Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said to him, Are you the King of the Jews?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus.—Better, Pilate therefore entered into the Prœtorium (or palace) again, and called Jesus. (Comp. John 18:28.) This was practically a private investigation, for the Jews could not enter the palace (John 18:28). (Comp. John 19:13.)John 18:33-40. Then Pilate entered into the judgment-hall again — See the note on Matthew 27:11. It seems, as the governor had heard an honourable report of Jesus, and observed in his silence, under the accusations brought against him, an air of meek majesty and greatness of spirit, rather than any consciousness of guilt, or any indication of a fierce contempt, he was willing to discourse with him more privately before he proceeded further. He therefore called Jesus, and said, Art thou the king of the Jews? — Dost thou really pretend to any right to govern them? Jesus answered, Sayest thou this thing of thyself? — Dost thou ask this question of thy own accord, because thou thinkest that I have affected regal power? or did others tell it thee of me? — Or dost thou ask it according to the information of the priests, affirming that I have acknowledged myself to be a king? No doubt Jesus knew what had happened; but he spake to the governor after this manner, because, being in the palace when the priests accused him, he had not heard what they said. Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? — Dost thou think that I am acquainted with the religious opinions, expectations, and disputes of the Jews? Thine own nation, &c., have delivered thee unto me — As a seditious person, one that assumes the title of a king: What hast thou done — To merit the charge of sedition? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world — Not a temporal, but a spiritual kingdom, which does not at all interfere with the dominion of Cesar, or of which any prince has reason to be jealous. If my kingdom were of this world — Were of an external or temporal nature; then would my servants fight — Or rather, would have fought, would have endeavoured to establish me on the throne by force of arms, and would have fought against the Jews when they came to apprehend me. But as I have done nothing of this, but readily put myself into their hands, it is evident my kingdom is not from hence — Nor to be erected here; and therefore I have been so far from arming my followers with secular weapons, that the guard who came to apprehend me know I forbade their making use of those they had. Pilate said, Art thou a king then? — Art thou a king, notwithstanding thy kingdom is not of this world? Jesus answered, Thou sayest I am a king — That is, according to the Hebrew idiom, It is as thou sayest: I am a king, but not of this world: even the appointed Head and Governor of the whole Israel of God; nor will I ever basely seek my safety by renouncing my claim to the most excellent majesty and extensive dominion. To this end was I born, &c. — Our Lord speaks of his human origin; his divine was above Pilate’s comprehension: yet it is intimated in the following words: For this cause came I into the world — Namely, from heaven; that I should bear witness unto the truth — That by explaining and proving the truth, I might impress it upon men’s consciences, and make them obedient to its laws. In this consisteth my kingdom, and all the lovers of truth obey me, and are my subjects. This is what Paul calls the good confession, which he tells Timothy, (1 Timothy 6:13,) Jesus witnessed before Pontius Pilate. And justly does the apostle term it so. For our Lord did not deny the truth to save his own life, but gave all his followers an example highly worthy of imitation. It is remarkable, that Christ’s assuming the title of king did not offend the governor in the least, though it was the principal crime laid to his charge. Probably the account which he gave of his kingdom and subjects, led Pilate to take him for some Stoic philosopher, who pleased himself with the chimerical royalty attributed by his sect to those they termed wise men. See Horace, Lib. I. Sat. 3. Accordingly he desired him to explain what he meant by truth. Pilate saith, What is truth? — That is, the truth to which thou referrest, and speakest of as thy business to attest. Or perhaps he meant, What signifies truth? Is that a thing worth hazarding thy life for? So he left him presently, to plead with the Jews for him; looking upon him, it is probable, as an innocent but weak man. He went out again unto the Jews, and saith — To those that were assembled about the judgment-hall, namely, chief priests and others: I find in him no fault at all — No opinion inconsistent with the good of society, neither any action or pretension criminal in the least degree. But ye have a custom that I should release unto you one at the passover — And I am ready now to oblige you in this affair. This, it seems, was said in consequence of the multitude desiring him to do as he had been wont to do at preceding passovers. See Mark 15:8-10. Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? — It seems he hoped by this proposal to preserve the life of Jesus, of whose innocence he was fully convinced; and accordingly, that he might induce them to choose him, he proposed no other alternative than Barabbas, a robber and murderer. See note on Matthew 27:15-18; Matthew 27:20-22. Then cried they all again — Or, all at once, as some translate παλιν here, because it does not appear that the people had refused Jesus and asked Barabbas before this time. But indeed “that word is wanting in a considerable number of manuscripts, in the Complutensian edition, the Syriac, Coptic, Saxon, Arabic, Armenian, and Ethiopic versions. In many Latin manuscripts it is not found. Besides, it does not suit the preceding part of our Lord’s trial, as related by this evangelist, who makes no mention of their crying in this manner before.” — Campbell. Not this man — We will not have this man released; but Barabbas — A robber and murderer. And thus, when Pilate would have let him go, they denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto them, Acts 3:14. See note on Luke 23:18-25. Luke 23:2-3. Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, the ordinary place of judicature, from whence we read before he went out, in civility to the Jews, whose superstition (as we before heard) kept them from going there during the festival. He called Jesus to him privately, and asks him, if he owned himself to be the
King of the Jews? The confessing of which (for without doubt they had suggested some such thing to Pilate, and could not prove it) had brought Christ under Pilate’s power, he being governor for the Romans, and so concerned to inquire upon any that pretended to any regal power over that conquered people.
and said unto him, art thou the king of the Jews? This he might say, from a rumour that was generally spread, that there was such a person to come, and was born; and by many it was thought, that Jesus was he; and particularly from the charge of the Jews against him, which though not here expressed, is elsewhere; see Luke 23:2. Wherefore Pilate was the more solicitous about the matter, on account of Caesar, and lest he should be charged with dilatoriness and negligence in this affair: some read these words not by way of question, but affirmation, "thou art the king of the Jews"; which method he might make use of, the more easily to get it out of him, whether he was or not: and to this reading, Christ's answer in the next verse seems best to agree.Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 18:33-34. Pilate does not, indeed, enter at present into further discussion with the Jews, but, because he quite perceived that they had set their minds on the punishment of death, he returns into the praetorium, into which Jesus, John 18:28, was led, and causes Him to be summoned before him, in order personally to examine him; taking a sufficiently inconsistent course, instead of simply persisting in his refusal on account of the want of a definite ground of accusation, and waiting first for some further step on the part of the Jews. His question: Thou art the king of the Jews? which, moreover, carries with it a contemptuous sound of unbelief (he does not ask, for example, σὺ λέγεις, κ.τ.λ., or the like), is explained, even without a κατηγορία on the part of the Jews, from the fact that the arrest, because made with the help of the σπεῖρα, John 18:3, could not have taken place without previous intimation to and approval by Pilate, who therefore must also have been acquainted with its reason,—hence all the less, with Ewald, is the presentment of a written accusation to be presumed, or, as is ordinarily done, need it be suggested that the Jews, even after John 18:31, had come forward with the κατηγορία. This agrees with Luke 23:2, but is not indicated by a single word in John, who could not have passed over so essential a point as a matter of course, and how easily and briefly could he have done so! By his counter-question, John 18:34, Jesus does not desire, as Olshausen, Meander, Godet, Ewald, and several others suppose, to gather the more exact sense of the question,—whether, namely, it is intended in a Jewish and theocratic or in a Roman and political sense (for such a separation of the ideas concerning the Nessiah was neither to be presumed in Pilate, nor to be suggested by this question of Jesus),—but He simply claims the right to know the author of the accusation, which was contained in the words of Pilate; to know, therefore, whether Pilate put to Him the above question at his own instance, and without foreign prompting; or, on the other hand, at the prompting of others. That the latter was the case, He indeed knew; the ἄλλοι stood, in fact, before the door; but Pilate ought to speak out and set forth clearly the status causae. It was that which Jesus could demand, and with all the intrepidity of innocence did demand, without exactly intending to evoke a movement of conscience (Hengstenberg), which He could not at this point expect in the cold man of the world; or to call his attention to the suspicious source of the accusation (Luthardt, Tholuck, Brückner), to which the ἄλλοι, which is altogether without bias, is not appropriate.John 18:33-37. Jesus examined by Pilate in private.33. Then Pilate] Pilate therefore (John 18:3). Because of the importunity of the Jews Pilate is obliged to investigate further; and being only Procurator, although cum potestate, has no Quaestor, but conducts the examination himself.
called Jesus] Probably the Roman guards had already brought Him inside the Praetorium: Pilate now calls Him before the judgment-seat. The conversation implies that Jesus had not heard the previous conversation with the Jews.
Art thou the King of the Jews?] In all four Gospels these are the first words of Pilate to Jesus, and in all four there is an emphasis on ‘Thou.’ The pitiable appearance of Jesus was in such contrast to the royal title that Pilate speaks with a tone of surprise (comp. John 4:12). The question may mean either ‘Dost Thou claim to be King?’ or, ‘Art Thou the so-called King?’ The royal title first appears in the mouth of the wise men, Matthew 2:1, next in the mouth of Pilate.
33–37. Inside the Praetorium; Jesus is privately examined by Pilate and makes ‘a good confession’ (1 Timothy 6:13).John 18:33. Σὺ εἶ ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων; art Thou the King of the Jews?) John brings before us Pilate, with changeable mind, always pressing upon this point.Verses 33-38. - (b) [Within the Praetorium.] Christ's admission that he was a .King, but that his kingdom was not of this world. Verses 33, 34. - Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, out of direct hearing of the vociferous crowd, where Jesus and John himself had remained under supervision of the officers of the court, and called - summoned -Jesus to his side, and said to him that of which the mob outside formed an imperfect idea. The account of John throws much light on the inference which Pilate drew from the reply of Jesus, as given in Ver. 38 and in Luke 23:4. To the loud accusations and bitter charges of "the chief priests and elders" (Matthew 27:11, 12; Mark 15:3, 4) brought in the presence of Pilate, Christ answered nothing. His solemn and accusing silence caused the governor to marvel greatly (see both Matthew 27:14 and Mark 15:5). He marveled not only at the silence of the Lord, but at that silence after he, Pilate, had received from him so explicit a statement as to the nature of his own kingdom. An explanation of the motive of Pilate, and of his entire manner upon this occasion, is to be found in the private interview between our Lord and the Roman governor within the Praetorium. It is unnecessary (with many) to see in Pilate an "almost persuaded" believer in the claims of Jesus, who yet was warring with his better judgment, and apostatizing from a nascent faith. He appears rather as the Roman man of the world, who has never learned to rule his policy by any notions of righteousness and truth, and is utterly unable to appreciate the spiritual claims of this Nazarene; yet he was shrewd enough to see that, so far as Roman authority was concerned, this Prisoner was utterly harmless. His question was, Art thou the King of the Jews? Of course, he expected at first a negative reply. Should this abused and rejected, this bound and bleeding Sufferer, with no apparent followers around him, actually betrayed by one of his intimate friends, deserted by the rest, and hounded to death by the fierce cries of Pharisee and Sadducee, chief priest and elder, answer in the affirmative, it might easily suggest itself to Pilate that he must be under some futile hallucination. It has been said that the question might have been answered right off in the affirmative or in the negative, according as the term "King of the Jews" was understood. If what Pilate meant was a popular titular leader, imperator of Jewish levies, one prepared for the career of Judas of Galilee, or Herod the Idumaean, or for that of Barchochab in after times, - nothing could seem to be less likely or more patently repudiated by the facts; moreover, from our Lord himself, who had always refused a quasi-royal dignity (John 6:15), it would have required an emphatic negative. Pilate knew no other way of interpreting the phrase. If the term meant the true "King of Israel," the Messiah anticipated by prophecy and psalm, the King of all kings and Lord of lords, the Ruler of hearts, who would draw all men to him, and east out and vanquish the prince of this world, then the "crown" was his, and he could not deny it; but before this assertion was made in the hearing of the multitude, our Lord would draw from Pilate the sense in which he used the words. He does not say to him, Σὺ λέγεις, "Thou sayest" -a reply given verbatim by all the synoptists, and referring to a second demand made in the presence of the multitude - but he put a counter-question, Sayest thou this thing, askest thou this question, from thyself? - from thy knowledge of the hopes kindled by the ancient books, or from comparing my words with my appearance, or from any judgments thou hast formed a priori? (so Godet, Neander, Olshausen, and Ewald). Thus Jesus was not so much informing Pilate of the distinction between the two kingships, as claiming qua Prisoner at the bar the source of the accusation. "Have I put forth any claim of this kind, which thou as the chief magistrate of this Roman province hast any legal cognizance of?" It was not, as Hengstenberg and Westcott suggest, an appeal to the man rather than to the governor, to the conscience of Pilate rather than to the forms of the tribunal; but (Meyer), with the intrepid consciousness of perfect innocence of the political crime, our Lord asks for the formal declaration of the charge brought against him. Or did others tell it thee concerning me? Alford, Lange, Schaff, etc., all agree with Godet in supposing that Christ was discriminating between the theocratic and the political use of the great phrase. It is obvious that he did rise from the latter to the former in the following verses, but it is difficult to find the distinction in this alternative question. "Did others (not thine own police or observation) - did the Jews, in fact, bring thee this charge against me? Nay, did they not? Is it not entirely due to this outbreak of hostility to my teaching that they have chosen thus to impeach me before thee - to deliver me to thee?" Therefore, first of all, Christ repudiated the charge, in the only sense in which it could have conveyed any colorable idea to the mind of Pilate.
Thou is emphatic. Thou, the despised malefactor.
King of the Jews
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