John 19:13
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.
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(13) When Pilate therefore heard that saying.—Better . . . these sayingsi.e., the two sayings of the previous verse.

He brought Jesus forth ., .—Comp. John 19:9. He hesitates no longer about the course to be taken. His own position and life may be in danger, and he prepares, therefore, to pronounce the final sentence, which must necessarily be done from the public judgment seat outside the palace. (Comp. Matthew 27:19.)

The Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.—Both these words occur here only, and are instances of the writer’s minute knowledge of the localities in Jerusalem. It may have been better to have preserved the Greek name (Lithostrōton), as well as that by which the place was known in the Hebrew (Syro-Chaldaic) of the time. The word literally means “stone-paved,” and was the Greek name for the tesselated “pavement” of marble and coloured stones with which from the time of Sylla the Romans delighted to adorn the Prætorium. The Chaldee word means “an elevated place,” so that the one name was given to it from its form, and the other from the material of which it was made. Suetonius (Life, chap. 46) tells us that Julius Cæsar carried about with him such pieces of marble and stone, but the mention of the place” bears the impression that it was a fixture in front of the Prætorium at Jerusalem, in which the Bema was placed; or it may have been a portion of the northern court of the sanctuary to which Pilate came out, if we identify the Prætorium with the tower Antonia. (Comp. Note on Matthew 27:27.) Josephus mentions that the whole of the Temple mountain was paved with this kind of Mosaic work (Ant v. 5. 2. Caspari, Chron. Geogr., Introd., Eng. Trans., p. 225).

John 19:13-15. When Pilate heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth — Brought him out of the palace a second time; and sat down in the judgment-seat — On the tribunal which was then erected without the palace; in a place that was called, in Greek, λιθοστρωτον, the Pavement — So called on account of a beautiful piece of Mosaic work, with which the floor was adorned; but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha — Or, the high place, because it stood on an eminence; so that the judge, being seated there, might be heard and seen by a considerable number of people. And it was the preparation of the passover — Or, of the paschal sabbath. The word παρασκευη, [here rendered preparation,] in the New Testament, denotes always, in my opinion, says Dr. Campbell, “the day before the sabbath, and not the day which preceded any other festival, unless that festival fell on the sabbath. My reasons for this opinion are, 1st, This explanation coincides exactly with the definition which Mark gives of that word, (Mark 15:42,) It was the preparation, that is, the eve of the sabbath. 2d, The word occurs six times in the New Testament, and, in all these places, confessedly means the sixth day of the week, answering to our Friday, and consequently the day before the Jewish sabbath, or Saturday. 3d, The preparation of all things necessary the day before the sabbath was expressly commanded in the law, Exodus 16:5; Exodus 16:23. There was nothing analogous to this enjoined in preparation for the other feasts.” And about the sixth hour — Or rather, the third hour: for as there is no reason to think that John computed time in a manner different from that used by the other evangelists; “as six o’clock, (according to the Roman computation,) or soon after sunrise, must have been much too early for all the events to have occurred that morning which preceded our Lord’s crucifixion; as Mark has expressly mentioned the third hour, or nine o’clock, for the time of that event, to which the accounts of the other evangelists accord; and as the sixth hour, or noon, (according to the Jewish computation,) would be too late to agree with the parallel scriptures; so it seems the most easy way of solving the difficulty, to suppose that [ζ] sixth, instead of [γ] third, was inserted by some of the early transcribers of this gospel. The mistake would be very easily fallen into; and in a few places it is necessary to allow that something of this kind has happened. Indeed some manuscripts read the third hour.” — Scott. See this point more fully explained and defended in the note on Mark 15:25. And he saith unto the Jews — Who were present in vast numbers; Behold your king — Pointing to Jesus as he now appeared in the mock pomp of royalty, wearing the purple robe and crown of thorns, and with his hands manacled. It seems he spoke thus, either in ridicule of the national expectation, or, which is more probable, to show the Jews how vain the fears were which they pretended to entertain about the emperor’s authority in Judea, the person who was the occasion of them, showing, in the whole of his deportment, a temper of mind no ways consonant to the ambition which they branded him with. But they cried out — With indignation and disdain; Away with him, &c. — See on Luke 23:18-25. Pilate saith, shall I crucify your king? — According to most commentators, Pilate said this, mocking him. But it is more agreeable to his general behaviour in this affair to suppose, that he spoke it with a view to move the populace, who he knew had once held Jesus in great esteem as the Messiah. For John tells us (John 19:12,) that he now sought to release him. The chief priests answered, We have no king but Cesar — “In this reply they publicly renounced their hope of a Messiah, which the whole economy of their religion had been calculated to cherish: and likewise they acknowledged publicly their subjection to the Romans; and by so doing condemned themselves when they afterward rebelled.”

19:1-18 Little did Pilate think with what holy regard these sufferings of Christ would, in after-ages, be thought upon and spoken of by the best and greatest of men. Our Lord Jesus came forth, willing to be exposed to their scorn. It is good for every one with faith, to behold Christ Jesus in his sufferings. Behold him, and love him; be still looking unto Jesus. Did their hatred sharpen their endeavours against him? and shall not our love for him quicken our endeavours for him and his kingdom? Pilate seems to have thought that Jesus might be some person above the common order. Even natural conscience makes men afraid of being found fighting against God. As our Lord suffered for the sins both of Jews and Gentiles, it was a special part of the counsel of Divine Wisdom, that the Jews should first purpose his death, and the Gentiles carry that purpose into effect. Had not Christ been thus rejected of men, we had been for ever rejected of God. Now was the Son of man delivered into the hands of wicked and unreasonable men. He was led forth for us, that we might escape. He was nailed to the cross, as a Sacrifice bound to the altar. The Scripture was fulfilled; he did not die at the altar among the sacrifices, but among criminals sacrificed to public justice. And now let us pause, and with faith look upon Jesus. Was ever sorrow like unto his sorrow? See him bleeding, see him dying, see him and love him! love him, and live to him!Judgment-seat - The tribunal or place of pronouncing sentence. He came here to deliver him, in due form of law, into the hands of the Jews.

Pavement - This was an area or room of the judgment hall whose floor was made of small square stones of various colors. This was common in palaces and houses of wealth and splendor. See the notes at Matthew 9:2.

Gabbatha - This word is not elsewhere used. It comes from a word signifying to be elevated. The name given to the place by the Hebrews was conferred from its being the place of the tribunal, as an elevated place.

12-16. And from thenceforth—particularly this speech, which seems to have filled him with awe, and redoubled his anxiety.

Pilate sought to release him—that is, to gain their consent to it, for he could have done it at once on his authority.

but the Jews cried—seeing their advantage, and not slow to profit by it. If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend, &c.—"This was equivalent to a threat of impeachment, which we know was much dreaded by such officers as the procurators, especially of the character of Pilate or Felix. It also consummates the treachery and disgrace of the Jewish rulers, who were willing, for the purpose of destroying Jesus, to affect a zeal for the supremacy of a foreign prince" [Webster and Wilkinson]. (See Joh 19:15).

When Pilate … heard that, … he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in—"upon"

the judgment seat—that he might pronounce sentence against the Prisoner, on this charge, the more solemnly.

in a place called the Pavement—a tesselated pavement, much used by the Romans.

in the Hebrew, Gabbatha—from its being raised.

That saying, that if he let Jesus go he was not Caesar’s friend. Pilate was a man that loved the honour that was from men more than the honour and praise which is from God; he was more afraid of losing his place than his soul, and could no longer resist the temptation he was under.

He brought Jesus forth, and sat down in a place called the Pavement, because it was paved with stone, but in the Hebrew, (mixed with the Syriac), Gabbatha, that is, a high place; for it was their manner to have their judgment seats higher than other parts of the room where they were.

When Pilate therefore heard that saying,.... Of the Jews, that a freeing of Jesus would show an unfriendliness to Caesar; and gave very broad hints that they would accuse him to Caesar of treachery and unfaithfulness, in letting go a man, that made pretensions to be a king in his territories; and knowing well the jealousies and suspicions of Tiberius, and fearing lest it would turn to his own disrepute and disadvantage, immediately

he brought Jesus forth out of the judgment hall, the place where he had been examined in; not to declare his innocence, nor to move their pity, nor to release him, but to pass sentence on him.

And he sat down in the judgment seat: for that purpose. He had sat but little all this while, but was continually going in and out to examine Jesus, and converse with the Jews; but he now takes his place, and sits down as a judge, in order to give the finishing stroke to this affair; and where he sat down, was

in the place that is called the pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. This place, in the Greek tongue, was called "Lithostrotos"; or "the pavement of stones", as the Syriac version renders it: it is thought to be the room "Gazith", in which the sanhedrim sat in the temple when they tried capital causes (t); and it was so called, because it was paved with smooth, square, hewn stones:

"it was in the north part; half of it was holy, and half of it common; and it had two doors, one for that part which was holy, and another for that which was common; and in that half which was common the sanhedrim sat (u).''

So that into this part of it, and by this door, Pilate, though a Gentile, might enter. This place, in the language of the Jews, who at this time spoke Syriac, was "Gabbatha", front its height, as it should seem; though the Syriac and Persic versions read "Gaphiphtha", which signifies a fence, or an enclosure. Mention is made in the Talmud (w) of the upper "Gab" in the mountain of the house; but whether the same with this "Gabbaths", and whether this is the same with the chamber "Gazith", is not certain. The Septuagint use the same word as John here does, and call by the same name the pavement of the temple on which the Israelites felt and worshipped God, 2 Chronicles 7:3.

(t) Gloss. in T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 8. 2.((u) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 25. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Beth Habbechira, c. 5. sect. 17. Bartenora in Misn. Middot, c. 5. sect. 3.((w) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 115. 1.

{4} 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, {b} Gabbatha.

(4) Pilate condemns himself first, with the same mouth with which he afterwards condemns Christ.

(b) Gabbatha signifies a high place, as judgment seats are.

John 19:13. These speeches penetrate the mind of Pilate, dismayed at the thought of Rome and the emperor. He will now, formally and solemnly, deliver the final sentence, which must be done, not in the praetorium, but outside in the open air (see Josephus, Bell. ii. 9. 3, ii. 14. 8); he therefore causes Jesus to be brought out, and seats himself, taking his place on the judicial seat, at the place which is called Lithostroton, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.

ἐπὶ τοῦ βήματος] Modal definition of ἐκάθ. εἰς τόπον.

Since τόπος here denotes a definite and distinguished place, the article is as little required as with πόλις, ἀγρός, and the like in such cases. Comp. Matthew 27:33; Kühner, II. p. 129.

The place where the tribunal stood, before the praetorium in Jerusalem, bore the Greek name, derived from its Mosaic floor (see Wetstein and Krebs, p. 158 f.) of Λιθόστρωτον, i.e. stone-joining, but in the Aramaic dialect that of גּבְּתָא, arising from its elevated position; two different names, therefore, derived from different properties[238] of the same place. Further, this place is mentioned neither in Josephus nor in the Rabbins. The name ΓΑΒΒ. is not to be derived from גִּבְעָה, hill (Hengstenberg), against which would be the double β (comp. Γαβαθᾶ, Josephus, Antt. v. 1. 29, vi. 4. 2), but from גַּב, ridge, hump. See generally Fritzsche, Verdienste Tholuck’s, p. 102; Tholuck, Beitr. p. 119 ff.

[238] Ewald attempts to refer Γαββαθᾶ also back to the signification of λιθόστρωτον by assuming a root גבע, but in the signification of קבע (Aram.: insert). Too bold an hypothesis. In the LXX. λιθοστρ. (Song of Solomon 3:10; 2 Chronicles 7:3; Esther 1:7) corresponds to the Hebr. רצף.

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).

13. that saying] The better reading gives, these words. Pilate’s mind seems to be made up at once.

brought Jesus forth] Sentence must be pronounced in public. Thus we find that Pilate, in giving judgment about the standards, which had been brought into Jerusalem, has his tribunal in the great circus at Caesarea, and Florus erects his in front of the palace (Josephus, B. J. ii. ix. 3, xiv. 8).

sat down] The Greek verb (kathizo) may be either transitive, as in 1 Corinthians 6:4; Ephesians 1:20, or intransitive, as in Matthew 19:28; Matthew 25:31. If it is transitive here, the meaning will be, ‘placed him on a seat,’ as an illustration of his mocking exclamation, ‘Behold your King!’—i.e. ‘There He sits enthroned! But [John 8:2;] John 12:14; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 20:4, the only places where S. John uses the word, and Acts 12:21; Acts 25:6; Acts 25:17, where we have the same phrase as here, are against the transitive meaning in this place.

in the judgment seat] In the true text there is no article, which may mean that it was not the usual Bema but a temporary one. Every where else in N.T. ‘judgment seat’ has the definite article.

Pavement] Literally, stone-paved. Josephus (Ant. v. John 19:2) says that the Temple-mount, on part of which the fortress of Antonia stood, was covered with a tesselated pavement.

in the Hebrew, Gabbatha] Omit ‘the,’ as in John 19:20, and see on John 20:16. It was, we may conclude “from its having a Hebrew name, a fixed spot, and not the portable mosaic work which Roman generals sometimes carried about with them.” S. p. 250. The fact that there was a fixed pavement supports this view; but Gabbatha (= Gab Baitha) means ‘the ridge of the House’ i.e. ‘the Temple-mound,’ and refers to the shape of the ground (like a back), not to the pavement upon it.

John 19:13. Ἐπὶ τοῦ βήματος, on the judgment-seat) The judgment-seat was outside the judgment-hall or pretorium, in the place called Gabbatha.—λεγόμενον, called) There is not added, “in Greek,” for John wrote in Greek; comp. John 19:17.—Λιθόστρωτον) A tesselated stone pavement, formed of various kinds of stones, and so, as it were, made into a painting. [Mosaic-work, inlaid with stones.] See concerning such pavements, Amœn. lit. T. vii., p. 19, et seqq.—Γαββαθὰ, Gabbatha) A place elevated and conspicuous.

Verse 13. - When Pilate therefore heard these words, or, sayings his fear of Tiberius became greater than his fear of Christ; his anxiety for himself predominated over his desire for justice and fair play. He found he had gone too far. Some commentators and harmonists here introduce the "hand-washing" (see above, John 18:40); but such a proceeding at this moment, when he was straightening up his back for the last act of injustice, would have roused fresh and dangerous charges against his personal honor. He brought Jesus out from the Praetorium to a place in view of the peoples and sat down (not, as some say, caused Jesus, in mockery, to take his place upon the judgment-seat (κάθιζω has the transitive sense in 1 Corinthians 6:4 and Ephesians 1:20, but not in John; and undoubtedly it has the intransitive sense, not only in John, but in Acts 25:6, 17. Moreover, the mockery was the act of the soldiery and of Herod's men of war, not of Pilate). It is remarkable, as Dr. James Drummond (Theological Review, 1877) points out, that Justin Martyr ('Apol.,' 1:35) apparently refers to this supposed transitive usage of κάθιζω in this very connection by John, by the words, Διασύροντες αὐτὸν ἐκάθισον ἐπὶ βήματος καὶ εϊπον κρῖνον ἡμῖν. It is reasonable inference that Justin read John's Gospel, and supposed him to give transitive force to the verb (see Dr. Salmon, 'Introduction to New Testament,' p. 89, note). Upon the judgment-seat in a place called λιθόστρθτον, the tessellated Pavement - equivalent to "stone-joining" - in which Romans delighted from the days of Sulla; a decoration which Julius Caesar carried about with him (Suet., 'Vit.,' 46.) for purposes of judgment - but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. This was probably an elevated and fixed platform overlooking the temple-courts, or joining the Castle of Antonia with the temple. Its etymology is גַּב־בִיתָא, the ridge of the house or temple. Ewald has endeavored to find in the word the root קָבַּע, Aramaic for "insert," modified into גָּעָ, and then to suppose that we have here an exact equivalent to λιθόστρωτον; but where this word occurs in the LXX. it is the equivalent of the Hebrew רָצַפ, Song of Solomon 3:10. The λιθόστρωτον was possibly some elevated seat reached by a flight of stairs, and in the open air, not the bema within the Praetorium, where the more private conversations took place. John 19:13That saying (τοῦτον τὸν λόγον)

The best texts read τῶν λόγων τούτων, these words. He was afraid of an accusation at Rome before Tiberius, an accusation which could be justified by his misrule.

Judgment-seat (βήματος)

See on Acts 7:5. The best texts omit the article, which may indicate that the tribunal was an improvised one.

The Pavement (Λιθόστρωτον)

From λίθος, stone, and στρωτός, strewn or spread.


From the Hebrew gab, "back," and meaning, therefore, a raised place. Thus the Aramaic term is not a translation of the Greek term, which indicates that the place, wherever it was, was distinguished by a mosaic or tessellated pavement. Suetonius relates that Julius Caesar used to carry about with him on his expeditions a portable tessellated pavement for his tribunal. It is not likely, however, that there is any allusion to such a practice here. Westcott explains Gabbatha as the ridge of the house.

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