John 18:3
Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.
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(3) A band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees.—Better, the band, and officers from the chief priests and Pharieess. The other Gospels tell us of a “great multitude” (Matt.), or a “multitude” (Mark and Luke). St. John uses the technical word for the Roman cohort. It was the garrison band from Fort Antonia, at the north-east corner of the Temple. This well-known “band” is mentioned again in the New Testament (in John 18:12; Matthew 27:27; Mark 15:16; Acts 21:31). (Comp. Notes at these places.) The word occurs also in Acts 10:1 (“the Italian band”) and Acts 27:1 (“Augustus’ band”). The Authorised version misleads, by closely connecting in one clause two distinct things, “a band of men and officers.” The band was Roman; the “officers” were the Temple servants, of whom we read in John 7:32; John 7:45. These were sent, here, as there, by the chief priests and Pharisees, with Judas for their guide, and their authority was supported by the civil power.

Lanterns and torches and weapons.—Better, with torches and lamps (Matthew 25:1) and arms. The torches and lamps were part of the regular military equipment for night service. Dionysius describes soldiers rushing out of their tents with torches and lamps in the same words which are used here (John 11:40). They are not mentioned in the other Gospels. St. Matthew and St. Mark describe the “weapons” as “swords and staves.”

18:1-12 Sin began in the garden of Eden, there the curse was pronounced, there the Redeemer was promised; and in a garden that promised Seed entered into conflict with the old serpent. Christ was buried also in a garden. Let us, when we walk in our gardens, take occasion from thence to mediate on Christ's sufferings in a garden. Our Lord Jesus, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth and asked, Whom seek ye? When the people would have forced him to a crown, he withdrew, ch.A band - See the notes at Matthew 26:47; Matthew 27:27. John passes over the agony of Jesus in the garden, probably because it was so fully described by the other evangelists.

Lanterns ... - This was the time of the full moon, but it might have been cloudy, and their taking lights with them shows their determination to find him.

3. Judas then—"He that was called Judas, one of the Twelve," says Luke (Lu 22:47), in language which brands him with peculiar infamy, as in the sacred circle while in no sense of it.

a band of men—"the detachment of the Roman cohort on duty at the festival for the purpose of maintaining order" [Webster and Wilkinson].

officers from the chief priests and Pharisees—captains of the temple and armed Levites.

lanterns and torches—It was full moon, but in case He should have secreted Himself somewhere in the dark ravine, they bring the means of exploring its hiding-places—little knowing whom they had to do with. "Now he that betrayed Him had given them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He, hold Him fast" (Mt 26:48). The cold-bloodedness of this speech was only exceeded by the deed itself. "And Judas went before them [Lu 22:47], and forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master, and kissed Him" (Mt 26:49; compare Ex 4:27; 18:7; Lu 7:45). The impudence of this atrocious deed shows how thoroughly he had by this time mastered all his scruples. If the dialogue between our Lord and His captors was before this, as some interpreters think it was, the kiss of Judas was purely gratuitous, and probably to make good his right to the money; our Lord having presented Himself unexpectedly before them, and rendered it unnecessary for any one to point Him out. But a comparison of the narratives seems to show that our Lord's "coming forth" to the band was subsequent to the interview of Judas. "And Jesus said unto him, Friend"—not the endearing term "friend" (in Joh 15:15), but "companion," a word used on occasions of remonstrance or rebuke (as in Mt 20:13; 22:12)—"Wherefore art thou come?" (Mt 26:50). "Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss"—imprinting upon the foulest act the mark of tenderest affection? What wounded feeling does this express! Of this Jesus showed Himself on various occasions keenly susceptible—as all generous and beautiful natures do.

The evangelist here passeth over all mentioned by the other evangelists about Judas’s going to the high priests, and contracting with them, and cometh to relate his coming to apprehend him with a band of men that he had obtained from the chief priests and Pharisees for that purpose. By band we must not understand a Roman cohort, as the word signifies, but such a convenient number out of that band (probably) which at the time of the passover guarded the temple, as was sufficient to take him: they came with

lanterns and torches, ( though it were the time of full moon), to make the strictest search; and with weapons, fearing where no fear was; for Judas (their leader) could have told them that he was not wont to go with any great company to the mount of Olives.

Judas then having received a band of men,.... From the captain of this band, who in John 18:12; is called a "Chiliarch", that is, a commander of a thousand men, one might conclude there were so many in this band; but it seems, that such an officer might have two bands under his command; and if this was, the case, there were at least five hundred men in this company; a large number indeed, to take an unarmed person; and yet, as if this was not sufficient, it is added,

and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees; servants that belong to each of these, and who seem to be a considerable number also; for these are said to be "a great multitude"; Matthew 26:47; nay, not only so, but the chief priests, captains of the temple, and elders of the people, were themselves among them, Luke 22:52; to see that the men did their work, and did not return without him; as these officers, when sent by them once before, did:

cometh thither with lanterns, and torches, and weapons: which is no other than the Greek word here used for a lantern, the Jews tell us (u), was an earthen vessel, in which a candle was put and covered, that the wind might not put it out, and it had holes in the sides of it, through which light was let out; their or "lamp", here rendered "torch", they say (w), was also an earthen vessel in the form of a reed, at the top of which was a proper receptacle, in which they burnt old rags dipped in oil: now though it was full moon, being the time of the passover, they brought these along with them to discover him by the light of, and find him out with them, if he should hide himself among the trees, or in any of the more shady places in the garden; and they took warlike instruments, as swords, spears, and staves, as if they had a thief or a murderer to apprehend, or a little army of men to encounter with; whereas there were only Christ, and his eleven disciples; and these in no condition, nor had any design, to defend themselves in an hostile manner.

(u) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Celim, c. 2. sect. 4. (w) Ib. in sect. 8.

{2} Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

(2) Christ who was innocent was taken as a wicked person, that we who are wicked might be let go as innocent.

John 18:3. The σπεῖρα is the Roman cohort (see Matthew 27:27; Acts 21:31; Polyb. xi. 23, i. 6, xiv. 3 ff.; Valckenaer, Schol. I. p. 458 f.), designated by the article as the well-known band, namely, because serving as the garrison of the fort Antonia, distinguished by what follows from the company of officers of justice appointed on the part of the Sanhedrim, and not to be explained of the Levitical temple-watch (Michaelis, Kuinoel, Gurlitt, Lect. in N. T. Spec. IV. 1805, B. Crusius, Baeumlein). That Judas arrived with the whole σπεῖρα is, as being disproportionate to the immediate object (against Hengstenberg), not probable; but a division, ordered for the present service, especially as the chiliarch himself was there (John 18:12), represented the cohort.[207] Of this co-operation of the Roman military, for which the Sanhedrim had made requisition, the Synoptics say nothing, although Hengstenberg takes pains to find indications of it in their narrative. John’s account is more complete.

φανῶν κ. λαμπ.] with torches and lamps (the latter in lanterns; Matthew 25:1 ff.). Comp. Dion. H. xi. 40. Extreme precaution renders this preparation conceivable even at the time of full moon. The arms are understood to have been, as a matter of course, carried by the soldiers, but not by the ὑπηρέται, and are mentioned as helping to complete the representation.

The καί’s are not accumulated (Luthardt), not one of them is unnecessary.

[207] This is quite sufficient for the inexactness of popular information. We have hence neither to understand a manipulus (i.e. the third part of the cohort), for which an appeal is erroneously made to Polyb. xi. 23. 1, nor, generally, a band, a detachment of soldiers (2Ma 8:23; 2Ma 12:22; Jdt 14:11). The latter, not because it is Roman military that are spoken of; the former, not because although Polybius elsewhere employs σπεῖρα as equivalent to manipulus (see Schweighäuser, Lex. p. 559), yet a whole maniple (some 200 men) would here be too many.

John 18:3. ὁ οὖν Ἰούδας λαβών τὴν σπεῖραν καὶὑπηρέτας. σπεῖρα (Spira, anything rolled up or folded together), a Roman cohort (Polyb., xi. 23, 1) or tenth part of a legion, and therefore containing about 600 men. The cohort denotes the garrison of the castle Antonia, which, during the Passover, was available to assist the Sanhedrim in maintaining order. Part of it was now used in case “the servants of the Sanhedrim,” ἐκ τῶνὑπηρέτας, should not prove sufficient. A considerable body of troops would obviate the risk of a popular rising, John 7:32-49, John 12:42; especially Mark 14:2. They were furnished with φανῶν καὶ λαμπάδων καὶ ὅπλων. φανός was a link or torch, consisting of strips of resinous wood tied together, and in late Greek was used for λυχνοῦχος, a lantern; λαμπάς was the open torch. See Rutherford’s New Phryn., p. 131, and Wetstein. Both open lights and lanterns were in use in the Roman army, and would be at hand. “The soldiers rushed out of their tents with lanterns and torches.” Dion. Hal., John 11:5. It was new moon, but it might be cloudy, and it would certainly be shady in the garden.

3. Judas then] Better, Judas therefore; S. John’s favourite particle, as in John 18:4; John 18:6-7; John 18:10-12; John 18:16-17; John 18:19; John 18:24; John 18:27-29; John 18:31; John 18:33; John 18:37; John 18:40. It was because Judas knew that Jesus often went thither that he came thither to take Him. “Our English version gives little idea of the exactness of the description which follows.” S. p. 241.

a band of men] Rather, the band of soldiers. This is one part of the company; Roman soldiers sent to prevent ‘an uproar’ among the thousands of pilgrims assembled to keep the Passover (see on Matthew 26:5). The word for band, speira, seems elsewhere in N.T. to mean ‘cohort,’ the tenth of a legion (Matthew 27:27; Mark 15:16; Acts 10:1; Acts 21:31; Acts 27:1), and with this Polybius (xi. xxi. 1; [xxiii. 1]) agrees. But Polybius sometimes (vi. xxiv. 5, xv. ix. 7, III. cxiii. 3) appears to use speira for ‘maniple,’ the third part of a cohort and about 200 men. In any case only a portion of the cohort which formed the garrison of the fortress of Antonia can here be meant: but that the arrest of Jesus was expected to produce a crisis is shewn by the presence of the chief officer of the cohort (John 18:12). The Jewish hierarchy had no doubt communicated with Pilate, and his being ready to try the case at so early an hour as 5 a.m. may be accounted for in this way.

officers from the chief priests and Pharisees] i.e. from the Sanhedrin. These may have been either officers of justice appointed by the Sanhedrin, or a portion of the Levitical temple-police: that some of the latter were present is clear from Luke 22:4; Luke 22:52. This is a second part of the company. S. Luke (Luke 22:52) tells us that some of the chief priests themselves were there also. Thus there were (1) Roman soldiers, (2) Jewish officials, (3) chief priests.

with lanterns and torches] The ordinary equipment for night duty, which the Paschal full-moon would not render useless. It was possible that dark woods or buildings would have to be searched. The word for ‘lantern,’ phanos, occurs here only in N.T.; and here only is lampas rendered ‘torch;’ elsewhere either ‘light’ (Acts 20:8) or ‘lamp’ (Matthew 25:1-8; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 8:10). ‘Torch’ would perhaps be best in all cases, even in Matthew 25:1-8, leaving ‘lamp’ free as the translation of luchnos (John 5:35; Matthew 5:15; Matthew 6:22; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; Luke 11:33-34; Luke 11:36, &c.) for which ‘light’ and ‘candle’ are either inadequate or misleading. Torches were fed with oil carried in a vessel (Matthew 25:4) for the purpose.

John 18:3. Τὴν σπεῖραν) the band (cohort) of Roman soldiers with the Captain: in contradistinction to which, the ministers or officers of the Jews are mentioned in John 18:12.—μετὰ φανῶν) φανὸς, a lantern. See Hesychius.

Verse 3. - Judas therefore, because he knew the place, was able treacherously to use his knowledge. Having received the cohort, Ἡ σπεῖρα is used for the lemon or portion of the legion of soldiers, who, under the direction of the Roman procurator, garrisoned the Tower of Antonia, which dominated the north-east temple courts. The article (τὴν) is probably used because the χιλίαρχος, military tribune, chief captain, or commander of the thousand men, had (Ver. 12) accompanied the detachment. "The word σπεῖρα, is used by Polybius for the Latin manipulus, not cohors (Polyb., 11:23), consisting of about two hundred men, the third part of a cohort" (Westcott). It should, however, be observed that the word is used of the Roman garrison of the tower (Acts 10:1; Acts 21:31; Acts 27:1; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 20:04. 3; ' Bell. Jud.,' 5:05. 8). Ξιλίαρχος was the proper name for the commander of a cohors, equivalent to one-sixth of a legion, i.e. a thousand men and a hundred and twenty horsemen. The strength of the cohort differed according to circumstances and need. Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 3:04. 2) says that some σπείραι consisted of a thousand, some of six hundred, men. It is not rational to suppose that the whole cohort were visibly present, but they were-present in close proximity. Though John alone mentions the Roman soldiers, yet cf. Matthew 26:53, 54, where our Lord says, "Thinkest thou not that I could pray (παρεκαλέσαι) my Father, and he would henceforth furnish me with more than twelve legions of angels?" - a legion of angels for each one of the little group. The presence of this band of Roman soldiers with the Jewish police gives very great force and impressiveness to this scene of Israel's degradation and of the world's assault upon the Divine Savior. The other hints given by the synoptists of the presence of weapons in the "band," is Peter's use of the sword. Judas brought with him, not only the drilled and armed Roman soldiers, but the officers from the chief priests and of the Pharisees; i.e. a detachment of the Jewish guard of the temple, under direction of the Sanhedrin. The chief priests would have small difficulty in securing the aid of a detachment of the Roman garrison to prevent popular outbreak at the time of the feast. These ὑπηρέται, under the direction of the chief priests and Pharisees, have been mentioned in John 7:32 and 45, and the same name is given to the ὑπηρέται in Acts 5:22, 26, where the high priests and Sadducees are spoken of as their masters. In Luke 22:4, 52 the commandants of the temple are spoken of in the plural, στρατηγοῖς τοῦ ἱεροῦ. The Jewish guard was under the custody of one officer, ὁ στρατηγός, and he was a man of high rank and dignity (Josephus, ' Ant.,' 20:6. 2; ' Bell. Jud.,' 2:17.2) - not two, but one; the reference to more than one must therefore point to the Roman military official as well, thus unconsciously sustaining the more definite information given by John. Judas with his band cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons; for, though it was the Paschal full moon, they were intent on finding an individual, whom Judas would identify for them, amid the depths of the olive shades. (Λαμπάς is in its primary sense a torch, or even meteoric light, but it is used for a lamp or lantern; and φανός also is used for "torch" primarily, with secondary meaning of "lantern.") Matthew and Mark mention "swords" and "staves," but say nothing of the flaring torches which so arrested the eve of John. Thoma sees a reference to the frequent declaration of Christ, that he was the "Light of the world," and to the contrast between that light and the power of darkness. John 18:3A band (τὴν σπεῖραν)

Properly, the band. See on Mark 15:16; also see on centurion, Luke 7:2; and see on Acts 21:31. The band, or cohort, was from the Roman garrison in the tower of Antonia.

Officers (ὑπηρέτας)

See on Matthew 5:25. Sent from the Sanhedrim.

The temple police

The Synoptists speak of the body which arrested Jesus as ὄχλος, a multitude or rabble; but both Matthew and Mark mention the band (σπεῖρα) later in the narrative (Matthew 27:27; Mark 15:16).

Lanterns (φανῶν)

Only here in the New Testament. A detail peculiar to John. Though it was full moon, it was feared that Jesus might hide and escape.

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