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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Luke 23

Verse 1

The whole company (απαν το πληθος). All but Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who were probably not invited to this meeting.

Verse 2

Began to accuse (ηρξαντο κατηγορειν). They went at it and kept it up. Luke mentions three, but neither of them includes their real reason nor do they mention their own condemnation of Jesus. They had indulged their hatred in doing it, but they no longer have the power of life and death. Hence they say nothing to Pilate of that.

We found (ευραμεν). Second aorist active indicative with first aorist vowel α. Probably they mean that they had caught Jesus in the act of doing these things (in flagrante delicto) rather than discovery by formal trial.

Perverting our nation (διαστρεφοντα το εθνος ημων). Present active participle of διαστρεφω, old verb to turn this way and that, distort, disturb. In the N.T. only here and Acts 13:10. The Sanhedrin imply that the great popularity of Jesus was seditious.

Forbidding to give tribute to Caesar , (κωλυοντα φορους καισαρ διδονα). Note object infinitive διδονα after the participle κωλυοντα. Literally, hindering giving tribute to Caesar. This was a flat untruth. Their bright young students had tried desperately to get Jesus to say this very thing, but they had failed utterly (Luke 20:25).

Saying that he himself is Christ a king (λεγοντα αυτον Χριστον βασιλεα εινα). Note the indirect discourse here after the participle λεγοντα with the accusative (αυτον where αυτον could have been used), and the infinitive. This charge is true, but not in the sense meant by them. Jesus did claim to be the Christ and the king of the kingdom of God. But the Sanhedrin wanted Pilate to think that he set himself up as a rival to Caesar. Pilate would understand little from the word "Christ," but "King" was a different matter. He was compelled to take notice of this charge else he himself would be accused to Caesar of winking at such a claim by Jesus.

Verse 3

Thou sayest (συ λεγεις). A real affirmative as in Luke 22:70. The Gospels all give Pilate's question about Jesus asking of the Jews in precisely the same words (Mark 15:2; Matthew 27:11; Luke 23:3; John 18:33).

Verse 4

The multitude (τους οχλους). The first mention of them. It is now after daybreak. The procession of the Sanhedrin would draw a crowd (Plummer) and some may have come to ask for the release of a prisoner (Mark 15:8). There was need of haste if the condemnation went through before friends of Jesus came.

I find no fault (ουδεν ευρισκω αιτιον). In the N.T. Luke alone uses this old adjective αιτιος (Luke 23:4; Luke 23:14; Luke 23:22; Acts 19:40) except Luke 5:9. It means one who is the author, the cause of or responsible for anything. Luke does not give the explanation of this sudden decision of Pilate that Jesus is innocent. Evidently he held a careful examination before he delivered his judgment on the case. That conversation is given in John 18:33-43.18.38. Pilate took Jesus inside the palace from the upper gallery (John 18:33) and then came out and rendered his decision to the Sanhedrin (John 18:38) who would not go into the palace of Pilate (John 18:28).

Verse 5

But they were the more urgent (ο δε επισχυον). Imperfect active of επισχυω, to give added (επ) strength (ισχυω). And they kept insisting. Evidently Pilate had taken the thing too lightly.

He stirred up the people (ανασειε τον λαον). This compound is rare, though old (Thucydides), to shake up (back and forth). This is a more vigorous repetition of the first charge (verse Luke 23:2, "perverting our nation").

Beginning from Galilee (αρξαμενος απο της Γαλιλαιας). These very words occur in the address of Peter to the group in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:37). The idiomatic use of αρξαμενος appears also in Acts 1:22. Galilee (Grote) was the mother of seditious men (see Josephus).

Verse 6

A Galilean (Γαλιλαιος). If so, here was a way out for Herod without going back on his own decision.

Verse 7

When he knew (επιγνους). Second aorist active participle from επιγινωσκω, having gained full (επ, added knowledge).

Of Herod's jurisdiction (εκ της εξουσιας Hηρωιδου). Herod was naturally jealous of any encroachment by Pilate, the Roman Procurator of Judea. So here was a chance to respect the prerogative (εξουσια) of Herod and get rid of this troublesome case also.

Sent him up (ανεπεμψεν). First aorist active indicative of αναπεμπω. This common verb is used of sending back as in verse Luke 23:11 or of sending up to a higher court as of Paul to Caesar (Acts 25:21).

Who himself also was (οντα κα αυτον). Being also himself in Jerusalem. Present active participle of ειμ.

Verse 8

Was exceeding glad (εχαρη λιαν). Second aorist passive indicative of χαιρω, ingressive aorist, became glad.

Of a long time (εξ ικανων χρονων). For this idiom see Luke 8:27; Luke 20:9; Acts 8:11).

He hoped (ηλπιζεν). Imperfect active. He was still hoping. He had long ago gotten over his fright that Jesus was John the Baptist come to life again (Luke 9:7-42.9.9).

Done (γινομενον). Present middle participle. He wanted to see a miracle happening like a stunt of a sleight-of-hand performer.

Verse 9

He questioned (επηρωτα). Imperfect active, kept on questioning.

In many words (εν λογοις ικανοις). Same use of ικανος as in verse Luke 23:8.

Verse 10

Stood (ιστηκεισαν). Second perfect active intransitive of ιστημ with sense of imperfect. They stood by while Herod quizzed Jesus and when he refused to answer, they broke loose with their accusations like a pack of hounds with full voice (ευτονως, adverb from adjective ευτονος, from ευ, well, and τεινω, to stretch, well tuned). Old word, but in the N.T. only here and Acts 18:28.

Verse 11

Set him at nought (εξουθενησας). First aorist active participle from εξουθενεω, to count as nothing, to treat with utter contempt, as zero.

Arraying him in gorgeous apparel (περιβαλων εσθητα λαμπραν). Second aorist active participle of περιβαλλω, to fling around one. Λαμπραν is brilliant, shining as in James 2:2, so different from the modest dress of the Master. This was part of the shame.

Verse 12

For before they were at enmity between themselves (προυπηρχον γαρ εν εχθρα οντες προς εαυτους). A periphrastic imperfect of the double compound προυπερχω, an old verb, to exist (υπαρχω) previously (προ-), here alone in the N.T., with οντες (participle of ειμ) added.

Verse 13

Called together (συνκαλεσαμενος). First aorist middle participle (to himself). Pilate included "the people" in the hope that Jesus might have some friends among them.

Verse 14

As one that perverteth the people (ως αποστρεφοντα τον λαον). Pilate here condenses the three charges in verse Luke 23:2 into one (Plummer). He uses a more common compound of στρεφω here, αποστρεφω, to turn away from, to seduce, to mislead, whereas διαστρεφω in verse Luke 23:2 has more the notion of disturbing (turning this way and that). Note the use of ως with the particle, the alleged reason. Pilate understands the charge against Jesus to be that he is a revolutionary agitator and a dangerous rival to Caesar, treason in plain words.

Having examined him before you (ενωπιον υμων ανακρινας). Right before your eyes I have given him a careful examination (ανα) up and down, κρινω, to judge, sift. Old and common verb in the general sense and in the forensic sense as here and which Luke alone has in the N.T. (Luke 23:14; Luke 4:9; Luke 12:19; Luke 28:18; Acts 24:8) except 1 Corinthians 9:3.

Whereof (ων). Attraction of the relative α to the case (genitive) of the unexpressed antecedent τουτων.

Verse 15

No nor yet (αλλ' ουδε). But not even.

Hath been done by him (εστιν πεπραγμενον αυτω). Periphrastic perfect passive indicative of πρασσω, common verb, to do. The case of αυτω can be regarded as either the dative or the instrumental (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 534,542).

Verse 16

Chastise (παιδευσας). First aorist active participle of παιδευω, to train a child (παις), and then, as a part of the training, punishment. Our English word chasten is from the Latin castus, pure, chaste, and means to purify (cf. Hebrews 12:6). Perhaps Pilate may have split a hair over the word as Wycliff puts it: "I shall deliver him amended." But, if Jesus was innocent, Pilate had no doubt to "chastise" him to satisfy a mob. Verse Luke 23:17 is omitted by Westcott and Hort as from Mark 15:6; Matthew 27:15.

Verse 18

All together (πανπληθε). An adverb from the adjective πανπληθης, all together. Used by Dio Cassius. Only here in the N.T.

Away (αιρε). Present active imperative, Take him on away and keep him away as in Acts 21:36; Acts 22:22, of Paul. But

release (απολυσον) is first aorist active imperative, do it now and at once.

Verse 19

Insurrection (στασιν). An old word for sedition, standing off, the very charge made against Jesus (and untrue). If Jesus had raised insurrection against Caesar, these accusers would have rallied to his standard.

And for murder (κα φονον). They cared nought for this. In fact, the murderer was counted a hero like bandits and gangsters today with some sentimentalists.

Was cast (ην βληθεις). Periphrastic aorist passive indicative of βαλλω, a quite unusual form.

Verse 21

But they shouted (ο δε επεφωνουν). Imperfect active of επιφωνεω, to call to. Old verb and a verb pertinent here. They kept on yelling.

Crucify, crucify (σταυρου, σταυρου). Present active imperative. Go on with the crucifixion. Mark 15:13 has σταυρωσον (first aorist active imperative), do it now and be done with it. No doubt some shouted one form, some another.

Verse 22

Why, what evil? (Τ γαρ κακον;). Note this use of γαρ (explanatory and argumentative combined).

Verse 23

But they were instant (ο δε επεκειντο). Imperfect middle of επικειμα, an old verb for the rush and swirl of a tempest.

With loud voices (φωναις μεγαλαις). Instrumental case. Poor Pilate was overwhelmed by this tornado.

Prevailed (κατισχυον). Imperfect active of κατισχυω (see Matthew 16:18; Luke 21:36). The tempest Pilate had invited (Luke 23:13).

Verse 24

Gave sentence (επεκρινεν). Pronounced the final sentence. The usual verb for the final decision. Only here in the N.T.

Verse 25

Whom they asked for (ον ηιτουντο). Imperfect middle, for whom they had been asking for themselves. Luke repeats that Barabbas was in prison "for insurrection and murder."

To their will (τω θεληματ αυτων). This is mob law by the judge who surrenders his own power and justice to the clamour of the crowd.

Verse 26

They laid hold (επιλαβομενο). Second aorist middle participle of the common verb επιλαμβανω. The soldiers had no scruples about taking hold of any one of themselves (middle voice). Mark 15:21; Luke 27:32 use the technical word for this process αγγαρευω, which see for discussion and also about Cyrene.

Laid on him (επεθηκαν). Κ first aorist of επιτιθημ.

To bear it (φερειν). Present infinitive, to go on bearing.

Verse 27

Followed (ηκολουθε). Imperfect active, was following. Verses Luke 23:27-42.23.32 are peculiar to Luke.

Bewailed (εκοπτοντο). Imperfect middle of κοπτω, to cut, smite, old and common verb. Direct middle, they were smiting themselves on the breast. "In the Gospels there is no instance of a woman being hostile to Christ" (Plummer). Luke's Gospel is appropriately called the Gospel of Womanhood (Luke 1:39-42.1.56; Luke 2:36-42.2.38; Luke 7:11-42.7.15; Luke 7:37-42.7.50; Luke 8:1-42.8.3; Luke 10:38-42.10.42; Luke 11:27; Luke 13:11-42.13.16).

Lamented (εθρηνουν). Imperfect active of θρηνεω, old verb from θρεομα, to cry aloud, lament.

Verse 28

Turning (στραφεις). Luke is fond of this second aorist passive participle of στρεφω (Luke 7:9; Luke 7:44; Luke 7:55; Luke 10:23). If he had been still carrying the Cross, he could not have made this dramatic gesture.

Weep not (μη κλαιετε). Present active imperative with μη, Stop weeping.

Verse 29

Blessed (μακαρια). A beatitude to the barren, the opposite of the hopes of Jewish mothers. Childless women are commiserated (Luke 1:25; Luke 1:36).

To the hills (τοις βουνοις). A Cyrenaic word. In the N.T. only here and Luke 3:5. Quotation from Hosea 10:8.

Verse 31

In the green tree (εν υγρω ξυλω). Green wood is hard to burn and so is used for the innocent.

In the dry (εν τω ξηρω). Dry wood kindles easily and is a symbol for the guilty. This common proverb has various applications. Here the point is that if they can put Jesus to death, being who he is, what will happen to Jerusalem when its day of judgment comes?

What shall be done (τ γενητα). Deliberative subjunctive.

Verse 32

Were led (ˆgonto). Imperfect passive of αγω, were being led.

Malefactors (κακουργο). Evil (κακον), doers (work, εργον). Old word, but in the N.T. only in this passage (Luke 23:32; Luke 23:33; Luke 23:39) and 2 Timothy 2:9. Luke does not call them "robbers" like Mark 15:27; Matthew 27:38; Matthew 27:44.

To be put to death (αναιρεθηνα). First aorist passive infinitive of αναιρεω, old verb, to take up, to take away, to kill.

Verse 33

The skull (το κρανιον). Probably because it looked like a skull. See on Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22.

There they crucified him (εκε εσταυρωσαν). There between the two robbers and on the very cross on which Barabbas, the leader of the robber band, was to have been crucified.

One (ον μεν),

the other (ον δε). Common idiom of contrast with this old demonstrative ος and μεν and δε.

Verse 34

Father forgive them (Πατερ, αφες αυτοις). Second aorist active imperative of αφιημ, with dative case. Some of the oldest and best documents do not contain this verse, and yet, while it is not certain that it is a part of Luke's Gospel, it is certain that Jesus spoke these words, for they are utterly unlike any one else. Jesus evidently is praying for the Roman soldiers, who were only obeying, but not for the Sanhedrin.

Cast lots (εβαλον κληρον). Second aorist active indicative of βαλλω. See Mark 15:24; Matthew 27:35. John 19:23. shows how the lot was cast for the seamless garment, the four soldiers dividing the other garments.

Verse 35

The people stood beholding (ιστηκε). Past perfect active of ιστημ, intransitive and like imperfect. A graphic picture of the dazed multitude, some of whom may have been in the Triumphal Entry on Sunday morning.

Scoffed (εξεμυκτηριζον). Imperfect active, perhaps inchoative, began to turn up (out, εξ) at the dying Christ. The language comes from Psalms 22:7.

The Christ of God (ο Χριστος του θεου). He had claimed to be just this (Luke 22:67; Luke 22:70). The sarcastic sneer (he saved others; let him save others, for himself he cannot save) is in Mark 15:31; Matthew 27:42. Luke alone gives the contemptuous use of ουτος (this fellow) and the fling in "the elect" (ο εκλεκτος). These rulers were having their day at last.

Verse 36

Mocked (ενεπαιξαν). Even the soldiers yielded to the spell and acted like boys in their jeers. Aorist tense here and different verb also from that used of the rulers. They were not so bitter and persistent.

Verse 37

If (ε). Condition of the first class as is text in verse Luke 23:35 used by the rulers. The soldiers pick out "the king of the Jews" as the point of their sneer, the point on which Jesus was condemned. But both soldiers and rulers fail to understand that Jesus could not save himself if he was to save others.

Verse 38

A superscription (επιγραφη). Mark 15:26 has "the superscription of his accusation" Matthew 27:37, "his accusation," John 19:19 "a title." But they all refer to the charge written at the top on the cross giving, as was the custom, the accusation on which the criminal was condemned, with his name and residence. Put all the reports together and we have: This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. This full title appeared in Latin for law, in Aramaic for the Jews, in Greek for everybody (John 19:20).

Verse 39

Railed (εβλασφημε). Imperfect active, implying that he kept it up. His question formally calls for an affirmative answer (ουχ), but the ridicule is in his own answer: "Save thyself and us." It was on a level with an effort to break prison. Luke alone gives this incident (Luke 23:39-42.23.43), though Mark 15:32; Matthew 27:44 allude to it.

Verse 40

Rebuking (επιτιμων). From what Mark and Matthew say both robbers sneered at Jesus at first, but this one came to himself and turned on his fellow robber in a rage.

Dost thou not even fear God? (Ουδε φοβη τον θεον;). Ουδε here goes with the verb. Φοβη (second person singular present indicative middle of φοβεομα. Both of you will soon appear before God. Jesus has nothing to answer for and you have added this to your other sins.

Verse 41

Nothing amiss (ουδεν ατοπον). Nothing out of place (α privative, τοπος, place). Old word, three times in the N.T. (Luke 23:44; Acts 28:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:2). This can only mean that this robber accepts the claims of Jesus to be true. He is dying for claiming to be Messiah, as he is.

Verse 42

In thy kingdom (εις την βασιλειαν σου, text of Westcott and Hort or εν τε βασιλεια σου, margin). Probably no difference in sense is to be found, for εις and εν are essentially the same preposition. He refers to the Messianic rule of Jesus and begs that Jesus will remember him. It is not clear whether he hopes for immediate blessing or only at the judgment.

Verse 43

Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise (Σημερον μετ' εμου εση εν τω παραδεισω). However crude may have been the robber's Messianic ideas Jesus clears the path for him. He promises him immediate and conscious fellowship after death with Christ in Paradise which is a Persian word and is used here not for any supposed intermediate state; but the very bliss of heaven itself. This Persian word was used for an enclosed park or pleasure ground (so Xenophon). The word occurs in two other passages in the N.T. (2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7), in both of which the reference is plainly to heaven. Some Jews did use the word for the abode of the pious dead till the resurrection, interpreting "Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16:22) in this sense also. But the evidence for such an intermediate state is too weak to warrant belief in it.

Verse 45

The sun's light failing (του ηλιου εκλειποντος). Genitive absolute of the present active participle of εκλειπω, an old verb, to leave out, omit, pass by, to fail, to die. The word was used also of the eclipse of the sun or moon. But this was impossible at this time because the moon was full at the passover. Hence many documents change this correct text to "the sun was darkened" (εσκοτισθη ο ηλιος) to obviate the difficulty about the technical eclipse. But the sun can be darkened in other ways. In a London fog at noon the street lights are often turned on. The Revised Version translates it correctly, "the sun's light failing." Leave the darkness unexplained.

In the midst (μεσον). In the middle. Mark 15:38; Matthew 27:51 have "in two" (εις δυο).

Verse 46

Father (Πατερ). Jesus dies with the words of Psalms 31:5 on his lips.

Gave up the ghost (εξεπνευσεν). First aorist active indicative of εκπνεω, to breathe out, to expire, old word, but in the N.T. only here and Mark 15:37; Mark 15:39. There is no special reason for retaining "ghost" in the English as both Matthew 27:50 (yielded up his spirit, αφηκεν το πνευμα) and John 19:30 (gave up his spirit, παρεδωκεν το πνευμα) use πνευμα which is the root of εκπνεω, the verb in Mark and Luke.

Verse 47

Glorified (εδοξαζεν). Imperfect active. Began to glorify (inchoative) or kept on glorifying.

Verse 48

Certainly (οντως). Really, old adverb from the participle ον from ειμ, to be. Used also in Luke 24:34 of the resurrection of Jesus.

A righteous man (δικαιος). Mark 15:39 (Matthew 27:54) which see, represents the centurion as saying θεου υιος (God's Son) which may mean to him little more than "righteous man."

That came together (συνπαραγενομενο). Double compound (συν, together, παρα, along), that came along together.

To this sight (επ την θεωριαν ταυτην). This spectacle (θεωριαν from θεωρεω, verse Luke 23:35).

Returned (υπεστρεφον). Imperfect active of υποστρεφω. See them slowly wending their way back to the city from this Tragedy of the Ages which they had witnessed in awe.

Verse 49

Stood afar off (ιστηκεισαν απο μακροθεν). Same verb as in verse Luke 23:35. Melancholy picture of the inner circle of the acquaintances of Jesus and the faithful band of women from Galilee.

Seeing these things (ορωσα ταυτα). And helpless either to prevent them or to understand them. They could only stand and look with blinded eyes.

Verse 51

He had not consented to their counsel and deed (ουτος ουκ ην συνκατατεθειμενος τη βουλη κα τη πραξε αυτων). This parenthesis is given by Luke alone and explains that, though a councillor (βουλευτης, Mark 5:43) he had not agreed to the vote of the Sanhedrin. It is fairly certain that both Joseph and Nicodemus were suspected of sympathy with Jesus and so were not invited to the trial of Jesus.

Was looking for (προσεδεχετο). Imperfect middle. Mark 15:43 has the periphrastic imperfect (ην προσδεχομενος).

Verse 52

Asked for (ηιτησατο). First aorist middle (indirect) indicative as in Mark 15:43; Matthew 27:58. The middle voice shows that Joseph of Arimathea asked the body of Jesus as a personal favour.

Verse 53

Took it down (καθελων). Second aorist active participle of καθαιρεω as in Mark 15:46.

Wrapped (ενετυλιξεν), as in Matthew 27:59 where Mark 15:46 has ενειλησεν (wound), which see. John 19:40 has "bound" (εδησαν). See Matt. and Mark also for the linen cloth (σινδον).

Hewn in stone (λαξευτω). From λαξευω (λας, a stone, ξεω, to polish). In the LXX and here only in the N.T. Nowhere else so far as known. See the usual Greek verb λατομεω in Mark 15:46; Matthew 27:60.

Where never man had yet lain (ου ουκ εν ουδεις ουπω κειμενος). Triple negative and periphrastic past perfect passive in sense (κειμα), though periphrastic imperfect passive in form. Same item in John 19:40 who uses ην τεθειμενος (periphrastic past perfect passive in form).

Verse 54

The day of the Preparation (ημερα παρασκευης). The technical Jewish phrase for the day before the sabbath for which see discussion on Matthew 27:62.

Drew on (επεφωσκεν). Imperfect active, began to dawn or give light. However, it was sundown, not sunrise when the Jewish sabbath (twenty-four-hour day) began. The confusion is to us, not to the Jews or the readers of the Greek New Testament. Luke is not speaking of the twelve-hour day which began with sunrise, but the twenty-four-hour day which began with sunset.

Verse 55

Had come with him (ησαν συνεληλυθυια). Periphrastic past perfect active of συνερχομα.

Followed after (κατακολουθησασα). Aorist active participle of κατακολουθεω, an old verb, but in the N.T. only here and Acts 16:17. It is possible that they followed after Joseph and Nicodemus so that they "beheld the tomb," (εθεασαντο το μνημειον), and also "how his body was laid" (ως ετεθη το σωμα αυτου). First aorist passive indicative of τιθημ. They may in fact, have witnessed the silent burial from a distance. The Syriac Sinaitic and the Syriac Curetonian give it thus: "and the women, who came with Him from Galilee went to the sepulchre in their footsteps, and saw the body when they had brought it in there." At any rate the women saw "that" and "how" the body of Jesus was laid in this new tomb of Joseph in the rocks.

Verse 56

On the sabbath they rested (το σαββατον ησυχασαν). They returned and prepared spices before the sabbath began. Then they rested all during the sabbath (accusative of extent of time, το σαββατον).

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Luke 23". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/luke-23.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.