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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
John 19

 

 

Verses 1-16

John 19:1-16. Pilate gives way to the Jews.—Pilate's next attempt is to persuade the Jews to be content with a lighter penalty than crucifixion. The prisoner is not dangerous enough, even to the religious authorities of the nation, to make the extreme penalty necessary. Scourging will meet the case. It was the usual preliminary of the Roman punishment of crucifixion, and in the Synoptic account it is recorded only after the sentence has been pronounced. Cf., however, Luke 23:16; Luke 23:22, where Pilate suggests it as a sufficient punishment. The soldiers obey orders, and, visibly interpreting the governor's wishes, add mockery to the scourging, making sport of the claimant to a kingdom, and perhaps of Jewish "sovereignty" in general. The other gospels record mockery, after the Jewish trial, of the prisoner as a discredited prophet. Pilate shows Jesus to the Jews in this plight, hoping that it will convince them of His helplessness. "Behold the man," not a very dangerous leader of men. This only incites their hatred. To their cry, "Crucify Him," he answers that if they want that they must take the responsibility. They declare that He has deserved the death penalty for blasphemy. At this he is afraid, either from superstition, or from his experience of Jewish fanaticism. To his surprise at the prisoner's silence before His judge, who wields the power of life and death, Jesus replies that all earthly power has its source as well as its limitations in the will of God, which enhances the guilt of "him that delivered him up." It is uncertain whether Caiaphas, or Judas, or Satan is meant. Pilate's former conviction of Jesus' innocence gives way at last before the Jews' veiled threat to accuse him of treason against the Emperor. Taking his seat upon the tribunal he gives formal sentence. We may compare Josephus, Wars, II, xiv. 8: "At this time Florus took up his quarters at the palace, and on the next day he had his tribunal set before it, and sat upon it." The sentence is given "about noon." This is apparently a correction of the Marcan tradition which places the actual crucifixion at the third hour, i.e. 9 A.M. The attempts to harmonise the two statements, by showing that Jn. used the same reckoning of hours that we do, are not convincing.

[John 19:13. Gabbatha: was connected by Zahn, INT, vol. i. p. 29, with gabab, "to rake together," and explained as "mosaic." He has withdrawn this in his commentary, p. 637, where other suggestions are discussed. See also Wellhausen, p. 86, Dalman, The Words of Jesus, pp. 7f.—A. J. G. and A S. P.]


Verses 17-30

John 19:17-30. The Crucifixion.—The statement that Jesus bears His own cross corrects, or at least supplements, the Synoptic story of Simon of Cyrene. It may have been added to show that "the Johannine Christ needs no help," or to deprive the Gnostics of support for their theory that it was Simon who really suffered on the Cross. In itself it is in accordance with Roman custom (cf. Plutarch, "Every malefactor carries his own cross"). The incident of the title is certainly effective as depicting the obstinacy of a weak man who has given way on the main point, but it is difficult to see how it promotes the dogmatic aims of the author. John 19:23 f. suggests a very natural way of dealing with the clothes of the condemned "malefactors," even if it suits the exact wording of the quotation from Psalms 22:18*. It is very natural to identify "his mother's sister" with the "mother of Zebedee's children" (Mt.) and Mark's "Salome." It makes the following commendation of His mother to her sister's son a fitting arrangement, especially as the Lord's brethren, even if they were Mary's sons, "did not believe on Him." It should, however, be remembered that the identification of the Beloved Disciple with the son of Zebedee, though probably intended, is never actually made in this gospel. The statement that John 19:26 f. is inconsistent with Acts 1:14, "where Mary is represented as being in Jerusalem with her sons," is, to say the least, exaggerated. What we read there is that the apostles "continued steadfastly in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren." The incident can be allegorically interpreted, as intended to exhort the Gentile Church to treat Jewish Christianity with all consideration. But the desire to teach this is not an adequate explanation of the origin of a story without foundation in fact. In the saying, "I thirst," the author sees the fulfilment of Psalms 22:15, or an incident which led to the fulfilment of Psalms 69:21. But it is far more reasonable to suppose that the fact led to the discovery of the prophecy rather than that the prophecy caused the invention of the fact. The saying, "It is finished," means, "It is brought to a successful issue" (cf. Luke 12:50). It is a cry of confidence, if not of victory, and accords with the author's presentation of the Passion.

[John 19:29. hyssop: we should probably read "javelin," as proposed by Camerarius, and accepted by such scholars as Beza, Cobet, and Field. It is read by Bentley, but whether independently or not does not appear from his note (Bentleii Critica Sacra, p. 21). It is read by Baljon and Blass in their texts, and by Moffatt in his translation. Hyssop is quite unsuitable for the purpose. The emendation (hussô for hussôpô) simply involves the recognition that the letters ôp have been mistakenly written twice. The fullest discussion may be seen in Field's Notes on the Translation of the NT, pp. 106-108. He regards this as "perhaps the very best" of the few tenable conjectural emendations of the text of the NT.—A. S. P.]


Verses 31-42

John 19:31-42. The Lance-thrust and the Burial.—It has been said that these verses contain parts of two accounts of burial, by the Jews, and by Joseph. In reality the Jews only demand that the law of Deuteronomy 21:23, applicable to any day, should not be broken, especially considering the sanctity of the morrow, which was both a Sabbath and the great day of the Feast. The breaking of the legs was often allowed, as an act of mercy to the sufferers. In the Gospel of Peter the "Jews" object to it, in order that Jesus' suffering may not be shortened. As a means of ensuring death the lance-thrust is perfectly natural, and results which might easily be described by an actual witness in the terms of John 19:34 are not physiologically impossible (Exp., May 1916). Again it is easier to suppose that facts have caused the discovery of prophecy (cf. Exodus 12:46, Psalms 34:20, and Zechariah 12:10, Heb.), and not vice versa. Besides the significance of prophecy fulfilled, the author may have wished to show either that the death was real, against the Docetics, or as indicating what, at a later date, it came to signify to him, that the Lord "came by water and blood" (1 John 5:6), i.e. that the Passion as well as the Baptism was an essential note of His Messianic work. The account of the burial emphasizes its temporary character, which is also recognised in Mt. and Lk.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on John 19:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/john-19.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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