Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:Chap. 27:1, 2.] Jesus is led away to Pilate. Mark 15:1.Luk 22:66Luk 22:66 (who probably combines with this morning meeting of the Sanhedrim some things that took place at their earlier assembly), 23:1. John 18:28. The object of this taking counsel, was ὥστε θ. αὐ.—to condemn Him formally to death, and devise the best means for the accomplishment of the sentence.
3-10.] Remorse and suicide of Judas. Peculiar to Matthew. This incident does not throw much light on the motives of Judas. One thing we learn for certain—that our Lord’s being condemned, which he inferred from His being handed over to the Roman governor, worked in him remorse, and that suicide was the consequence. Whether this condemnation was expected by him or not, does not here appear; nor have we any means of ascertaining, except from the former sayings of our Lord respecting him. I cannot (see note on ch. 26:14) believe that his intent was other than sordid gain to be achieved by the darkest treachery. To suppose that the condemnation took him by surprise, seems to me to be inconsistent with the spirit of his own confession, ver. 4. There παραδοὺς αἷμα ἀθῷον expresses his act—his accomplished purpose. The bitter feeling in him now is expressed by ἥμαρτον, of which he is vividly and dreadfully conscious, now that the result has been attained.
3.] Observe it was τὰ τρ. ἀργ. which he brought back—clearly the price of the Lord’s betrayal,—not earnest-money merely;—for by this time, nay when he delivered his Prisoner at the house of Annas, he would have in that case received the rest.
Observe also ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτόν, His betrayer, the part. pres. being used as a designation, as in ὁ πειράζων, “the Tempter,” ch. 4:3.
5. ἐν τῷ ναῷ] in the holy place, where the priests only might enter. We must conceive him as speaking to them without, and throwing the money into the ναός.
ἀπήγξατο] hanged, or strangled himself. On the account given Acts 1:18, see note there. Another account of the end of Judas was current, which I have cited there.
6.] They said this probably by analogy from Deuteronomy 23:18. τιμ. αἵμ., the price given for shedding of blood, the wages of a murderer.
7. τὸν ἀγρ. τ. κερ.] the field of some well-known potter—purchased at so small a price probably from having been rendered useless for tillage by excavations for clay: see note on Acts 1:19.
τοῖς ξ.] not for Gentiles, but for stranger Jews who came up to the feasts.
8.] ἀγρ. αἵμ.,—חֲקַל דְּמָא. See Acts 1:19.
ἕως τῆς σήμ.] This expression shews that a considerable time had elapsed since the event, before Matthew’s Gospel was published.
9.] The citation is not from Jeremiah (see ref.), and is probably quoted from memory and unprecisely; we have similar instances in two places in the apology of Stephen, Acts 7:4, Acts 7:16,—and in Mark 2:26. Various means of evading this have been resorted to, which are not worth recounting. Jeremiah 18:1, Jeremiah 18:2, or perhaps Jeremiah 32:6-12, may have given rise to it: or it may have arisen from a Jewish idea (see Wordsw. h. l.), “Zechariam habuisse spiritum Jeremiæ.” The quotation here is very different from the LXX, which see,—and not much more like the Hebrew. I put it to any faithful Christian to say, whether of the two presents the greater obstacle to his faith, the solution given above, or that in Wordsw.’s note, that the name of one prophet is here substituted for that of another, to teach us not to regard the prophets as the authors of their prophecies, but to trace them to divine Inspiration.
11-14.] He is examined by Pilate. Mark 15:2-5.Luke 23:2-5Luk_23:2-5.John 18:29-38Joh_18:29-38. Our narrative of the hearing before Pilate is the least circumstantial of the four—having however two remarkable additional particulars, vv. 19 and 24. John is the fullest in giving the words of our Lord. Compare the notes there.
11.] Before this Pilate had come out and demanded the cause of his being delivered up; the Jews not entering the Prætorium.
The primary accusation against Him seems to have been that He ἔλεγεν ἑαυτὸν χριστὸν βασιλέα εἶναι. This is presupposed in the enquiry of this verse.
σὺ λέγεις is not to be rendered as a doubtful answer—much less with Theophylact, as meaning, ‘Thou sayest it, not I:’ but as a strong affirmative. See above on ch. 26:64.
12-14.] This part of the narrative occurs only in Mark besides, but is explained by Luke, ver. 5. The charges were, of exciting the people from Galilee to Jerusalem. On the mention of Galilee, Pilate sent Him to Herod, Luke, vv. 6-12.
15-26.] Barabbas preferred to Him. He is delivered to be crucified. Mark 15:6-15.Luke 23:17-25Luk_23:17-25.Joh 18:39Joh 18:39, John 18:40. In the substance of this account the Four are in remarkable agreement. John gives merely a compendium, uniting in one these three attempts of Pilate to liberate Jesus, and omitting the statement of the fact of Barabbas being liberated, and Jesus delivered to them.
15. κατὰ ἑορτήν] feast by feast; i.e. at every feast. This distributive force of κατά is found both in local and temporal connexions: e.g. κατʼ οἶκον, house by house, κατʼ ἄνδρα, man by man, καθʼ ἡμέραν, day by day. See Bernhardy, Syntax, p. 240 f.
We have no other historic mention of this practice. Livy (v. 13) says of the feast of the Lectisternium, ‘vinctis quoque dempta in eos dies vincula.’
16.] The subject of εἶχον, as of ἤθελον above, is the ὄχλος. He was one of them, so they had him. The name Barabbas, בַּר אַבָּא, ‘son of his father,’ was not an uncommon one. The plays on this name Barabbas (e.g. τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτῶν, τοῦ διαβόλου, ἐξῃτήσαντο.… Theophylact, see also Olshausen in loc. vol. ii. p. 507) are utterly unworthy of serious exegesis. It does not appear why this man was ἐπίσημος. The murderers in the insurrection in which he was involved were many (Mark, ver. 7).
17.] In John’s narrative, the suggestion of liberating Barabbas seems to come from the Jews themselves; but not necessarily so: he may only be giving, as before, a general report of what passed. The συνηγμ. οὖν αὐτ. seems to imply that a great crowd had collected outside the Prætorium while the trial was going on. It is possible that the addition τὸν λεγόμενον χριστόν, which Pilate could hardly have heard from the Jews, may have been familiar to him by his wife’s mention of Jesus. See below.
18.] The whole narrative presupposes what this verse and the next distinctly assert, that Pilate was before acquainted with the acts and character of Jesus.
19.] The βῆμα was in a place called in Hebrew Gabbatha, the Pavement—John 19:13—where however Pilate is not related to have gone thither, till after the scourging and mocking of the soldiers. But he may have sat there when he came out in some of his previous interviews with the Jews.
ἡ γυνὴ αὐτ.] It had become the custom in Augustus’s time for the governors of provinces to take their wives with them abroad; Cæcina attempted to pass a law forbidding it (Tacit. Ann. iii. 33 ff.), but was vehemently opposed (by Drusus among others) and put down. We know nothing more of this woman than is here related. Tradition gives her the name of Procla or Claudia Procula. In the Gospel of Nicodemus, c. 2, we read that Pilate called the Jews and said to them, οἴδατε ὅτι ἡ γυνή μου θεοσεβής ἐστιν, καὶ μᾶλλον ἰουδαίζει σὺν ὑμῖν. λέγουσιν αὐτῷ Ναί, οἴδαμεν.
On the question raised by the words καθημένου δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τοῦ βήματος as to the place which this incident holds in the trial, see Tischendorf, Pilati circa Christum judicio, &c., pp. 13 ff.
ὁ δίκαιος ἐκεῖνος is a term which shews that she knew the character for purity and sanctity which Jesus had. In the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Jews are made to reply, μὴ οὐκ εἴπαμέν σοι ὅτι γόης ἐστίν; ἰδοὺ ὀνειροπόλημα ἔπεμψε πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκά σου.
20.] So Mark also. Luke and John merely give, that they all cried out, &c. The exciting of the crowd seems to have taken place while Pilate was receiving the message from his wife.
ἵνα conveys a mixture of the purport with the purpose of the ἔπεισαν. See note on 1Corinthians 14:13.
21. ἀποκρ.] not necessarily to the incitements of the Sanhedrists which he overheard (Meyer), but rather to the state of confusion and indecision which prevailed.
22.] They chose crucifixion as the ordinary Roman punishment for sedition, and because of their hate to Jesus. The double accusative after verbs of doing and saying of or to any one is the common construction. See Kühner, Gr. ii. p. 225. Cf. Xen. Cyr. iii. 2. 15, οὐδεπώποτε ἐπαύοντο πολλὰ κακὰ ἡμᾶς ποιοῦντες.
23.] γάρ implies a sort of concession—a placing one’s self in the situation of the person addressed, and then requiring a reason for his decision: and is generally found in this connexion, τί γάρ, in the utterance of impassioned feeling. See Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 479.
24.] Peculiar to Matt.
οὐδὲν ὠφελεῖ] rightly rendered in E. V. that he prevailed nothing—not ‘that it prevailed nothing.’ The washing of the hands, to betoken innocence from blood-guiltiness, is prescribed Deuteronomy 21:6-9, and Pilate uses it here as intelligible to the Jews.
The Greeks would have used the gen. after ἀθῷος without ἀπό: so ἀθῷος πληγῶν, Aristoph. Nub. 1413. See Kühner, Gram. ii. p. 164.
25.] αἶμα λέγουσι τὴν τοῦ αἵματος καταδίκην, : but more probably with a much wider reference—as the adherence of blood to the hands of a murderer is an idea not bearing any necessary reference to punishment, only to guilt.
26.] φραγελ. is a late word, adopted from the Latin. The custom of scourging before execution was general among the Romans. After the scourging, John 19:1-16, Pilate made a last attempt to liberate Jesus—which answers to παιδεύσας ἀπολύσω, Luke, ver. 16.
παρέδωκεν] to the Roman soldiers, whose office the execution would be.
27-30.] Jesus mocked by the soldiers. Mark 15:16-19. (Omitted in Luke.) John 19:1-3. The assertion παρέδωκεν ἵνα σταυρωθῇ in ver. 26 is not strictly correct there. Before that, the contents of this passage come in, and the last attempt of Pilate to liberate Him.
27. εἰς τὸ πραιτ.] The residence of the Roman governor was the former palace of Herod, in the upper city (see Winer, Realwörterbuch, ‘Richthaus’).
ὅλ. τ. σπ.] The σπεῖρα is the cohort—the tenth part of a legion. The word ὅλ. is not to be pressed.
ἐπʼ αὐτόν] to Him—to make sport with Him. This happened in the guard-room of the cohort: and the narrative of it we may well believe may have come from the centurion or others (see ver. 54), who were afterwards deeply impressed at the crucifixion.
28.] Possibly the mantle in which he had been sent back from Herod—see note on Luke, ver. 11: or perhaps one of the ordinary soldiers’ cloaks.
29.] It does not appear whether the purpose of the crown was to wound, or simply for mockery—and equally uncertain is it, of what kind of thorns it was composed. The acanthus itself, with its large succulent leaves, is singularly unfit for such a purpose: as is the plant with very long sharp thorns commonly known as spina Christi, being a brittle acacia (robinia),—and the very length of the thorns, which would meet in the middle if it were bent into a wreath, precluding it. Some flexile shrub or plant must be understood—possibly some variety of the cactus or prickly pear. ‘Hasselquist, a Swedish naturalist, supposes a very common plant, naba or nubka of the Arabs, with many small and sharp spines; soft, round, and pliant branches; leaves much resembling ivy, of a very deep green, as if in designed mockery of a victor’s wreath,’ Travels, 288. 1766 (cited by F. M).
κάλ., for a sceptre.
ὁ βασ., nominative with art. for vocative, a Hebraism, see reff.
30.] Observe the aor. ἔλαβον of the one act of taking the reed, but the imperfects ἐνέπαιζον and ἔτυπτον of the continued and repeated acts of mocking and striking.
Here follows the exhibition of Jesus by Pilate, and his last attempt to release him, John 19:4-16.
31-34.] He is led to crucifixion. Mark 15:20-23.Luke 23:26-33Luk_23:26-33. John 19:16, 17. The four accounts are still essentially and remarkably distinct. Matthew’s and Mark’s are from the same source, but varied in expression, and in detail; Luke’s and John’s stand each alone; Luke’s being the fullest, and giving us the deeply interesting address to the daughters of Jerusalem.
31.] Peculiar to Matt. and Mark. ἀπήγ. = ἐξάγουσιν Mark. Executions usually took place without the camp, see Numbers 15:35, or city, 1Kings 21:13: Acts 7:58: Hebrews 13:11-13. Grotius brings examples to shew that the same was the custom of the Romans.
32.] Previously, Jesus had borne his own cross: John, ver. 17. So Plutarch, de sera numinis vindicta, ἕκαστος τῶν κακούργων ἐκφέρει τὸν αὑτοῦ σταυρόν, c. ix.
We have no data to ascertain any further particulars about this Simon of Cyrene. The only assumption which we are perhaps justified in making, is that he was afterwards known in the Church as a convert: see note on Mark, ver. 21. He was coming from the country, Mark, ibid.; Luke, ver. 26. Meyer suggests, to account for the selection of one out of the multitude present, that possibly he was a slave; the indignity of the service to be rendered preventing their taking any other person. On ἀγγαρεύω see note at ch. 5:41.
33.] Γολγοθᾶ, in Chaldee גֻּלְגָּלתָא, in Hebrew גֻּלְגּלֶת, a skull: the name is by Jerome, and generally, explained from its being the usual place of executions and abounding with skulls—not however unburied, which was not allowed. This last consideration raises an objection to the explanation,—and as the name does not import κρανίων τόπος, but κρανίου τ. or simply κρανίον (Luke), many, among whom are Reland, Paulus, Lücke, De Wette, Meyer, &c., understand it as applying to the shape of the hill or rock. But neither does this seem satisfactory, as we have no analogy to guide us (Meyer’s justification of the name from κράνιον, or κρανεῖον, a wood near Corinth, does not apply: for that is so called from κράνον, the cornel tree—De Wette), and no such hill or rock is known to have existed.
As regards the situation, we await some evidence which may decide between the conflicting claims of the commonly-received site of Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre, and that upheld by Mr. Ferguson, who holds that the Dome of the Rock, usually known as the Mosque of Omar, is in reality the spot of our Lord’s entombment. See his Article “Jerusalem” in Dr. Smith’s Biblical Dictionary: and on the other side, Williams’s Holy City, and Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, edn. 3, p. 459 ff.
34.] It was customary to give a stupefying drink to criminals on their way to execution: of which our Lord would not partake, having shewn by tasting it, that he was aware of its purpose.
In Mark’s account it is ἐσμυρνισμένος οἶνος—and though οἶνος and ὄξος might mean the same, ἐσμυρνισμένος and μετὰ χολ. μεμιγ. cannot. We may observe here (and if the remark be applied with caution and reverence, it is a most useful one), how Matt. often adopts in his narrative the very words of prophecy, where one or more of the other Evangelists give the matter of fact detail: see above on ch. 26:15, and compare with this verse, Psalm 69:21.
35. σταυρώσαντες] The cross was an upright pale or beam, intersected by a transverse one at right angles, generally in the shape of a ┬. In this case, from the ‘title’ being placed over the Head, the upright beam probably projected above the horizontal one, as usually represented ┼. To this cross the criminal, being stripped of his clothes, was fixed by nails driven through the hands and (not always, nor perhaps generally, though certainly not seldom—see note at Luke 24:39) through the feet, separate or united. The body was not supported by the nails, but by a piece of wood which passed between the legs—ἐφʼ ᾧ ἐποχοῦνται οἱ σταυρούμενοι, Justin Mart. dial. c. Tryph. § 91, p. 188. On the rest of the verse, see notes on John. The words omitted in the text are clearly interpolated from John, ver. 24, with just the phrase τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ (or διὰ) τοῦ προφήτου assimilated to Matthew’s usual form of citation.
36. ἐτήρουν] This was usual, to prevent the friends taking crucified persons down. There were four soldiers, John, ver. 23; a centurion and three others.
37.] ἐπέθ. is not to be taken as a plusq. perf.—Matthew finishes relating what the soldiers did, and then goes back to the course of the narrative. ‘The soldiers’ need not even be the nominative case to ἐπέθ. The ‘title’ appears to have been written by Pilate (see John, ver. 19) and sent to be affixed on the cross. It is not known whether the affixing of this title was customary. In Dio Cassius (cited by Meyer, but incorrectly), we read of such a title being hung round the neck of a criminal on his way to execution. So also Suet. Domit. 10,—“canibus objecit, cum hoc titulo, ‘Impie locutus parmularius:’ ” and Caligula 32,—“præcedente titulo, qui caussam pœnæ indicaret.”
On the difference in the four Gospels as to the words of the inscription itself it is hardly worth while to comment, except to remark, that the advocates for the verbal and literal exactness of each Gospel may here find an undoubted example of the absurdity of their view, which may serve to guide them in less plain and obvious cases. (See this further noticed in the Prolegg. ch. i. § vi. 18.) A title was written, containing certain words; not four titles, all different, but one, differing probably from all of these four, but certainly from three of them. Let us bear this in mind when the narratives of words spoken, or events, differ in a similar manner. Respecting the title, see further on John, vv. 20-22.
38.] τότε, after the crucifixion of Jesus was accomplished. These thieves were led out with Jesus, and crucified, perhaps by the same soldiers, or perhaps as Meyer says, inferring this from the καθήμενοι ἐτήρουν αὐτὸν ἐκεῖ, ver. 36, by another band.
39-44.] He is mocked on the cross. Mark 15:29-32.Luke 23:35-37Luk_23:35-37; 39-43. Our narrative and that of Mark are from a common source. Luke’s is wholly distinct. The whole of these indignities are omitted by John.
39. οἱ παραπ.] These words say nothing as to its being a working-day, or as to the situation of the spot. A matter of so much public interest would be sure to attract a crowd, among whom we find, ver. 41, the chief priests, scribes, and elders. These passers-by were the multitude going in and out of the city, some coming to see, others returning.
κιν. τ. κεφ.] see Psalm 22:7. The first reproach refers to ch. 26:61; the second to ibid., ver. 64.
40. ὁ καταλύων] Notice the characterizing present participle, as ὁ πειράζων, ch. 4:3: thou puller down of.… 42.
42.] Luke gives, more exactly, the second reproach in this verse as proceeding from the soldiers.
43.] See Psalm 22:7, Psalm 22:8. This is not according to the LXX, which has ἤλπισεν ἐπὶ κύριον· ῥυσάσθω αὐτόν, σωσάτω αὐτόν, ὅτι θέλει αὐτόν. This is omitted by Mark and Luke. θέλειν τινά for amare aliquem, occurs in reff. Ps. We have θέλειν with an accus. of the thing in reff. and Ezekiel 18:23, 32 .: and followed by ἐν with a person, 1Kings 18:22: 1Chronicles 28:4 (not Colossians 2:18; see note there), al.
44.] Neither Matt. nor Mark is in possession of the more particular account given by Luke, vv. 39-43, where see notes. For the other incident which happened at this time, see John, vv. 25-27, and notes.
45-50.] Supernatural darkness. Last words, and death of Jesus. Mark 15:33-37. Luke 23:44-46. John 19:28-30. The three accounts are here and there very closely allied; Matthew and Mark almost verbally. Luke only, however, contains the words which the Lord uttered before he expired,—omits the incident which takes up our vv. 46-49, and inserts here the rending of the veil. John is entirely distinct.
45]. According to Mark, ver. 25, it was the third hour when they crucified Him. If so, He had been on the cross three hours, which in April would answer to about the same space of time in our day—i.e. from 9-12 a.m. On the difficulty presented by John’s declaration ch. 19:14, see notes there and on Mark.
σκότος] This was no eclipse of the sun, for it was full moon at the time—nor any partial obscuration of the sun such as sometimes takes place before an earthquake—for it is clear that no earthquake in the ordinary sense of the word is here intended. Those whose belief leads them to reflect WHO was then suffering, will have no difficulty in accounting for these signs of sympathy in Nature, nor in seeing their applicability. The consent, in the same words, of all three Evangelists, must silence all question as to the universal belief of this darkness as a fact; and the early Fathers (Julius Africanus, in Routh, Reliq. Sacr. ii. p. 297 f.: Tertull. Apol. c. 21, vol. i. p. 401: Origen c. Cels. ii. 33, vol. i. p. 414: Euseb. in Chronicon. Cf. Wordsw. h. l.) appeal to profane testimony for its truth. The omission of it in John’s Gospel is of no more weight than the numerous other instances of such omission. See Amos 8:9, Amos 8:10.
ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν] Whether these words are to be taken in all their strictness is doubtful. Of course, the whole globe cannot be meant—as it would be night naturally over half of it. The question is, are we to understand that part of it over which there was day? I believe we are; but see no strong objection to any limitation, provided the fact itself, as happening at Jerusalem, is distinctly recognized. This last is matter of testimony, and the three Evangelists are pledged to its truth: the present words cannot stand on the same ground, not being matter of testimony properly so called.
46.] See Psalm 22:1. The words λεμὰ σαβαχθανί are Chaldee, and not Hebrew. Our Lord spoke them in the ordinary dialect, not in that of the sacred text itself. The weightiest question is, In what sense did He use them? His inner consciousness of union with God must have been complete and indestructible—but, like His higher and holy Will, liable to be obscured by human weakness and pain, which at this time was at its very highest. We must however take care not to ascribe all his suffering to bodily pain, however cruel: his soul was in immediate contact with and prospect of death—the wages of sin, which He had taken on Him, but never committed—and the conflict at Gethsemane was renewed. ‘He himself,’ as the Berlenberg Bible remarks (Stier, vi. 442), ‘becomes the expositor of the darkness, and shews what it imports.’ In the words however, ‘My God’—there speaks the same union with the Divine Will, and abiding in the everlasting covenant purpose, as in those, ‘Not my will, but thine.’
These are the only words on the Cross related by Matt. and Mark—and they are related by none besides.
47.] This was not said by the Roman soldiers, who could know nothing of Elias; nor was it a misunderstanding of the Jewish spectators, who must have well understood the import of ἡλί: nor again was it said in any apprehension, from the supernatural darkness, that Elias might really come (Olsh.); but it was replied in intended mockery, as οὗτος,—‘this one among the three,’—clearly indicates. This is one of the cases where those who advocate an original Hebrew Gospel of Matthew are obliged to suppose that the Greek translator has retained the original words, in order to make the reason of the reply clear.
48.] This was on account of the words ‘I thirst,’ uttered by our Lord: see John, ver. 28. Mark’s account is somewhat different; there the same person gives the vinegar and utters the scoff which follows. This is quite intelligible—contempt mingled with pity would doubtless find a type among the bystanders. There is no need for assuming that the soldiers offering vinegar in Luke, ver. 36, is the same incident as this. Since then, the bodily state of the Redeemer had greatly changed; and what was then offered in mockery, might well be now asked for in the agony of death, and received when presented. I would not however absolutely deny that Luke may be giving a less precise detail; and may represent this incident by his ver. 36. The ὄξος is the posca, sour wine, or vinegar and water, the ordinary drink of the Roman soldiers. On the other particulars, see notes on John.
49.] If we take our account as the Strictly precise one, the rest—in mockery—call upon this person to desist, and wait for Elias to come to save Him: if that of Mark, the giver of the drink calls upon the rest (also in mockery) to let this suffice or to let him (the giver) alone, and wait, &c. The former seems more probable. It is remarkable that the words undeniably interpolated from John should have found their place here before the death of Jesus, and can only be attributed to carelessness, there being no other place here for the insertion of the indignity but this, and the interpolator not observing that in John it is related as inflicted after death.
50.] It has been doubted whether the τετέλεσται of John (ver. 30) and πάτερ, εἰς χ. σου παρατίθεμαι τ. πν. μου of Luke (ver. 46) are to be identified with this crying out, or to be taken as distinct from it. But a nearer examination of the case will set the doubt at rest. The παρέδωκεν of John (ib.) implies the speech in Luke; which accordingly was that uttered in this φωνὴ μεγάλη. The τετέλεσται was said before: see notes on John.
51-56.] Signs following his death. Mark 15:38-41.Luke 23:47-49Luk_23:47-49. The three narratives are essentially distinct. That of Luke is more general—giving only the sense of the centurion’s words—twice using the indefinite πάντες—and not specifying the women. The whole is omitted by John.
51.] The ἰδού gives solemnity. This was the inner veil, screening off the holy of holies from the holy place, Exodus 26:33: Hebrews 9:2, Hebrews 9:3. This circumstance has given rise to much incredulous comment, and that even from men like Schleiermacher. A right and deep view of the O.T. symbolism is required to furnish the key to it; and for this we look in vain among those who set aside that symbolism entirely.
That was now accomplished, which was the one and great antitype of all those sacrifices offered in the holy place, in order to gain, as on the great day of atonement (for that day may be taken as the representation of their intent), entrance into the holiest place,—the typical presence of God. What those sacrifices (ceremonially) procured for the Jews (the type of God’s universal Church) through their High-priest, was now (really) procured for all men by the sacrifice of Him, who was at once the victim and the High-priest. When Schleiermacher and De Wette assert that no use is made of this event in the Epistle to the Hebrews, they surely cannot have remembered, or not have deeply considered, Hebrews 10:19-21. Besides, suppose it had been referred to plainly and by name—what would then have been said? Clearly, that this mention was a later insertion, to justify that reference. And almost this latter, Strauss, recognizing the allusion in Heb., actually does. Schleiermacher also asks, how could the event be known, seeing none but priests could have witnessed it, and they would not be likely to betray it? To say nothing of the almost certain spread of the rumour, has he forgotten that (Acts 6:7) “a great company of the priests were obedient unto the faith?” Neander, who gives this last consideration its weight (but only as a possibility, that some priests may have become converts, and apparently without reference to the above fact), has an unworthy and shuffling note (L. J. p. 757), ending by quoting two testimonies, one apocryphal, the other Rabbinical, from which he concludes that ‘some matter of fact lies at the foundation’ of this (according to him) mythical adjunct.
ἡ γῆ ἐσείσθη] Not an ordinary earthquake, but connected with the two next clauses, and finding in them its explanation and justification.
αἱ πέτραι ἐσχίσθησαν] It would not be right altogether to reject the testimonies of travellers to the fact of extraordinary rents and fissures in the rocks near the spot. Of course those who know no other proof of the historical truth of the event, will not be likely to take this as one; but to us, who are firmly convinced of it, every such trace, provided it be soberly and honestly ascertained, is full of interest.
52. καὶ τὰ μν … to end of ver. 53.] The first clause, as following on an earthquake which splits the rocks, is by the modern Commentators received as genuine, and thrown into the same probability as the earthquake itself: but the following ones meet with no mercy at their hands. Gin mythisch apokryphischer Unsass is Meyer’s description of them—and as he cannot find any critical ground for this, the Greek Editor of Matthew has the blame of having added them. I believe on the contrary that these latter clauses contain the occasion of the former ones. The whole transaction was supernatural and symbolic: no other interpretation of it will satisfy even ordinary common sense. Was the earthquake a mere coincidence! This not even those assert, who deny all symbolism in the matter. Was it a mere sign of divine wrath at what was done—a mere prodigy, like those at the death of Cæsar? Surely no Christian believer can think this. Then what was it? What but the opening of the tombs—the symbolic declaration ‘mors janua vitæ,’—that the death which had happened had broken the bands of death for ever? These following clauses (which have no mythical nor apocryphal character—ἐνεφανίσθησαν πολλοῖς, and no more, is not the way of any but authentic history: see the Gospel of Nicodemus, ch. xvii. ff. in Jones’s Canon of the N.T. vol. ii. p. 255) require only this explanation to be fully understood. The graves were opened at the moment of the death of the Lord; but inasmuch as He is the first-fruits from the dead—the Resurrection and the Life—the bodies of the saints in them did not arise till He rose, and having appeared to many after his resurrection,—possibly during the forty days,—went up with Him into his glory. (Cf. on this Corn.-a-Lap., h. l.: who maintains that this was so, for five reasons: 1) “quia hoc decebat Christum, ut fructum mortis et resurrectionis suæ statim ostenderet in beata hac Sanctorum resurrectione: 2) quia animæ horum jam erant beatæ, ac proinde par erat eas non uniri corporibus nisi gloriosis et immortalibus: 3) quia exigua fuisset earum felicitas, ac longe major miseria, quod mox rursum deberent mori: 4) quia congruebat, ut hi Sancti Christum resurgentem et scandentem in cœlum, ejusque triumphum sua resurrectione decorarent: 5) quia convenit ut Christus in cœlo habeat Beatos quorum aspectu et collocutione externa se pascat humanitas, ne alioqui solitaria sit, expersque humanæ consolationis.” On this side, he claims (in Matt. Comm. series, vol. iii. p. 928; but wrongly, for Origen gives the whole a spiritual sense, more suo), Jerome, Bede, Thos. Aquinas, Anselm, (Strom. vi. 47, p. 764 .), Euseb. (Dem. Evang. iv. 12, vol. iv. p. 284), (Hær. lxxv. p. 911), al. On the other side are Thl., Euthym., (Ep. 164 (99) ad Evod. 3 (2) vol. ii.), al. Augustine is moved chiefly by the fact that David’s body appears from Acts 2:29, Acts 2:34, to have been still in his tomb after the Ascension.) Moses and Elias, who were before in glory, were not from the dead, properly speaking: see note on ch. 17:1.
The explanation (Fritzsche) of μετὰ τὴν ἔγερσιν αὐτοῦ as ‘after He had raised them,’ is simply ridiculous. The words belong to the whole sentence, not merely to εἰσῆλθον.
ἠγέρθησαν is the result—not the immediate accompaniment, of the opening of the tombs. It is to prevent this being supposed, that the qualification μετ. τ. ἔ. αὐ. is added.
54.] τὸν σεισμὸν καὶ τὰ γιν. = ὅτι οὕτως ἐξέπνευσεν Mark. Does the latter of these look as if compiled from the former? The circumstances of our vv. 51-53, except the rending of the veil, are not in the possession of Mark, of the minute accuracy of whose account I have no doubt. His report is that of one man—and that man, more than probably, a convert. Matthew’s is of many, and represents their general impression. Luke’s is also general.
τὰ γινόμενα points to the crying out, as indeed does the οὕτως in Mark:—but see notes there.
υἱὸς θεοῦ ἦν—which the Centurion had heard that He gave Himself out for, John 19:7, and our ver. 43. It cannot be doubtful, I think, that he used these words in the Jewish sense—and with some idea of that which they implied. When Meyer says that he must have used them in a heathen sense, meaning a hero or demigod, we must first be shewn that υἱὸς θεοῦ was ever so used. I believe Luke’s to be a different report: see notes there.
55, 56.] ἠκολ., the historic aorist in a relative clause, see Acts 1:2: John 11:30 al. fr.: and Winer, § 40. 5, end: where the true account of the idiom is given; viz. that in such clauses, the Greek merely states the event as a past one, where we commonly use the pluperfect.
Μαρ. ἡ τ. Ἰακ.] The wife of Alphæus or Clopas, John 19:25: see note on ch. 13:55.
Ἰακ.] Mark adds τοῦ μικροῦ, to distinguish him from the brother of our Lord (probably not from the son of Zebedee, see Prolegg. to Epistle of James, § i. 8).
μήτ. τ. υἱ. Ζ. = Σαλώμη Mark. Both omit Mary the mother of Jesus:—but we must remember, that if we are to take the group as described at this moment, she was not present, having been, as I believe (see note on John, ver. 27), led away by the beloved Apostle immediately on the speaking of the words, ‘Behold thy mother.’ And if this view be objected to, yet she could not be named here, nor in Mark, except separately from these three—for she could not well have been one of the διακονοῦσαι αὐτῷ.
There must have been also another group, of His disciples, within sight;—e.g. Thomas, who said, ‘Except I see in his hands the print of the nails,’ &c., and generally those to whom He afterwards shewed his hands and feet as a proof of his identity.
57-61.] Joseph of Arimathæa begs, and buries the body of Jesus. Mark 15:42-47. Luke 23:50-56. John 19:38-42. The four accounts, agreeing in substance, are remarkably distinct and independent, as will appear by a close comparison of them.
57.] Before sunset, at which time the Sabbath, and that an high day, began: see Deuteronomy 21:23. The Roman custom was for the bodies to remain on the crosses till devoured by birds of prey:—‘non pasces in cruce corvos.’ Hor. Epist. 1:16. 48. On the other hand, Josephus, B. J. iv. 5. 2, says, Ἰουδαίων περὶ τὰς ταφὰς πρόνοιαν ποιουμένων ὥστε καὶ τοὺς ἐκ καταδίκης.… ἀνασταυρωμένους πρὸ δύντος ἡλίου καθελεῖν καὶ θάπτειν.
ἦλθεν] probably to the Prætorium. Meyer supposes, to the place of execution; which is also possible, and seems supported by the ἦλθεν οὖν καὶ ἦρεν John ver. 38, and ἦλθεν δὲ καὶ.… ib. ver. 39, which certainly was to Golgotha.
πλούσιος] He was also a counsellor, i.e. one of the Sanhedrim: see Mark, ver. 43: Luke, ver. 51.
Ἀριμαθαίας] Opinions are divided as to whether this was Rama in Benjamin (see ch. 2:18.), or Rama (Ramathaim) in Ephraim, the birth-place of Samuel. The form of the name is more like the latter.
58.] The repetition of τὸ σῶμα is remarkable, and indicates a common origin, in this verse, with Mark, who after ἐδωρήσατο expresses τὸ πτῶμα on account of the expression of Pilate’s surprise, and the change of subject between.
59.] John (ver. 39) mentions the arrival of Nicodemus with an hundred pound weight of myrrh and aloes, in which also the Body was wrapped. The Three are not in possession of this—nor Matthew and John of the subsequent design of the women to embalm It. What wonder if, at such a time, one party of disciples should not have been aware of the doings of another? It is possible that the women, who certainly knew what had been done with the Body (see ver. 61), may have intended to bestow on it more elaborate care, as whatever was done this night was hurried,—see John, vv. 41, 42.
60.] Matt. alone relates that it was Joseph’s own tomb. John, that it was in a garden, and in the place where He was crucified. All, except Mark, notice the newness of the tomb. John does not mention that it belonged to Joseph—but the expression ἐν ᾧ οὐδέπω οὐδεὶς ἐτέθη looks as if he knew more than he has thought it necessary to state. His reason for the Body being laid there is, that it was near, and the Preparation rendered haste necessary. But then we may well ask, How should the body of an executed person be laid in a new tomb, without the consent of the owner being first obtained? And who so likely to provide a tomb, as he whose pious care for the Body was so eminent?
All that we can determine respecting the sepulchre from the data here furnished is, (1) That it was not a natural cave, but an artificial excavation in the rock. (2) That it was not cut downwards, after the manner of a grave with us, but horizontally, or nearly so, into the face of the rock—this I conceive to be implied in προσκυλίσας λίθ. μέγ. τῇ θύρᾳ τοῦ μν., as also by the use of παρακύπτω John 20:5, John 20:11, and εἰσῆλθεν, ib. 5, 6. (3) That it was in the spot where the crucifixion took place. Cyr-jer. speaks of τὸ μνῆμα τὸ πλησίον, ὅπου ἐτέθη, κ. ὁ ἐπιτεθεὶς τῇ θύρᾳ λίθος, ὁ μέχρι σήμερον παρὰ τῷ μνημείῳ κείμενος. Cateches. xiii. 39, p. 202. On ἐλατόμησεν, the aor. in a relative clause, see above, ver. 55 note.
61.] Luke mentions more generally the women who came with Him from Galilee; and specifies that they prepared spices and ointments, and rested the sabbath-day according to the commandment.
62-66.] The Jewish authorities obtain from Pilate a guard for the sepulchre. Peculiar to Matthew.
62. τῇ ἐπ.] not on that night, but on the next day. A difficulty has been found in its being called the day μετὰ τὴν παρασκευήν, considering that it was itself the sabbath, and the greatest sabbath in the year. But I believe the expression to be carefully and purposely used. The chief priests, &c. did not go to Pilate on the sabbath,—but in the evening, after the termination of the sabbath. Had the Evangelist said ἥτις ἐστὶ τὸ σάββατον, the incongruity would at once appear of such an application being made on the sabbath—and he therefore designates the day as the first after that, which, as the day of the Lord’s death, the παρασκευή, was uppermost in his mind.
The narrative following has been much impugned, and its historical accuracy very generally given up by even the best of the German Commentators (Olshausen, Meyer; also De Wette, Hase, and others). The chief difficulties found in it seem to be: (1) How should the chief priests, &c. know of His having said, ‘in three days I will rise again,’ when the saying was hid even from His own disciples? The answer to this is easy. The meaning of the saying may have been, and was, hid from the disciples; but the fact of its having been said could be no secret. Not to lay any stress on John 2:19, we have the direct prophecy of Matthew 12:40—and besides this, there would be a rumour current, through the intercourse of the Apostles with others, that He had been in the habit of so saying. As to the understanding of the words, we must remember that hatred is keener sighted than love;—that the raising of Lazarus would shew, what sort of a thing rising from the dead was to be;—and that the fulfilment of the Lord’s announcement of his crucifixion would naturally lead them to look further, to what more he had announced. (2) How should the women, who were solicitous about the removal of the stone, not have been still more so about its being sealed, and a guard set? The answer to this has been given above—they were not aware of the circumstance, because the guard was not set till the evening before. There would be no need of the application before the approach of the third day—it is only made for a watch ἕως τῆς τρίτης ἡμέρας, ver. 64—and it is not probable that the circumstance would transpire that night—certainly it seems not to have done so. (3) That Gamaliel was of the council, and if such a thing as this, and its sequel ch. 28:11-15, had really happened, he need not have expressed himself doubtfully, Acts 5:39, but would have been certain that this was from God. But, first, it does not necessarily follow that every member of the Sanhedrim was present and applied to Pilate, or even had they done so, that all bore a part in the act of ch. 28:12. One who, like Joseph, had not consented to their deed before—and we may safely say that there were others such—would naturally withdraw himself from further proceedings against the person of Jesus. On Gamaliel and his character, see note on Acts, l. c.) Had this been so, the three other Evangelists would not have passed over so important a testimony to the Resurrection. But surely we cannot argue in this way—for thus every important fact narrated by one Evangelist alone must be rejected—e.g. (which stands in much the same relation) the satisfaction of Thomas,—and other such narrations. Till we know much more about the circumstances under which, and the scope with which, each Gospel was compiled, all à priori arguments of this kind are good for nothing.
65.] ἔχετε—either 1), indicative, Ye have:—but then the question arises, What guard had they? and if they had one, why go to Pilate? Perhaps we must understand some detachment placed at their disposal during the feast—but there does not seem to be any record of such a practice. That the guards were under the Sanhedrim is plain from ch. 28:11, where they make their report (‘ut mos militiæ, factum esse quod imperasset,’ Tacitus, Ann. i. 6), not to Pilate, but to the chief priests:—or 2), as De Wette and Meyer take it, imperative; which doubtless it may be, see 2Timothy 1:13 and note: and the sense here on that hypothesis would be, Take a body of men for a guard. And έο this latter I now rather incline, on account of the order of the words, in which ἔχετε seems to have an emphasis hardly satisfied on the other view.
ὡς οἴδατε] as you know how:—in the best manner you can. There is no irony in the words, as has been supposed.
66.] μετά belongs to ἠσφαλ., and implies the means whereby, as in reff. So Thucyd. viii. 73,—Ὑπέρβολον … ἀποκτείνουσι μετὰ Χαρμίνου ἑνὸς τῶν στρατηγῶν,—iii. 66, οὐ μετὰ τοῦ πλήθους ὑμῶν εἰσελθόντες,—v. 82, ἡ κατὰ θάλασσαν μετὰ τῶν Ἀθηναίων ἐπαγωγὴ τῶν ἐπιτηδείων. Duker, on the first of these, remarks, ‘μετά τινος fieri dicuntur, quæ alicujus voluntate, auxilio, et consilio fiunt.’ The sealing was by means of a cord or string passing across the stone at the mouth of the sepulchre, and fastened at either end to the rock by sealing-clay.