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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

Mark 15

Verses 1-99


15:1-15. The Sanhedrim have found in Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah a basis of procedure against him under Jewish law. The claim they judged to be blasphemy. It appears now that they made use of the same before Pilate. For the first question that Pilate asks is whether Jesus is king of the Jews, evidently reflecting in this the charge on which Jesus has been brought to him. Jesus assents to this, but Pilate is well enough informed about the affairs of his province to know that the claim as made by Jesus does not amount to treason, and involves no harm to the state. Otherwise, the case would have been complete. The chief priests, seeing that it is not, proceed to make various charges, to which Jesus makes no reply. Just how the next step is brought about we are not told, but probably it is a device of Pilate’s to use the sympathy of the people against the malice of the authorities, and so justify himself in releasing Jesus. In a case like this, it would be the policy of the empire not only to decide the question on its merits, but to conciliate the people. At any rate, the question of releasing to the people a political prisoner being brought up, he asks them if he shall release to them the king of the Jews. But the chief priests, knowing that the hope of the people had been for a political Messiah, and that Jesus had disappointed that hope, found it easy to stir up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas, who had been in a political plot, and even the crucifixion of Jesus. And Pilate following the Roman policy, acceded to their demand.

1. Καὶ εὐθὺς πρωῒ συμβούλιον ἑτοιμάσαντες—And immediately in the morning, having made ready a concerted plan of action. It is evident that their formal procedure had been the night before, resulting in the condemnation of Jesus, 14:64. On the contrary, this morning meeting was an informal gathering to decide on a plan of action before Pilate. συμβούλιον with ἑτοιμάζειν denotes not a consultation, but the result of the consultation, a concerted plan of action.1 This is the reverse of Jewish legal process, which would have allowed the informal gathering at night, but a judicial procedure only during the day.2 Lk. makes this trial in the morning to be the one in which they extract from Jesus the confession that he is the Messiah. In fact, in Mt. and Mk. the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrim is at night, in Lk., on the contrary, it is in the morning.3 κ. ὅλον τὸ συνέδριον—The AV. translates here so as to make these words a part of those dependent on μετὰ, with. But they belong with οἱ

2. σὺ εἶβασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων;—Art thou the king of the Jews? The pronoun is emphatic, and probably disdainful. Pilate ridicules the charge. Σὺ λέγεις—Thou sayest. A Jewish form of assent. In Luke 22:70, Luke 22:71, this formula is treated by the Sanhedrim as assenting to their questions. And in Mark 14:62, ἐγώ εἰμι is given as the equivalent of σὺ εἶπας in Matthew 26:64. Nevertheless, the ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι of Luke 22:70, and John 18:37, ὅτι βασιλεύς εἰμι, show that it is not the same as if he had merely assented, that the form of assent is such as to admit of adjuncts inappropriate to mere ordinary assent. On the other hand, it does not seem in any of the N.T. passages quoted to differ essentially from assent.5 Here, as in the trial before the Sanhedrim, this is the one question that Jesus answers. It is the only question on which his own testimony is important, and absolutely necessary. Left to the testimony of others, and of his own life, this essential thing, which is the key to the whole situation, would be subject to the ridicule with which Pilate treats it. In spite of all appearances to the contrary, he says, I am King. It is another and entirely different question, whether his kingship interfered with the State, and so made him amenable to its law. And just because that question would have to receive a negative answer, and so would seem to deny kingship in any accepted sense, he had to affirm that claim.

αὐτῷ λέγει, instead of εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCD Memph. 1, 127, 209, 258, read λέγει αὐτῷ.

3. Καὶ κατηγόρουν αὐτοῦ οἱ

ἀγγαρεύουσι—they impress.6 Κυρηναῖον—Cyrene is the city in the north of Africa, opposite Greece, on the Mediterranean. There was a numerous colony of Jews there, and the name Simon shows this man to have been a Jew. It adds nothing to our knowledge of him to call him the father of Alexander and Rufus, except to indicate that these were names known to the early church. It is the height of foolish conjecture to identify this Rufus with the one in Romans 16:13, and especially to take Paul’s τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ κ. ἐμοῦ as literal, and so make him the brother of Paul. The criminal carried his own cross to the place of execution, but in this case, Jesus was probably so weakened already by his sufferings, as to be unable to carry it himself.


21-41. Arrived at the place of crucifixion, called Golgotha, they gave Jesus wine flavored with myrrh to drink, which he refused. The wine was probably given as a stimulant in his exhausted condition. After the Roman custom, his garments were distributed by lot among the four executioners. The crucifixion took place at nine o’clock in the morning. An inscription, “The King of the Jews,” was placed upon the cross as a statement of the charge against him. Two robbers were crucified with him, one on each side, and joined the crowd and the rulers in taunting him. The people wagged their heads derisively, and challenged him, who was going to destroy and rebuild the temple, to save himself. The rulers taunted him with his miracles, bidding him who had saved others to save himself, and to prove his Messianic claim by coming down from the cross. At twelve o’clock, darkness fell over the land until three o’clock, when Jesus cried, “My God, why didst thou forsake me?” The resemblance of the Heb. My God to Elijah led certain to think that he was calling upon Elijah, and one man, having filled a sponge with sour wine which he gave Jesus at the end of a reed, cried out, “Let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.” Jesus expired with a great cry, and the vail of the temple, which separates between the holy place and the holy of holies, was rent in twain. The centurion in charge of the crucifying party, seeing the portents accompanying his death, said, “Truly this was a son of God.” The account ends with a statement of the women at the cross.

22. τὸν Γολγοθᾶν τόπον—the place Golgotha. The Hebrew word means, a skull, not the place of a skull. The name probably comes from the shape of the place.

τὸν Γολγοθᾶν τόπον, instead of Γολγοθᾶ τόπον, Tisch. WH. (τὸν) Γολγοθὰ, Treg. τὸν, א BC2 FLN Δ, 13, 33, 69, 124, 127, 131, 346. Γολγοθὰν, א BFGKLMNSUV ΓΔ.

23. Καὶ ἐδίδουν αὐτῳ ἐσμυρμισμένον οἶνον—And they gave him wine flavored with myrrh.

Omit πιεῖν, to drink, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BC* L Δ, one ms. Lat. Vet. Memph.

ἐσμυρμισμένον—mingled with myrrh. Mt. says, with gall. Myrrh seems to have been used by Greek and Roman women to remove its intoxicating quality. But that could not have been its intention here. The common account seems to be that the myrrh was used as a stupefying drug, but no evidence for this appears. The wine was evidently used as a stimulant, and the myrrh adds to this effect, bracing and warming the system.1

24. Καὶ σταυροῦσιν αὐτόν, καὶ διαμερίζονται—And they crucify him, and divide.

σταυροῦσιν αὐτόν, καὶ, instead of σταυρώσαντες αὐτόν, having crucified him, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. BL, mss. Lat. Vet. Egyptt. διαμερίζονται, instead of διεμέριζον, divided, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א ABCDLPX ΓΔΠ

On the method of crucifixion, see B.D. The cross was generally just high enough to raise the feet above the ground. In this case it must have been higher. See v. 36. The victim was placed upon it before the cross was elevated, his hands and feet being fastened to it by nails, and his body being supported by a peg fastened into the wood between his legs. The dividing of the garments among the soldiers who acted as executioners was customary. J. 19:23, 24 tells the story of the lot differently. According to that, it was only the inner garment, the χιτών, over which they cast lots, instead of dividing it, as they did the other garments.

25. ἦν δὲ ὥρα τρίτη, καὶ ἐσταύρωσαν αὐτόν—and it was the third hour, and they crucified him.2 ὥρα τρίτη—9 O’ clock. Mk. is the only one who gives this hour of the crucifixion.

26. ἐπιγράφηἐπιγεγραμμένη—the inscription was inscribed. The prep. does not denote the position of this over his head, but its inscription on the tablet. The EV. conveys a wrong idea, not of the fact, but of the meaning of the words. Ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων—The king of the Jews. Verse 14 shows that Pilate’s verdict was that Jesus was innocent of any crime, and that he only yielded finally to the clamor of the people in sentencing him. But v. 2, 9, 12, 18 show that this claim to be king was the charge on which the authorities asked for sentence. It was, that is to say, a charge of treason.

27. λῃστάς—robbers, not thieves, AV. Men who plundered by violence, not by stealth.

28. Omit. The quotation is from Isaiah 53:12. Such quotations are not after Mk.’s manner.

Omit v. 28, Tisch. WH. RV. (Treg.) א ABC* and 3 DX, one ms. Lat. Vet. Theb.

29, 30. These taunts that follow have all the single point that now is the time to test all of Jesus’ pretensions, especially to supernatural power and aid, and that his powerlessness now at this supreme moment makes these pretensions absurd. Οὐα,1 ὁ καταλύων τὸν ναόν, καὶ οἰκοδομῶν (ἐν) τρισὶν ἡμέραις, σῶσον σεαυτόν, καταβὰς

40. ἡ Μαγδαληνή—the Magdalene, the same as we say, the Nazarene. It denotes an inhabitant of Magdala, a town on the W. shore of the Lake of Galilee, three miles north of Tiberias. The only identification of her given in the Gospels is in Luke 8:2, where she is said to be one out of whom Jesus had cast seven devils. There is absolutely no support for the tradition that she was the sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus (Luke 7:36 sq.). ΜαρίαἸακώβου τοῦ μικροῦ κ. Ἰωσῆτος—Mary, the mother of James the little, and of Joses. In the list of the apostles, James is called the son of Alphæus, while in J. 19:25, the name of one of the women standing by the cross is given as Mary, the wife of Clopas. These coincidences have led to the conjecture that Alphæus and Clopas are identical, both being Greek forms of the Aramaic חַלְפַּיִ, and that, therefore, this Mary was the mother of the second James in the list of the apostles. The further conjecture that she was the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is based on the unnecessary supposition that Μαρία in J. 19:25, is in apposition with ἡ Matthew 27:56 with this passage. A further comparison with J. 19:25 has led to the conjecture that she is the sister of the mother of Jesus mentioned there. This might account for Jesus’ commending his mother to John, but it is conjecture only, and will remain so. James is called ὁ μικρός, the little, to distinguish him from the other “celebrities” of the name. But whether it designates him as less in stature, or in age, or of less importance, there are no data for determining.

Omit ἦν after ἐν αἶς, Tisch. (Treg.) WH. RV. א BL, mss. Vulg. Omit τοῦ before Ἰακώβου, Tisch. Treg. WH. א BCKU ΔΠ* 1, 11. Ἰωσῆτος, instead of Ἰωσῆ, Tisch. Treg. WH. א BDgr. L Δ 13, 33, 69, 346, two mss. Lat. Vet. Memph.

41. αἳ, ὅτε ἦν ἐν τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ, ἠκολούθουν αὐτῷ—who, when he was in Galilee, followed him. These three had been associated with Jesus in his Galilean ministry, and the διηκόνουν, ministered, shows that they had been the women who attended to his wants, the women of the family-group surrounding him. Besides these, there were others who had attached themselves to him in the same way, when he came up to Jerusalem.

Omit καὶ after αί, Tisch. (Treg.) WH. RV. א B 33, 131, mss. Lat. Vet. Memph. Pesh.


42-47. Jesus died at about three in the afternoon, and as the Sabbath began with the sunset, it was necessary that whatever was done about his burial be accomplished before that time. So Joseph of Arimathea, who is represented in this Gospel, not as a disciple, but as somehow in sympathy with him, summoned up courage to go to Pilate, and beg the body of Jesus. Pilate wondered at the short time which it had taken the usually slow torture of crucifixion to do its work, and asked the centurion if he had been dead any length of time. Having got this information, he gave the body to Joseph. He removed the body from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and placed it in a sepulchre hewn out of the rock. As the women were intending to embalm the body after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where it was laid.

42. ἐπεὶ ἦν παρασκευή—since it was preparation day (for the Sabbath). This gives the reason why Joseph took this step at this time. The removal of the body would have been unlawful on the Sabbath. ὅ ἐστι προσάββατον1—which is the day before the Sabbath. We are told by Josephus that this preparation for the Sabbath began on the ninth hour of the sixth day. It is not mentioned in the O.T.

43. ἐλθὼν Ἰωσὴφ

2 See Edersheim, Life of Jesus, 2 Chronicles 13:3.

3 Luke 22:66-71.

AV. Authorised Version.

RV. Revised Version.

4 Luke 3:1.

Tisch. Tischendorf.

Treg. Tregelles.

WH. Westcott and Hort.

אԠCodex Sinaiticus.

B Codex Vaticanus.

C Codex Bezae.

D Codex Ephraemi.

L Codex Regius.

Lat. Vet. Vetus Latina.

Egyptt. Egyptian Versions.

marg. Revided Version marg.

5 See Thayer, Art. in Journal Bib. Lit. 1894.

Memph. Memphitic.

1 .Codex Basiliensis

209 An unnamed, valuable manuscript.

1 Luke 23:5.

U Codex Nanianus.

13 Codex Regius.

33 Codex Regius.

69 Codex Leicestrensis.

Harcl. Harclean.

Theb. Thebaic.

Latt. Latin Versions.

1 Cf. Isaiah 53:7.

A Codex Alexandrinus.

K Codex Cyprius.

Vulg. Vulgate.

Δ̠Codex Sangallensis

1 So Weiss.

1 On this use of γάρ in questions, see Win. 53, 8 c). The answer to the question in such cases is causal with reference to what precedes, here with reference to Σταύρωσον αὐτόν.

G Codex Wolfi A.

H Codex Wolfi B.

M Codex Campianus.

Π̠Codex Petropolitianus

2 The Lat. verb flagellare. The Grk. verb is μαστιγόω.

3 Edersheim, Life of Jesus, p. 579.

1 J. 19:12-16.

1 See Thay.-Grm. Lex., B.D. Procurator.

2 On this use of αὐλή, see Thay.-Grm. Lex.

3 A biblical word.

4 Matthew 27:28.

F Codex Borelli.

5 See Burton, 48, 52. This seems to belong to the cases in which B. considers the plup. necessary to the Grk. idiom. The earlier event is necessarily thought of as completed at the time of the subsequent event. Goodwin, Gr. Moods and Tenses, says that the aor. is used, instead of the plup., after particles of time.

N Codex Purpureus.

P Codex Guelpherbytanus.

6 A Persian word, meaning to press into the service of the royal couriers, ἄγγαροι. See Matthew 5:41.

346 Codex Ambrosianus.

S Codex Vaticanus.

V Codex Mosquensis.

Γ̠Codex Tischendorfianus

1 See Art. Myrrh, Encyclopædia Brit.

2 Meyer cites passages from Xen. and Thuc. to show that it was not uncommon to join a statement of time with the statement of what took place at the time by καί. But in all the passages which he cites, both the time and the event are additional matter, and may easily be connected in this way, the statement being the same as, when the time came, the event happened. But in this case, the time only is additional matter, the event, the crucifixion, being just mentioned in v. 24, so that this is the same as, it was three o’cl. when they crucified him. And for this, the independent statements connected by καί are not an idiomatic expression.

1 An onomatopoetic word belonging to Biblical Greek, and not found elsewhere in the N.T.

2 See 14:58.

1 Notice how exactly the language of v. 29-32 corresponds to Matthew 27:39-42, Matthew 27:44.

28 Codex Regius.

Pesh. Peshito.

2 These words are from Psalms 22:1. Ἐλωΐ is the Syriac form for the Heb. אֵלִי, Ἠλεί, which is the form given by Matthew 27:46. σαβαχθανεί is the Chaldaic form for the Heb. עֲזַבְתָּנִי azabtani. Mk. reproduces the language of Jesus, which translates the Heb. into the current language. The Grk. ὁ θεός μου, ὁ θεός μου, εἰς τἰ (ίνατί) ἐγκατε λιπές με; is from the Sept.

1 See Malachi 4:5.

2 The translation vinegar, EV., is incorrect, as it denotes the wine after it has passed the acetous fermentation; but this is simply the ordinary sour wine of the country, which would be procured probably from the soldiers.

3 Matthew 27:48, Matthew 27:49.

4 Lat. emittere vocem.

5 κεντυρίων is the Latin name of the officer in charge of the execution. Mt. and Lk. give the Greek name ἑκατοντάρχης. The centurion commanded a maniple, or century, sixty of which made up the legion.

1 For statements of the two sides of this question, see B.D. Art. James and Brother

1 A Biblical word, found in the N.T. only here.

2 1 S. 1:1, 19.

3 εὐσχήμων means primarily elegant in appearance.

Hier. Jerusalem Lectionary.

1 For this word, see on 6:29.

2 See 16:1.

3 J. 19:39, 40.

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Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Mark 15". International Critical Commentary NT. 1896-1924.