Expositor's Greek Testament
Pilate, after scourging Jesus, again pronounces Him guiltless.
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.John 19:1. Τότε οὖν … ἐμαστίγωσε. Keim (vi. 99) thinks that Pilate at this point pronounced his “condemno” and “ibis in crucem,” and that the scourging was preparatory to the crucifixion. This might seem to be warranted by Mark’s very condensed account, John 15:15. φραγελλώσας ἵνα σταυρωθῇ (according to the Roman law by which, according to Jerome, it was decreed “ut qui crucifigeretur, prius flagellis verberaretur”; so Josephus, B. J., John 19:11, and Philo, ii. 528). But according to John the scourging was meant as a compromise by Pilate; as in Luke 23:22 : “what evil hath He done? I found in Him nothing worthy of death; I will therefore scourge Him and let Him go.” Neither, then, as part of the capital punishment, nor in order to elicit the truth (quaestio per tormenta); but in the ill-judged hope that this minor punishment might satisfy the Jews, Pilate ordered the scourging. The victim of this severe punishment was bound in a stooping attitude to a low column (column of the Flagellation, now shown in Church of Holy Sepulchre) and beaten with rods or scourged with whips, the thongs of which were weighted with lead, and studded with sharp-pointed pieces of bone, so that frightful laceration followed each stroke. Death frequently resulted. καὶ οἱ στρατιῶται … ῥαπίσματα, “and the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns” in mockery of the claim to royalty (for a similar instance, see Keim, vi. 121). Of the suggestions regarding the particular species of thorn, it may be said with Bynaeus (De Morte Christi, iii. 145) “nemo attulit aliquid certi”. ἱμάτιον πορφυροῦν, “a purple robe,” probably a small scarlet military cloak, or some cast-off sagum, or paludamentum, worn by officers and subject kings.
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.John 19:3. καὶ ἤρχοντο πρὸς αὐτόν, “and they went on, coming to Him,” imperfect of continued action; “and hailing Him king,” χαῖρε κ. τ. λ., as they were accustomed to shout “Ave, Caesar”. At the same moment they struck Him on the face with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.John 19:4. Pilate, judging that this will content the Jews, brings Jesus out that they may see Him and ἵνα γνῶτε … εὑρίσκω, that Pilate may have another opportunity of pronouncing Him guiltless.
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!John 19:5. Still wearing (φορῶν) the mocking symbols of royalty, an object of derision and pity, Jesus is led out, and the judge pointing to Him says, Ἴδε ὁ ἄνθρωπος, Ecce Homo, “Lo! the man,” as if inviting inspection of the pitiable figure, and convincing them how ridiculous it was to try to fix a charge of treason on so contemptible a person. ὁ ἄνθρωπος is used contemptuously, as in Plutarch, Them., xvi. 2, “the fellow,” “the creature”. Other instances in Holden’s note in Plut., Them. The result is unexpected.
When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.John 19:6. Instead of allowing him to release the prisoner, “the chief priests and their officers,” not “the people,” who were perhaps moved with pity (Lücke), “roared” (ἐκραύγασαν) “Crucify, crucify”; “To the cross”. To this demand Pilate, “in angry sarcasm” (Reynolds), but perhaps rather merely wishing strongly to assert, for the third time, that he for his part would not condemn Jesus to death, “If He is to be crucified, it is you who must do it,” retorts, Λάβετε … αἰτίαν, “Take ye Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him”.
The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.John 19:7-12 a. Second private examination by Pilate.
John 19:7. The Jews are as determined that Pilate shall condemn Jesus as he is resolved not to condemn Him, and to his declaration of the prisoner’s innocence they reply, Ἡμεῖς νόμον ἔχομεν … ἐποίησεν. He may have committed no wrong of which your Roman law takes cognisance, but “we have a law (Leviticus 24:16), and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself God’s Son”. For the construction see John 5:18. The occasion they refer to is His profession to the Sanhedrim recorded in Mark 14:62. υἱὸν Θεοῦ here means more than “Messiah,” for the claim to be Messiah was not apparently punishable with death (see Treffry’s Eternal Sonship), and, moreover, such a claim would not have produced in Pilate the state of mind suggested by (John 19:8) μᾶλλον ἐφοβήθη, words which imply that already mingling with the governor’s hesitation to condemn an innocent man there was an element of awe inspired by the prisoner’s bearing and words. The words also imply that this awe was now deepened, and found utterance in the blunt interrogation (John 19:9), Πόθεν εἶ σύ; “Whence art Thou?” What is meant by your claim to be of Divine origin? To this question Jesus ἀπόκρισιν οὐκ ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ, “did not give him an answer”. Pilate had no right to prolong the case; because already he had three times over pronounced Jesus innocent. He needed no new material, but only to act on what he had. Jesus recognises this and declines to be a party to his vacillation. Besides, the charge on which He was being tried was, that He had claimed to be King of the Jews. This charge had been answered. Legal procedure was degenerating into an unregulated wrangle. Jesus therefore declines to answer.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;
And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.
Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?John 19:10. At this silence Pilate is indignant; Ἐμοὶ οὐ λαλεῖς; “To me do you not speak?” It is intelligible that you should not count it worth your while to answer the charges of that yelling mob; but do you not know that I have power to crucify you and have power to release you?
Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.John 19:11. Jesus answered, Οὐκ εἶχες … ἔχει. ἄνωθεν, “from above,” i.e., from God. Pilate must be reminded that the power he vaunts is not inherently his, but is given to him for God’s purposes. From this it follows, διὰ τοῦτο, that ὁ παραδιδούς μέ σοι, “he that delivered me unto thee,” to wit, Caiaphas (although the designation being that which is constantly used of Judas it has not unnaturally been referred to him), μείζονα ἁμαρτίαν ἔχει, “hath greater sin,” not than you, Pilate (as understood by most interpreters), but greater than in other circumstances it would have been. Had Pilate been a mere irresponsible executioner their sin would have been sufficiently heinous; but in using the official representative of God’s truth and justice to fulfil their own wicked and unjust designs, they involve themselves in a darker criminality. So Wetstein: “Comparatur ergo, nisi fallor, peccatum Judaeorum cum suis circumstantiis, cum eodem peccato sine istis circumstantiis: hoc Judaeos aggravat, eosque atrocioris delicti reos agit, quod non per tumultum sed per Praesidem, idque specie juris, me quaerunt de medio tollere”.
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.John 19:12-16. Fresh assault upon Pilate and his final surrender.
John 19:12. In consequence of this and from this point, ἐκ τούτου, as in John 6:66, “upon this,” with a causal as well as a temporal reference, ἐζήτει ὁ Πιλάτος ἀπολῦσαι αὐτόν, Pilate sought (ineffectually, imperfect) to set Him free.
John 19:12. οἱ δὲ Ἰουδαῖοι, “but the Jews,” a new turn was at this point given to the case by the cunning of the Sanhedrists, who cried out, ἔκραζον λέγοντες Ἐὰν … Καίσαρι. φίλος τοῦ Καίσαρος. Wetstein says: “Legati, praesides, praefecti, consiliarii, amici Caesaris dicebantur,” but it is not in this titular sense the expression is here used. The meaning is: Thou dost not show thyself friendly to Caesar. The reason being that every one who makes himself a king, ἀντιλέγει τῷ Καίσαρι, “speaks against Caesar”. Euthymius, Field, Thayer, etc., prefer “setteth himself against Caesar,” “resisteth his authority”. And as Jesus made Himself a king, Pilate would aid and abet Him by pronouncing Him innocent. This was a threat Pilate could not despise. Tiberius was suspicious and jealous. [“Judicia majestatis … atrocissime exercuit.” Suetonius, Tib., 58. Treason was the makeweight in all accusations. Tacitus, Annals, iii. 38.]
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.John 19:13. Pilate therefore, when he heard this, brought Jesus out, καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐπὶ τοῦ βήματος. In the Gospel according to Peter, ἐκάθισεν is understood transitively: καὶ ἐκάθισαν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ καθέδραν κρίσεως λέγοντες Δικαίως κρῖνε, βασιλεῦ τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. Similarly in Justin, I. Apol., i. 35. This rendering presents a strikingly dramatic scene, and admirably suits the “behold your king” of John 19:14. (See Expositor for 1893, p. 296 ff., and Robinson and James’ Gospel according to Peter, p. 18.) But it is extremely unlikely that Pilate should thus have degraded his seat of justice, and much more natural to suppose that ἐκάθισεν is used intransitively, as in John 12:14, etc. (Joseph., Bell. Jud., ii. 9, 3, ὁ Πιλάτος καθίσας ἐπὶ βήματος), and that Pilate’s taking his seat is mentioned to indicate that his mind was now made up and that he was now to pronounce his final judgment. The βῆμα was the suggestum or tribunal, the raised platform (Livy, xxxi. 29; Tac., Hist., iv. 25) or seat (Suet., Aug., 44) on which the magistrate sat to administer justice. See 2Ma 13:26.—εἰς τόπον λεγόμενον Λιθόστρωτον, “at a place called Lithostroton,” i.e., lit. Stone pavement, or Tesselated pavement (of which see reproductions in Rich’s Antiq.). Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:3, Joseph., Bell. Jud., vi. 1, 1. Pliny (xxxvi. 15) defines Lithostrota as mosaics, “parvulis certe crustis,” and says they were a luxury introduced in the time of Sulla and found in the provinces rather than in Rome (see Krebs in loc). The space in front of the praetorium where the βῆμα stood was thus paved and therefore currently known as “Lithostroton”: Ἑβραϊστὶ δὲ Γαββαθᾶ, “but in Hebrew,” i.e., in the popular Aramaic, “Gabbatha,” which is not a translation of Lithostroton, but a name given to the same place from its being raised, from גַּב, a ridge or elevation. The tribunal was raised as a symbol of authority and in order that the judge might see and be seen (see Lücke).
And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!John 19:14. ἦν δὲ παρασκευὴ τοῦ πάσχα, “now it was the preparation of the Passover”. παρασκευή was the usual appellation of Friday, the day of preparation for the weekly Sabbath. Here the addition τοῦ πάσχα shows that it is used of the day preceding the Passover. This day was, as it happened, a Friday, but it is the relation to the feast, not to the ordinary Sabbath, that is here indicated. Cf. John 19:42. ὥρα δὲ ὡσεὶ ἕκτη. “It was about the sixth hour,” i.e., about 12 o’clock. But Mark (Mark 15:25) says: “It was the third hour and they crucified Him”. The various methods of reconciling the statements are given in Andrew’s Life of Our Lord, p. 545 ff. Meyer leaves it unsolved “and the preference must be given to the disciple who stood under the cross”. But if the crucifixion took place midway between nine and twelve o’clock, it was quite natural that one observer should refer it to the former, while another referred it to the latter hour. The height of the sun in the sky was the index of the time of day; and while it was easy to know whether it was before or after midday, or whether the sun was more or less than half-way between the zenith and the horizon, finer distinctions of time were not recognisable without consulting the sun-dials, which were not everywhere at hand. Cf. the interesting passages from rabbinical literature in Wetstein, and Professor Ramsay’s article in the Expositor, 1893, vol. vii., p. 216. The latter writer found the same conditions in Turkish villages, and “cannot feel anything serious” in the discrepancy between John and Mark. “The Apostles had no means of avoiding the difficulty as to whether it was the third or the sixth hour when the sun was near mid-heaven, and they cared very little about the point.” καὶ λέγει … ὑμῶν, “and he says to the Jews: Behold your king!” words uttered apparently in sarcasm and rage. If he still wished to free Jesus, his bitterness was impolitic.
But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.John 19:15. They at once shouted, Ἆρον, ἆρον, σταύρωσον αὐτόν. To this Pilate could offer only the feeble opposition of more sarcasm, Τὸν βασιλέα ὑμῶν σταυρώσω; where, of course, the emphasis is on the first words, John with his artistic perception exhibits their final rejection of Christ in the form in which it appeared as a reckless renunciation of all their national liberties and hopes: Οὐκ ἔχομεν βασιλέα εἰ μὴ Καίσαρα. Even yet Pilate will take no active part, but hands Jesus over to the Sanhedrists with the requisite authorisation; παρέδωκεν, used in a semi-technical sense, cf. Plut., Dem., xiv. 4, and the passages cited in Holden’s note.
Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.
And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:John 19:17-30. The crucifixion.
John 19:17. The Jewish authorities on their part “received” Jesus, καὶ ἀπήγαγον. καὶ βαστάζων … Γολγοθᾶ. “And carrying the cross for Himself, He went out to the place called Kraniou (of a skull), which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.” The condemned man carried at least part of the cross, and sometimes the whole. ὁ μέλλων σταυρῷ προσηλοῦσθαι πρότερον αὐτὸν βαστάζει, Artemid., Oneir., ii. 56. Other passages in Keim, vi. 124. Since Tertullian (adv. Judges 1:10) a type of this has been found in Isaac’s carrying the wood for the sacrifice. ἐξῆλθεν, it was usual both in Jewish and Roman communities to execute criminals outside the city. In Athens the gate through which they passed to the place of punishment was called χαρώνεια θύρα. Cf. Bynaeus, De Morte Christi, 220; Pearson, On the Creed (Art. iv.); Hebrews 13:12; Leviticus 24:14. The place of execution at Jerusalem was a small knoll just beyond the northern wall, which, from its bare top and two hollow caves in its face, bears a rough resemblance to a skull, and was therefore called κρανίον, Calvaria, Skull. “Golgotha” is the Aramaic form of Gulgoleth, which is found in 2 Kings 9:35. It is described in Conder’s Handbook, p. 355; Henderson’s Palestine, pp. 163, 164.
Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.John 19:18. ὅπου … Ἰησοῦν. All information regarding the cross has been collected by Lipsius in his treatise De Cruce, Antwerp, 1595; Amstel., 1670; and in vol. ii. of his collected works, published at Lugduni, 1613. With Jesus were crucified “other two,” in Matthew 27:38, called “robbers,” probably of the same class as Barabbas. Jesus was crucified between them; possibly, to identify Him with the worst criminals. “The whole of humanity was represented there: the sinless Saviour, the saved penitent, the condemned impenitent.” Plummer.
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.John 19:19. Ἔγραψε δὲ καὶ τίτλον ὁ Πιλάτος. “And Pilate wrote a ‘title,’ also, and set it on the cross.” The “title,” αἰτία, was a board whitened with gypsum (σανίς, λεύκωμα) such as were commonly used for public notices. Pilate himself, meaning to insult the Jews, ordered the precise terms of the inscription. καὶ τίτλον, “a title also,” in addition to all the other insults he had heaped on them during the trial.
This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.John 19:20. This title was read by “many of the Jews,” because the place of crucifixion was close to the city, and lay in the road of any coming in from the north; also it was written in three languages so that every one could read it, whether Jew or Gentile.
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.John 19:21. Naturally the chief priests remonstrated and begged Pilate so to alter the inscription as to remove the impression that the claim of Jesus was admitted.
Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.John 19:22. But Pilate, “by nature obstinate and stubborn” (Philo, ii. 589), peremptorily reiused to make any alteration. ὃ γέγραφα γέγραφα.
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.John 19:23. “The soldiers, then, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments”—the executioner’s perquisite (Apuleius has the comparison “naked as a new-born babe or as the crucified”)—and as there were four soldiers, τετράδιον, Acts 12:4, they divided the clothes into four parts. This was the more easily done because the usual dress of a Jew consisted of five parts, the headdress, the shoes, the chiton, the outer garment, and the girdle. The χιτών remained after the four other articles were distributed. They could not divide it into four without spoiling it, and so they cast lots for it. It was seamless, ἄρραφος, unsewed, and woven in one piece from top to bottom.
They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.John 19:24. The soldiers therefore said, Μὴ σχίσωμεν αὐτόν ἀλλὰ λάχωμεν, “let us not rend it but cast lots”. λαγχάνειν is, properly, not “to cast lots,” but “to obtain by lot”. See Field, Otium Norv., 72. In this John sees a fulfilment of Psalm 22:18, the LXX. version of which here quoted verbatim.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.John 19:25. This part of the scene is closed (that another may be introduced) with the common formula, οἱ μὲν οὖν στρατιῶται ταῦτα ἐποίησαν. (“Graeci … saepissime hujusmodi conclusiunculis utuntur.” Raphel in loc.) οἱ μὲν … εἱστήκεισαν δὲ … The soldiers for their part acted as has been related, but there were others beside the cross who were very differently affected. ἡ μήτηρ … Μαγδαληνή. It is doubtful whether it is meant that three or that four women were standing by the cross; for Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ may either be a further designation of ἡ ἀδελφὴ τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ, or it may name the first member of a second pair of women. That four women are intended may be argued from the extreme improbability that in one family two sisters should bear the same name, Mary. The Synoptists do not name the mother of Jesus among those who were present, but Matthew (Matthew 27:56) and Mark (Mark 15:40) name Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome the mother of John. Two of these three are mentioned by John here, and it is natural to infer that the unnamed woman (ἡ ἀδελφὴ κ. τ. λ.) is the third, Salome; unnamed possibly because of this writer’s shyness in naming himself or those connected with him. But the fact that Luke (Luke 24:10) names Joanna as the third woman reflects some uncertainty on this argument. If Salome was Mary’s sister, then Jesus and John were cousins, and the commendation of Mary to John’s care is in part explained. ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ may mean the mother, daughter, sister, or wife of Klopas; probably the last. According to Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, Luke 24:10, the Mary here mentioned was the mother of James and Joses. But in Matthew 10:3 we learn that James was the son of Alphaeus. Hence it is inferred that Klopas and Alphaeus are two slightly varying forms of the same name תַלְפַי.
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!John 19:26. John’s interest in naming the women is not obvious except in the case of the first. Ἰησοῦς … ἡ μήτηρ σου. Jesus when He saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing beside her (the relevancy of the designation, τὸν μαθητὴν ὃν ἠγάπα, is here obvious, and the most convincing proof of its truth and significance is now given), says to His mother, “Woman, behold thy son”; i.e., turning His eyes towards John, There is your son. Me you are losing, so far as the filial relation goes, but John will in this respect take my place.
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.John 19:27. And this trust He commits to John in the simple words, Ἰδοὺ ἡ μήτηρ σου, although his natural mother, Salome, was also standing there. [Cf. the bequest of Eudamidas: “I leave to Aretaeus the care of nourishing and providing for my mother in her old age”. Lucian’s Toxaris.] John at once accepted the charge, “from that hour (which cannot be taken so stringently as to imply that they did not wait at the cross to see the end) the disciple took her to his own home”; εἰς τὰ ἴδια, see John 1:11, John 16:32. The circumstances of the Nazareth home which made this a possible and desirable arrangement are not known. That Mary should find a home with her sister and her son is in itself intelligible, and this close intimacy of the two persons whose hearts had been most truly the home of Jesus must have helped to cherish and vivify all reminiscences of His character and words.
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.John 19:28. Μετὰ τοῦτο … Διψῶ. “After this, Jesus knowing that all things are now finished, that the scripture might be completely fulfilled, saith, I thirst.” Jesus did not feel thirsty and proclaim it with the intention of fulfilling scripture—which would be a spurious fulfilment—but in His complaint and the response to it, John sees a fulfilment of Psalm 69:22, εἰς τὴν δίψαν μου ἐπότισάν με ὄξος. Only when all else had been attended to (εἰδὼς κ. τ. λ.) was He free to attend to His own physical sensations.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.John 19:29. Σκεῦος … μεστόν—“There was set a vessel full of vinegar”; the mention of the vessel betrays the eye-witness. “The Synoptists do not mention the σκεῦος, but John had stood beside it.” Plummer. ὄξος, the vinegar used by soldiers. [Ulpian says: “vinum atque acetum milites nostri solent percipere, uno die vinum, alio die acetum”. Keim, vi. 162.] Here it seems to have been provided for the crucified, for as Weiss and Plummer observe, there were a sponge and a hyssop-reed also at hand. οἱ δὲ, i.e., the soldiers, but cf. Mark 15:36; πλήσαντες … They filled a sponge, because a cup was impracticable, and put it round a stalk of hyssop, and thus applied the restorative to His mouth. The plant called “hyssop” has not been identified. All that was requisite was a reed (cf. περιθεὶς καλάμῳ, Matthew 27:48, Mark 15:36) of two or three feet long, as the crucified was only slightly elevated.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.John 19:30. ὅτε οὖν … πνεῦμα. The cry, τετέλεσται, “it is finished,” was not the gasp of a worn-out life, but the deliberate utterance of a clear consciousness that His work was finished, and all God’s purpose accomplished (John 17:4), that all had now been done that could be done to make God known to men, and to identify Him with men. παρέδωκε τὸ πνεῦμα, “gave up His spirit,” according to Luke 23:46, with an audible commendation of His spirit to the Father. ἀφῆκε πνεῦμα in Eurip., Hecuba, 569; ἀφῆκε τὴν ψυχήν Plut., Dem., xxix. 5.
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.John 19:31-37. The piercing of Jesus’ side.
John 19:31. “The Jews, therefore, since it was the preparation,” i.e., Friday, the day before the Sabbath, “and as the day of that Sabbath was great,” being not only an ordinary Sabbath but the Passover, “that the bodies might not hang on the cross on the Sabbath” and so defile it, “they asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be removed”. The law of Deuteronomy 21:23 was that the body of a criminal should “not remain all night upon the tree”. This law seems not to have been in view; but rather the fear of polluting their great feast. The Roman custom was to leave the body to birds and beasts of prey. To secure speedy death the crurifragium, breaking of the legs with a heavy mallet or bar, was sometimes resorted to: as without such means the crucified might in some cases linger for thirty-six hours. Neander (Life of Christ, p. 473) has an interesting note on crurifragium; and cf. the Gospel according to Peter on σκελοκοπία, with the note by the Author of Supernat. Religion.
Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.John 19:32. The two robbers were thus dispatched. ἐπὶ δὲ τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐλθόντες, but when the soldiers who were carrying out Pilate’s orders came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they refrained from breaking His legs.
But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.John 19:34. But one of the soldiers λόγχῃ αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευρὰν ἔνυξε, “pierced His side with a spear”. But Field prefers “pricked His side” to keep up the distinction between ἔνυξε (the milder word) and ἐξεκέντησε (John 19:37). He favours the idea of Loesner that the soldier’s intention was to ascertain whether Jesus was really dead, and he cites a very apt parallel from Plutarch’s Cleomenes, 37. But ἔγχεϊ νύξε occurs in Homer (Il., John v. 579), where death followed, and as the wound inflicted by this spear thrust seems to have been a hand-breadth wide (John 20:25) it may be presumed the soldier meant to make sure that Jesus was dead by giving Him a thrust which itself would have been fatal. The weapon with which the blow was inflicted was a λόγχη, the ordinary Roman hasta, which had an iron head, egg-shaped, and about a hand-breadth at the broadest part. Following upon the blow εὐθὺς ἐξῆλθεν αἷμα καὶ ὕδωρ. Dr. Stroud (Physical Cause of the Death of Christ) advocates the view that our Lord died from rupture of the heart, and thus accounts both for the speedy cessation of life and for the effusion of blood and water. Previous literature on the subject will be found in the Critici Sacri and select passages in Burton’s Bampton Lec., 468–9. Without physiological knowledge John records simply what he saw, and if he had an eye to the Docetae, as Waterland (John v. 190) supposes, yet his main purpose was to certify the real death of Jesus. The symbolic significance of the blood and water so abundantly insisted on by the Fathers (see Burton, B. L., 167–72, and Westcott’s additional note) is not within John’s horizon.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.John 19:35. When he goes on to testify, ὁ ἑμρακὼς … it is not the phenomenon of the blood and water he so emphatically certifies, but the veritable death of Christ. To one who was about to relate a resurrection it was a necessary preliminary to establish the bona-fide death. That John here speaks of himself in the third person is quite in his manner. Here, as in chap. 20, he shows that he understood the value of an eye-witness’s testimony. It is that which constitutes his μαρτυρία as ἀληθινή, it is adequate. Besides being adequate, its contents are true, ἀληθῆ. “Testimony may be sufficient (e.g., of a competent eye-witness) but false; or it may be insufficient (e.g., of half-witted child) but true. St. John declares that his testimony is both sufficient and true.” Plummer. The reason of his utterance, or record of these facts, is ἵνα ὑμεῖς πιστεύσητε, “that ye might believe,” first, this record, and through it in Jesus and His revelation.
For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.John 19:36. ἐγένετο γὰρ ταῦτα. He records these things, contained in this short paragraph, because they further identify Jesus as the promised Messiah. Ὀστοῦν οὐ συντριβήσεται αὐτοῦ. The law regarding the Paschal lamb ran thus (Exodus 12:46): ὀστοῦν οὐ συντρίψετε ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ, cf. Psalm 34:20. Evidently John identified Jesus as the Paschal Lamb, cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7. καὶ πάλιν … ἐξεκέντησαν. Another Scripture also here found its fulfilment, Zechariah 12:10. The original is: “They shall look upon me whom they pierced”. The Sept renders: ἐπιβλέψονται πρὸς μὲ ἀνθʼ ὧν κατωρχήσαντο: “They shall look towards me because they insulted me”. John gives a more accurate translation: Ὄψονται εἰς ὃν ἐξεκέντησαν: “They shall look on Him whom (ἐκεῖνον ὃν) they pierced”. The same rendering is adopted in the Greek versions of Aquila, Theodotion and Symmachus, and is also found in Ignatius, Ep. Trall., 10; Justin, I. Apol., i. 77; and cf. Revelation 1:7, and Barnabas, Ep., 7. In the lance thrust John sees a suggestive connection with the martyr-hero of Zechariah’s prophecy.
And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.John 19:38-42. The entombment.
John 19:38. Μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα, “But after these things”. In John 19:31 the Jews asked that the bodies might be removed. Had this request been fulfilled by the soldiers, they would have cast the three bodies together into some pit of refuse, cf. Joshua 8:29; but before this was done Joseph of Arimathaea—a place not yet certainly identified—who was a rich man (cf. Isaiah 53:9) and a member of the Sanhedrim (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50), but also “a disciple of Jesus,” though “a hidden one, κεκρυμμένος, through fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might remove the body of Jesus”. This required some courage on Joseph’s part, and Mark therefore uses the word τολμήσας. Reynolds says that ἠρώτησεν “implies something of claim and confidence on his part. The Synoptists all three use ᾐτήσατο, which rather denotes the position of a supplicant for a favour.” The reason, however, why ᾐτήσατο is used in the Synoptists is that it is followed by an accusative of the object asked for; while ἠρώτησε is used in John because it introduces a request that something may be done. With Joseph’s request Pilate complied. ἦλθεν … Ἰησοῦ. For ἦρε τὸ σῶμα, cf. 1 Kings 13:29. Another member of Sanhedrim countenanced and aided Joseph.
And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.John 19:39. ἦλθε δὲ καὶ Νικόδημος. “Thus Jesus by being lifted up is already drawing men unto Him. These Jewish aristocrats first confess Him in the hour of His deepest degradation.” Plummer. Nicodemus is identified as ὁ ἐλθὼν … τὸ πρῶτον, “he who came to Jesus by night at the first”; John 3:1, in contrast to the boldness of his coming now. φέρων μίγμα … ἑκατόν. μίγμα, a “confection” or “compound,” cf. Sir 38:8. σμύρνης καὶ ἀλόης, “of myrrh and aloes”. Myrrh was similarly used by the Egyptians, see Herod., ii. 83. Cf. Psalm 45:9. ὡσεὶ λίτρας ἑκατόν. The λίτρα (libra) was rather over eleven ounces avoirdupois. The enormous quantity has been accounted for as a rich man’s expression of devotion, or as required if the entire body and all the wrappings were to be smeared with it, and if the grave itself was to be filled with unguents as in 2 Chronicles 16:14.
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.John 19:40. ἔλαβον … ἐνταφιάζειν. They wrapped the body in strips of linen along with the aromatic preparations (2 Chronicles 16:14, ἀρωμάτων), as is the custom (ὡς ἔθος ἐστί, 1Ma 10:89) with the Jews (other peoples having other customs) to prepare for burial.
Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.John 19:41. ἐνταφιάζειν, see Genesis 50:1-3. ἦν ἐν τῷ τόπῳ, “There was in the place,” i.e., in that neighbourhood, κῆπος, a garden, which, according to Matthew 27:60, must have belonged to Joseph. μνημεῖον καινόν, a tomb, rock-hewn according to Synoptists, which had hitherto been unused, and which was therefore fresh and clean.
There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.John 19:42. “There, accordingly, on account of the preparation of the Jews, because the tomb was at hand, they laid Jesus.” The Friday was so nearly at an end that they had not time to go to any distance, and therefore availed themselves of the neighbouring tomb as a provisional, if not permanent, resting-place.