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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

John 18

Verses 1-99

The Arrest of Jesus in the Garden (18:1-11)

18:1. ταῦτα εἰπών. As soon as the Prayer of Consecration was ended (see Introd., p. xx), Jesus and His disciples left the upper room, and went out, ἐξῆλθεν perhaps implying (as was in fact the case) that they went outside the city.

σὺν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, sc. with the faithful Eleven (see on 2:2). This is one of the very rare occurrences of σύν in Jn. (see on 12:2), and it is exchanged for μετά within a couple of lines, μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ (v. 2).

πέραν τοῦ χειμάρρου τοῦ Κέδρων. The Kedron gorge between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives rarely has any water in it. It is called χείμαρρος by Josephus as well as in the LXX (Nehemiah 2:15, Nehemiah 2:1 Macc. 12:37), but it is nearly always dry, except after very heavy Rev_1 The modern name is Wādy Sitti Maryam.

The majority of texts (א*BCLNΘ) give τῶν κέδρων; א*DW have τοῦ κέδρου; and AΔ c e f g q vg. give τοῦ κέδρων This last, despite the weakness of the MS. support, we take to be the true reading (as the Syriac vss. suggest), and that from which both the others have originated, owing to misunderstanding on the part of scribes. For κέδρων is the transliteration of the Hebrew קִדְרוֹן, dark, the name as applied to a torrent being perhaps equivalent to our Blackwater. Josephus treats it as a declinable noun in the nom. case. Twice in the LXX (2 Samuel 15:23, 1 Kings 15:13) we find τῶν κέδρων after χείμαρρος, the word being taken as a gen. pl., and the rendering of the phrase being “the ravine (or torrent) of the cedar trees.” It is said that at the time cedars grew on the Mount of Olives, and some may have been as low as the wādy at its base. But it is not likely that the ravine was called Kidron on that account. A Greek scribe, finding τοῦ κέδρων in his exemplar, would naturally take κέδρων as the gen. pl. of κέδρος, and would correct it either to τοῦ κέδρου or to τῶν κέδρων.2


The reading has been much discussed, because assuming τῶν κέδρων to have been the original reading, it has been argued that the evangelist was but ill acquainted with Hebrew names, if he supposed that Kidron meant “of the cedars.” But, as the LXX shows in the passages cited above, χείμαρρος τῶν κέδρων was treated as a correct rendering of נחל קדרון, and it might have been adopted by Jn. as the title familiar to Greek ears. We hold, however, that it is not the original reading in this verse, so that the argument based on it is worthless.

ὅπου ἦν κῆπος. Jn. does not give the name Gethsemane,3 nor does Lk.; Mark 14:32, Matthew 26:36 have χωρίον (i.e. a farm or small property) οὗ τὸ ὄνομα Γεθσημανεί. Jn. alone speaks of it as κῆπος, i.e. it was one of the private gardens in the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem (cf. 19:41 for the garden of Joseph). The word κῆπος is common in the LXX, but in the N.T. is found only here, at v. 26, 19:41 (cf. 20:15), and Luke 13:19. For ἦν, see on 11:18.


εἰς ὃν εἰσῆλθεν, the verb showing that it was an enclosed place. The site that is now shown was recognised as the Garden of the Agony in the fourth century at any rate, and it is quite possible that tradition accurately preserved its position from the beginning.

Jn. does not insert at this point any account of the Agony in Gethsemane, as the Synoptists do (Mark 14:32f., Matthew 26:36f., Luke 22:39f.); but the allusion to “the cup which the Father gave” (v. 11, where see note) indicates that the omission was not due to ignorance. We have seen (on 12:27) that the prayer there recorded is virtually the prayer of anguish at Gethsemane.

It has been suggested, indeed, that the Prayer of the Agony, if it followed here, would be inconsistent with the Prayer of Consecration and Farewell that Jn. has just placed on record; so different are the sublime calm and dignity of c. 17 from the sadness and shrinking of “remove this cup from me—yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt” (Mark 14:36). But such a criticism would be at variance with the facts of human experience, in which the moments of greatest spiritual depression and trial often follow close on moods of the highest spiritual exaltation. And it may have been so with the Son of Man Himself.


2. ᾔδει δὲ καὶ Ἰούδας. The garden was a favourite resort of Jesus and His disciples (πολλάκις συνήχθη), and probably belonged to a friend. It is specially mentioned by Jn. that Judas knew the place. Jesus was not now trying to escape arrest (cf. 10:40), for Jn. is anxious to indicate that His surrender to His captors was voluntary. Jesus had told Judas to delay no longer the execution of his purpose (13:27), and He proceeded the same night to a place where Judas knew that He was accustomed to resort.

ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτόν, the pres. tense indicating that Judas was then engaged in the business of the betrayal. Cf. 13:11.

τὸν τόπον. Cf. Luke 22:40.

πολλάκις, only here in Jn. Jesus went to the garden, as His custom was (κατὰ τὸ ἔθος, Luke 22:39), and probably not only on this last visit to Jerusalem. συνήχθη tells only that this was a place of habitual resort of Jesus and His disciples, but possibly they may have slept there occasionally. (Cf. Luke 21:37, τὰς δὲ νύκτας ἐξερχόμενος ηὐλίζετο εἰς τὸ ὄρος τὸ καλούμενον Ἐλαιῶν.) If this be so, the sleep of the apostles in the garden during the hour preceding the arrest was natural indeed, although they had been bidden to keep awake.

3. The Synoptists say nothing about soldiers taking part in the arrest of Jesus, and mention only the emissaries of the Sanhedrim (Mark 14:43, Luke 22:52 stating that members of the Sanhedrim were themselves in the crowd). Jn. mentions these latter (ἐκ τῶν�

Troops were always quartered in Fort Antonia, at festival seasons when the city was crowded, to be ready in case of a riot; and a representation from the Sanhedrim to the military authorities that soldiers might be needed to help the Temple guard (ὑπηρέτας: cf. 7:32) would naturally have been acted on. Pilate, the procurator, seems to have known that something important was taking place that night, for he was ready at an early hour in the morning to hear the case (v. 28; cf. Matthew 27:19, for the dream of Pilate’s wife). There is nothing improbable in Jn.’s statement that soldiers were present at the arrest.

The term σπεῖρα (if the soldiers were legionaries) was generally equivalent to the Latin cohors, which numbered 600 men. Polybius, indeed, uses it (xi. 23. 1) for manipulus, which is only one-third of a cohort. But here (if, as is probable, they were auxiliaries) and in the N.T. elsewhere (see esp. Acts 21:31) it numbered 1000 men (240 horse and 760 foot), commanded by a chiliarch (cf. v. 12 below), a tribunus militum. It is not, however, to be supposed that Jn. means that the whole strength of the regiment (cf. Mark 15:16) was turned out to aid in the arrest of Jesus; the words λαβὼν τὴν σπεῖραν indicate no more than that Judas had got the help of “the cohort,” i.e. a detachment, with whom the commanding officer of the garrison came (v. 12), in view of possible developments.

Fam. 13 insert ὅλην before τὴν σπεῖραν (probably from Mark 15:16), which shows that the scribe of the common exemplar thought that τὴν σπεῖραν was not sufficiently definite.

καὶ ἐκ τῶν�Matthew 26:58; they were the Temple police, under the control of the Sanhedrim.


μετὰ φανῶν καὶ λαμπάδων. It was the time of the Paschal full moon, but lights were brought, nevertheless, to search out the dark recesses of the garden, in case Jesus should attempt to hide Himself.

φανός (ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T.) is a “link” or “torch,” made of strips of wood fastened together, and λαμπάς is an ordinary torch-light, the word being used in later Greek for a lantern. Both were carried by Roman soldiers on duty; cf. Dion. Hal. xi. 5, ἐξέτρεχον ἅπαντες ἐκ τῶν σκηνῶν�Luke 22:4) quotes: “The ruler of the mountain of the Temple takes his walks through every watch with torches lighted before him” (Middoth i. 2).

καὶ ὅπλων. The Temple guard was not always armed (Joseph. B.J., iv. 4. 6), but on this occasion they probably carried weapons as well as the soldiers. Mark 14:43 speaks of a crowd with swords and staves (ὄχλος μετὰ μαχαιρῶν καὶ ξύλων) who had been sent by the Sanhedrim.


4. Ἰησοῦς οὖν. אDLW have δέ for οὖν.

εἰδώς. Cf. 13:1. Jn. is at every point careful to insist that Jesus foreknew the issues of His ministry, πάντα τὰ ἐρχόμενα ἐπʼ αὐτόν, “everything that was coming upon Him.”

ἐξῆλθεν, “went out,” sc. of the garden into which He had entered, εἰσῆλθεν (v. 1). The rec. text with אAC3LNΘ has ἐξελθὼν εἶπεν, but ἐξῆλθεν καὶ λέγει (BC*D) is more in the style of Jn. (see on 1:50).

καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς. He does not address Himself directly to Judas, but to those who had come, armed, to arrest Him, and He asks Τίνα ζητεῖτε; Cf. 1:38, 20:15.

In the Synoptic narratives (Mark 14:45, Matthew 26:49, Luke 22:47) Judas comes forward and identifies Jesus by a kiss, that is, by kissing His hand, the recognised salutation from a disciple to His Master (not by kissing His cheek, as Western painters have been accustomed to depict the act). Jn. does not mention this treacherous sign, and his omission to do so is a difficulty in the way of critics who think that Jn. displays special animus against Judas (see on 12:6). His reason for the omission is probably that he is laying stress throughout on the voluntariness of Jesus’ acceptance of arrest. Jesus does not wait to be identified by any one, for He at once announces who He is. Jn.’s narrative seems to suggest that He had not been recognised in the uncertain light, even after He came out of the garden and asked, “Whom seek ye?” Tatian places the kiss of Judas immediately before v. 4, i.e. before Jesus came out of the garden; and if it is sought to bring the evangelical narratives into exact correspondence, Tatian’s solution may be the right one.1


Jn. says (v. 5) that “Judas, who was in the act of delivering Him up” (ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτόν, cf. 13:2), was standing (εἱστήκει) with those who were making the arrest. Judas had done his part when he had guided the emissaries of the Sanhedrim to the place where Jesus was. The scene is described very vividly.

5.�Mark 10:47, Luke 18:37). The man with the unclean devil addressed Him as “Thou Jesus of Nazareth” (Luke 4:34). The two disciples on the way to Emmaus spoke of Him thus (Luke 24:19). So did Peter in his sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:22). In Mk.’s account of the Resurrection, the young man at the sepulchre says to the women, “Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth” (Mark 16:6). After His arrest, He was familiarly described in this way by the maid in the court of the high priest (Mark 14:67, Matthew 26:71). It is clear that the instructions given to those sent to apprehend Him were that they should take “Jesus of Nazareth.” They inquired for Him by the designation by which He was best known. See 19:19.


Jn.’s narrative indicates, as has been said above, that Jesus identified Himself voluntarily, by saying, “I am He,” in answer to the request for “Jesus of Nazareth.” And ἐγώ εἰμι in v. 5 may mean simply, “I am He of whom you are in search” (cf. 4:26, 9:9). The reading of B ἐγώ εἰμι Ἰησοῦς must carry this meaning.

6. The words which follow, “they retired and fell to the ground,” then, imply no more than that the men who came to make the arrest (some of whom at least did not previously know Jesus even by sight) were so overcome by His moral ascendancy that they recoiled in fear. (For the Johannine ὡς οὖν, see on 4:40.) On a previous occasion (7:44), when some wished to arrest Him, they had faltered and failed to do so. It may have been a similar shrinking which caused some now to recoil from their distasteful task, and in the confusion they, or some of the crowd, stumbled and fell. Indeed, ἔπεσαν χαμαί might be taken figuratively, as expressing discomfiture only. Thus in Psalms 27:2, Isaiah 8:15, Jeremiah 46:6, “stumbled and fell” means no more than that enemies were “overthrown”; and ἔπεσαν χαμαί might be rendered in colloquial English “were floored.”

There is no hint in the Synoptists of any hesitancy on the part of those sent to make the arrest. The phrases�Daniel 10:9, Revelation 1:17). But this is too subtle a rendering of the Johannine narrative of the arrest. Cf. Revelation 1:17.

In the Gospel of Peter, § 5, where the darkness at the Crucifixion is described, we have περιήρχοντο δὲ πολλοὶ μετὰ λύχνων, νομίζοντες ὅτι νῦξ ἐστιν. [τινὲς δὲ] ἐπέσαντο. This seems to be a reminiscence of John 18:3, John 18:6; cf. also Acta Thomœ, § 157.


7. The question and answer are repeated: “Whom seek ye? … Jesus the Nazarene.” This time, those who had come to arrest Him knew to whom they were speaking, but they were so much overawed that they could only repeat what they had said before.

The rec. has αὐτοὺς ἐπηρώτησεν, with אDNΘ; but AB2;CL give the more usual order ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτούς.

8. The reply is stern and authoritative. He repeats ἐγώ εἰμι (see on v. 5).

εἰ οὖν ἐμὲ ζητ. κτλ. “If, then, it is I (emphatic) whom you seek, let these (sc. the Eleven) go their way,” or “go home,” for ὑπάγειν has a suggestion of this meaning (see on 7:33). His solicitude for His faithful disciples is characteristic of the Good Shepherd (cf. 10:12, and see on v. 19).

9. ἵνα πληρωθῇ ὁ λόγος κτλ. For the phrase ἵνα πληρ., introducing a saying of Jesus, see Introd., p. cxliii f. Another example is in v. 32. For Jn., the words of Jesus were possessed of authority, and inspired, like the language of the O.T., by foreknowledge of future events. The λόγος, or “saying” (see on 2:22), to which reference is here made is that of 17:12 loosely quoted. ὅτι is recitantis, but it does not introduce the exact words previously ascribed to Jesus.

The comment of Jn. (ἵνα πλ. ὁ λόγος κτλ.) would seem to limit the application of “I lost none of those whom thou gavest me” to the fact that the disciples were let go free when Jesus was arrested. Some at least of Jn.’s explanations of the words of Jesus are of doubtful accuracy (see on 2:19, 21); but it is hard to believe that he could have missed here the larger and more spiritual meaning of 17:12, which is already indicated at 6:39, 10:28.

οὓς δέδωκάς μοι, οὐκ�Ezra 2:26 is interesting: “servos quos tibi dedi, nemo ex eis interiet, ego enim eos requiram de numero tuo,” words which are addressed by God to the personified nation. Chapters 1. and 2. of 2 Esdras are Christian, and probably belong to the second century. The passage quoted above may be a reminiscence of John 18:3 or John 17:12 or John 6:37. See on 3:31 above for other parallels between 2 Esdras and Jn.

10. The incident of one of the Twelve attacking the high priest’s slave is in all the Gospels (Mark 14:47, Matthew 26:51, Luke 22:50), although the names, Peter and Malchus, are given by Jn. only.

It appears from Luke 22:38, that the apostles had two swords or knives in their possession; and Lk. also tells that, when they understood that the salutation of Judas was the signal for the arrest of Jesus, they exclaimed, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” It would seem that Peter, always hasty and impulsive, struck a blow without waiting for permission from Jesus. He had been forward in declaring that he would give his life for his Master, if there was need (13:37). He did not generally carry a sword; ἔχων μάχαιραν implies that he happened to have one with him at the time, presumably because he and others had learnt from what Jesus had said previously that their Master was in danger. It was unlawful to carry arms on a feast-day, and—although at such a crisis, an eager disciple like Peter would probably have had no scruple in breaking the law if the safety of his Master was at stake— the fact that two of the company had knives with them earlier in the evening tends to show that the Last Supper was not the Passover, and that the Johannine rather than the Synoptic tradition of the day of the Crucifixion is to be followed (see Introd., p. cvi f.).


Peter drew (see on 6:44 for ἑλκύειν) the sword, καὶ ἔπαισεν τὸν τοῦ�

καὶ�Matthew 26:51 and in Luke 22:51.

We have here, without doubt, a tradition of an historical incident. If it be asked why Peter was not immediately arrested by the Temple guard or the soldiers who were standing by, the answer may be that it was not observed in the scuffle who had dealt the blow. The earlier Gospels do not disclose Peter’s name, although by the time that Jn. wrote, there would be no risk in giving it. Again, an injury to a slave would not excite much interest; had Peter struck one of the officials, it would have been a different matter. Lk. tells, indeed, that Jesus healed the wound (Luke 22:51), apparently suggesting that the ear had not been wholly severed from the man’s head.

ἦν δὲ ὄνομα τῷ δούλῳ Μάλχος. Here, again, is a detail that comes from first-hand knowledge. No evangelist has it except Jn. The name Malchus is found five times in Josephus, and probably goes back to the root מלך or “king.” Cf. Nehemiah 10:4.

11. Jesus forbids the use of arms in resisting His arrest. The Synoptists represent Him as expostulating against it, and especially against the violent way in which it was effected (Mark 14:48, Matthew 26:55, Luke 22:52); but in Jn.’s narrative there is none of this. He moves voluntarily towards the predestined end.

Βάλε τὴν μάχαιραν εἰς τὴν θήκην, “put back the sword into the sheath.” Mt., alone of the Synoptists, tells of this saying, which he gives in a more diffuse form:�Matthew 26:52), the latter clause suggesting the hand of an editor. According to Jn., Jesus gave no reason for the quiet command, “Put up your sword.” See on v. 36 below.

After μάχαιραν the rec. adds σου (from Matthew 26:52), but om. אABCDLNWΘ.


θήκη does not occur again in the N.T.

τὸ ποτήριον ὃ δέδωκέν μοι ὁ πατήρ, οὐ μὴ πίω αὐτό; This recalls the prayer of Jesus at Gethsemane, as recorded by the Synoptists (Mark 14:36, Matthew 26:39, Luke 22:42). See on v. 1 above and on 12:27.

οὐ μὴ πίω αὐτό is probably to be taken as an interrogative. Abbott, however (Diat. 934 f, 2232), prefers to take it as an exclamation, “I am, of course, not to drink it!” [sc. according to your desire], comparing οὐ μὴ πίω of Mark 14:25, Matthew 26:29, Luke 22:18. See on 6:37.


Jesus is Bound and Brought to the House of Annas (vv. 12-14)

12. Jn. does not record explicitly that His disciples fled in fear after Jesus had been arrested (Mark 14:50, Matthew 26:56), although he has told that Jesus earlier in the night had predicted that they would abandon Him (16:32). Jn. implies, however (see on v. 15), that Jesus was abandoned at this point by His friends.

The arrest was effected by the Roman soldiers (see on v. 3 for σπεῖρα), with their commanding officer (cf. Acts 21:31 for χιλίαρχος), acting in co-operation with the Temple police (οἱ ὑπηρέται τῶν Ἰουδαίων). συνλαμβάνειν does not occur again in Jn., but it is the verb used by the Synoptists in this context.

καὶ ἔδησαν αὐτόν. That was a matter of course; probably His hands were fastened behind His back. The Synoptists do not mention this detail until a later point in the narrative (Mark 15:1, Matthew 27:1; cf. v. 24). It was a patristic fancy that the binding of Jesus was foreshadowed in the binding of Isaac at the altar (Genesis 22:9); see on 19:17 below.

13. ἤγαγον. So אBDW (and Luke 22:54); the rec. has�Mark 14:53, Matthew 26:57).

πρὸς Ἄνναν πρῶτον. Annas was not, at this time, the high priest, but he had held the office before and was a personage of such influence that he was often called “high priest” in a loose way (cf. Luke 3:2, Acts 4:6, and see on 7:32), although that great office was now held by his son-in-law Caiaphas (see on 11:49 above).1 It was to his house that Jesus was brought after His arrest, and there an informal and extra-judicial questioning of Him went on during the night hours (Mark 14:53f., Matthew 26:57). Mk. does not give any name: he only says, “they led Jesus away to the high priest”; but Mt. inserts the name Caiaphas at this point, in which he seems to have been mistaken. Caiaphas presided at the formal meeting of the Sanhedrim (Mark 15:1, Matthew 27:1, Luke 22:66, John 18:24), held the next morning as early as possible, when the sentence of death, already agreed on (Mark 14:64), was ratified, and submitted to Pilate, who alone had authority to order it to be carried out.

It was during the night, at the house of Annas (not the house of Caiaphas, or the formal place of meeting for the Sanhedrim, which could legally meet only by day), that the evidence, such as it was, was prepared, and that the Prisoner was treated with insult and contumely. Such irregular proceedings would not have been countenanced at a formal meeting of the Sanhedrim, but they were winked at in the courtyard of Annas’ private house, which was the scene of Peter’s denial and the reproachful look which Jesus bestowed on him (Luke 22:61). Probably some of the evidence as to blasphemy was repeated in due form at the official sitting of the Sanhedrim, at which Luke (who says nothing of the preliminary hearing before Annas) states that Jesus admitted His claim to be Messiah (Luke 22:70), in similar words to those which Mark 14:62, Matthew 26:64 ascribe to Him at the earlier cross-examination.


Such seems to have been the course of events on the night of the arrest and the next morning; but it is not possible to reconcile precisely all the evangelical accounts.1 The narrative of Jn. seems at certain points (vv. 13, 19-23, 26) to be based on first-hand knowledge, to which the other evangelists had not access.

ἦν γὰρ πενθερὸς τοῦ Καϊάφα. This piece of information is not given in the other Gospels, nor does the word πενθερός occur again in the N.T.

ὃς ἦν�

15. ἠκολούθει, a descriptive impf. The Synoptists say that Peter was following �Mark 14:54, Matthew 26:58, Luke 22:54), but they do not mention a companion.


Σίμων Πέτρος. Jn. likes to use the double name (see on 1:42) when Peter has been absent from the picture for some little time, but he generally relapses into the simple “Peter” as the story proceeds; see, e.g., 13:24, 36, 18:10, 11, 20:2, 3, 4 21:3, 7, 15, 17, 20, 21. Jn. never gives the short title “Peter” to this apostle at the beginning of an incident in which he is concerned. In the present passage we have Simon Peter (v. 15), followed by Peter (vv. 16, 17, 18); then there is an interval, and so when the courtyard scene is resumed, we have Simon Peter again (v. 25), followed by Peter (vv. 26, 27).

καὶ ἄλλος μαθητής. So א*ABDsuppW. The rec. has ὁ ἄλλος (from v. 16) with אcbCLNOΓΔΘ, thus identifying Peter’s companion here with “the Beloved Disciple.”

This “other disciple” was “known to the high priest,” and so was admitted into the courtyard or αὐλή of the house where Jesus had been brought. He was sufficiently well known to the portress, at any rate, to persuade her to admit his companion. It does not follow that he was a personal friend of Annas or of Caiaphas, or of the same social class, although this is possible. As Sanday put it: “The account of what happened to Peter might well seem to be told from the point of view of the servants’ hall.”1 The word γνωστός as applied to persons is uncommon, as Abbott points out (Diat. x. ii. p. 351 f.), but it is to press it too far to interpret it here as meaning “a familiar friend,” with an allusion to Psalms 55:13. Abbott adopts the curious view that the “other disciple” was Judas Iscariot, whose face would have been familiar to the portress, because of his previous visit or visits to the high priest in pursuance of his scheme of betrayal. But that Judas should wish to introduce Peter, or that Peter would have tolerated any advances from him or accepted his good offices, is difficult to believe.

The view most generally taken2 as to the personality of this ἄλλος μαθητής is that he was John the Beloved Disciple, whose reminiscences are behind the Gospel, and whose identity is veiled in some degree (see on 13:23; and cf. 1:27, 21:24). This agrees with the close association elsewhere of Peter and John (see Introd., p. xxxvi). Indeed, John the son of Zebedee had priestly connexions. His mother was Salome, the sister of the Virgin Mary (see pp. 73, 84 f., and note on 19:35); and Mary was a kinswoman (συγγενίς, Luke 1:36) of Elisabeth, who was “of the daughters of Aaron” (Luke 1:5). Hence John was connected with a priestly family on his mother’s side, and there is no improbability in his being “known to the high priest.”3


But the available evidence does not permit us securely to identify the ἄλλος μαθητής, as Augustine saw (Tract. cxiii. 2), saying that it is not plain who he was. This unnamed disciple was probably some one of influence and social importance; if we were to guess, the names of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathæa suggest themselves at once. There were disciples outside the circle of the Twelve, some of them men of rank, members of the Sanhedrim itself (see 12:42); and it is quite likely that Peter was known, by sight at least, to one of these who had attended at the house of Annas.1 It is probable that it is to this unnamed disciple (whether John or another) that the details given in vv. 19-23 about the private examination of Jesus at night by the high priest, and also perhaps about the private examination before Pilate (vv. 33 f.), are ultimately due. There are also traces of first-hand information in the statements that “it was cold” (v. 18), and that a kinsman of the slave Malchus identified Peter (v. 26).

εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν κτλ., “into the courtyard.” All the evangelists represent this courtyard as the scene of Peter’s denial. He was not admitted even so far, until his unnamed friend intervened, but was standing outside at the door. See on 10:1 for αὐλή and θύρα. The examination of Jesus was not conducted in the outer court where all the servants were, but in a chamber of the house of Annas. Mk. implies that this chamber was not on the ground floor, as he says that Peter was κάτω ἐν τῇ αὐλῇ, “below, in the court” (Mark 14:66).


Additional Note on 18:15

Delff identified the ἄλλος μαθητής of v. 15 with the Beloved Disciple, whom he distinguished from John the son of Zebedee. In connexion with the remark that he was “known to the high priest,” Delff cited the statement of Polycrates (see Introd., p. l) that the Beloved Disciple wore the priestly frontlet; and inferred that he belonged to an aristocratic priestly family in Jerusalem, it being thus easy for him to obtain access to the high priest’s house.2 We have already treated the problem of the ἄλλος μαθητής.

But a larger question is raised by the words of Polycrates, to which some reference may be made at this point. Polycrates says of the Beloved Disciple ἐγενήθη ἱερεὺς τὸ πέταλον πεφορεκώς, an observation difficult to explain. This πέταλον was a golden plate attached in front to the turban or mitre of Aaron (Exodus 28:36f., Exodus 29:6, Exodus 39:30f., Leviticus 8:9), and in later times was part of the official dress of the high priest (cf. Josephus, Antt. III. vii. 6).1


Similar statements are made about James the Just, and about Mar_2


Of James the Just, Epiphanius says: τὸ πέταλον ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς ἐξῆν αὐτῷ φορεῖν (Hær. xxix. 4). He adds that his authority was the ὑπομνηματισμοί of former writers of repute; and Lawlor3 has shown that he is alluding to the ὑπομνήματα of Hegesippus. Hegesippus, as quoted by Eusebius (H.E. ii. 23), said that to James alone was it allowed to enter εἰς τὰ ἅγια of the Temple, which he used to frequent in prayer for the people, and that his custom was to wear not woollen but linen garments.4 Epiphanius may be reproducing other words of Hegesippus when he tells (Hær. xxix. 4) that James exercised the priestly office according to the old priesthood (ἱερατεύσαντα κατὰ τὴν παλαίαν ἱερωσύνην); but he is probably in error when he says that James alone was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies once a year, as the high priest did, διὰ τὸ Ναζωραῖον αὐτὸν εἶναι καὶ μεμίχθαι τῇ ἱερωσύνῃ (Hær. lxxviii. 13). He adds explicitly, ὁ Ἰάκωβος διέφερε τῇ ἱερωσύνῃ, and πέταλον ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς ἐφόρεσε.

Of Mark, Valois quoted a legend as a note on Eus. H.E. v. 24, as follows: “beatum Marcum iuxta ritum carnalis sacrificii pontificalis apicis petalum in populo gestasse Iudaeorum … ex quo manifeste datur intelligi de stirpe eum Leuitica, imo pontificis Aaron sacrae successionis originem habuisse.”5 Mark was probably of Levite race (compare Acts 4:36 with Colossians 4:10), and the Vulgate Preface to his Gospel speaks of him as “sacerdotium in Israhel agens,”6 so that it is quite possible that he was one of the Jewish priests who accepted Christ (Acts 6:7; cf. Acts 21:20).


The language of Polycrates, then, about John ἐγενήθη ἱερεὺς τὸ πέταλον πεφορεκώς is almost identical with what is told about James and Mark. If the πέταλον were worn by the high priest only on great occasions, it is impossible to suppose that John, James, or Mark ever wore it. But if it was (even occasionally) worn by the ordinary Jewish priest in N.T. times, Mark may have worn it. And if John and James were eligible for the priesthood, they too might have had the privilege. But while James and John were certainly akin to the priestly race on their mother’s side, the argument of Epiphanius to prove that James also was “mingled with the priesthood” by blood is not convincing. Yet we know so little of the insistence upon hereditary qualifications for the Jewish priesthood in the first century, that it is not easy to reject the explicit statements made about John and James as well as about Mar_1


Jerome, when discussing the statement of Polycrates about John, understands ἱερεύς to mean a Christian priest, and translates: “qui supra pectus domini recubuit, et pontifex eius fuit, auream laminam in fronte portans” (de script. eccl. 45). This explanation will not apply to the parallel traditions about James and Mark, upon the Jewish character of whose priesthood stress is laid. It is conceivable (although improbable) that the Beloved Disciple might have been allowed by his Christian brethren to wear the insignia of a Jewish priest at Ephesus, where he was so greatly venerated. But neither James nor Mark would ever have been allowed such a distinction as Christian priests at Jerusalem while the Temple was yet standing. Further, it would be strange that Polycrates should call John a Christian ἱερεύς, while studiously avoiding in his case the title ἐπίσκοπος, which he gives to others of repute.2 And, finally, that the mitre or πέταλον should have been used as an ornament of Christian bishops in the first century, but never heard of again until three centuries later at least, is highly improbable.

Others interpret the wearing of the πέταλον by John and the others as metaphorical only.3 The dress of the high priest is used in Revelation 2:17 as the symbol of the investment of the true Christian with the sacerdotal character; cf. Exodus 28:31, Exodus 28:36 with the “white stone” and the “new name” of Revelation 2:17. This idea is worked out in detail by Origen (in Lev. Hom. vi.), who treats the πέταλον as symbolic of the knowledge of divine things by all baptized persons; cf. Clem. Alex. Strom. v. 6. If we pursue this line of thought, we recall that engraved on the πέταλον were the words “Holy to Yahweh,” ἁγίασμα κυρίου (Exodus 28:36), and the command to Moses was ἁγιάσεις αὐτούς, ἵνα ἱερατεύωσίν μοι (Exodus 28:41). The πέταλον, in short, was the symbol of consecration, which was the topic of Christ’s intercession for His apostles (John 17:2). John, James,1 and Mark were all ἡγιασμένοι (John 17:19); and the tradition of wearing the πέταλον in their case might have grown out of a metaphorical statement as to their personal holiness. But this view does not explain why the πέταλον symbol should have been used only of John, James, and Mark among the saints of the apostolic age.

We are inclined to accept the tradition that James, John, and Mark literally wore the πέταλον, at least occasionally, in virtue of their service as Jewish priests. It is to be remembered that James, John, and Peter were the “pillars” of the Jerusalem Church (Galatians 2:9); they were the heads of the conservative or Judaising party as contrasted with Paul. Of these, Peter was suspect by the more rigid Jews (Acts 11:3). But his disciple Mark was under no such suspicion, for he had actually separated himself from Paul because of the latter’s liberal policy (Acts 13:13, Acts 15:37). John had, indeed, incurred the hostility of the Temple authorities in early days (Acts 4:3, Acts 4:13); but there is no later indication of opposition to him by them, or any trace of distrust of him by his fellow-disciples. James was thoroughly respected by all. James, John, and Mark were, then, the three Christian leaders who were most fully trusted by the conservatives at Jerusalem.2 While whole-hearted disciples of Jesus, they were Jews who were understood to have pride in their Jewish heritage. Provided that they were qualified for the priesthood, there would be nothing surprising in their occasional discharge of priestly offices; for by the first disciples the Christian faith was not regarded as inconsistent with Judaism. Thus the tradition that they had been privileged to wear the priestly πέταλον is less improbable in their case than it would be in that of any other early leader of the Church of whom we have information.


16. For ἄλλος, fam. 13 have ἐκεῖνος, ille occurs in some O.L. codices.

καὶ εἶπεν τῇ θυρωρῷ, καὶ εἰσήγαγεν τὸν Πέτρον, i.e., apparently, the friend spoke to the portress and brought Peter in; but the rendering “and she brought Peter in” is defensible.

The θυρωρός was a maid-servant (παιδίσκη), as at Acts 12:13 and 2 Samuel 4:6 (LXX), a custom which Moulton-Milligan illustrate from papyri.


17. μὴ καὶ σὺ ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν κτλ. The form of the question μὴ καὶ … shows that the portress expected a negative answer: “You are not another of His disciples, are you?” See on 6:67; and cf. v. 25. That is, she knew that the person who had already been admitted as γνωστὸς τῷ�

According to the Johannine account, the first challenge to Peter and his first denial of his Master occurred as he was being admitted to the courtyard. The Synoptists put it later, after he had been admitted and was warming himself at the fire, when he was recognised by a slave girl who saw his face lit up by the flames (Luke 22:56). Mk. says that after Peter repudiated any knowledge of Jesus he went outside into the vestibule or porch (προαύλιον, Mark 14:68; cf. εἰς τὸν πυλῶνα, Matthew 26:71), and that the second interrogation of him (this time apparently by the maid who was portress) took place there.


18. The soldiers had now gone back to barracks, the Temple police (ὑπηρέται) being sufficient guard. The policemen and the slaves lit a fire in the courtyard, as it was a cold night. ὅτι ψῦχος ἦν is a touch peculiar to Jn., and suggests that the story has come from one who was present, and who shivers as he recalls how cold it was in the open court. Jerusalem is 2400 feet above sea-level, and it is chilly at midnight in spring-time.1

ἀνθρακιά occurs again in the N.T. only at 21:9 (cf. Ecclus. 11:32, 4 Macc. 9:20): it means “a heap of charcoal,” probably burnt in a brazier. True coal was not known in Palestine until the nineteenth century. Lk. mentions the lighting of a fire, using the words ἁψάντων πῦρ ἐν μέσῳ τῆς αὐλῆς, and says that they were all sitting round it. Mk. says that Peter was warming himself in the light (θερμαινόμενος πρὸς τὸ φῶς, Mark 14:54), i.e. leaning towards the dim flame of the fire. Mt. does not say anything about a fire in the courtyard.


For�

19. ὁ …�Mark 14:55f., Matthew 26:59f.). The episode of the Cleansing of the Temple, and the words “Destroy this Temple and I will raise it up in three days,” have been given by Jn. in another context (2:13-19, where see note). Jn. merely says here that the high priest questioned Jesus about His disciples, probably as to who they were and as to their reasons for attaching themselves to Him, and about His doctrine (διδαχή, cf. 7:16). This latter inquiry would cover everything. But the details given here of the reply of Jesus to the high priest are found only in Jn. (See also on v. 32.)


20.�

ἐγὼ πάντοτε ἐδίδαξα ἐν συναγωγῇ (the true text has no article before συναγωγῇ) καὶ ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, “I always taught in synagogue and in the temple”; i.e. it was His custom to teach in these public places, not that He never gave any private teaching to an inquirer like Nicodemus (3:2). The discourse about the Bread of Life was given in the synagogue at Capernaum, according to the Johannine narrative (6:59), and the Synoptists frequently speak of His practice of teaching in the synagogues of Galilee. Jn. tells of His teaching in the Temple several times (2:19, 7:14, 28, 8:20, 10:23). Cf. Mark 14:49, καθʼ ἡμέραν ἤμην πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ διδάσκων. The fact of His public teaching was notorious. It had been given ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, ὅπου πάντες (not πάντοτε with the rec. text) οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι συνέρχονται, “where all the Jews come together.”

καὶ ἐν κρυπτῷ ἐλάλησα οὐδέν. This is like the utterance of Messiah at Isaiah 48:16, οὐκ�Isaiah 45:19). But we have had the contrast between ἐν κρυπτῷ and ἐν παρρησίᾳ before (see 7:4); and it is not necessary to suppose that there is here a veiled allusion to the Isaiah passage, although it is possible.


See on 3:11 for Jn.’s use of λαλεῖν as signifying frank and unreserved speech. It is noteworthy that the strongest repudiation in the Gospels of cryptic or esoteric teaching in the words of Jesus is found in Jn.

21. For ἐρωτᾷς, ἐρώτησον, the rec., with some lesser uncials, has the stronger ἐπερωτᾷς, ἐπερώτησον (cf. v. 7).

τί με ἐρωτᾷς; It was a recognised principle of law that a man’s evidence about himself was suspect. See on 5:31.

τί ἐλάλησα αὐτοῖς … ἃ εἶπον ἐγώ. The two verbs have the same meaning (see on 3:11).

22. εἷς παρεστηκὼς τῶν ὑπηρετῶν. So א*BW a ff, but AC2DsuppNΓΔΘ syrr. have the order εἷς τῶν ὑπηρ. παρεστ. For the constr. εἷς τῶν … cf. 12:4, 19:34.

This ὑπηρέτης was one of the Temple policemen, who have been mentioned vv. 3, 12 as having taken part in the arrest of Jesus; he was standing by to guard the prisoner.

ῥάπισμα is also used by Mk. (14:65) in the same context, and is applied again, 19:3, to the insults offered to Jesus by the Roman soldiers. As Field has shown (in loc.), it means a slap on the cheek, given with the open hand by way of insulting rebuke rather than with the intention of inflicting bodily injury. Cf. Isaiah 50:6, τὸν νῶτόν μου ἔδωκα εἰς μάστιγας, τὰς δὲ σιαγόνας μου εἰς ῥαπίσματα. ῥαπίζειν was used by the older Greek writers for ῥαβδίζειν, “to strike with a stick,” but it came to be reserved for “to slap.” Cf. Hosea 11:4, Matthew 5:39, Matthew 26:67. Abbott (Diat. 493) cites 1 Esd. 4:30, where one of the king’s favourite women slaps him playfully.


Οὕτως�

εἰ δὲ καλῶς, τί με δέρεις; δέρειν, “to beat,” is the word used in the same context at Luke 22:63. It is used of an insulting blow in the face, as here, at 2 Corinthians 11:20.

This dignified reply shows that the precept of Matthew 5:39 is not always to be obeyed in the letter.


24.�

That there was some interval between the first denial of Peter and the third is apparent from the Synoptists, although they do not agree in small details. Mk. and Mt. suggest that the second interrogation of Peter followed hard upon the first, but this is told explicitly only by Lk. (μετὰ βραχύ, Luke 22:58). Then Mark 14:70 and Matthew 26:73 say that the third interrogation was μετὰ μικρόν after the second, but Lk. allows an hour to elapse (διαστάσης ὡσεὶ ὥρας μιᾶς, Luke 22:59). Jn. brings the second denial nearer to the third than Lk. does; but that there was more than an hour’s interval between the first denial and the third, as Lk. records, is quite in agreement with the Johannine account.


εἶπον οὖν αὐτῷ. The speakers are not defined: on lui dit.

Μὴ καὶ σύ ἐκ τῶν μαθ. αὐτ. κτλ. The question and answer are almost the same as those of v. 17; and the question is again expressed as if a negative answer were expected (see on v. 17). This is a point peculiar to Jn.’s narrative; he describes the first two interrogatories as put in a form which almost suggested that Peter should say “No!” In this (see also on v. 27), Jn. gives a less severe account of Peter’s lapse from courage and faithfulness than the Synoptists do.

26. The slaves of the high priest have been mentioned as present in the courtyard (v 18). One of them is here described as a kinsman of Malchus (v. 10), a remark which has been thought to imply some acquaintance with the high priest’s household (see on v. 16). The reason for the slave’s insistent identification, viz. that he had seen Peter with Jesus at Gethsemane, is not found elsewhere; the Synoptists telling that Peter was suspected because of his Galilæan accent. “Did not I see thee in the garden with Him?” ἐγώ is emphatic, “I, with my own eyes.” But the slave apparently was not able to satisfy the bystanders that he was right, for Peter’s denial was accepted. The temptation to say “No” was even greater this time than before, for the mention of the blow struck at Malchus suggests that Malchus’ kinsman suspected Peter of having been the assailant. Had Peter been arrested on this count, he would have been dealt with very severely. To be a “disciple” of Jesus was not a legal offence, although the confession of it might lead to trouble; but to have drawn a weapon and assaulted one of the high priest’s household was another matter.

27. πάλιν οὖν ἠρνήσατο. No words are given; only the fact of the denial is recorded. This is in strong contrast to the denial with curses and oaths which is described by Mark 14:71 (followed by Matthew 26:74, but not by Lk.).

According to the Lucan narrative, at this point, “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter” (Luke 22:61). Accordingly, we must suppose Jesus to have come down from the chamber where He had been informally examined, and to have been passing through the courtyard on His way to Caiaphas for formal trial and sentence, when Peter again denied his discipleship, and was overheard by his Master. Jn. hurries over this scene of painful memories.

εὐθέως�Luke 22:60 has παραχρῆμα, but Matthew 26:74 has εὐθέως as here. In Jn. εὐθέως always connotes immediate consecutiveness (see on 5:9).

All the evangelists speak of the actual crowing of a cock (Mk. speaks of two crowings, 14:68, 72) within the precincts of the palace, and find in it the literal fulfilment of the prediction made by Jesus (13:38). Salmon1 held that this prediction “meant no more than that Peter should deny Him thrice before the hour of cockcrow, viz. that hour of early morning which was technically known as ἡ�Mark 13:35). C. H. Mayo made a further suggestion; viz. that the signal heard by Peter was “the gallicinium, the signal given on the buccina at the close of the third night watch, and the change of guard.”2 This is probably what happened. “Before a cock shall crow” (13:38) would be a vague note of time, for cocks are apt to crow at uncertain hours during the night. But “before the�


On this interpretation, the word πρωΐ in v. 28 is peculiarly appropriate, for, according to Roman reckoning, the four watches of the night were ὀψέ, μεσονύκτιον,�

28. ἄγουσιν οὖν τὸν Ἰησοῦν�Mark 15:1, Matthew 27:1), which were only formal, as the decision had been already reached at the irregular meeting in the house of Annas. But as the Sanhedrim could not execute the sentence of death (see v. 31) without the sanction of the Roman authorities, they had now to bring Jesus before Pilate, that he might give the necessary orders.

ἀπὸ τοῦ Καϊάφα need not mean “from the house of Caiaphas” (cf. Mark 5:35, Acts 16:40), but more naturally means “from Caiaphas,” i.e. from the ecclesiastical court over which he presided. Some O.L. codices, e.g. e ff2 g, etc., have ad Caiphan, a reading due to a misunderstanding of the sequence of events. See Introd., pp. xxvi-xxviii.

εἰς τὸ πραιτώριον. πραιτώριον signified a prætor’s or general’s quarters in a camp, and the word came to be used of the official residence of a governor (cf. τὸ πραιτώριον of Herod at Cæsarea, Acts 23:35). It is not certain where the prœtorium at Jerusalem, that is, Pilate’s house, was situated; but it is probably to be identified with Herod’s palace on the Hill of Zion in the western part of the upper city. Pilate was certainly lodged there on one occasion, for Philo (ad Caium, 38) reports that he hung up golden shields ἐν τοῖς κατὰ τὴν ἱερόπολιν Ἡρώδου βασιλείοις. Further, Gessius Florus, who was procurator of Judæa about thirty-five years after Pilate, had at one time Herod’s palace as a residence, for Josephus says so in a passage so illustrative of the Passion narratives that it must be quoted: Φλῶρος δὲ τότε μὲν ἐν τοῖς βασιλείοις αὐλίζεται, τῇ δʼ ὑστεραίᾳ βῆμα πρὸ αὐτῶν θέμενος καθέζεται, καὶ προσελθόντες οἵ τε�Mark 15:16, ἔσω τῆς αὐλῆς, ὅ ἐστι πραιτώριον. The mention of the βῆμα placed in full view of the high priests and the notables who came before Florus for judgment is noteworthy (cf. 19:13 below).


The other site suggested for the Prætorium is the Castle of Antonia, to the north of the Temple area, a fourth-century tradition placing Pilate’s house in this neighbourhood. That a large part of the garrison lived here is admitted, but that does not favour the idea that it was the Procurator’s residence. The course of the Via Dolorosa, as now shown, favours Antonia as the place of condemnation of Jesus; but there is no real authority behind this tradition.1

πρωΐ, i.e. early in the morning of Friday, 14 Nisan (see on v. 27). Pilate must have known already that Roman soldiers had been sent to arrest Jesus the night before (v. 3), and he may have been warned to be ready at an early hour. The Jewish ecclesiastics who accompanied Jesus to the Prætorium did not enter ἵνα μὴ μιανθῶσιν�Exodus 12:15), they would have been incapacitated from eating the Passover that evening. Ceremonial uncleanness in many cases lasted until sunset only (Leviticus 11:24, Leviticus 14:25, Numbers 19:7, Deuteronomy 23:11, etc.); but in the case of the Passover one who was unclean had to postpone its observance for a whole month (Numbers 9:6, Numbers 9:11; cf. 2 Chronicles 30:2, 2 Chronicles 30:3). This would have been inconvenient for the priests, and so they remained outside the house, Pilate having to come out to ask for the charge against Jesus, and to go back again into the Prætorium to question Him as to His defence.

For�Mark 14:12, Matthew 26:17.


The scruple of the priests about entering the Prætorium is recorded by Jn. only. It is an instance of his “irony” (see on 1:45) that he does not comment upon it. These men were about to pollute their souls by unscrupulous testimony which was to bring Jesus to a horrible death, yet were unwilling to incur technical or ceremonial uncleanness while giving that testimony. There is no perversion so sinister as that of the human conscience.

29. The narrative of Pilate’s action in regard to Jesus is told with more fulness in Jn. than in the Synoptists (cf. Mark 15:2f., Matthew 27:11f., Luke 23:2f.).


ἐξῆλθεν οὖν ὁ Πειλᾶτος ἔξω. As the Jews would not enter the Prætorium, Pilate came outside. This is the force of οὖν, “therefore” … The redundant ἐξῆλθεν … ἔξω is for the sake of explicitness “he came out, outside”; cf. 19:4, 5 and see on 4:30. The rec. text, with AC3Dsupp om. ἔξω, but ins. אBC*LNW.

Abbott points out (Diat. 1969) that Jn.’s habit is to introduce a personal name without the article; but here we have ὁ Πειλᾶτος, as at Luke 23:1.


For φησίν (אBC*L), the rec. has εἶπε.

Τίνα κατηγορίαν φέρετε κτλ. Pilate (see on v. 28) knew something of the case already; but it was necessary for him to be notified formally of the nature of the accusation brought against the prisoner.

The rec. has κατὰ τοῦ�Luke 6:7, ἵνα εὕρωσιν κατηγορίαν αὐτοῦ.


30. The Jews are not sure of their case, and so they hesitate to specify the charge in explicit terms. They say, in effect, “That is our business; we would not have brought the prisoner for sentence, if we were not satisfied with His guilt.”

Εἰ μὴ ἦν οὗτος κακὸν ποιῶν κτλ. “If this person were not doing wrong, we should not have delivered Him up to thee.” For κακὸν ποιῶν (אcBLW e), the rec., with AC3DsuppNΓΔΘ, has κακοποιός, a word found in N.T. only in 1 Peter 2:12, 1 Peter 2:14, 1 Peter 2:3:16, 1 Peter 2:4:15. Perhaps ἦν followed by the pres. part. suggests a habitual evil-doer (cf. Abbott, Diat. 2277).


οὐκ ἄν σοι παρεδώκαμεν αὐτόν. σοι may be emphatic, “we should not have delivered Him up to thee” (cf. Abbott, Diat. 2566b). In any case, the reply of the Jews is an insolent one.

31. Pilate, however, knew how to deal with insolence of this kind: “Very well; take Him yourselves (ὑμεῖς being emphatic) and judge Him according to your own law, ” an answer not unlike that of Gallio in Acts 18:14. Pilate repeats this Λάβετε αὐτὸν ὑμεῖς at 19:6; throughout he is unwilling to take any responsibility, and he knows that if the Jews take over the case for final settlement, they cannot inflict the death penalty. On the other hand, if they wish him to send Jesus to death, they must satisfy him that their sentence was a just one.


This rejoinder disconcerts the Jewish accusers of Jesus, who are bent upon His death, although they are not sure of their legal position as regards evidence; so they can only say, “It is not lawful for us to put any one to death.”

This was, in fact, the law from the time that Judæa became a Roman province. The jus gladii was reserved to the procurator (Josephus, B.J. II. viii. I). Josephus tells of a case in which the high priest had sentenced some persons to death by stoning, a sentence against which some citizens successfully protested as ultra vires, the high priest being deposed for his presumption (Antt. XX. 9. I). No doubt, violent and highhanded action on the part of the Sanhedrim may have been occasionally winked at by the Roman authorities, for political reasons. If Jesus had been killed by the agents of the Sannedrim before He had gained the ear of the Jerusalem populace (cf., e.g., 7:1, 25), it might have been overlooked by the procurator; but the chief priests were not sure now that they had the people with them, and their only safe course was, having examined Jesus themselves, to bring Him to Pilate for sentence.

32. In this, the evangelist, as is his wont, sees the fulfilment of a saying of Jesus. If the Jews had put Jesus to death by stoning, His death by crucifixion, of which He had already spoken (12:33), would not have taken place; and stoning was the Jewish penalty for blasphemy, of which the Sanhedrim had found Him guilty. Jn. has told nothing as yet of the charge of blasphemy, and he gives no particulars of it, merely indicating at a later point in the narrative (19:7) that it was reported to Pilate (see on v. 19 above).

ἵνα ὁ λόγος τοῦ Ἰησοῦ πληρωθῇ. Cf. v. 9 for the phrase ἵνα πληρωθῇ, introducing another saying of Jesus, and see Introd., p. clv, for Jn.`s doctrine that the words of Jesus were predestined to fulfilment, even as the words of the O.T. Scriptures. The saying to which allusion is made here is, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, etc.” (12:32, where see note). There, as here, Jn. adds the comment σημαίνων ποίῳ θανάτῳ ἤμελλεμν (see on 6:71 for this verb)�

Σὺ εἶ ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων; This question was immediately put to Jesus by Pilate,1 as all the evangelists tell (Mark 15:2, Matthew 27:1, Luke 23:3); but it is only Lk. who explains that Jesus had first been accused to Pilate of claiming to be a King (Luke 23:2). Pilate fixes upon this point as one which it was necessary for him as procurator to examine, and he puts his question in a form which suggests that he expected a negative answer. “Thou! (σύ is emphatic) art Thou the King of the Jews?” Evidently, Pilate did not believe that Jesus was a revolutionary leader, as he had been informed (Luke 23:2). There was nothing in His appearance or His demeanour to make such a charge plausible.


34.�

36. But Jesus does not answer this question. He goes back to the charge that He had claimed to be “King of the Jews.” He had refused such a title already (6:15), but He had often spoken of a coming kingdom. It was the kingdom of which Daniel had written (Daniel 2:44, Daniel 2:7:14, Daniel 2:27), a spiritual kingdom of which the saints were to be citizens. And this He states before Pilate, that there may be no ambiguity in His position. When cross-examined by the priests, as the Synoptists tell, He had accepted their statement that He claimed to be Messiah (Mark 14:62, Matthew 26:64, Luke 22:70), and so far there was some plausibility in their accusation of Him before Pilate. But He did not interpret the title of Messiah as implying earthly domination and national leadership against the suzerainty of Rome; and this was the gravamen of the charge brought against Him, so far as Pilate was concerned. Hence He tells the procurator that His kingdom is not “of this world ” (cf., for the phrase ὁ κόσμος οὗτος, 8:23, 14:30). He does not claim to be “King of the Jews” in any sense that was treasonable to Rome.


εἰ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου κτλ., “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my officers (ὑπηρέται) be striving, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews,” i.e. the hostile Jews, as regularly in Jn. (see on 5:10).

Except in this passage, ὑπηρέται in Jn. is always used of the Temple police, the “officers” of the Sanhedrim. ὑπηρέτης occurs only 4 times in the LXX (Proverbs 14:35, Wisd. 6:4, Isaiah 32:5, Dan. 3:46), and always means the minister or officer of a king, as here. Jesus tells Pilate that He, too, has His ὑπηρέται, as well as the high priests, but that just because His kingdom is of the spirit they are not defending Him by force.


Who are meant here by the ὑπηρέται of Jesus ? Certainly not the small and timid company of His disciples, who made no attempt to prevent His arrest, with the sole exception of Peter, whose action only showed the uselessness of trying to resist the police and the soldiers. Jesus, indeed, according to Mt. (26:52) as well as Jn. (18:11), forbade Peter to employ force; but He did not suggest that the resort to arms by the disciples would have been of any practical use. Pilate knew very well that the followers of Jesus were not numerous enough to resist by force the carrying out of any sentence of his.

The ὑπηρέται of Jesus upon whom He might call, if He would, were mentioned by Him, according to Matthew 26:53, at the moment of His arrest: “Thinkest thou that I cannot beseech my Father, and He shall even now send me more than twelve legions of angels?” These were the ὑπηρέται of the kingdom which Jesus had come to establish.

ἠγωνίζοντο. The verb does not occur again in Jn.; cf 1 Timothy 6:12.


νῦν δέ κτλ., “but now, as things are, my kingdom is not from hence,” sc. of this world. For νῦν δέ, cf. 8:40, 9:41, 15:22.

37. Οὐκοῦν βασιλεὺς εἶ σύ; Pilate fastens on this mention of Jesus’ kingdom: “Well then, are you a king?” The concluding σύ is incredulous in its emphasis: “you poor prisoner.” οὐκοῦν is found again in the Greek Bible only in the A text of 2 Kings 5:23.


ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς. The art. is omitted, according to Jn.’s usual habit when using this phrase (see on 1:29, 50), by LWΓΔ but it must be retained here, being read by אABDsuppN.

Σὺ λέγεις ὅτι βασιλεύς εἰμι. Westcott-Hort note in the margin that this might be taken as a question: “Do you say that I am a king?” But the Synoptists agree in giving as the reply of Jesus to the question “Art thou the King of the Jews?” the words σὺ λέγεις (Mark 15:2, Matthew 27:11, Luke 23:3), which is neither a clear affirmation nor a denial, but an assent given as a concession. But cf. the answer ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι to the question of the priests, “Art thou the Son of God?” in Luke 22:70. Here, in like manner, we must translate, “Thou sayest that I am a king.” This is the point on which Pilate has been insisting, that Jesus’ claim seemed to be one of kingship, and Jesus admits it again (cf. v. 36), but adds some explanatory words.


The R.V. margin offers the alternative rendering, “Thou sayest it, because I am a king,” but the Synoptic parallels do not support this.

It has been alleged that σὺ λέγεις or σὺ εἶπας was a Rabbinic formula of solemn affirmation (Schöttgen on Matthew 26:25), but Dalman has shown that this cannot be sustained. Where “thou hast said” appears in the Talmud, it is merely equivalent to “you are right.”1 In any case, we have here not an ellipse such as σὺ λέγεις, with nothing added, but a complete sentence, “Thou sayest that I am a king.”


After εἰμι the rec. adds ἐγώ (repeating it again in the next sentence, ἐγὼ εἰς τοῦτο κτλ.) with AΓΔNΘ, but אBDsuppL omit the first ἐγώ. If it were genuine, it might carry a reference to the contemptuous σύ in Pilate’s question; but the answer is more dignified, without any emphasis on the “I”: “Thou sayest that I am a king.”

ἐγὼ εἰς τοῦτο γεγέννημαι. Here the ἐγώ is impressive: “To this end I have been born.”1 See note on 1:13; and cf. Luke 1:35 τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον, John 16:21 ἐγεννήθη. The reference is to the Nativity, not to the Incarnation; cf. also Romans 14:9.


καὶ εἰς τοῦτο ἐλήλυθα εἰς τὸν κόσμον, a favourite Johannine phrase, e.g. 9:39, 16:28; see on 11:27.

ἵνα μαρτυρήσω τῇ�1 Timothy 6:13), but was continuous throughout His ministry (3:11, 32, 7:7, 8:14). Cf Revelation 1:5.

πᾶς ὁ ὢν ἐκ τῆς�1 John 3:19)�1 John 4:6). No such claim on man’s allegiance was ever made by any other master: “Every one who is of the truth heareth my voice.”


Pilate Suggests to the Jews, Unavailingly, that Jesus Should Be Released (vv. 38-40)

38. Pilate is now convinced that Jesus` “kingdom” is not a temporal one, and that He is innocent of revolutionary designs. His rejoinder is perhaps wistful rather than cynical or careless: “What is truth?” But to this, the greatest of questions, he does not wait for an answer. He goes outside again (πάλιν, see v. 29) to the Jews assembled in the courtyard, and roundly tells them that he can find no reason why Jesus should be put to death.

ἐγὼ οὐδεμίαν εὑρίσκω ἐν αὐτῷ αἰτίαν. This is the order of words in BL, but the rec., with אANWΓΔΘ, puts αἰτίαν after οὐδεμίαν. According to Jn., Pilate says this three times to the Jewish accusers (19:4, 6); as also does Luke 23:4, Luke 23:14, Luke 23:22, who has αἴτιον for αἰτίαν. The αἰτία is the crimen, the thing charged against the prisoner; cf. Mark 15:26, Matthew 27:37, and see on 19:19. For this use of αἰτία, cf. Genesis 4:13, Proverbs 28:17.

At this point in the narrative, Luke gives an incident unrecorded by the other evangelists (Luke 23:7-12). He says that Pilate caught at the word “Galilæan” which had been used by the accusers of Jesus, and, anxious to evade responsibility, sent Jesus to Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee, who was then at Jerusalem. According to this story, which has every mark of genuineness and which no one was likely to invent, Jesus kept silence before Herod, and having been mocked by the soldiers was sent back to Pilate. Herod was not anxious to involve himself in any question of treason against the imperial authority.


Pilate’s next effort to save Jesus, or to save himself from the shame of condemning one whom he believed to be innocent, was to appeal to a Passover custom of releasing a prisoner from custody. Of this custom we know nothing beyond what is told in the Gospels, but there is nothing improbable in the statement that it prevailed at Jerusalem. Livy tells of something similar at the Roman Lectisternia (Livy, v. xiii. 8), and there is an allusion to it in Dion. Halicar. (xii. 9).1

39. This συνήθεια (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:7, 1 Corinthians 11:16) is alluded to by the other evangelists (see Mark 15:6, Matthew 27:15); Lk. (23:17) even makes it an�

βούλεσθε οὖν�Mark 15:9 has the question in the same words, Jesus being described as “the King of the Jews” by Pilate, with a contemptuous allusion to the charge made against Him by the chief priests.

At this stage in the narrative, Matthew 27:19 tells that a dream of Pilate’s wife was reported to him, warning him not to condemn Jesus. There is nothing of this in the other Gospels, but the incident, if genuine, would fully account for Pilate’s hesitancy in signing the death warrant.


40. ἐκραύγασαν (see on 11:43 for this verb) οὖν πάλιν κτλ., “Then they yelled again, etc.” Jn. condenses the story; he has not told before of the wild shouts of the crowd. After πάλιν, the rec. inserts πάντες, but om. אBLW. For πάλιν, N substitutes πάντες.

Μὴ τοῦτον,�Mark 15:11 (followed by Matthew 27:20) tells that the priests had suggested this to the mob. Mt. alone says that Pilate had offered the alternative “Jesus, or Barabbas” (Matthew 27:17, where a famous variant gives Jesus as the name also of the robber, whose patronymic was Barabbas). Luke 23:19, Luke 23:25 says that Barabbas was an insurgent and a murderer (cf. Acts 3:14); Mark 15:7 saying that he was an associate of such. Matthew 27:16 only says that he was a “notable” prisoner (δέσμιον ἐπίσημον), and the article here, τὸν Βαρ., would agree with this, “the well-known Barabbas.”


ἦν δὲ ὁ Βαραββᾶς λῃστής. Jn.’s description of him is powerful in its brevity, and provides a good illustration of his “irony” (see on 1:45). For λῃστής, cf. 10:1, 8.

The release of Barabbas, which must have followed here, is not explicitly related. Probably Pilate ascended his βῆμα (cf. 19:13) to pronounce the formal sentence which would free the prisoner.









1 See G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, i. 80 f.

אԠSinaiticus (δ 2). Leningrad. iv.

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

C Ephræmi (δ 3). Paris. v. Palimpsest. Contains considerable fragments of Jn.

L Regius (ε 56). Paris. viii. Cc. 15:2-20 21:15-25 are missing.

N Purpureus Petropolitanus (ε 19). Dispersed through the libraries of Leningrad, Patmos, Rome, Vienna, and British Museum. vi. Some pages are missing. Edited by H. S. Cronin in Cambridge Texts and Studies (1899).

Θ̠Koridethi (ε 050). Tiflis. vii-ix. Discovered at Koridethi, in Russian territory, and edited by Beermann & Gregory (Leipzig, 1913). The text is akin to that of fam. 13, fam. 1, and the cursives 28, 565, 700 See Lake and Blake in Harvard Theol. Review (July 1923) and Streeter, The Four Gospels. Cf. also J.T.S. Oct. 1915, April and July 1925.

D Bezæ (δ 5). Cambridge. v-vi. Græco-Latin. Cc. 18:14-20:13 are missing in the Greek text, and the gap has been filled by a ninth-century scribe (Dsupp).

W Freer (ε 014). Washington. iv-vi. Discovered in Egypt in 1906. The Gospels are in the order Mt., Jn., Lk., Mk. Collation in The Washington MS. of the Four Gospels, by H. A. Sanders (1912).

A Alexandrinus (δ 4). British Museum. v. Cc. 6:50-8:52 are missing.

Δ̠Sangallensis (ε 76). St. Gall. ix-x. Græco-Latin.

2 Cf. Lightfoot (Bibl. Essays, p. 173), Westcott in loc., and Abbott (Diat. 2671-4).

3 Probably נַּת שְׁמָנִים = “oil press” at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

1 Quoted by Wetstein; cf. Trench, Synonyms of N.T., p. 162, for the meaning of λαμπάς in the N.T.

1 For a curious speculation as to a possible corruption of the text here, see Abbott (Diat. 1365).

Diat. E. A. Abbott’s Diatessarica, including his Johannine Vocabulary and Johannine Grammar, Parts I.-X. (1900-1915).

Γ̠(ε 70) Oxford and Leningrad. ix-x. Contains Song of Solomon 1:1-13 8:3-15:24 19:6 to end.


1 The title�

4 The priests wore linen only (Exodus 28:42, Exodus 28:40:13, Exodus 28:14); but according to Josephus (Antt. xx. ix. 6), the Levites in the time of Agrippa obtained permission to do the same.


5 The Passional from which Valois derived this is not known.

6 See Wordsworth and White, Nou. Test. Lat., p. 171.

1 The legend is that Mark was κολοβοδάκτυλος, which would have made him ineligible as a Jewish priest, being blemished; but the Vulgate Preface says that he mutilated his thumb after he became a Christian, precisely that he might be counted sacerdotio reprobus.

2 The title ἱερεύς (sacerdos) for a Christian minister is used by Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen (see my essay on Cyprian in Early Hist. of Church and Ministry, pp. 223, 228). It might therefore have been used by Polycrates; but the context makes it improbable that he did use it thus.

3 So Routh (Rel. Sacr. ii. 28), Stanley (Apostolic Age, p. 275); and cf. Lightfoot (Galatians, p. 362).

1 Epiphanius (Hœr. xxix. 4) applies the word ἡγιασμένος to James.

2 Barnabas had been too warm a supporter of Paul to be free from suspicion in Jewish circles (Acts 9:27).


Moulton-Milligan Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, illustrated from the papyri, by J. H. Moulton and G.Milligan (1914-). This is being completed by Dr. Milligan; it is indispensable.

1 Aphrahat finds here a fulfilment of Zechariah 14:6, “There shall be cold and frost” (in the LXX and Peshitta). (Select. Dom. xvii. 10.)


1 Cf. Introd., p. xcviii.

1 See Schürer, Hist. of Jewish People, 11. i. p. 190 f. Schürer holds, however, that on this occasion the Sanhedrim did meet in Caiaphas’ house, referring to Matthew 26:57.


1 Human Element in the Gospels, p. 509.

2 J.T.S., July 1921, p. 367.

1 See G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, ii. 573 f.; G. T. Purves in D.B., s.v. “Prætorium”; Sanday, Sacred Sites, p. 52 f. Westcott and Swete favour Antonia.

1 The language in which the conversation with Pilate was carried on was probably Greek; but it is, of course, possible that Pilate was able to speak the vernacular Aramaic sufficiently for the purposes of a judicial inquiry.

1 Cf. Dalman, Words of Jesus, Eng. Tr., pp. 309-312.

1 The phrase is reproduced by Justin of Christ: εἰς τοῦτο γεννηθεντα (Apol. i. 13).

1 See E.B. 476 for these passages.

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Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on John 18". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/john-18.html. 1896-1924.