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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Μάλχος, from the Heb. מֶלֶךְ, king, or מִלּוּךְ, counsellor), a slave of the high-priest Caiaphas, and the individual among the party sent to arrest Jesus whose right ear was cut off by Peter in the garden of Gethsemane (John 18:10), but which was cured by a touch from Christ (Luke 22:51). He had a kinsman another slave of the same master (John 18:26). A.D. 29. The name of Malchus was not unfrequent among the Greeks (see Wetstein, ad loc.; Gesenius, Monzum. Phoen. p. 409), but it was usually applied to persons of Oriental countries, as to an Arab chieftain (Josephus, Ast. 13:5 1; 14:14,1; 15:6, 2). This Malchus "was the personal servant (δοῦλος ) of the high-priest, and not one of the bailiffs or apparitors (ὑπηοέτης ) of the Sanhedrim. The high-priest intended is Caiaphas, no doubt (though Annas is called ἀρχιερεύς, in the same connection), for John, who was personally known to the former (John 18:15), is the only one of the evangelists who gives the name of Malchus.

This servant was probably stepping forward at the moment, with others, to handcuff or pinion Jesus, when the zealous Peter struck at him with his sword. The blow was undoubtedly meant to be more effective, but reached only the ear. It may be, as Stier remarks (Reden Jesu, 6:268), that the man, seeing the danger, threw his head or body to the left, so as to expose the right ear more than the other. The allegation that the writers are inconsistent with each other, because Matthew, Mark, and John say either ὠτίον or ὠτάριον (as if that meant the lappet or tip of the ear), while Luke says ο à ς , is groundless. The Greek of the New Testament age, like the modern Romaic, often made no distinction between the primitive and diminutive. In fact, Luke himself exchanges the one term for the other in this very narrative. The Savior, as his pursuers were about to seize him, asked to be left free for a moment longer (ἐᾶτε ἕως τούτου ), and that moment he used in restoring the wounded man to soundness. The ἁψάμενος τοῦ ὠτίου may indicate (which is not forbidden by ἀφεῖλεν, ἀπεκοψεν ) that the ear still adhered slightly to its place. It is noticeable that Luke, the physician, is the only one of the writers who mentions the act of healing" (Smith). "Some think Peter's name was omitted by the synoptists, lest the publication of it in his lifetime should expose him to the revenge of the unbelieving Jews, but, as the gospels were not published, this seems improbable."

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Malchus'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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