Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

John 18:38

Pilate *said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and *said to them, "I find no guilt in Him.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Demagogism;   Jesus, the Christ;   Opinion, Public;   Pilate, Pontius;   Politics;   Prisoners;   Truth;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Human Nature of Christ, the;   Paschal Lamb, Typical Nature of;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Pilate or Pontius Pilate;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Rome;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Persecution;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Archaeology and Biblical Study;   Jesus, Life and Ministry of;   Pilate, Pontius;   Trial of Jesus;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Pilate;   Truth;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Attributes of Christ;   Pilate;   Questions and Answers;   Science (2);   Truth (2);  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Crime;   Fault;   Jesus Christ, the Arrest and Trial of;   Pilate, Pontius;   Truth;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - New Testament;  
Devotionals:
Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life - Devotion for June 29;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

What is truth - Among the sages of that time there were many opinions concerning truth; and some had even supposed that it was a thing utterly out of the reach of men. Pilate perhaps might have asked the question in a mocking way; and his not staying to get an answer indicated that he either despaired of getting a satisfactory one, or that he was indifferent about it. This is the case with thousands: they appear desirous of knowing the truth, but have not patience to wait in a proper way to receive an answer to their question.

I find in him no fault - Having asked the above question, and being convinced of our Lord's innocence, he went out to the Jews to testify his convictions and to deliver him, if possible, out of their hands.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 18:38". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-18.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

What is truth? - This question was probably asked in contempt, and hence Jesus did not answer it. Had the question been sincere, and had Pilate really sought it as Nicodemus had done John 18:33, and as soon as Pilate had asked the question, without waiting for an answer, he went out. It is evident that he was satisfied, from the answer of Jesus John 18:36-37, that he was not a king in the sense in which the Jews accused him; that he would not endanger the Roman government, and consequently that he was innocent of the charge alleged against him. He regarded him, clearly, as a fanatic poor, ignorant, and deluded, but innocent and not dangerous. Hence, he sought to release him; and, hence, in contempt, he asked him this question, and immediately went out, not expecting an answer.

This question had long agitated the world. It was the great subject of inquiry in all the schools of the Greeks. Different sects of philosophers had held different opinions, and Pilate now, in derision, asked him, whom he esteemed an ignorant fanatic, whether he could solve this long-agitated question. He might have had an answer. If he had patiently waited in sincerity, Jesus would have told him what it was. Thousands ask the question in the same way. They have a fixed contempt for the Bible; they deride the instructions of religion; they are unwilling to investigate and to wait at the gates of wisdom; and hence, like Pilate, they remain ignorant of the great Source of truth, and die in darkness and in error. All might find truth if they would seek it; none ever will find it if they do not apply for it to the great source of light the God of truth, and seek it patiently in the way in which he has chosen to communicate it to mankind. How highly should we prize the Bible! And how patiently and prayerfully should we search the Scriptures, that we may not err and die forever! See the notes at John 14:6.

I find in him no fault - See Luke 23:4.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 18:38". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-18.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find no crime in him.

Thus, Pilate terminated the interview, not waiting for a reply. He needed no reply, because the truth was of no particular concern to him. He was far more interested in what was politically expedient. This, of course, was exactly the attitude of Caiaphas (John 11:50); and both Pilate and Jesus' foes stood on that principle together, political expediency being the common ground upon which they agreed at last to crucify the Lord.

This was a verdict of innocence. At that moment, Pilate should have dismissed the hearing and ordered the legions in the tower of Antonio to disperse the mob; but he wilted before the venomous hatred of the mob demanding Jesus' death. The announcement of a verdict of innocence was another effort to release Jesus.

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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 18:38". "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

Pilate saith unto him, what is truth?.... That is, in general, or that which Christ then particularly spoke of: many things might be observed in answer to this question, as that there is the truth and faithfulness of God in his word and promises; the truth of grace in the hearts of his people; Jesus Christ himself is truth, he is true God, and true man; the truth of all covenant transactions, of all types, promises, and prophecies; whatever he said and taught was truth, and the truth of all doctrine comes from him. The Gospel is truth in general; it comes from the God of truth; lies in the Scriptures of truth; Christ, who is truth itself, is the substance of it; the Spirit of truth has an hand in it, leads into it, and makes it effectual; the whole of it is true, and every particular doctrine of it; as the manifestation of the Son of God in human nature, his coming into the world to save the chief of sinners, justification by his righteousness, pardon by his blood, atonement by his sacrifice, the resurrection of the dead, &c. The same question is put in the TalmudF16T. Hieros. Sanhedrin, fol. 18. 1. , מה אמת, "what is truth?" and it is answered, that he is the living God, and the King of the World: we do not find that our Lord gave any answer to this question, which might be put in a scornful, jeering way; nor did Pilate wait for one; for

when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews: as soon as he had put the question about truth, having no great inclination to hear what Christ would say to it; nor did he put it for information sake, or as having any opinion of Christ, and that he was able to answer it; he directly goes out of the judgment hall, taking Jesus along with him, and addresses the Jews after this manner:

and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all; and indeed how should he? there was no sin in his nature, nor guile in his lips, nor any iniquity in his life; the devil himself could find none in him. This confession is both to the shame of Pilate and the Jews; to the reproach of Pilate, that after this he should condemn him; and of the Jews, that after such a fair and full declaration from the judge, they should insist upon his crucifixion; it shows, however, that he died not for any sin of his own, but for the sins of others.

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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.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 18:38". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-18.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

12 Pilate saith unto him, d What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault [at all].

(12) It was required that Christ should be pronounced innocent, but nonetheless, in that he took upon himself our person, he was to be condemned as a most wicked man.

(d) He speaks this disdainfully and scoffingly, and not by way of asking a question.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on John 18:38". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/john-18.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? — that is, “Thou stirrest the question of questions, which the thoughtful of every age have asked, but never man yet answered.”

And when he had said this — as if, by putting such a question, he was getting into interminable and unseasonable inquiries, when this business demanded rather prompt action.

he went out again unto the Jews — thus missing a noble opportunity for himself, and giving utterance to that consciousness of the want of all intellectual and moral certainty, which was the feeling of every thoughtful mind at that time. “The only certainty,” says the elder Pliny, “is that nothing is certain, nor more miserable than man, nor more proud. The fearful laxity of morals at that time must doubtless be traced in a great degree to this skepticism. The revelation of the eternal truth alone was able to breathe new life into ruined human nature, and that in the apprehension of complete redemption” [Olshausen].

and saith unto them — in the hearing of our Lord, who had been brought forth.

I find in him no fault — no crime. This so exasperated “the chief priests and elders” that, afraid of losing their prey, they poured forth a volley of charges against Him, as appears from Luke 23:4, Luke 23:5: on Pilate‘s affirming His innocence, “they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.” They see no hope of getting Pilate‘s sanction to His death unless they can fasten upon Him a charge of conspiracy against the government; and as Galilee was noted for its turbulence (Luke 13:1; Acts 5:37), and our Lord‘s ministry lay chiefly there, they artfully introduce it to give color to their charge. “And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing (Mark 15:3). Then said Pilate unto Him, Hearest Thou not how many things they witness against Thee? And He answered him to never a word, insomuch that the governor marveled greatly” (Matthew 27:13, Matthew 27:14). See Mark 15:3-5. In his perplexity, Pilate, hearing of Galilee, bethinks himself of the expedient of sending Him to Herod, in the hope of thereby further shaking off responsibility in the case. See Mark 15:6, and see on Luke 23:6-12. The return of the prisoner only deepened the perplexity of Pilate, who, “calling together the chief priests, rulers, and people,” tells them plainly that not one of their charges against “this man” had been made good, while even Herod, to whose jurisdiction he more naturally belonged, had done nothing to Him: He “will therefore chastise and release him” (Luke 23:13-16).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 18:38". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/john-18.html. 1871-8.

John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels

38. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

[What is truth?] Christ had said, "For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth": q.d. "I will not deny but that I am a king, as thou hast said; for for this end I came, that I should bear witness to the truth, whatever hazards I should run upon that account." Upon this Pilate asks him, What is truth? that is, "What is the true state of this affair? that thou, who art so poor a wretch, shouldst call thyself a king, and at the same time that thou callest thyself a king, yet sayest thy kingdom is not of this world? Where lies the true sense and meaning of this riddle?"

But supposing when Christ said, he came "that he should bear witness to the truth," he meant in general the gospel; then Pilate asks him, What is that truth? However, the evangelist mentions nothing, either whether our Saviour gave him any answer to that question, or whether indeed Pilate stayed in expectation of any answer from him.

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Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on John 18:38". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jlc/john-18.html. 1675.

People's New Testament

What is truth? Pilate's inquiry was not answered in words, but Truth sat embodied and bound before him. Some have held that this question of Pilate's was asked in scorn. His conduct through the trial shows that he was deeply impressed, and it is probable that the question was asked from a deep curiosity to hear more from so marvellous a teacher.

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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.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on John 18:38". "People's New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/john-18.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

What is truth? (τι εστιν αλητειαti estin alētheia). This famous sneer of Pilate reveals his own ignorance of truth, as he stood before Incarnate Truth (John 14:6). Quid est veritas? The answer in Latin is Vir est qui adest as has been succinctly said by the use of the same letters. Pilate turned with indifference from his own great question and rendered his verdict: “I find no crime in him” (εγω ουδεμιαν ευρισκω εν αυτωι αιτιανegō oudemian heuriskō en autōi aitian). For this use of αιτιαaitia see Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26. Pilate therefore should have set Jesus free at once.

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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 18:38". "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

Truth

Not with the article as in the previous verse, the truth. Jesus meant the absolute truth: Pilate, truth in any particular case. “Pilate's exclamation is neither the expression of an ardent thirst for truth, nor that of the despair of a soul which has long sought it in vain; it is the profession of a frivolous skepticism, such as is frequently met with in the man of the world, and especially in the statesman” (Godet).

Fault ( αἰτίαν )

Properly, cause of accusation. Rev., crime. See on Matthew 27:37, and compare note on Matthew 19:10.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 18:38". "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

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

What is truth? — Said Pilate, a courtier; perhaps meaning what signifies truth? Is that a thing worth hazarding your life for? So he left him presently, to plead with the Jews for him, looking upon him as an innocent but weak man.

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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 18:38". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/john-18.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth1? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find no crime in him2.

  1. What is truth? This question has been regarded as an earnest inquiry (Chrysostom), the inquiry of one who despaired (Olshausen), a scoffing question (Alford), etc. But is evident that Pilate asked it intending to investigate the case of Jesus further, but, suddenly concluding that he already knew enough to answer his purpose as a judge, he stifles his curiosity as a human being and proceeds with the trial of Jesus, leaving the question unanswered.

  2. I find no crime in him. See .

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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 18:38". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/john-18.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Что есть истина? Некоторым кажется, что Пилат спрашивает из любопытства, как обычно мирские люди жадно выведывают о неизвестной им вещи, не зная при этом, зачем им это нужно. Их цель лишь в том, чтобы насладить слух. Я же, скорее, считаю это словами раздраженного человека. Он счел, что Христос поступил несправедливо, лишив его всякого знания истины. И мы видим в Пилате общую всем людям болезнь. Хотя мы все знаем о своем неведении, лишь немногие в этом признаются. Отсюда большая часть людей отвергает истинное учение. Кроме того, Господь – Учитель смиренных. Он ослепляет гордых, насылая на них заслуженное наказание. Из этой же гордыни рождается презрение: люди не желают подчинять себя учению. Ибо все приписывают себе остроумие и гениальность. Общепринятая вещь считается у них истиной, Бог же, напротив, свидетельствует, что истина превосходит способности человеческого разума. То же самое происходит и с другими. Имеются основные богословские артикулы: о проклятии человеческого рода, об испорченности природы, об умерщвлении плоти, об обновлении жизни, о незаслуженном примирении через единую жертву, о вменении праведности, в силу которой грешник становится угодным Богу, о просвещении Духом. И эти артикулы, поскольку они парадоксальны, людской здравый смысл с презрением отвергает. Итак, немногие преуспевают в школе Божией, поелику едва ли каждый десятый постигает даже начальные азы. И почему, если не потому, что люди измеряют тайную мудрость Божию собственным разумением? Из того, что Пилат сразу же вышел, видно: Он говорил со Христом в раздражительном тоне. В итоге, он обиделся на Христа, претендующего на то, что открывает истину, ранее пребывавшую сокрытой. И это его раздражение показывает: нечестивые, отвергая Евангельское учение, всегда некоторым образом чувствуют его силу. Пилат не преуспел настолько, чтобы поддаться научению, но при этом почувствовал внутри себя уколы совести.

 

 

 

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 18:38". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-18.html. 1840-57.

Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books

Ver. 38. "Pilate says to him, What is truth? And after he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and says to them, As for me, I find no crime in him."

Pilate"s exclamation is neither the expression of a soul eager for the truth (the Fathers), nor that of a heart in despair, which has long sought it in vain (Olshausen). It is the profession of a frivolous scepticism, such as is often met with in the man of the world, and particularly in statesmen, who are quite indifferent in general to this class of questions; witness the manner in which Napoleon was accustomed to speak of ideologists! If Pilate had seriously sought for the truth, it would have been the moment to find it and lay hold of it. In any case, what he is now convinced of is that the person whom he has before him, whether He is a dreamer or a sage, is not a rival of Caesar. Thus with "that broad sentiment of justice and civil government which," as Renan says, "the most ordinary Roman carried with him everywhere," he declares to the Jews his conviction of the innocence of Jesus as to the political accusation raised against Him.

After this, what was his duty? To discharge Jesus purely and simply. But, fearing to displease the Jews, who had well-founded reasons to accuse him to his superiors, he wishes to avoid taking a step which would make them his sworn enemies, and he has recourse to a series of expedients. The first is not related by John; it is the remitting of the affair to Herod, on account of the mention which had been made of the Galilean origin of Jesus in the accusation of the rulers (Luke 23:5); this scene is described by Luke 23:6-12; it is omitted by John as well known and not having led to any result. It was the appearance before Pilate which John was especially anxious to reproduce. In the declaration which, in John, closes John 18:38, are united the two expressions of Pilate related by Luke 23:4; Luke 23:14, which preceded and followed the sending of Jesus to Herod.

The second expedient is that of which John gives an account very summarily in John 18:39-40, and which is related in detail by the Synoptics.

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Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 18:38". "Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsc/john-18.html.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

Ver. 38. What is truth?] In a scornful, profane manner. As indeed profane spirits cannot hear savoury words, but they turn them off with a scorn. What is truth? Fastidientis atque irridentis vox, non interrogantis, In a scornful and mocking voice not sincerely seeking, saith Beza. Some think it is vox admirantis; voice of wonder as if Pilate wondered at Christ, that when his life was in question he should talk of truth, q.d. Your life is in danger, and talk you of truth? Politicians think religion niceness. However it was, or with what mind soever, out he goes, and stays not an answer; as Saul bade the priest bring to him the ark, but, ere that could be done, draws forth his army, 1 Samuel 14:18-20.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on John 18:38". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/john-18.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

John 18:38. Pilate saith,—What is truth? "What is this truth which you refer to, and which you so solemnly speak of, as your business to attest?" And when he had said this, as Jesus made a pause and did not immediately make him any answer, his hurry would not allow him to wait for it: so he went out again to the Jews, and said to the chief priests, and the people assembled with them abroad, I have examined in private the prisoner you brought me; and I must freely declare that I find no fault at all in this man, nor can I perceive that he is any enemy either to the rights of Caesar, or the tranquillity and happiness of the Jews; and therefore do not see how I can with any justice condemn him to die. But his inveterate accusers, refusing to acquiesce in this, advanced a more circumstantial charge against him, which gave occasion to that examination before Herod, which St. Luke records, Luke 23:7-12.

Inferences drawn from Peter's denial of our Lord. John 18:17-27.—The fall of St. Peter would be a very melancholy instance of human infirmity, did it not likewise set before us a signal example of the divine mercy, and of the power of grace, triumphing over the weakness of human nature: St. Peter, from various striking circumstances in the gospel history, seems to have had, during our Lord's sacred ministry, the greatest share of natural courage and resolution of any of the apostles, and the fullest persuasions of faith; (Matthew 16:16-19 ch. John 13:37, John 18:10 of this chapter, Matthew 26:33-35.) and yet, in the last trying instances of his Master's temporal service, we find him fail;—an evident sign that natural courage is not the true source of confidence in spiritual trials, in which they only can conquer, whose strength is not of man, but of God.

This example of St. Peter affords many useful reflections, and many excellent instructions for our own conduct: the following seem to be those of the most importance.

And first; we learn hence, that presumption is a very unpromising sign of steadfastness and perseverance in religion. Trust in God is one thing, trust in ourselves is another; and there is reason to think they will differ as much in the success that attends them, as in the powers upon which they are founded.

There is a boldness and intrepidity natural to the temper of some men, which make them easily undertake, and often achieve great things; which give them such assurance and reliance upon themselves, that they overlook the dangers and difficulties at which others stand nerveless and amazed. But then great spirits are generally attended with great passions, which by turns usurp the dominion, and leave little room for thought or reflection; so that a cool head and a warm heart seem to be among the rarest compositions in nature, considered abstractedly from grace.

Were such spirited men once entered into the ways of holiness, it may be thought that the same warmth which presses them on to great attempts, would soon make them eminently virtuous and holy, since courage and resolution are the likeliest means to carry us to the greatest heights in religion; such indeed are Christian courage and resolution, which arise from a sure trust in God, a fear of him, and a perfect submission to his will: but when men set out upon their own bottom, they will soon be offended, and turn back: glory and success are the proper incitements of human courage; reproach and afflictions are the necessary exercises of Christian fortitude.

When Peter was surrounded with swords and staves, he was nothing dismayed; Peter had a sword too: but yet he who could fight for his religion, could not suffer for it. This shews that the courage of the Christian is very different from that of the natural man; that it arises from other considerations, and is supported by other hopes and expectations. In vain may you promise yourselves a superiority under trials and temptations, unless you lay the right foundation, by imploring the aid of God's holy Spirit, whose province alone is to confirm the faithful to the end.

Secondly, from this example of St. Peter, we learn what little reason there is to promise ourselves success against temptations which are of our own seeking. St. Peter had warning given him; he was told by One, whose word he might have taken, that he was not able to undergo the trial, which he seemed so much to despise. But try he would,—and learned to know his own weakness in his miscarriage.

Whenever we court those dangers and temptations which the Spirit of God in his word hath warned us to avoid, we fight without commission: we are no longer the soldiers of Christ; we have no pretence to expect support from him in our undertakings. The promise of the Spirit was given to comfort us in doing the work of God, and his assistance is granted to enable us to perform it. But when we step aside out of the road of duty, and form to ourselves designs not authorized by the word of God, what ground have we to look for the aid of God's Spirit?—that aid which is no where promised to enable us to effect whatever our own hearts prompt us to undertake, but only to encourage, stimulate, and produce obedience to the laws of the gospel?

In short, when we endeavour to avoid what God has commanded to be avoided, we act under the assurance and protection of his grace; but if we face about, and dare the temptation, our courage becomes contumacy and disobedience, and we have no title to the promises of the gospel.

An imagination that we are above all temptations, and may rarely venture into their company, is always a dangerous symptom, and shews that spiritual pride and presumption have got the upper hand of Christian courage and humility. Consider the argument urged by St. Paul, who admonishes all Christians to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling; for, that it is God who worketh in them both to will and to do. The consideration that our whole ability depends upon the aid of God's Spirit, is, in the apostle's esteem, an argument for fear and trembling. And surely, O Christian, if even this be a reason,—if this, which is your strength, is likewise your admonition to be cautious and wary, whence can presumption grow? If the sense of your strength in Christ Jesus must teach you to be modest and humble, and always upon your guard, what else is there that can encourage you to be bold and confident? Let no man, therefore, think that his trial is over, or that he is got beyond the power of temptation. The enemy will watch all your unguarded moments; and, like Peter's, your security will be his encouragement to attempt your ruin.

But to conclude; very great as is the instruction of the example before us to all private Christians; yet there seems to be something more general intended in the transmitting this history to all ages in the sacred writings.

The gospel was the work of God; and, though we were to receive it by the hands of men, yet was our faith to be founded, not in the strength or policy of men, but in the power and wisdom of God. For this reason God chose the weak things of the world to confound the strong. The disciples were men of no distinguished characters; their simplicity and honesty were their best commendation. These our Lord elected, well knowing that the weaker the instruments were, the more evidently would the finger of God appear in the mighty things performed by them. Among these St. Peter plainly had the greatest spirit, and the strongest resolution; his readiness and vivacity distinguished him in every step: he was the mouth of the apostles, and always ready to undertake and to execute the commands of his Lord. If there was any one of their number that might be thought capable of managing so great a design as the propagation of a new religion in the world, it was Peter.

St. Peter therefore is called to the trial:—and how able he was, of himself, to encounter the difficulties that were to attend the Gospel in every step, we have already seen.—And yet, behold, this same man, this timid apostle, not many weeks after, appears before the tribunal of the magistrates, preaches to his judges, and boldly testifies that of a truth Jesus was the Christ, and that Him whom they slew and hanged on a tree, God had raised from the dead to be a prince and a Saviour, and exalted him to the right-hand of his glory. Acts 5:29-32.

Whence this mighty difference? or to what can it be ascribed,—but to that great Spirit, for whose coming his Lord had commanded him and his companions to wait in Jerusalem, and not to enter upon their office, till they should receive power from on high. If the gospel was an imposture, and if Christ died to rise no more; if Christ rose not from the dead, and there were no power in his resurrection, what gave this fresh courage to Peter? Had he more confidence in a dead man, than in his Master whilst on earth?—What then could move him to expose himself even unto death for the sake of Christ; for whose sake, whilst alive, and while the hopes and assurance of his being the Son of God were so strong, he dared not expose himself?—This plainly shews that the hand of God was with him, and is an undeniable evidence to us, that our faith is the work of God, and not of man. And thus, whether we consider St. Peter's case as an instruction to ourselves, it affords many useful lessons, many encouragements to direct and support us in our spiritual warfare; or whether we consider it in a more general view, and as affecting his character as a minister of the everlasting gospel, it yields us a great assurance and confidence in our faith; while, through the weakness and insufficiency of man, we evidently discern the power of God, which wrought so effectually with him: so that, knowing in whom we have trusted, we need not be ashamed in every circumstance, and under every trial, to confess Christ, and him crucified. See the Reflections for other spiritual remarks on this part of sacred history.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, His hour being come, the Son of man surrenders himself into the hands of his enemies, having first given them a demonstration both of his power and his grace.

1. Having finished his discourse, he retired over the brook Cedron, to the garden whither he was wont to resort with his disciples, a place that the traitor Judas well knew, and which he judged the most convenient to betray him. A garden was the scene of the first man's rebellion and apostacy; and, in a garden, the grand sufferings of the second man, the Lord from heaven, the great atoning Saviour, began.

2. Judas, having laid the plot with the chief priests and Pharisees, now got a band of soldiers, together with the servants and officers of these inveterate enemies of Jesus, with whom also some of their masters went themselves, to make sure of their prey; and, as it was night, they took lanterns and torches, as well as weapons, that they might search him out; and, if any resistance was made, overpower his few disciples. Jews and Gentiles concur in bringing him to the accursed tree, who was ordained to reconcile both to God by the blood of his cross.

3. Jesus, far from declining the interview, or seeking to escape the danger, goes forth to meet them. He knew what was coming upon him: he had undertaken to suffer; and therefore, having asked their business, and being informed by them that they sought Jesus of Nazareth, not ashamed of that reproachful name, he saith, I am he, readily offering himself to them, Judas the traitor being at their head. Note; (1.) When duty calls, no danger must deter us from appearing boldly and openly for Christ. (2.) We must not be ashamed of any reproachful name which for the sake of Jesus we are called to bear. His reproach is our real honour. (3.) It is a dreadful change, to see a man, who was once numbered among the disciples, herding with enemies and persecutors.

4. Wonderfully powerful was the word of Jesus. No sooner had he uttered it, than, struck by an unseen hand, they went backward and fell to the ground. He that laid them thus low, could in an instant have laid them lower in the belly of hell; but this was the day of his patience; and therefore, though he would give them an evidence of his power, he will yet give them space to repent.

5. Once more he asks them whom they sought, if they dared persist in their atrocious designs; and they, with hardened obstinacy, answered, Jesus of Nazareth. He mildly replied, I have told you that I am he, ready to yield up himself, but desirous to secure his disciples from danger; if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way, do them no harm: and this he said with reference to a late declaration that he had made, of them which thou gavest me, have I lost none; and, by his present protection of them, gave them an earnest of the fulfilment of all the promises which he had made to them. Note; (1.) Hearts hardened in sin, will be restrained by no warnings, nor checked by any providences, but rush madly on to ruin. (2.) He gave himself to bear our sins, and by his bonds hath obtained our discharge. O for more faith, that all the blessings he has purchased may be realized to our souls.

6. Peter, fired at what he saw, immediately drew his sword, and, in the heat of inconsiderate rashness, smote a domestic of the high priest, whose name was Malchus, and cut off his right ear. But Jesus, displeased at the unseasonable zeal, bids him sheath the sword, and urges as a reason, the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? His resolution was fixed, his sufferings necessary; and whatever power he was possessed of to rescue himself from his enemies, he notwithstanding freely resigned himself into their hands. Note; (1.) They who are most hasty in their zeal, are not always most steady in their service. Of this, Peter's desertion and conduct afford a sufficient proof. (2.) Christ's cause is not to be maintained by the sword. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual; and, by our meekness, we should seek to disarm the madness of our foes.

7. The soldiers, with the officers of the Jews, now seized and bound the voluntary prisoner, and, as a criminal, shamefully dragged him through the streets to the palace of Annas the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high-priest that year: such sad and frequent changes were now made in that high office. This Caiaphas it was, who, in a former debate, had shewed his inveterate enmity against Christ, and determined, right or wrong, that it was better to put him to death than provoke the Romans to destroy the nation, as he apprehended would be the consequence, if Jesus was suffered to set up himself as the Messiah. Note; (1.) The bonds of Christ are significant. He was bound with cords, that we might be loosed from the chains of our sins, and that henceforth his love might bind our hearts to him in cords of gratitude. (2.) If we be in bonds for Christ, it will reconcile us to suffer joyfully, when we reflect that he was first bound for us. (3.) If one man, Christ Jesus, had not died for the sins of the world, we must all have perished everlastingly.

2nd, Annas highly approving the deed, and confirming them in their purpose, soon dispatched the innocent prisoner to Caiaphas to be condemned. Perhaps his age prevented him from attending in the council; but he wished them to proceed, and would give his sanction to their persecution. We have an account of what passed in the high priest's palace.

1. Peter denies his Master the first time.

[1.] He followed at a distance to the door of the palace, his courage having somewhat revived, and his curiosity being strong to see what would be the issue of the matter.

[2.] The first and feeblest attack quite disconcerted the self-confident disciple. Being admitted into the palace through the influence of a friend, a servant girl, that kept the door, observing probably his dejected looks, and, perhaps, recollecting his countenance among the followers of Jesus, charged him as this man's disciple, which he instantly denied; and, as if he would avoid every suspicion of belonging to Christ, he joined the servants and officers, who, it being cold, and at night, had kindled a fire in the hall, and warmed themselves. Note; (1.) We know not how weak we are, till we are tried. (2.) They who mix with worldly company, to avoid the imputation of being over-righteous, will usually, if there be any sensibility remaining in their consciences, pierce themselves through with many sorrows.

2. While Peter, instead of appearing in behalf of his Master, was basely denying him, the high-priest began to interrogate Jesus concerning his disciples and his doctrine, hoping to find some charge of sedition or blasphemy, whereon to ground an accusation against him.

3. Christ appeals to all who had heard him preach, for an answer to his interrogatories. If he had done or taught any thing criminal, there could be no want of witnesses, when many then present had often heard him, and knew the doctrines which he taught. He ever spake freely, boldly, and openly, preaching in the synagogue, and in the temple, the places of chief resort; and he advanced nothing in private different from what he avowed publicly, nor wished to conceal his sentiments from the world, but to make all men know the truth. Note; Truth neither needs nor seeks the covert; and God's ministers must boldly, openly, and uniformly declare their message to the world, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear.

4. Just and mild as Christ's answer was to a question so malicious and captious, an insolent officer, who stood by, struck the innocent prisoner with his hand, and haughtily suggests, as if his answer to the high priest; was unbecoming. He knew, however infamous such behaviour was, that his master would countenance it, and that his insolence would recommend him. When rulers are wicked, their servants will in general readily imitate their ill examples; and the insults of such are peculiarly bitter. But to this, for our sakes, the Son of God submitted, and thus fulfilled the Scriptures, Isaiah 1:6. Micah 5:1.

5. Christ, with astonishing patience, instead of striking him dead, meekly replied, If I have spoken evil, now, or at any other time, bear witness of the evil before the court; but if well, and I have spoken nothing justly blameable, why smitest thou me? Note; (1.) When we are suffering, however unjustly, we must in our patience possess our souls, and neither entertain undue resentment nor fly into a rage. (2.) Mild remonstrances, not railing accusations, become the children of God.

6. A second time Peter is beset, and falls. As he stood at the fire, some who stood by challenged him again as a follower of Jesus: and now, sunk under temptation, he repeats the shameful lie, I am not. Note; (1.) They who are fallen under one temptation, feel themselves less able to resist the next. (2) Many who make confident profession when the cause of Christ flourishes, soon disown and renounce it when called to suffer shame for his sake.

7. One of the by-standers, a relation of him whose ear Peter had cut off, hearing him so stoutly deny all connection with Jesus, on observing him attentively recollected his face, and urged the question stronger upon him, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? So close an attack more disconcerted the unhappy disciple, and urged him more solemnly to repeat his denial: and immediately the cock crew. Note; (1.) Every sin hardens the heart, and naturally paves the way for a greater. (2.) The slightest incidents of Providence, which others disregard, God can make to us a most alarming call.

3rdly, His inveterate enemies, determined on his ruin, dragged the innocent Jesus very early in the morning, after suffering during the night the greatest insults and indignities, to Pilate the Roman governor, in order to get him legally condemned and crucified, desirous that he should suffer in the most ignominious way. And we are told,

1. The hypocritical scrupulosity of these pretended priests. They would not enter the judgment-hall lest they should be defiled by the touch and company of heathens, and thereby be rendered unclean, and be disabled from partaking of the passover feast, and the sacrifices which they offered the day after the passover. Thus strictly devout would they appear, with innocent blood upon their hands. Well was it said of them, Ye strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

2. Pilate, at whose bar Jesus was placed as a criminal, came forth to them in great complaisance, desiring to know their accusation against the prisoner. In answer to so reasonable a question, they haughtily reply, If he were not a malefactor, a person notoriously infamous, we would not have delivered him up unto thee; as if from persons of their eminent sanctity a general charge was a sufficient proof of the prisoner's crimes. Pilate, justly offended at so insolent a reply, and so unreasonable a procedure, bade them take him and judge him according to their law, desirous to rid himself of so disagreeable a cause. They replied, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death, as they had been deprived, by the Romans, of the power of capital punishments: but there was a farther view, which they undesignedly answered thereby, even the fulfilling of the prophesy of Jesus, who had signified by what death he should die (Matthew 20:19): and crucifixion being not a Jewish but a Roman punishment, it was necessary that he should be delivered to the Romans, and executed by them. Note; (1.) Many of the best of men, like Jesus, have been branded as the vilest malefactors, without one real crime proved against them. (2.) God can over-rule the wickedness of the most envenomed persecutors to his own glory, and make them, when they mean only to gratify their own malice, the means of fulfilling the prophesies of his word.

3. Pilate, having heard the treasonable accusations lodged against Jesus by his accusers, ordered the prisoner to be brought, and examined him respecting the things laid to his charge; the chief of which was, setting up himself in opposition to Caesar; and therefore he demands, if it were true that he assumed the character of King of the Jews? Jesus answered, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, under the real suspicion of the truth of the fact? or did others tell it thee of me, by whose falsehood and malice thou art influenced? Pilate, in a kind of derision at the expectation which the Jewish people formed of their Messiah, answered Am I a Jew, no: I concern myself about none of these matters: thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me as a traitor and seditious person, setting up for a king in opposition to Caesar. What hast thou done? It is to be supposed that persons of so respectable a character would not, without cause, lodge such an accusation. Note; Many think there must be something wrong, when those who are esteemed the most learned and pious condemn and persecute: but we must not take our opinions from the judgment of men, but from the word of God: otherwise, like Pilate, we shall be in danger of condemning the innocent.

4. Christ informs Pilate of the nature of that kingdom which he came to erect. Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world, promising no earthly honours nor emoluments, nor interfering with any secular affair; but is purely spiritual, consisting in a dominion over the souls of men. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but there never had been the least attempt to rescue him, nor any sedition or tumult excited by him, which must have been the case had he affected temporal authority: but now is my kingdom not from hence, it takes not its rise from earth, is not supported by the arm of flesh, nor governed by worldly maxims of human policy.

5. Pilate, beholding his mean, wretched, and low estate, could not help exclaiming at the pretensions which Jesus seemed here to advance, Art thou a king then? Yes, says Jesus, thou sayest that I am a king, and so it is; for to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth of the gospel-word in general, and to this truth in particular, that I am that King Messiah who should come into the world. Every one that is of the truth, truly wrought upon by the Spirit of truth, heareth my voice, receives my word, acknowledges my mission, and bows to that sceptre of grace which I stretch forth to the miserable and the desperate. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? either he spoke it contemptuously, deriding his pretensions, who set himself up as the voice of truth itself; or, if he put the question curiously, seriously, or judicially, he seems not to have waited for an answer; or Jesus vouchsafed not to return one. Note; (1.) Is Christ a King? then should we yield our hearts willing subjects to his blessed government. (2.) They only know that truth which makes wise unto salvation, who hear and spiritually understand the voice of Jesus speaking in his gospel.

6. Pilate, now satisfied in his conscience with the innocence of Jesus, led him forth, and declared, that he found in him no fault at all. Willing therefore to obtain his discharge, he proposed to them, as it was an established custom at that feast to release some prisoner to them, whether it should not be this miserable object, whom, in derision of his pretensions, he calls the king of the Jews? But the multitude, instigated by their malicious priests, rejected the proposition, and demanded Barabbas, a noted murderer and robber, preferring him before the Lord of life and glory. Note; (1.) He who suffered for sins not his own, was acknowledged to be innocent even by his judge. (2.) They who, under the dictates of worldly wisdom, seek to please men, and maintain a good conscience withal, will soon find the impracticability of the attempt. (3.) The cry is ever against the cause of truth; but, though it be oppressed for a while, it shall finally prevail.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on John 18:38". 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

Observe here, 1. The question Pilate put to Christ, What is truth? A most noble and important question, had it been put forth with an honest heart, with a mind fairly disposed for information and satisfaction: but it is evident, Pilate's enquiry was not serious; nay, it is generally thought, that Pilate asked this question in scorn, contempt and derision: for he stays not for our Lord's answer but as soon as he started this query, went off the bench in haste.

Learn hence, that this question, what is truth? or how may we come to the knowledge of the truth? is of unspeakable use and importance, and a question, whereon the whole frame and constitution of religion depends: because truth is claimed by all parties of men, by all professors of religion.

Ask the different parties from the old gentleman at Rome to the poorest Quaker and Muggletonian, Where is truth? and they will all tell you.

They are in the possession of it: Every sect hath thus much of popery with it, that the professors of it think themselves infallible, and every one cries out, Here is truth.

But God has given us a two-fold light to search for truth: namely, the light of reason, and the light of scripture, or divine revelation.

The former Solomon calls the candle of the Lord, set up in our breasts by God, on purpose to discover truth unto us. God allows us, yea, enjoins us, the free and impartial use of our understandings and judgments, in order to the finding out of divine truth; but because nature's light or the light of natural reason is not clear and bright enough to give us a prospect of supernatural truths, (for nature and reason can never dictate those things which depend only upon God's free grace and good pleasure; such as the doctrines of a Saviour and Redeemer, and the method of man's salvation by the sufferings of the Son of God,) it had been blasphemy once to have supposed such things, had not God revealed them in scripture: therefore the second standard of divine truth, is the infallible word of God.

The gospel of Christ is the way, and the truth; Truth came by Jesus Christ. And would men be ruled and conducted by these unalterable standards of truth, namely, right reason and divine revelation, they would easily agree in their judgments what is to be believed, and all duties and controversies would vanish. Right reason and inspired scriptures are the best judges of controversies; they being the fixed standards and measures of divine truth, can best resolve Pilate's question here, and tell us What is truth.

Observe, 2. How unwilling, how very unwilling Pilate was to be the instrument of our Saviour's death: he came forth three several times, and tells the Jews that he finds no fault in him; he bids them take him, and judge him according to their law. Pilate, a Pagan, absolves Christ, whilst the hypocritical Jews, that heard his doctrine, and saw his miracles, do condemn him.

Observe, 3. Pilate having absolved Christ, I find no fault in him, endeavours next to release him, and takes occasion from their custom of having a prisoner released to them at their feast, to insinuate his desire that they should choose Christ: Ye have a custom that I should release unto you one at the passover.

Observe, lastly, how the Jews prefer Barabbas, a robber, before the holy and innocent Jesus: They all cried out, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas.

Learn hence, that no persons, how wicked and vile soever, are so odious in the eyes of the enemies of God, as Christ himself was, and his friends and followers now are: Christ did find it thus in his own person when on earth: Barabbas, a robber, was preferred before him: and now he is in heaven, he suffers in the members, the filth of the world being preferred before them.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on John 18:38". 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

38.] To this number Pilate did not belong. He had no ear for Truth. His celebrated question is perhaps more the result of indifferentism than of scepticism; it expresses, not without scoff and irony, a conviction that truth can never be found: and is an apt representative of the state of the polite Gentile mind at the time of the Lord’s coming. It was rather an inability than an unwillingness to find the truth.

He waits for no answer, nor did the question require any. Nay, it was no real question, any more than τί ἐμοὶ κ. σοί, or any other, behind which a negation lies hid.

ἐγὼ οὐδεμ. αἰτ.…] ἐγώ, opposed to ὑμεῖς, who had found fault in Him. Pilate mocks both—the Witness to the Truth, and the haters of the Truth. His conduct presents a pitiable specimen of the moral weakness of that spirit of worldly power, which reached its culminating point in the Roman empire.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on John 18:38". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/john-18.html. 1863-1878.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 1720

PILATE’S INQUIRY ABOUT TRUTH

John 18:38. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?

THE rich and powerful are for the most part under great disadvantages for the attainment of religious knowledge. Their appointed teachers too often “prophesy smooth things to them;” and those who would deal faithfully with their consciences, are kept at a distance from them. Their dispositions and habits also are generally unfavourable for the reception of truth: and hence it is, that if they have an opportunity of gaining instruction, they rarely avail themselves of it, so as to derive any essential benefit to their souls [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:26.]. Herod heard John the Baptist; but “knew not how to use the price put into his hand.” Festus, and Agrippa, and Felix were variously affected with the preaching of Paul; but no one of them was savingly converted unto God. Pilate, as governor of Jud ζa, had Christ himself brought before him, for the express purpose of inquiring into his pretensions to the kingdom of Israel: and when our Lord had informed him what kind of a kingdom it was that he claimed, and that he came into the world to bear witness to the truth, Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” Happy man, who made such an inquiry; and who had One before him so capable of giving him instruction respecting it! Surely this man could not fail of being saved. But, alas! he waited not for an answer. We do not apprehend that he put the question contemptuously, as though he had said, “Why do you talk to me about truth?” The notice which the Evangelist takes of his question, gives us reason to think that it was intended seriously; though the event shewed, that he was not sufficiently anxious to obtain the information which he had professed to desire. However, the question was important; and, had his mind been duly impressed with its importance, we should have had to number him among the followers, rather than the enemies, of that despised Nazarene.

For our present improvement, we shall endeavour to state,

I. The importance of the inquiry—

Truth is of various kinds, physical, moral, and religious. By physical truth, we mean that which comprehends all the phenomena of nature: and by moral truth, that which relates to the whole system of morals, independent of religion. That an inquiry into these is important, appears from its having been the employment of all wise men from the beginning of the world; and from the value that has been set even on the smallest measures of truth which have, by means of the most patient and laborious investigations, been at any time brought to light. But religious truth, and that especially of which our Lord came to testify, is, beyond all comparison, more important than any other. What that truth is, we will state in few words. The point upon which our blessed Lord was examined before the Jewish council, was, “Art thou the Christ?” and that before Pilate, was, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” To both of these he answered in the affirmative, “I am.” Now these two points comprise all that truth, respecting which our blessed Lord came to testify: first, He is the anointed Saviour of the world; and, secondly, He is the King and Governor of all whom he saves. This is truth: this is the sum and substance of the Gospel [Note: Compare Acts 2:36. where these two points, that “Jesus is both Lord and Christ,” are spoken of precisely in this view.]: there is nothing connected with the justification, the sanctification, or the complete and everlasting salvation of mankind, which is not comprehended in this. Consequently, an inquiry into this must be of the very first importance.

It is important,

1. For the forming of our principles—

[Man without a principle is like a ship without a rudder, driven by every wave of temptation, and every gust of passion.

He has nothing whereby to judge of good and evil in matters of the greatest moment; no standard, to which he can refer a doubtful opinion; no touchstone, by which he can try a specious sentiment.

But whither can a man go for the forming of his principles? If he apply to heathen philosophers, he finds nothing fixed, nothing certain, nothing wherein they are generally agreed. Even the question, “What is the chief good of man?” he finds unsettled; and can obtain no clew that can lead him to any definite judgment.

But in the Gospel, all his doubts are solved. There he sees, that love to Christ as his Saviour, and obedience to him as his King, are to be the main-spring, which must set every wheel in motion. Whatever accords with the principle of love to him, and with the rule of his revealed will, is good; and whatever deviates from the one or other, even if it be only an hair’s breadth, is wrong. To this standard every feeling of the heart, and every expression of it in act, may be referred; and, if rightly referred, its true nature and quality will be infallibly determined.]

2. For the regulating of our conduct—

[As the principles of the greatest philosophers were involved in doubt and uncertainty, so were they altogether destitute of any sanctifying influence: they wrought no change on the morals of men; they produced no consistent change even on their own morals. Even Christianity itself, if there be not a direct and constant reference in the mind to that particular truth spoken of in the text, will not prevail to the renovating of the soul. Of this we have decisive evidence in the lives of nominal Christians; who, though they have a higher standard of morals than the heathen, are strangers to that heavenliness of mind, which characterizes a real saint.

But the knowledge of this truth will bring, not the actions only, but even “the thoughts, into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” The truth, cordially embraced, will operate as fire on metal, pervading the whole soul, and transforming it, as it were, into its own image [Note: See the want and the attainment of it contrasted. Ephesians 4:17-24.].]

3. For the saving of the soul—

[Whatever God may do in a way of uncovenanted mercy, (respecting which, as there is nothing revealed, it were presumptuous to speak;) men ignorant of the Gospel are invariably represented as in a state of guilt and condemnation. “If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.” Indeed, the very circumstance of “Christ’s coming into the world on purpose to bear witness to the truth,” and his submitting to the accursed death of the cross in confirmation of that truth, is proof sufficient, that the knowledge of the truth is essential to our happiness, and that every living creature is bound to inquire into it.]

The objects and reasons of our inquiry being thus defined, we proceed to notice,

II. The manner in which it should be made—

Here Pilate was greatly defective: and, in marking his defects, we are unavoidably led to notice the manner in which such an inquiry should be made: it should be made,

1. With seriousness—

[Some will inquire about religion with as much levity as if it were quite a trifling concern: they have nothing in view but the gratifying of their curiosity. They resemble the Jews who came to converse with Paul when he was a prisoner at Rome; “We desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest [Note: Acts 28:22.]:” or those who ridiculed the doctrine of the resurrection; “We will hear thee again of this matter [Note: Acts 17:32.]:” or those foolish women, of whom we read, that they were “ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth [Note: 2 Timothy 3:7.]” But religion is a serious matter; and in our inquiries respecting it we should remember, that on our acceptance or rejection of the truth our everlasting welfare depends — — —]

2. With candour—

[While some are light and trifling, others make inquiries only that they may carp and cavil at the word. Such were the Herodians, the Sadducees, and Pharisees of old, who brought forth their respective difficulties, merely to ensnare Jesus, and entangle him in his talk [Note: Matthew 22:15-17; Matthew 22:23-28; Matthew 22:34-36.]: and such were those also, who “urged him vehemently to speak of many things, that they might find something whereof to accuse him [Note: Luke 11:53-54.].” But we should rather imitate the Ber ζans, who, instead of determining at once that all which they heard from time to time was folly and delusion, “searched the Scriptures daily, to find whether things were as they had been represented to them” — — —]

3. With humility—

[There are many things revealed to us in the Gospel which are contrary to the generally prevailing opinions of mankind: “they are even foolishness unto the natural man; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” In order to understand them aright, we must receive them simply on the authority of God; and conclude them to be true, because he has revealed them. We must beg of him “the gift of his Holy Spirit, that we may know the things which are freely given to us of God:” for then only shall we know him, when “he gives us an understanding to know him,” and reveals his dear Son in our hearts as the hope of glory. If we are so wise that we will not seek instruction from him, God will “take us in our own craftiness” — — —]

4. With diligence—

[It is not a transient or superficial inquiry that will suffice: we must “search for wisdom, and dig for her as for hid treasures.” We must not presently give over the pursuit, because we find that we have not yet attained: the promise is, “Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord.” There are in the Gospel heights and depths which cannot be explored: and therefore, however deep our acquaintance may be with this stupendous mystery, we should still “not count ourselves to have attained,” but continue to “give attendance to reading,” and to pray with unabated fervour, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law!” — — —]

5. With a determination to embrace whatever we may find to be agreeable to the mind and will of God—

[This is the main point: “If we will do God’s will, we shall know of the doctrine whether it be of him.” If we will not receive the truth in the love of it, God will give us over to believe a lie, in order to our more aggravated condemnation [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.]. To receive it speculatively will be to no purpose: for it were better to be wholly ignorant of it, than to “hold it in unrighteousness,” or turn from it after having once professed to embrace it [Note: Romans 1:18. Hebrews 6:4-6. 2 Peter 2:21.] — — —]

Address—

[As Pilate asked of Jesus, “What is truth?” so you are come hither professedly to make the same inquiry. Behold then, in Christ’s stead we answer your inquiry: This is truth; that Jesus is the Christ; and that his people look unto him as the Saviour of the world. This is truth; that Jesus is also the King of Israel; and that all who are his, submit to his government — — — Now go not away, as Pilate did, regardless of your own question; but reflect upon it; consider its importance; meditate on the answer given to it; and examine your own hearts, how far you understand it — — — how far you feel it — — — and how far your lives are conformed to it — — — “If you know the truth, it will make you free:” but if it do not “sanctify you” in this world, it can never profit you in the world to come.”]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on John 18:38". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/john-18.html. 1832.

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

John 18:38. Pilate, now fully convinced that he has before him an innocent and harmless enthusiast, asks, with that air of contemptuous deprecation which is peculiar to the material understanding in regard to the abstract and supersensual sphere, What is truth? A non ens, a phantom, he thus conceives it to be, with which He would found a kingdom; and weary of the matter, and abruptly breaking it off, he goes straightway forth to the Jews, and declares to them that he finds no guilt in Jesus,(233) from which definite declaration it is seen that by the above question he does not mean at all to designate the matter merely as not coming within his jurisdiction (Steinmeyer). Something of good-nature lies in this conduct, but it is the weak and shallow good-nature of the man of the world who is indifferent towards higher things; nothing of the disconsolate tone of the searcher for truth (Olshausen) is to be imported. Against the view of Chrysostom, Theodoras Heracl., Euth. Zigabenus, Aretius, and several others, however, that Pilate had actually become desirous to be acquainted with the truth (Nonnus even thinks: καὶ πιλάτος θάμβησε); it is at once decisive that he immediately turns his back and goes out.

Whence did John learn of this conversation of Pilate with Jesus? He can hardly have been himself an ear-witness of it.(234) But whether the fact be that it was communicated by Pilate in his own circles, and that hence it reached John, or whether it be that some ear-witness of the interview himself brought the information to John, the matter is not inconceivable (in answer to Scholten), and in no case have we the right to ascribe the account merely to the composition of John (Strauss), as Baur especially finds impressed on the declarations of Pilate that he “finds no guilt in Jesus,” only the tendency of the evangelist to roll the guilt as far as possible off Pilate’s shoulders, and place it on those of the Jews, which purpose also the question, What is truth? is intended to serve, in which Baur suggests the sense: how can one make a crime out of truth?

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on John 18:38". 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 18:38. τί ἐστιν ἀληθεία; what is truth?) Pilate thinks that the mention of truth does not square with what He said concerning His kingdom. He knows only to connect the idea of a kingdom with power, not with truth. But the kingdom of truth is a kingdom of freedom; for the truth makes free (ch. John 8:32; John 8:36). Here Pilate ought to have questioned Him, as an earnest inquirer: but he so questions Him, as to confess that he is not of the truth. The words of Jesus were an enigma to Pilate; and Pilate confesses this. It is at the end of his conversation with Jesus, and not till then, that he asks τί ἐστιν, what is truth? Sir. (Ecclesiasticus) Sirach 22:8, “He that telleth a tale to a fool, speaketh to one in a slumber; when he hath told his tale, he will say, What is the matter?”

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on John 18:38". 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

Pilate (as profane persons use to do) thought that our Saviour, speaking of truth, and a spiritual kingdom, did but cant, and therefore asking him what he meant by truth, he never stays for an answer, but goes out again to the Jews, whom he had left without the door of the judgment hall, and tells them he found no fault in him. Whatever the quality of the kingdom was of which our Saviour spake, he judged that his pretensions to it were not prejudicial to the authority of the emperor, nor the tranquillity of the state, and would have demissed him from their unjust prosecution.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 18:38". 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

что есть истина? В ответ на упоминание Иисусом «истины» в ст. 37 Пилат с цинизмом задал риторический вопрос, убежденный, что на него нет ответа. Это возражение подтвердило, что он не был среди тех, кого Отец дал Сыну («всякий, кто от истины, слушает гласа Моего» – ст. 37; см. пояснения к 10:1-5).

вины не нахожу Ср. 19:4. Иоанн дал понять, что Иисус не был виновен ни в каком грехе или преступлении, тем самым показывая жестокую несправедливость и вину как иудеев, так и римлян, распявших Его.

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on John 18:38". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/john-18.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

What is truth? by this question Pilate manifested both his ignorance of our Lord’s meaning, and his indifference in respect to His doctrine.

I find in him no fault; this the Holy Ghost caused to be written on an imperishable record, that it might stand an eternal monument of the falsehood of the Jews, and the perfect innocence of Jesus Christ.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on John 18:38". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/john-18.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

38.What is truth?—Pilate supposes that he had now applied a finisher. All the philosophy of the age in which he lived had decided that man could know but this: that nothing could be known. That higher truth is undiscoverable, that in fact there is no absolute truth, no difference between ultimate truth and falsehood, were the conclusion at which highest human thought had arrived. And what the philosophers thus taught, political and military men readily accepted. It was, therefore, readily and generally agreed that visible and tangible things, things of sense and of the present world, were all. Talk to such a man in high strain of philosophic, religious, or divine truth, and his reply is: “Bah! What is truth? I understand positive science; but as for your higher truth, it is a chimera.”

He went out—He waited for no answer, because his very question was intended to deny the possibility of all answer. He is ready to return to the Jews with the full feeling that it would be a real murder to take the life of so harmless an abstractionist. He again takes his stand in front and pronounces his finding in him no fault. This announcement to the people drew forth murmurs of disapprobation, in which their utterance of the word Galilee (Luke 22:5) suggested to Pilate his first method of rescuing Jesus by sending him to Herod. After his return, the second expedient, his attempt to release Jesus instead of Barabbas, next occurs, as is related in the following verses and in the parallel sections of the other Evangelists.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 18:38". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-18.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘And when he had said this he went out again to the Judaisers, and says to them, “I find him guilty of no crime.”

Pilate went out and told the Jews that he found nothing against Jesus as far as Roman law was concerned. And that should have been the end of the matter. An innocent man acquitted. Thus from now on Pilate was also guilty. From now on it would not be a question of guilt or innocence, of right or wrong. It would be a matter of jealousies, of religious persecution, of men protecting their own positions at any cost, of a statesman acting against himself for the sake of his own position and to prevent problems that could be inconvenient. It would all be based on deceit and lies.

For Pilate knew that however in the right he was, truth could be twisted. He had done it himself to others. So he felt he must protect his back. The princes of this world were all facing their judgment, and he was one of them (John 16:11)

The other Gospels tell us that at this point Pilate tried to rid himself of the problem by sending Jesus to Herod. He was not convinced of the man’s guilt, and possibly felt that Herod might better understand the nature of the problem, which was clearly connected with the Jewish religion. It was only when He was returned from Herod that Pilate tried the counsel of despair.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on John 18:38". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/john-18.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Pilate returned to the Jews who had assembled outside his headquarters and announced his verdict. Jesus had done nothing worthy of punishment by Rome (cf. Luke 23:14). He was guiltless of any activity that constituted a threat to Rome. Apparently Pilate concluded that Jesus was not a king in the normal sense but simply an idealist. This witness to Jesus" innocence was another important testimony in view of John"s purpose in this Gospel (20:30-31).

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 18:38". "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 18:38. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? Not surely the question of one seriously searching after truth, for in that case he would have waited for a reply; nor that of one in despair, which would presuppose a moral depth in Pilate’s character inconsistent with the light in which he comes before us both here and elsewhere; nor of mere frivolity, as if he were treating the whole subject lightly, for in that case he would probably have made fewer efforts to release Jesus; but simply the question of one who, having no correct ideas as to truth, and no conviction even that there was such a thing, found in this frame of mind a hindrance to the faith to which he might otherwise have risen. ‘Were there such a thing as truth,’ he says, ‘then I might believe Thee, but truth is nothing, and therefore Thy kingly position, if in this respect only Thou art a King, need not command my homage.’

And when he had said this, he went forth again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no crime. It is a distinct sentence of acquittal; and the point of the whole, as it presented itself to the eye of the Evangelist, seems to be in this, that a Roman governor, a Gentile, declares the innocence and even feels to some extent the true majesty of Him who, though King of the Jews, is rejected and doomed to death by that blinded and guilty people. This guilt of theirs, however, has to be brought out more fully. Another opportunity of retracing their steps has to be offered them, and to be cast away.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on John 18:38". "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 18:38. Pilate waited for no reply to his question, but , . The noting of each movement of Pilate suggests the eye-witness, and brings out his vacillation. ’ “I for my part find no fault, or ground of accusation in Him.” Naturally, therefore, Pilate will acquit and dismiss Him; but no. He attempts a compromise: “You have a custom,” of which we have no information elsewhere; although Josephus (Antiq., xx. 9, 3) relates that at a passover Albinus released some robbers. Analogies in other countries have been produced. This custom Pilate fancies they will allow him to follow in favour of Jesus: ; , aorist subjunctive; cf.Matthew 13:28, ; Luke 9:54, ; ; , etc., commonly occur in Aristophanes and other classical writers. , , “They shouted,” showing their excitement: , previous shoutings have not been mentioned by John, but this word reflects light on the manner in which the accusations had been made. . Bar-Abbas, son of a father, or of a Rabbi, . In Matthew 27:16, Origen read ., but added “in multis exemplaribus non continetur”. He found a mystery in the circumstance that both prisoners were called “Jesus, the Son of the Father”. Barabbas is designated , or, as Luke (Luke 23:19) more definitely says, he had been imprisoned for sedition in the city and for murder. John does not bring out the irony of the Jews’ choice, which freed the real and crucified the pretended mover of sedition.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 18:38". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/john-18.html. 1897-1910.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

What is truth? The question of many a man. Pilate was not "jesting", as Lord Bacon says. He was doubtless sick of the various philosophies and religions which contended for acceptance.

no. Greek oudeis. fault. Greek aitia (compare aiteo, App-134.), a charge, accusation; hence a ground of charge.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on John 18:38". "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

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? - q.d., 'Thou stirrest the question of questions, which the thoughtful of every age have asked, but never man yet answered.'

And when he had said this - as if, by putting such a question, he was getting into interminable and unreasonable inquiries, when this business demanded rather prompt action,

He went out again unto the Jews - thus missing a noble opportunity for himself, and giving utterance to that consciousness of the want of all intellectual and moral certainty, which was the feeling of every thoughtful mind at that time. 'The only certainty,' says the elder Pliny, quoted by Olshausen, 'is that nothing is certain, nor more miserable than man, nor more proud.' 'The fearful laxity of morals,' adds the critic, 'at that time must doubtless be traced in a great degree to this scepticism. The revelation of the eternal truth alone was able to breathe new life into ruined human nature, and that in the apprehension of complete redemption.'

... And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them - in the hearing of our Lord, who had been brought forth to them,

I find in him no fault [at all] - that is, no ground of criminal charge, "touching those things whereof ye accuse him" (Luke 23:14). This testimony is all the more important immediately after our Lord's explicit confession that He was a King, and speaking of "His kingdom." But how could Pilate with any truth say else than he did, after the explanation that His kingdom was not of a nature to come into collision at all with Caesar's? Indeed, it is clear that Pilate regarded our Lord as a high-minded Advocate of some mysterious religious principles, more or less connected with the Jewish Faith but at variance with the reigning ecclesiastical system-thoroughly sincere, at the least, but whether more than that he was unable to judge; yet cherishing no treasonable designs and meddling with no political affairs. This conclusion, candidly expressed, so exasperated "the chief priests and elders," who were panting for His death, that afraid of losing their Victim, they pour forth a volley of charges against Him, as if to overhear the Governor by their very vehemence. The precise succession of the incidents and speeches here, as reported by the different Evangelists, it is not quite easy to see, though the general course of them is plain enough.

Matthew 27:12-14 ( = Mark 15:3-5): "And when He was accused of the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto Him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And He answered him to never a word" - Mark says, "Jesus yet answered nothing," or rather, 'answered nothing more' [ ouketi (Greek #3765) ouden (Greek #3762)]; that is, nothing more than He had answered already to Pilate alone - "insomuch that the governor marveled greatly." Pilate, fully persuaded of His innocence, seems to have been surprised that He did not refute nor even challenge their charges. But here a very important incident occurred-the transference of Jesus to Herod-which is recorded only in the Third Gospel. It is thus introduced:

Luke 23:4-5 : "Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in him." (This appears to us clearly to be the same testimony as we found recorded in John, though Robinson in his 'Harmony' represents it as a second statement of the same thing.) "And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place." They see no hope of getting Pilate's sanction to His death unless they can fasten upon Him some charge of conspiracy against the government; and as Galilee was noted for its turbulence (see Luke 13:1; Acts 5:37), and our Lord's ministry lay chiefly there, while Pilate might well be ignorant of much disafffection bred there, beyond his own jurisdiction, they artfully introduce this region as that in which the alleged treason had been hatched, and whence it had at length spread to Judea and the capital. In his perplexity, Pilate, hearing of Galilee, bethinks himself of sending the Prisoner to Herod, in the hope of thereby shaking off all further responsibility in the case. Accordingly, we have in the sequel of this third Gospel the following remarkable incident:

JESUS BEFORE HEROD ANTIPAS

(Luke 23:6-12)

Luke 23:6. "When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. Luke 23:7. And as soon as he knew that He belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who also was at Jerusalem at that time" - hoping, as we have said, to escape the dilemma of an unjust condemnation or an unpopular release; possibly also in hope of some light being cast upon the case itself. Herod was then at Jerusalem, no doubt to keep the Passover. Luke 23:8. "And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season." (See Luke 9:9.) This is not inconsistent with what is said in Luke 13:31; for Herod, though full of curiosity for a considerable time to see Jesus, might not cars to have Him wandering about in his own dominions, and too near to the scene of the bloody deed done on his faithful reprover. "Because he had heard many things of Him, and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him." Fine sport thou expectest, O coarse, crafty, cruel tyrant, as the Philistines with Samson (Judges 16:25).

But thou hast been baulked before (see the notes at Luke 13:31-33), and shalt be again. Luke 23:9. "Then he questioned with Him in many words: but He answered him nothing." (See Matthew 7:6.) Luke 23:10. "And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him" - no doubt both of treason, Herod being a king, and of blasphemy, for Herod, though of Idumean descent, was by religion a circumcised Jew. Luke 23:11. "And Herod with his men of war" [ tois (Greek #3588) strateumasin (Greek #4753)] - or his body guard, "set Him at nought" - stung with disappointment at His refusal either to amuse him with miracles or to answer any of his questions. But a day is coming, O proud Herod, when He who now stands before thee, to outward appearance a helpless prisoner, shall from His great white throne "laugh at thy calamity, and mock when thy fear cometh"! - "and arrayed Him in a gorgeous (or 'bright') robe" [ estheeta (Greek #2066) lampran (Greek #2986)]. If this mean, 'of shining white,' as sometimes, it may have been in derision of His claim to be "King of the Jews;" that being the royal colour among the Jews. But if so, he in reality honoured Him, as Bengel remarks, just as Pilate did by blazoning His true title on the Cross: "and sent Him again to Pilate" - instead of releasing Him as he ought, having established nothing against Him (John 18:14-15). Thus, to use again the words of Bengel, did Herod implicate himself with Pilate in all the guilt of His condemnation; and accordingly he is classed with him in this deed in Acts 4:27; Luke 23:12. "And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves" - perhaps about some point of disputed jurisdiction, which this exchange of the Prisoner might tend to heal.

The materials of this portion must be drawn chiefly from the other Gospels.

Luke 23:13-16 : "And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you" - from the first three Gospels we should conclude that the whole examination hitherto had been in their presence, while John represents it as private; but in all likelihood the reference here is to what is related in John 18:3-5, though too briefly to enable us to see the precise form which the examination took throughout - "have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto Him" [ autoo (Greek #846)] - or rather, 'by Him,' as the phrase sometimes means classically, and here must be held to mean. "I will therefore chastise Him, and let Him go" [ paideusas (Greek #3811) ... apolusoo] - 'When, therefore, I have corrected, I will dismiss Him.' Though the kind of correction which he proposed to inflict was not specified by Pilate on this occasion, there can be no doubt that scoring was what he meant, and the event soon proved it. It seems strange to our ideas of justice, that a Roman governor should propose to punish, however lightly, a prisoner whose innocence he has just proclaimed. But it was of the nature of a well meant yet indefensible offer, in hope of saving the prisoner's life.

At this moment, as would appear, two of those strange incidents occurred which throw such a lurid light on these awful transactions. We refer to the choice of Barabbas for release at the feast, in preference to Jesus, and the dream of Pilate's wife.

Matthew 27:15-23 : Matthew 27:15 . " Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would." Matthew 27:16. "And they had then a notable (or 'notorious') prisoner called Barabbas" - "which," says Mark (Mark 15:7), "lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him" [sustasiastoon], or 'with his fellow insurgents,' "who (that is, which insurgents) had committed murder in the insurrection." But in Luke (Luke 23:19) the murder is expressly ascribed to this Barabbas, who is also called "a robber." He was evidently the ringleader of this lawless gang; and there we learn that the "sedition" here referred to was "made in the city." "And the multitude," says Mark, "crying aloud, began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them." This is unique to Mark, and enables us vividly to realize the rising of the popular excitement before which Pilate-reluctantly though it was-gave way. But this clamour for the exercise of his usual clemency at the feast suggested another expedient for saving his conscience-the selection of Jesus as the prisoner of his choice for this release; not doubting that between Jesus and such a villain as this Barabbas they would for very shame be forced to prefer the former. But he little knew his men, if he thought that. Matthew 27:17. "Therefore," continues Matthew, "when they were gathered together, Pilate saith unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?" Matthew 27:18. "For he knew that for envy they had delivered Him" - that is, out of jealousy at the popularity of Jesus, and fear of losing their own. This would seem to show that Pilate was not ignorant of the leading facts of this case.

At this stage of the proceedings, or rather just after they had formally begun, the strange message from his wife, recorded only by Matthew, seems to have deepened the anxiety of Pilate to save Jesus, and was probably what induced him to set up Barabbas as the only alternative he would give them for release, if they would not have Jesus Matthew 27:19. "When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him" - it has been noticed as a striking confirmation of the historical accuracy of this Gospel, that (as Tacitus relates, in his Annals, 3: 33, 34) the Governors of provinces had not begun to take their wives with them until the time of Augustus - "saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man" [ meeden (Greek #3367) soi (Greek #4671) kai (Greek #2532) too (Greek #3588) dikaioo (Greek #1342) ekeinoo (Greek #1565) see the note at John 2:4]: "for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him;" a testimony to the innocence of Jesus, and a warning to Pilate, from the unseen world, which, though finally ineffectual, made doubtless a deep impression upon his mind. Matthew 27:20. "But the chief priests and elders," continues Matthew, "persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus." Possibly they took advantage of the pause in the proceedings, occasioned by the delivering of the message from the Governor's wife. Matthew 27:21. "The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas" - and said it with a vehemence which showed how successful the leaders had been in putting them up to this simultaneous way of clamouring. "And they cried out," says Luke, "all at once, saying Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas."

Pilate now makes a last feeble effort to induce them to acquiesce in the release of Jesus. "Pilate therefore," says Luke, "willing to release Jesus, spake again to them;" but what he said is recorded only by the first two Evangelists. Matthew 27:22. "Pilate," says Matthew, "said unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" - or, according to the keener form of the question in Mark, "Him whom ye call the King of the Jews?" This was just the thing they could not endure, and Pilate was sharp enough to see it. "But they all cried, Crucify Him, crucify Him" (Luke and Matthew). The shocking cry is redoubled. "And the governor said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in Him: I will therefore chastise Him, and let Him go" (Luke). Why chastise Him, O Pilate, if thou hast found no fault in Him? But his remonstrances are waxing feebler; this offer of chastisement, already rejected as a compromise, is but another slight effort to stem the torrent, and presently he will give way. They see this, and hasten to bury his scruples in a storm of cries for His crucifixion. What a scene! Matthew 27:23. "But they cried out the more, saying, Let Him be crucified." Luke is more emphatic: "And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that He might be crucified, And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed."

A very striking incident is here again related in the First Gospel only.

Matthew 27:24-25 : Matthew 27:24 "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing" - his humiliating helplessness was manifest to himself - "but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude" (compare, in illustration of this act, Deuteronomy 21:6-7; Psalms 26:6), as a solemn and public protest against the deed, "saying, I am innocent of the blood of this [just] person:" [the words tou (Greek #3588) dikaiou (Greek #1342) are omitted by Tischendorf, and bracketed by Lachmann and Tregelles. They appear to be of doubtful authority.] "see ye to it." 'Tis not so easy, O Pilate, to wash out sin, much less the innocent blood of the Holy One of God! But thy testimony to Him, and to the uneasiness of thy conscience in condemning Him, we accept with all thankfulness-to a Higher than thou. Matthew 27:25. "Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children." O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how heavy has that word been to thee! And the dregs of that cup of fury, voluntarily called down upon thine own head, are not all drunken yet. "But thou, O Lord, how long?" "And Pilate," says Luke, "gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will." There is a heavy reflection conveyed by these words, though they be but the studious repetition of the black facts of the case; for it is not the manner of the first three Evangelists to make reflections on the facts which they record, as the fourth does.

From the fullness of the matter embraced in the foregoing portions of the first three Gospels, it will at once be seen that the beloved disciple, in the two following verses, designed not so much to record as merely to remind his readers of facts already fully recorded and familiar to all Christians, in order to pave the way for the fuller details of what followed, which he was about to give:

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 18:38". "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

(38) Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?—“‘What is truth?’ said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.” Such is Lord Bacon’s well-known interpretation of Pilate’s well-known question. Others have seen in it the bitterness of a mind that had been tossed to and fro in the troubled sea of contemporaneous thought, and despaired of an anchorage. Others, again; have traced the tone of sarcasm in the governor’s words—“Is the son of Roman freedom and Greek thought, which had at this time been welded into one power, to learn truth of a Jewish enthusiast?” while the older interpreters, for the most part, regarded the question as that of an earnest inquirer desiring to be satisfied. These are a few among the many thoughts the passage has suggested; and yet none of them seem to give the natural impression which follows from the words. Bacon’s is nearest to it, but Pilate was far from jesting. He seems rather to have been irritated by the refusal of the Jews to furnish a formal accusation (John 18:31), and more so at the question of Jesus in John 18:34, and the subtleties, as he thinks them, of John 18:36. This seems to him to be another, and at all events it is wholly irrelevant to the question at issue. He has neither time nor will to deal with it, and at once goes from the palace again to the Jews.

I find in him no fault at all.—Better, I find no crime in Him. St. John uses the word rendered “fault” only in this phrase. (Comp. John 19:4; John 19:6.) It is used by St. Matthew (Matthew 27:37) for the technical “accusation written, This is Jesus, the King of the Jews,” and this seems to be the sense here. “I find no ground for the legal charge (John 18:33). Whatever He may be, there is no proof of treason against the majesty of Cæsar.”

On the attempt of Pilate to release Jesus (John 18:39-40), comp. Matthew 27:15-23; Mark 15:6-14; Luke 23:13-23. It is preceded in St. Luke by the trial before Herod (John 18:6-12).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 18:38". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/john-18.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.
What
Acts 17:19,20,32; 24:25,26
I find
19:4,6,21,22; Matthew 27:18,19,24; Mark 15:14; Luke 23:4,14-16; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Peter 2:22,23
Reciprocal: 1 Samuel 12:5 - ye have;  Daniel 11:2 - will I;  Matthew 13:19 - and understandeth;  Matthew 27:15 - GeneralLuke 23:13 - GeneralActs 13:28 - GeneralActs 25:25 - committed;  1 John 3:12 - And

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on John 18:38". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/john-18.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ver. 38. "Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all."

That the question "What is truth?" was not uttered by Pilate in the spirit of desire to know, but that it was intended to break off the colloquy, is plain from the fact that Pilate with those words departed. He observed, like Felix, Acts 24:25, that his heart was going where he was loth to follow; and that he might easily be brought to a point where he must outrage all his dearest inclinations. The question thrown out, "What is truth?" was to serve, as it were, for a justification of his breaking off a conversation that took a disagreeable turn. Talking about truth ends in nothing; about it there must be many opinions, and so many heads so many minds. It was not the language of a theoretical sceptic—the historical character of Pilate contradicts that—but of a worldling who, entirely given up to the "real interests of life,"or to his passions, had lost the sense for truth, and had taught himself to regard it as a mere chimera. Every heart swayed by passion, or filled with avarice and ambition, asks internally like Pilate, although all are not as sincere as he was, in openly uttering their despair as to truth. Concerning truth, that holds good which is said of wisdom in Wisd. of Song of Solomon 1:4;" For into a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter, nor dwell in the body that is subject to sin."

The three words "What is truth?" were for Pilate full of destiny. By them he put away that truth from himself which so graciously and invitingly appealed to him. By them he laid the foundation for the suicide by which, according to the report of Eusebius, who appeals to Greek historians, he ended his days under the Emperor Caius.

Pilate declined the truth. But he could not defend himself against its representative; and he who was not very scrupulous at other times about an act of injustice, more or less, strove hard to save Him, but always with the reservation that his own existence was not imperilled. Here again we see, that "being of the truth" was not absolutely far from him, and that he stood higher than Herod or Caiaphas. Doubtless he uttered the question "What is truth?" with a certain sorrow, with the consciousness that he, such a man as he was, sold under sin, was obliged to put the question, but that he was to act so contrary to it.

The words "I find no fault in him" are a point of coincidence with Luke 23:4. Between these words, and what in ver. 39 he said to the Jews, lies the sending to Herod, which St Luke alone records. St John could immediately add the "but ye have a custom," especially as Pilate, according to St Luke, had, after He was sent back, again declared Christ's innocence.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 18:38". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/john-18.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

38.What is truth? Some think that Pilate puts this question through curiosity, as irreligious men are sometimes accustomed to be eagerly desirous of learning something that is new to them, and yet do not know why they wish it; for they intend nothing more than to gratify their ears. For my own part, I rather think that it is an expression of disdain; for Pilate thought himself highly insulted when Christ represented him as destitute of all knowledge of the truth. Here we see in Pilate a disease which is customary among men. Though we are all aware of our ignorance, yet there are few who are willing to confess it; and the consequence is, that the greater part of men reject the true doctrine. Afterwards, the Lord, who is the Teacher of the humble, blinds the proud, and thus inflicts on them the punishment which they deserve. From the same pride arises such disdain, that they do not choose to submit to learn, because all lay claim to sagacity and acuteness of mind. Truth is believed to be a common thing; but God declares, on the contrary, that it far exceeds the capacity of the human understanding.

The same thing happens in other matters. The principal articles of theology are, the curse pronounced on the human race, the corruption of nature, the mortification of the flesh, the renewal of the life, the reconciliation effected by free grace through the only sacrifice, the imputation of righteousness, by means of which a sinner is accepted by God, and the illumination of the Holy Spirit. These, being paradoxes, are disdainfully rejected by the ordinary understanding of men. Few, therefore, make progress in the school of God, because we scarcely find one person in ten who attends to the first and elementary instructions; and why is this, but because they measure the secret wisdom of God by their own understanding?

That Pilate spoke in mockery is evident from this circumstance, that he immediately goes out. In short, he is angry with Christ for boasting that he brings forward the truth, which formerly lay hidden in darkness. Yet this indignation of Pilate shows that wicked men never reject the doctrine of the Gospel so spitefully as not to be somewhat moved by its efficacy; for, though Pilate did not proceed so far as to become humble and teachable, yet he is constrained to feel some inward compunction.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 18:38". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-18.html. 1840-57.