victor, the other by Polycrates. The latter, in his letter to Victor, no longer defends his cause by the traditional arguments, as Polycarp had done thirty years before. “He went through all the Holy Scriptures before writing ( πᾶσαν ἁγίαν γραφὴν διεληλυθώς ).” And he declares that “his predecessors also observed the 14th according to the Gospel ( κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ).” These words give rise to reflection. It has been sought to get rid of them by means of subtleties (see the embarrassment ofSchurer, p. 35).
They evidently prove, as do those which precede, that Polycrates and the bishops of Asia had succeeded in establishing an agreement between the Gospels, by means of which these writings not only did not contradict one another ( τὸ εὐαγγέλιον , the one Gospel in the four), but also were in accord with the law itself ( all the Scriptures). Such expressions imply that Polycrates and his bishops had found the Asiatic rite confirmed first by the law (the question is of the Paschal institution, Exodus 12:0, fixing the Paschal supper on the 14th), then by the unanimity of the canonical Gospels, which has no meaning unless Polycrates harmonized the Synoptics with John by interpreting them as we ourselves have done. There is, therefore, a perfect equivalency between these words of Polycrates and that which Apollinaris had maintained against the Laodiceans, when he said: “Not only is their opinion contrary to the law, which requires that the lamb should be sacrificed on the 14th (and consequently that Christ also should die on the 14th), but also there would be [according to the opinion which they defend] disagreement between the Gospels [since, according to them, Matthew fixed the death of Christ on the 15th, while John places it on the 14th].” This dispute was quieted by the efforts of Irenaeus and many others, who interposed with Victor and arrested him as he was proceeding to violent measures.
Fourth phase. It is marked by the decision of the Council of Nice, in 325, which enjoined upon the Orientals to fall in with the Occidental rite, which was now generally adopted. “At the end of the matter,” says Eusebius (in his περὶ τῆς τοῦ πάσχα ἑορτῆς , Schurer, p. 40), “the Orientals yielded;” “and thus,” adds the same historian, “they broke finally with the murderers of the Lord, and united with their co-religionists ( ὁμοδόξοις ).” In fact, the practical consequence of the Asiatic rite was that the Christians of Asia found themselves to be celebrating the Holy Paschal Supper at the same time as the Jews were celebrating their Passover supper, thus separating themselves from all the other Christians who celebrated the Supper on the following Sunday. This rite became in the view of the other Churches, as it were, the sign of a secret sympathy for the unbelieving Jews. This was what determined its defeat. There were, nevertheless, Christians who, like the Judaizers of Laodicea, persisted in the observance of the 14th for the reason that Jesus had instituted the Supper on that day at evening. They figure under the names of Audians, Quarto-decimans, in the lists of later heresies. Athanasius frankly confesses that they are not easily to be refuted when they allege these words of the Synoptics: “ On the first day of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus ” (Schurer, p. 45). We here come upon the first symptom of the preponderance which the Synoptical narrative finally gained in the Church over that of John, and which it maintained through the middle ages and even to modern times. The Synoptics, more popular than John and apparently more clear, forming besides a group of three against one, and especially no longer encountering in the way of counterpoise the fear of a mingling of the Christian Supper and the Jewish Passover, carried the day in the general feeling. Jerome is the one of the Fathers who contributed most to this victory.
But how are we to explain the origin of the two observances the Asiatic and the Roman in the second century? Paul had no fear of bringing into the Church the celebration of the Jewish Passover feast (Acts 20:6; comp. 1Co 5:7-8 with Joh 16:8 ). He transformed and spiritualized its rites this is beyond doubt; the Holy Supper was substituted for the Paschal supper of the lamb and unleavened bread; but the time of the celebration was the same; this seems to follow from Acts 20:6. John certainly did not do otherwise; it was thus that the celebration of the Holy Supper on the evening of the 14th of Nisan was quite naturally introduced into Asia.
But the churches of the West, more estranged from Judaism, felt a certain repugnance to this unity in point of time which was established between the Jewish and the Christian feast, and to the kind of dependence in which the simultaneousness placed the second with relation to the first. They therefore threw off the yoke; and, instead of celebrating the Holy Passover Supper on the 14th at evening, as they already had the institution of the weekly Sunday, distinct from that of the Jewish Sabbath, they fixed this ceremony for the morning of the Sunday which in each year followed the 14th of Nisan, or, to speak more properly, the full moon of March. Thus, no doubt, the occidental observance grew up, which finally carried the day over the primitive observance. The Church is free in these matters.
The result of this long and complicated history, so far as relates to the subject which occupies our attention, seems to us to be this: From the time when the Church occupied itself with the exegetical side of the question, it attached itself to the Johannean narrative. It made use of it, on the one hand, to refute by the pen of Apollinaris the exegetical basis on which the Laodicean party rested the observance of the 14th (by making that day, according to Matthew, the day of the institution of the Supper); on the other hand, to defend against Rome, by the pen of Polycrates, the Asiatic celebration of the 14th, by presenting the Supper as the Jewish Passover spiritualized that is to say, as the feast of the Christian redemption, the counterpart of the deliverance from Egypt.
The matter in question, therefore, for the Church of Asia, was not that of celebrating the 14th of Nisan as the day of the institution of the Supper, nor even, properly speaking, as the day of Jesus' death (against Steitz). It simply Christianized the Jewish Passover. The Asiatic observance, therefore, does not furnish, as Baur has claimed, an argument against the Johannean origin of the Fourth Gospel; quite the contrary, the polemic of Apollinaris against the Laodiceans, and that of Polycrates against Victor, are a striking testimony given to the narrative of the Fourth Gospel.
To sum up, the difference between John and the Synoptics may be stated and explained as follows:
In drawing up the oral tradition, the Synoptical writers contented themselves, as he did, with placing the last supper of Christ on the 14th of Nisan, the first day of unleavened bread, without expressly distinguishing between the first and the second evening of that day. Now, as Jesus had given to this last supper, celebrated on the evening of the 13th-14th, the forms of the Paschal supper, which took place on the evening of the 14th-15th, in order to substitute the Holy Supper for the Paschal feast for the future, a misunderstanding might easily arise; it might be imagined that this supper was itself the Paschal feast of the 14th, which necessarily had the effect of carrying over the day of the death of Jesus to the 15th. John (as he had done so many times in his work) desired to dissipate the sort of obscurity which prevailed in the Synoptics, and to rectify the misunderstanding to which their narrative might easily lead. He therefore intentionally and clearly re- established the real course of things to which, moreover, the Synoptic narrative bore testimony at all points.