Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

John 18:31

So Pilate said to them, "Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law." The Jews said to him, "We are not permitted to put anyone to death,"
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Jesus, the Christ;   Pilate, Pontius;   Priest;   Prisoners;   Thompson Chain Reference - Pilate, Pontius;   Pontius Pilate;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Courts of Justice;   Punishments;   Roman Empire, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Pilate or Pontius Pilate;   Sanhedrin;   Stephen;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Rome;   Sanhedrin;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Persecution;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Blasphemy;   Council;   Jesus Christ;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Archaeology and Biblical Study;   Capital Punishment;   Crimes and Punishments;   Jesus, Life and Ministry of;   Sanhedrin;   Trial of Jesus;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Blasphemy;   Pilate;   Sanhedrin;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Crucifixion;   Nation (2);   Perverting ;   Pilate;   Roman Law in the Nt;   Sanhedrin;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Sanhedrin or Sanhedrim;   Synagogue;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Judah;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Jacob;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Courts, Judicial;   Jesus Christ, the Arrest and Trial of;   Pilate, Pontius;   Sanhedrin;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Avenger of Blood;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

It is not lawful for us to put any man to death - They might have judged Jesus according to their law, as Pilate bade them do; but they could only excommunicate or scourge him. They might have voted him worthy of death; but they could not put him to death, if any thing of a secular nature were charged against him. The power of life and death was in all probability taken from the Jews when Archelaus, king of Judea, was banished to Vienna, and Judea was made a Roman province; and this happened more than fifty years before the destruction of Jerusalem. But the Romans suffered Herod, mentioned Acts 12:1, etc., to exercise the power of life and death during his reign. See much on this point in Calmet and Pearce. After all, I think it probable that, though the power of life and death was taken away from the Jews, as far as it concerned affairs of state, yet it was continued to them in matters which were wholly of an ecclesiastical nature; and that they only applied thus to Pilate to persuade him that they were proceeding against Christ as an enemy of the state, and not as a transgressor of their own peculiar laws and customs. Hence, though they assert that he should die according to their law, because he made himself the Son of God, John 19:7, yet they lay peculiar stress on his being an enemy to the Roman government; and, when they found Pilate disposed to let him go, they asserted that if he did he was not Caesar's friend, John 18:12. It was this that intimidated Pilate, and induced him to give him up, that they might crucify him. How they came to lose this power is accounted for in a different manner by Dr. Lightfoot. His observations are very curious, and are subjoined to the end of this chapter.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 18:31". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-18.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Judge him … - The Jews had not directly informed him that they had judged him and pronounced him worthy of death. Pilate therefore tells them to inquire into the ease; to ascertain the proof of his guilt, and to decide on what the law of Moses pronounced. It has been doubted whether this gave them the power of putting him to death, or whether it was not rather a direction to them to inquire into the case, and inflict on him, if they judged him guilty, the mild punishment which they were yet at liberty to inflict on criminals. Probably the former is intended. As they lied already determined that in their view this case demanded the punishment of death, so in their answer to Pilate they implied that they had pronounced on it, and that he ought to die. They still, therefore, pressed it on his attention, and refused to obey his injunction to judge him.

It is not lawful … - The Jews were accustomed to put persons to death still in a popular tumult Acts 7:59-60, but they had not the power to do it in any case in a regular way of justice. When they first laid the plan of arresting the Saviour, they did it to kill him Matthew 26:4; but whether they intended to do this secretly, or in a tumult, or by the concurrence of the Roman governor, is uncertain. The Jews themselves say that the power of inflicting capital punishment was taken away about 40 years before the destruction of the temple; but still it is probable that in the time of Christ they had the power of determining on capital cases in instances that pertained to religion (Josephus, Antiq., b. 14: Matthew 26:5; hence, they sought to bring in the authority of Pilate. To do this, they endeavored to make it appear that it was a case of sedition and treason, and one which therefore demanded the interference of the Roman governor. Hence, it was on this charge that they arraigned him, Luke 23:2. Thus, a tumult might be avoided, and the odium of putting him to death which they expected would fall, not on themselves, but upon Pilate!

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 18:31". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-18.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Pilate therefore said unto them, Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law. The Jews said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.

Take him yourselves ... This was the first effort of Pilate to avoid sentencing Jesus. It was the equivalent of his saying, "This case is not under my jurisdiction; handle it yourselves."

Not lawful for us to put any man to death ... According to Clarke, the Jews had the right of putting to death in matters of a wholly ecclesiastical nature. He wrote:

The power of life and death was taken from the Jews, as far as it concerned matters of state ... They only applied to Pilate to persuade him that they were proceeding against Christ as an enemy of the state, and not as a transgressor of their own laws.[6]

Clarke was surely wrong in this opinion. See John 19:7.

ENDNOTE:

[6] Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (London: Mason and Lane, 1837), Vol. 5, p. 645.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 18:31". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/john-18.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Then said Pilate unto them,.... Either ironically, knowing that they did not, or it was not in their power, to judge in capital causes; or seriously, and with some indignation, abhorring such a method of procedure they would have had him gone into, to condemn a man without knowing his crime, and having evidence of it:

take ye him, and judge him according to your law; this he said, as choosing to understand them in no other sense, than that he had broken some peculiar law of theirs, though they had otherwise suggested; and as giving them liberty to take him away to one of their courts, and proceed against him as their law directed, and inflict some lesser punishment on him than death, such as scourging, &c. which they still had a power to do, and did make use of:

the Jews therefore said unto him, it is not lawful for us to put any man to death; thereby insinuating, that he was guilty of a crime, which deserved death, and which they could not inflict; not that they were of such tender consciences, that they could not put him to death, or that they had no law to punish him with death, provided he was guilty; but because judgments in capital cases had ceased among them; nor did they try causes relating to life and death, the date of which they often make to be forty years before the destruction of the templeF9T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 15. 1. Sanhedrin, fol. 41. 1. T. Hieros. Sanhedrin, fol. 18. 1. & 24. 2. Juchasin, fol. 51. 1. Moses Kotsensis pr. affirm. 99. ; and which was much about, or a little before the time these words were spoken: not that this power was taken away wholly from them by the Romans; though since their subjection to the empire, they had not that full and free exercise of it as before; but through the great increase of iniquity, particularly murder, which caused such frequent executions, that they were weary of themF11T. Bab. Avoda Zara fol. 8. 2. Juchasin, fol. 21. 1. ; and through the negligence and indolence of the Jewish sanhedrim, and their removal from the room Gazith, where they only judged capital causesF12Gloss. in T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 8,2. : as for the stoning of Stephen, and the putting of some to death against whom Saul gave his voice, these were the outrages of the zealots, and were not according to a formal process in any court of judicature. Two executions are mentioned in their Talmud; the one is of a priest's daughter that was burnt for a harlotF13T. Hieros. Sanhedrin, fol. 24. 2. , and the other of the stoning of Ben Stada in LyddaF14Ib. fol. 25. 4. ; the one, according to them, seems to be before, the other after the destruction of the temple; but these dates are not certain, nor to be depended upon: for since the destruction of their city and temple, and their being carried captive into other lands, it is certain that the power of life and death has been wholly taken from them; by which it appears, that the sceptre is removed from Judah, and a lawgiver from between his feet; and this they own almost in the same words as here expressed; for they sayF15T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 58. 1. of a certain man worthy of death,

"why dost thou scourge him? he replies, because he lay with a beast; they say to him, hast thou any witnesses? he answers, yes; Elijah came in the form of a man, and witnessed; they say, if it be so, he deserves to die; to which he answers, "from the day we have been carried captive out of our land, לית לן רשותא למקטל, we have no power to put to death".'

But at this time, their power was not entirely gone; but the true reason of their saying these words is, that they might wholly give up Christ to the Roman power, and throw off the reproach of his death from themselves; and particularly they were desirous he should die the reproachful and painful death of the cross, which was a Roman punishment: had they took him and judged him according to their law, which must have been as a false prophet, or for blasphemy or idolatry, the death they must have condemned him to, would have been stoning; but it was crucifixion they were set upon; and therefore deliver him up as a traitor, and a seditious person, in order thereunto.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 18:31". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-18.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, b It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

(b) For judgments of life and death were taken from them forty years before the destruction of the temple.
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on John 18:31". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/john-18.html. 1599-1645.

John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels

31. Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

[It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.] Doth Pilate jest or deride them, when he bids them "take him, and judge him according to their own law?" It cannot be denied but that all capital judgment, or sentence upon life, had been taken from the Jews for above forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, as they oftentimes themselves confess. But how came this to pass? It is commonly received, that the Romans, at this time the Jews' lords and masters, had taken from all their courts a power and capacity of judging the capital matters. We have spoken largely upon this subject in our notes upon Matthew 26:3. Let us superadd a few things here:

"Rabh Cahna saith, When R. Ismael Bar Jose lay sick, they sent to him saying, 'Pray, sir, tell us two or three things which thou didst once tell us in the name of thy father.' He saith to them, 'A hundred and fourscore years before the destruction of the Temple, the wicked kingdom' [the Rome empire] reigned over Israel. Fourscore years before the destruction of the Temple, they" [the fathers of the Sanhedrim] "determined about the uncleanness of the heathen land, and about glass vessels. Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the Sanhedrim removed and sat in the Tabernae. What is the meaning of this tradition? Rabh Isaac Bar Abdimi saith, 'They did not judge judgments of mulcts.'" The Gloss is: "Those are the judgments about finding any that offered violence, that entice a maid, and the price of a servant. When, therefore, they did not sit in the room Gazith, they did not judge about these things; and so those judgments about mulcts or fines ceased."

Here we have one part of their judiciary power lost, not taken away from them by the Romans, but falling of itself, as it were, out of the hands of the Sanhedrim. Nor did the Romans indeed take away their power of judging in capital matters, but they, by their own oscitancy, supine and unreasonable lenity, lost it themselves. For so the Gemara goes on:

"Rabh Nachman Bar Isaac saith, 'Let him not say that they did not judge judgments of mulcts, but that they did not judge capital judgments. And whence comes this? When they saw that so many murderers multiplied upon them, that they could not well judge and call them to account, they said, It is better for us that we remove from place to place, for how can we otherwise" [sitting here and not punishing them] "not contract a guilt upon ourselves?'"

They thought themselves obliged to punish murderers while they sat in the room Gazith: for the place itself engaged them to it. They are the words of the Gemarists. Upon which the Gloss: "The room Gazith was half of it within and half of it without the Holy Place. The reason of which was, that it was requisite that the council should sit near the Divine Majesty. Hence it is that they say, 'Whoever constitutes an unfit judge, is as if he planted a grove by the altar of the Lord: as it is written, Judges and officers shalt thou make thee': and it follows presently after, 'Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the Lord thy God,' Deuteronomy 16:18,21. They removed therefore from Gazith, and sat in the Tabernae. Now though the Tabernae were upon the Mountain of the Temple, yet they did not sit so near the Divine Majesty there as they did when they sat in the room Gazith."

Let us now, in order, put the whole matter together:

I. The Sanhedrim were most stupidly and unreasonably remiss in their punishment of capital offenders, going upon this reason especially, that they accounted it so horrible a thing to sentence an Israelite to death. Forsooth, he is of the seed of Abraham, of the blood and stock of Israel; and you must have a care how you touch such a one!

"R. Eliezer Bar R. Simeon had laid hold on some thieves. R. Joshua Bar Korchah sent to him, saying, 'O thou vinegar, the son of good wine'" [i.e. O thou wicked son of a good father], "'how long wilt thou deliver the people of God to the slaughter?' He answered and said, 'I root the thorns out of the vineyard.' To whom the other, 'Let the Lord of the vineyard come and root them out himself.'" It is worth nothing that the very thieves of Israel are the people of God: and O! they must not be touched by any means, but referred to the judgment of God himself.

"When R. Ismael Bar R. Jose was constituted a magistrate by the king, there happened some such thing to him; for Elias himself rebuked him, saying, 'How long wilt thou deliver over the people of God to slaughter?'" Hence that which we alleged elsewhere: "The Sanhedrim that happens to sentence any one to death within the space of seven years is called 'a destroyer.' R. Eleazar Ben Azariah saith, 'It is so, if they should but condemn one within seventy years.'"

II. It is obvious to any one, how this foolish remissness and letting loose the reins of judgment would soon increase the number of robbers, murderers, and all kind of wickedness: and, indeed, they did so abundantly multiply, that the Sanhedrim neither could nor durst, as it ought, call the criminals to account. The laws slept while wickedness was in the height of its revels; and punitive justice was so out of countenance, that, as to uncertain murders, they made no search; and certain ones they framed no judgment against.

"Since the time that homicides multiplied, the beheading the heifer ceased." And in the place before quoted in Avodah; "When they saw the number of murderers so greatly increase, that they could not sit in judgment upon them, they said, 'Let us remove,'" &c.

So in the case of adultery, which we also observed in our notes upon chapter 8. "Since the time that adultery so openly advanced under the second Temple, they let off trying the adulteress by the bitter water," &c.

So that we see the liberty of judging in capital matters was no more taken from the Jews by the Romans than the beheading of the heifer or the trial of the suspected wife by the bitter waters was taken away by them; which no one will affirm. But rather,

III. When the Sanhedrim saw that it was in vain to struggle against the mighty torrent and inundation of all manner of wickedness, that played rex and encroached so fast upon them, and that the interposure of their authority could do nothing in suppressing them, they being incapable of passing judgment as they ought, they determine not to sit in judgment at all. And whereas they thought themselves bound by the majesty and awfulness of the place, while they sat in the room Gazith [in the very Court of Israel before the altar], to judge according to the sacredness of the place, but could not indeed do it by reason of the daring pride and resolution of the criminals, they threw themselves out of that apartment, and went further off into the place where the exchangers' shops were kept in the Court of the Gentiles, and so to other places, which we find mentioned in Rosh hashanah.

IV. It is disputed whether they ever returned to their first place Gazith, or no. It is affirmed by the Gloss in Avodah Zarah: "When for a time they found it absolutely necessary, they betook themselves again to that room." We have the same also elsewhere upon this tradition:

"It is a tradition of R. Chaia. From the day wherein the Temple was destroyed, though the Sanhedrim ceased, yet the four kinds of death" [which were wont to be inflicted by the Sanhedrim] "did not cease. For he that had deserved to be stoned to death, he either fell off from some house, or some wild beast tore and devoured him. He that had deserved burning, he either fell into some fire or some serpent bit him. He that had deserved to be slain: [i.e. with the sword], was either delivered into the hands of a heathen king, or was murdered by robbers. He that had deserved strangling was either drowned in some river, or choked by a squinancy [angina]."

But it may be objected, Why is it said, "From the time that the Temple was destroyed," and not, "forty years before the destruction of the Temple?" To this the Gloss answereth: "Sometimes, according to the urgency and necessity of the time, the Sanhedrim returned to the room Gazith," &c. It is further excepted "But they never returned to sit in capital causes, or to try murders. For the reason of their removal at first was because the numbers of homicides so increased upon them," &c.

V. When the great council did not sit in Gazith, all courts for capital matters ceased everywhere else. One Gloss saith thus: "They took no cognizance of capital matters in any of the lesser sessions, so long as the great Sanhedrim did not sit in the room Gazith." Another saith; "What time the great Sanhedrim sat in its proper place, where it ought, near the altar, then thou shalt make thee judges in all thy gates, to judge in capital causes: but when that removed, then all cognizance about those matters ceased."

VI. The Sanhedrim removed, as we have already seen, from Gazith, forty years before Jerusalem was destroyed: and this is the very thing that was said, "Forty years before the destruction of the city, judgment in capital causes was taken away from them." And now let the reader judge what should be the reason of their being deprived of this privilege: whether the Romans were in fault; or whether rather the Jews, nay, the Sanhedrim itself, had not brought it upon themselves. When the Sanhedrim flitted from Gazith: all judgment of this kind vanished, and upon what reasons they did thus flit we have learned from their own pens.

We will not contend about the time when these forty years should first begin: though I am apt to think they might begin about half a year before Christ's death. The words which we have under consideration, spoken by the Sanhedrim to Pilate, seem to refer wholly to the reason we have already mentioned: "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death." Why is it not lawful? Because, being forced by the necessity of the times, we retired from the room Gazith, where if we sit not, neither we ourselves nor any court under us can take any cognizance of causes of life and death.

But what necessity of times could urge you to remove? So greatly did the criminals multiply, and grew to such a head, that we neither could not durst animadvert upon them, according to what the majesty of the place might expect and require from us if we should sit in Gazith.

That must be observed in the evangelists, that when they had had Christ in examination in the palace of the high priest all night, in the morning the whole Sanhedrim met, that they might pass sentence of death upon him. Where then was this that they met? Questionless in the room Gazith; at least if they adhered to their own rules and constitutions: "Thither they betook themselves sometimes upon urgent necessity." The Gloss before quoted excepts "only the case of murder"; which, amongst all their false accusations, they never charged Christ with.

But however suppose it were granted that the great council met either in the Tabernae or some other place, (which yet by no means agreed with their own tradition,) did they deal truly, and as the matter really and indeed was, with Pilate, when they tell him, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death?" He had saith to them, "Take ye him, and judge him according to your law." We have indeed judged and condemned him, but we cannot put any one to death. Was this that they said in fact true? How came they then to stone the protomartyr Stephen? How came they to stone Ben Satda at Lydda? How came they to burn the priest's daughter alive that was taken in adultery?

It is probable they had not put any one to death as yet, since the time that they had removed out of Gazith; and so might the easilier persuade Pilate in that case. But their great design was to throw off the odium of Christ's death from themselves, at least amongst the vulgar crowd, fearing them, if the council themselves should have decreed his execution. They seek this evasion, therefore, which did not altogether want some colour and pretext of truth: and it succeeded according to what they did desire; Divine Providence so ordering it, as the evangelist intimates, verse 32, "That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die": that is, be crucified, according to the custom of the Romans.

Whilst I am upon this thought, I cannot but reflect upon that passage, than which nothing is more worthy observation, in the whole description of the Roman beast in the Revelation, chapter 13:4: "The dragon which gave power unto the beast." We cannot say this of the Assyrian, Babylonish, or any other monarchy; for the Holy Scriptures do not say it. But reason dictates, and the event itself tells us, that there was something acted by the Roman empire in behalf of the dragon which was not compatible with any other, that is, the putting of the Son of God to death. Which thing we must remember, as often as we recite that article of our creed, "He suffered under Pontius Pilate"; that is, was put to death by the Roman empire.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on John 18:31". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jlc/john-18.html. 1675.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Yourselves (υμειςhumeis). Emphatic. Pilate shrewdly turns the case over to the Sanhedrin in reply to their insolence, who have said nothing whatever about their previous trial and condemnation of Jesus. He drew out at once the admission that they wanted the death of Jesus, not a fair trial for him, but Pilate‘s approval of their purpose to kill him (John 7:1, John 7:25).

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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)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 18:31". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/john-18.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Take ye him ( λάβετε αὐτὸν ὑμεῖς )

The A.V. obscures the emphatic force of ὑμεῖς , you. Pilate's words display great practical shrewdness in forcing the Jews to commit themselves to the admission that they desired Christ's death. “Take him yourselves (so Rev.), and judge him according to your law.” “By our law,” reply the Jews, “he ought to die.” But this penalty they could not inflict. “It is not lawful,” etc.

sa40

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 18:31". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/john-18.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

It is not lawful for us to put any man to death — The power of inflicting capital punishment had been taken from them that very year. So the sceptre was departed from Judah, and transferred to the Romans.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on John 18:31". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/john-18.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

Pilate therefore said unto them, Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law1. The Jews said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death2:

  1. Pilate therefore said unto them, Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law. As the Jews insisted on their own verdict, Pilate bade them pronounce their own sentence, declining to mix jurisdictions by pronouncing a Roman sentence on a Sanhedrin verdict.

  2. The Jews said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death. The Jews responded that it is not in their power to pronounce the sentence for which their verdict called, since they could not put to death. Jesus could only be sentenced to death by the Roman court, and crucifixion was the mode by which its death sentence was executed.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
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J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 18:31". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/john-18.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

It is not lawful, &c. The case of Stephen, and other evidence from secular writers, renders it doubtful whether the Jewish tribunals were absolutely prohibited from inflicting capital punishment, in all cases. Perhaps they meant that they were not allowed to punish by crucifixion, which was the object that they had determined upon effecting, if possible. This supposition comports best with the John 18:32.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on John 18:31". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/john-18.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

По закону вашему. Нет сомнения, что Пилат, оскорбленный их варварством и насилием, хочет их попрекнуть. Он говорит: требуемая вами форма осуждения чужда общему праву всех народов и человеческому разуму. Кроме того, он обличает их в том, что они хвалятся, будто имеют переданный им закон Божий. Он говорит иронически: возьмите Его вы. Он не потерпел бы, если бы они вынесли смертный приговор, но как бы говорит: если бы власть принадлежала вам, преступника после обвинения сразу же волокли бы на казнь. Где же справедливость вашего закона – осудить человека без всякого преступления? Так нечестивые, прикрываясь святым именем Божиим, дают повод противникам клеветать на Его учение, и мир с готовностью хватается за этот повод.

Нам не позволено. Ошибаются те, кто думает, будто иудеи отказались сделать то, что им предложил Пилат. Скорее, зная, что слова: Возьмите его вы, – сказаны им в насмешку, они возражают: Ты не позволил бы нам этого. Итак, будучи судьей, исполни же сам свой долг.

 

 

 

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 18:31". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-18.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

31 Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

Ver. 31. It is not lawful for us] That is, upon this or any such like day, upon a holy day, or holy day eve. For otherwise they had power, or at least took it at their pleasure, as when they stoned Stephen, Acts 7:58-60, and would have killed Paul, Acts 23:20-21. But note, that they would seem to do all according to law by any means; so would their successors, the Catholics. Which, if it be so (saith Mr Fox), how did they then to Anne Askew, whom they first condemned to death, and then set her on the rack? By what law did they call up Master Hooper, and imprison him for the Queen’s debt (when the Queen in very deed did owe him eighty pounds), and kept him a year and a half in prison, and gave him never a penny? By what law did Bishop Bonner condemn and burn Richard Mekins, a lad of fifteen years, when the first jury had acquitted him, and at the stake he revoked all heresy, and praised the said Bonner to be a good man; and also, having him in prison, would not suffer his father and mother to come to him, to comfort their own child? What law had they to put Mr Rogers, our proto-martyr, in prison, when he did neither preach nor read lectures after the time of the Queen’s inhibition? And when they had kept him in his own house half a year, being not deprived of any living, yet would not let him have one half-penny of his own means to relieve him, his wife and eleven children? By what law was Thomas Tompkins’ hand burned, and after his body consumed to ashes? What good law or honesty was there to burn the three poor women at Guernsey, with the infant child falling out of the mother’s womb, whereas they all before recanted their words and opinions, and were never abjured before. So, what right or order of law did Stephen Gardiner follow, in troubling and imprisoning Judge Hales, when he had done nothing either against God’s law or man’s, proceeding in order of law against certain presumptuous persons, which, both before the law and against the law then in force, took upon them to say their mass?

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on John 18:31". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/john-18.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

John 18:31. Take ye him, and judge him By making this offer to them, the governor told them plainly, that, in his opinion, the crime which they laid to the prisoner's charge, was not of a capital nature; and that such punishments as they were permitted by Caesar to inflict, might be adequate to any misdemeanour with which Jesus was chargeable. One cannot suppose that Pilate could be ignorant of the case before him; for he began his government at Jerusalem before Jesus entered onhis public ministry; and besides many other extraordinary things which he must formerly have heard concerning him, he had, no doubt, received a full account of his public entrance into Jerusalem the beginning of the week; and also of his apprehension, in which the Jewish rulers were assisted by a Roman cohort, which could hardly be engaged in that service without the Governor's express permission. It seems Nicodemus, or Joseph of Arimathea, (who seems to have been personally acquainted with Pilate,—see Chap. John 19:38.) or some other friend, had told him fully of the affair, for he entertained a just notion of it. He knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. It plainly appears, however, by his whole conduct, that he was very unwilling to engage in this cause. He seems cautious, therefore, not to enter into the full sense of what the Jewish rulers intended, when they called him a malefactor; but answers them in ambiguous language, which they might have interpreted as a warrant to execute Christ, if they found it necessary, and yet which would have left them liable to be questioned for doing it, and might have givenhim such an advantage against them, as a man of his character might have wished. Their reply shews that they were more aware of this artifice than has been generally imagined. It is not lawful for us to put any man to death. See the note on Mark 15:1. To what has been observed there, we add, that it appears both from this acknowledgment of the Jews, and from the writings of more modern rabbies (which assert, that forty years before the destruction of the temple, the power of judicature, in capital crimes, was taken away from them,) that Jewish magistrates under the Romans had not the power of inflicting capital punishments. This is manifest also from the nature and constitution of a Roman province; for, during the free state of the Romans, no freeman could be put to death at Rome, but by the suffrages of the body of the people, or by the senate, or by some superior magistrate appointed for that purpose. In the provinces, the power of capital punishments was granted to the governors by the especial commission called imperium. Upon the changeof the government, this power came into the hands of the emperors, and was by them intrusted with the praefectus urbis, the prefect of the city, at Rome; and in the provinces, with the respective governors, as before. This power could not be delegated by the governors to any other person, while they themselves were in the provinces; nor is there any instance whereby it appears, that anyother court had this power at the same time with the Roman governor, and in such places where he couldexercise it. There were indeed some free cities in the provinces dependent on the Romans, which had this power within themselves; but then the Roman governors had it not at the same time in those places;though if the inhabitants attempted any thing in a hostile manner against the Romans, the governors had it in their commission to check them, as well as any other enemies. The Roman provinces were not all settled upon the same footing; that is, the grants and privileges were not made alike to all. Civil causes and lesser crimes must necessarily either be left to the inhabitants or some inferior officers; for it was impossible that the governor himself should perform all this in person; and therefore each governor had usually several legates with him, besides his quaestor, who were capable of administering justice in different parts of the country, and seem to have had a larger power than the municipal magistrates, for they represented the governor himself: but no sufficient evidence is offered to prove, that any other court than his own had cognizance of capital crimes; nor does such a power appear at all agreeable to the scheme and maxims of the Roman government, which in this point seems to have continued uniform and consistent with itself, under the great alterations that it underwent in other respects; and, therefore, whatever other indulgences they might grant to the Jews, or other provincials, it does not thence follow that they allowed them this, or suffered their governors to sit still as idle spectators, while any other court assumed ajudicial power to take away the lives of any persons within their district, who were all equally under their protection. The case of Stephen has indeed been thought by some an instance in favour of the contrary opinion; but that this fact rather ought to be esteemed as the result of a hasty and intemperate zeal, and done in a tumultuous manner, than as the effect of a legal sentence consequent upon a judicial process, has been justly observed by Dr. Lardner, in his Credibil. Part 1: p. 112.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on John 18:31". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/john-18.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

The Jews being now under the power of the Romans, though they had a power of judging and censuring criminals in smaller matters, yet not in capital cases; they could not pronounce a sentence of death upon any person, say some; they might, and did, say others, punish blasphemers by stoning them to death; but then their sentence is to be ratified by the Roman power. Accordingly, here they had in their ecclessiastical court condemned Christ for blasphemy, now they bring him to Pilate the Roman governor, to confirm the sentence of death.

From hence it appears, that Christ was the true Messias, being sent into the world when the sceptre was departed from Judah, according to that ancient prophecy of Jacob, The sceptre shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come Genesis 49:10.

The Jews had no power absolutely to condemn any man, or put him to death; but his power the Roman emperor reserved to his own deputy. This contributed towards the fulfilling of our Saviour's words, That he should be delivered to the Gentiles, and should be crucified Matthew 20:19 : which was not a Jewish, but a Roman punishment.

Had the Jews put him to death, they had stoned him. But Christ was to be made a curse for us by hanging upon a tree; and accordingly the Jews execute the counsel of God, though they knew it not, by refusing to put him to death themselves.

Learn hence, how willing Christ was to undergo a shameful, painful, and accursed death, that he might testify his love unto, and procure a blessing for, his people. Thus the saying of Jesus was fulfilled; when he spake, signifying what death he should die.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on John 18:31". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/john-18.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

31.] This answer is best regarded as an ironical reproach founded on their apparently proud assertion in John 18:30—and amounting to this:—‘If you suppose I am to have such implicit confidence in your judgment concerning this prisoner as to take his guilt on your word, take him and put him to death (for κρίνατε must be thus understood,—see below) according to your law;’ reminding them that the same Roman power which had reserved capital cases for his jurisdiction, also expected proper cognizance to be taken of them, and not that he should be the mere executioner of the Sanhedrim.

ἡμ. οὐκ ἔξ.] From the time when Archelaus was deposed (A.D. 6 or 7), and Judæa became a Roman province, it would follow by the Roman law that the Jews lost the power of life and death. Josephus tells us, Antt. xx. 9. 1, that οὐκ ἔξον ἦν χωρὶς τῆς ἐκείνου (the Procurator’s) γνώμης καθίσαι συνέδριον,—i.e. to hold a court of judgment in capital cases. Some have thought that this power was reserved to them in religious matters, as of blasphemy and sacrilege; but no proof has been adduced of this; the passages commonly alleged—Jos. Antt. xiv. 10. 2: B. J. vi. 2. 4, and Acts 7:58, not applying (see note on Acts ut supra). The Talmud relates that this had taken place forty years (or more, see Lücke, ii. 737 note) before the destruction of Jerusalem.

Biscoe, on the Acts, pp. 134–167, argues at great length that the Jews had this power; and that the words here merely mean that they could not put to death on the Sabbath, which, according to the usual custom of executing the next day after judgment, would now have been the case. But this treatment of the word is unjustifiable. Can we suppose for a moment that this can have been meant, when there is not a word in the text to imply it? We may hope that the day for such forced interpretations is fast passing away.

Friedlieb (§ 31) gives the most consistent account of the matter. In the Roman provinces generally the Proprætor or Proconsul conducted judicial proceedings. But Judæa, which belonged to the province of Syria, was an exception. There was a Procurator cum potestate, who exercised the right of judicial cognizance. Jerusalem however possessed the privilege of judging all lighter causes before the three-and-twenty, and heavier causes, with the sole exception of judicia de capite, before the great Sanhedrim: so that none but these reserved cases remained for the Procurator. Pilate seems to have judged these cases at his visits during the festivals; which would fall conveniently for the purpose, it being the custom in Jerusalem, to execute great criminals at the Feasts. In other provinces the governors made circuits and held assizes throughout their jurisdictions. See on this subject Lücke’s note, ii. 736.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on John 18:31". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/john-18.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

John 18:31. Since they bring forward no definite charge, Pilate refers them to their own tribunal (the Sanhedrim). As he, without such an accusation, from which his competency to act must first arise, could take no other course than at once refer the matter to the regular Jewish authority, he also incurred no danger in taking that course; because if the κρίνειν, i.e. the judicial procedure against Jesus, should terminate in assigning the punishment of death, they must nevertheless come back to him, while it was at the same time a prudent course ( φθόνον ὀξὺ νοήσας, Nonnus); because if they did not wish to withdraw with their business unfinished, they would, it might be presumed, be under the necessity of laying aside their insolence, and of still coming out with an accusation. If κρίνειν, which, according to this view, is by no means of doubtful signification (Hengstenberg), be understood as meaning to condemn, or even to execute (Lücke, de Wette, who, as already Calvin and several others, finds therein a sneer), which, however, it does not in itself denote, and which sense it cannot acquire by means of the following ἀποκτεῖναι, something of a very anticipatory and relatively impertinent character is put in the procurator’s mouth.

ὑμεῖς] With emphasis.

The answer of the Jews rests on the thought that this κρίνειν was, on their part, already an accomplished fact, and led up to the sentence for execution, which they, however, were not competent to carry out. They therefore understood the κρίνειν not as equivalent to ἀποκτεῖναι, but regarded the latter as the established result of the former. Any limitation, however, of ἡμῖν οὐκ ἔξεστιν, κ. τ. λ. (to the punishment of the cross, as Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Calovius, and several others think; or to the feast day, as Semler and Kuinoel suppose; or to political crimes, so Krebs), is imported into the words; the Jews had, since the domination of the Romans (according to the Talmud, forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem; see Lightfoot, p. 455, 1133 ff.), lost the jus vitae et necis generally; they could, indeed, sentence to death, but the confirmation and execution belonged to the superior Roman authority. See generally Iken, Diss. II. p. 517 ff.; Friedlieb, Archäol. p. 96 f. The stoning of Stephen, as also at a later period that of James, the Lord’s brother (Josephus, Antt. xx. 9. 1), was a tumultuary act. Comp. also Keil, Archäol. II. p. 259.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on John 18:31". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/john-18.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

John 18:31. ὑμῶν, your) Pilate seems to have said this not without contempt: comp. John 18:35, “Am I a Jew?” and not to have considered the charge brought against Jesus a capital offence, as the Jews were accounting it.— οὐκ ἔξεστιν, it is not lawful) It is not very easy to interpret the feeling of a tumultuous crowd. Pilate speaks of himself (by virtue of his own authority), with whom the power rests: John 18:39. Certainly, when he granted the permission, they had it in their power to kill Jesus: but they are unwilling to avail themselves of that concession, and therefore appeal to the fact of the power of life and death having been taken from them. And Jewish history accordingly tells us that on that very year, the fortieth before the overthrow of the city, the power was taken from them. See also ch. John 19:31, [The Jews beg leave from Pilate that the bodies be taken down, thus acknowledging his authority; so also they ask leave to watch and seal the tomb,] Matthew 27:62.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on John 18:31". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/john-18.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Take ye him, and judge him according to your law; I will judge no man before myself first hear and judge of his crime; you have a law amongst yourselves, and a liberty to question and judge men upon it, proceed against him according to your law. They reply,

It is not lawful for us to put any man to death. We are assured by such as are exercised in the Jewish writings, that the power of putting any to death was taken away from the Jews forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem. Some say it was not taken away by the Romans, but by their own court. They thought it so horrid a thing to put an Israelite to death, that wickedness of all sorts grew to such a height amongst them, through the impunity, or too light punishment, of criminals, that their courts durst not execute their just authority. And at last their great court determined against the putting any to death; nor (as they say) was any put to death by the Jews, but in some popular tumult, after their court had prejudiced the person by pronouncing him guilty of blasphemy, or some capital crime; which seemeth the case of Stephen, Acts 7:1-60.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 18:31". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/john-18.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

нам не позволено Когда в 6 г. по Р.Х. Рим получил и начал осуществлять прямое господство над Иудеей через прокуратора, у иудеев была отнята уголовная юрисдикция (т.е. право казнить). В римском периферийном правительстве из всех атрибутов власти ревностнее всего охранялась смертная казнь.

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on John 18:31". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/john-18.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Take ye him, and judge him; see note to chap John 19:6.

Not lawful; the power to put one to death had been taken away from the Jews by the Roman government; and this was the reason why they sought to have Pilate condemn him.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on John 18:31". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/john-18.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Since the Jews did not charge Jesus formally there was nothing that Pilate could do except hand Him back to them for discipline in their courts. The Jews" response explained why that was an unacceptable alternative. They wanted Jesus executed, but they did not have the authority to execute Him themselves. [Note: See ibid, pp695-97, for a fuller explanation of the Jews" right to inflict the death penalty.]

"The Pilate disclosed in the [ancient] historical documents almost certainly acted like this not so much out of any passion for justice as out of the ego-building satisfaction he gained from making the Jewish authorities jump through legal hoops and recognize his authority." [Note: Carson, The Gospel . . ., p591.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 18:31". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-18.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

John 18:31. Pilate therefore said unto them, Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law. Pilate has already seen enough to satisfy him that no offence against civil order, calling for his interposition, has been committed. He will have nothing to do with merely religious squabbles, and he remits the whole matter to the Jews themselves. Thus the Jews are compelled to declare their purpose, and their self-confessed humiliation begins.

The Jews said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death. Shortly before this time the Jews had lost the power of putting criminals to death. But the point now is, that they have to confess it. In their answer the Evangelist seems to see a mockery of their high pretensions. The bitter irony of circumstances forces from them an acknowledgment of their shame. But, while they are thus degraded, the Divine purpose proceeds calmly to its accomplishment.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on John 18:31". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/john-18.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

John 18:31. This does not suit Roman ideas of justice; and therefore Pilate, ascribing their reluctance to lay a definite charge against the prisoner and to have the case reopened to the difficulty of explaining to a Roman the actual law and transgression, bids them finish the case for themselves, cf.Acts 18:14.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 18:31". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/john-18.html. 1897-1910.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Take ye Him = Take Him yourselves.

judge. Greek. krino. App-122.

according to. Greek. kata. App-104.

It is not lawful. For violations of their law they seem to have had the power of stoning to death. See John 8:59; John 10:31. Acts 7:59. But they feared the people, and so had determined to raise the plea of rebellion against Ceasar and throw the odium of the Lord"s death upon Pilate.

not . . . any man. Greek. ouk oudeis. A double negative.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on John 18:31". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/john-18.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, [ labete (G2983) auton (G846) humeis (G5210), 'Take him yourselves,'] and judge him according to your law. This was not an admission, as some view it, of their independence of him in matters of life and death: for they themselves say the contrary in the very next words, and Pilate surely did not need to learn what his powers were from these Jews. But by this general reply he would throw upon themselves the responsibility of all they should do against this Prisoner: for no doubt he had been informed to some extent of their proceedings.

The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death. See Josephus (Ant. 20:

9. 1), who tells us that the high priest was charged with acting illegally for assembling the Sanhedrim that condemned 'James the just' to die, without the consent of the Roman Governor.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 18:31". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-18.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(31) Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.—Pilate takes them at their word. They claim the judicial right; let them exercise it. Their law gave them power to punish, but not the right of capital punishment. If they claim that the matter is wholly within their own power of judgment, then the sentence must also be limited to their own power. He can only execute a sentence which is pronounced by himself after formal trial.

It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.—Their words admit that they did not possess the power of life and death, while they imply that they had sentenced Jesus to death. They verbally give up the power, but in reality claim it, and regard the procurator as their executioner. The Jews had lost this power since the time that Archelaus was deposed, and Judæa became a Roman province (A.D. 6 or 7). The Talmud speaks of the loss of this power forty years or more before the destruction of Jerusalem. (Comp. Lightfoot’s Note here, and in Matthew 26:3.)

On the stoning of Stephen, which was an illegal act, comp. Notes on Acts 7:57 et seq.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 18:31". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/john-18.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:
Take
19:6,7; Acts 25:18-20
It
19:15; Genesis 49:10; Ezekiel 21:26,27; Hosea 3:4,5
Reciprocal: Deuteronomy 28:43 - GeneralJohn 8:59 - took;  Acts 18:15 - for;  Acts 24:6 - and

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on John 18:31". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/john-18.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

31.According to your law. Pilate, offended by their barbarous and violent proceedings, undoubtedly reproaches them by stating that this form of condemnation, which they were eager to carry into effcct, was at variance with the common law of all nations and with the feelings of mankind; and, at the same time he censures them for boasting that they had a law given to them by God.

Take you him. He says this ironically; for he would not have allowed them to pronounce on a man a sentence of capital punishment; but it is as if he had said, “Were he in your power, he would instantly be executed, without being heard in his own defense; and, is this the equity of your Law, to condemn a man without any crime?” Thus do wicked men, falsely assuming the name of God as an excuse for their conduct, expose his holy doctrine to the reproaches of enemies, and the world eagerly seizes on it as an occasion of slander.

We are not allowed. Those who think that the Jews refuse an offer, which Pilate had made to them, are mistaken; but rather, knowing that he had said to them in mockery, Take you him, they reply, “You would not allow it; and since you are the judge, execute your office.”

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 18:31". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-18.html. 1840-57.