John 19:23
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.
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(23) On John 19:23-24, comp. Notes on Matthew 27:35-36; Luke 23:34. St. John’s account is again more full than any of the others.

And made four parts, to every soldier a part.—The soldiers there who carried the sentence into execution were one of the usual quarternions (Acts 12:4), under the command of a centurion.

Also his coat: now the coat was without seam.—More exactly, the tunic, or under-garment. It reached from the neck to the feet, while the outer “garment” was a square rug thrown round the body. Ordinarily the tunic consisted of two pieces connected at the shoulder by clasps; but that worn by Jesus was made in one piece. This seems to have been the rule with the priestly tunics. (Comp. the account of Aaron’s tunic in Jos. Ant. iii. 7, § 4.)



John 19:17 - John 19:30

In great and small matters John’s account adds much to the narrative of the crucifixion. He alone tells of the attempt to have the title on the Cross altered, of the tender entrusting of the Virgin to his care, and of the two ‘words’ ‘I thirst’ and ‘It is finished.’ He gives details which had been burned into his memory, such as Christ’s position ‘in the midst’ of the two robbers, and the jar of ‘vinegar’ standing by the crosses. He says little about the act of fixing Jesus to the Cross, but enlarges what the other Evangelists tell as to the soldiers ‘casting lots.’ He had heard what they said to one another. He alone distinctly tells that when He went forth, Jesus was bearing the Cross which afterwards Simon of Cyrene had to carry, probably because our Lord’s strength failed.

Who appointed the two robbers to be crucified at the same time? Not the rulers, who had no such power but probably Pilate, as one more shaft of sarcasm which was all the sharper both because it seemed to put Jesus in the same class as they, and because they were of the same class as the man of the Jews’ choice, Barabbas, and possibly were two of his gang. Jesus was ‘in the midst,’ where He always is, completely identified with the transgressors, but central to all things and all men. As He was in the midst on the Cross, with a penitent on one hand and a rejecter on the other, He is still in the midst of humanity, and His judgment-seat will be as central as His Cross was.

All the Evangelists give the title written over the Cross, but John alone tells that it was Pilate’s malicious invention. He thought that he was having a final fling at the priests, and little knew how truly his title, which was meant as a bitter jest, was a fact. He had it put into the three tongues in use-’Hebrew,’ the national tongue; ‘Greek,’ the common medium of intercourse between varying nationalities; and ‘Latin’ the official language. He did not know that he was proclaiming the universal dominion of Jesus, and prophesying that wisdom as represented by Greece, law and imperial power as represented by Rome, and all previous revelation as represented by Israel, would yet bow before the Crucified, and recognise that His Cross was His throne.

The ‘high-priests’ winced, and would fain have had the title altered. Their wish once more denied Jesus, and added to their condemnation, but it did not move Pilate. It would have been well for him if he had been as firm in carrying out his convictions of justice as in abiding by his bitter jest. He was obstinate in the wrong place, partly because he was angry with the rulers, and partly to recover his self-respect, which had been damaged by his vacillation. But his stiff-necked speech had a more tragic meaning than he knew, for ‘what he had written’ on his own life-page on that day could never be erased, and will confront him. We are all writing an imperishable record, and we shall have to read it out hereafter, and acknowledge our handwriting.

John next sets in strong contrast the two groups round the Cross-the stolid soldiers and the sad friends. The four legionaries went through their work as a very ordinary piece of military duty. They were well accustomed to crucify rebel Jews, and saw no difference between these three and former prisoners. They watched the pangs without a touch of pity, and only wished that death might come soon, and let them get back to their barracks. How blind men may be to what they are gazing at! If knowledge measures guilt, how slight the culpability of the soldiers! They were scarcely more guilty than the mallet and nails which they used. The Sufferer’s clothes were their perquisite, and their division was conducted on cool business principles, and with utter disregard of the solemn nearness of death. Could callous indifference go further than to cast lots for the robe at the very foot of the Cross?

But the thing that most concerns us here is that Jesus submitted to that extremity of shame and humiliation, and hung there naked for all these hours, gazed on, while the light lasted, by a mocking crowd. He had set the perfect Pattern of lowly self-abnegation when, amid the disciples in the upper room, He had ‘laid aside His garments,’ but now He humbles Himself yet more, being clothed only ‘with shame.’ Therefore should we clothe Him with hearts’ love. Therefore God has clothed Him with the robes of imperial majesty.

Another point emphasised by John is the fulfilment of prophecy in this act. The seamless robe, probably woven by loving hands, perhaps by some of the weeping women who stood there, was too valuable to divide, and it would be a moment’s pastime to cast lots for it. John saw, in the expedient naturally suggested to four rough men, who all wanted the robe but did not want to quarrel over it, a fulfilment of the cry of the ancient sufferer, who had lamented that his enemies made so sure of his death that they divided his garments and cast lots for his vesture. But he was ‘wiser than he knew,’ and, while his words were to his own apprehension but a vivid metaphor expressing his desperate condition, ‘the Spirit which was in’ him ‘did signify’ by them ‘the sufferings of Christ.’ Theories of prophecy or sacrifice which deny the correctness of John’s interpretation have the New Testament against them, and assume to know more about the workings of inspiration than is either modest or scientific.

What a contrast the other group presents! John’s enumeration of the women may be read so as to mention four or three, according as ‘His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas,’ is taken to mean one woman or two. The latter is the more probable supposition, and it is also probable that the unnamed sister of our Lord’s mother was no other than Salome, John’s own mother. If so, entrusting Mary to John’s care would be the more natural. Tender care, joined with consciousness that henceforth the relation of son and mother was to be supplanted, not merely by Death’s separating fingers, but by faith’s uniting bond, breathed through the word, so loving yet so removing, ‘Woman, behold thy son!’ Dying trust in the humble friend, which would go far to make the friend worthy of it, breathed in the charge, to which no form of address corresponding to ‘Woman’ is prefixed. Jesus had nothing else to give as a parting gift, but He gave these two to each other, and enriched both. He showed His own loving heart, and implied His faithful discharge of all filial duties hitherto. And He taught us the lesson, which many of us have proved to be true, that losses are best made up when we hear Him pointing us by them to new offices of help to others, and that, if we will let Him, He will point us too to what will fill empty places in our hearts and homes.

The second of the words on the Cross which we owe to John is that pathetic expression, ‘I thirst.’ Most significant is the insight into our Lord’s consciousness which John, here as elsewhere, ventures to give. Not till He knew ‘that all things were accomplished’ did He give heed to the pangs of thirst, which made so terrible a part of the torture of crucifixion. The strong will kept back the bodily cravings so long as any unfulfilled duty remained. Now Jesus had nothing to do but to die, and before He died He let flesh have one little alleviation. He had refused the stupefying draught which would have lessened suffering by dulling consciousness, but He asked for the draught which would momentarily slake the agony of parched lips and burning throat.

The words of John 19:28 are not to be taken as meaning that Jesus said ‘I thirst’ with the mere intention of fulfilling the Scripture. His utterance was the plaint of a real need, not a performance to fill a part. But it is John who sees in that wholly natural cry the fulfilment of the psalm {Psalm 69:21}. All Christ’s bodily sufferings may be said to be summed up in this one word, the only one in which they found utterance. The same lips that said, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink,’ said this. Infinitely pathetic in itself, that cry becomes almost awful in its appeal to us when we remember who uttered it, and why He bore these pangs. The very ‘Fountain of living water’ knew the pang of thirst that every one that thirsteth might come to the waters, and might drink, not water only, but ‘wine and milk, without money or price.’

John’s last contribution to our knowledge of our Lord’s words on the Cross is that triumphant ‘It is finished,’ wherein there spoke, not only the common dying consciousness of life being ended, but the certitude, which He alone of all who have died, or will die, had the right to feel and utter, that every task was completed, that all God’s will was accomplished, all Messiah’s work done, all prophecy fulfilled, redemption secured, God and man reconciled. He looked back over all His life and saw no failure, no falling below the demands of the occasion, nothing that could have been bettered, nothing that should not have been there. He looked upwards, and even at that moment He heard in His soul the voice of the Father saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!’

Christ’s work is finished. It needs no supplement. It can never be repeated or imitated while the world lasts, and will not lose its power through the ages. Let us trust to it as complete for all our needs, and not seek to strengthen ‘the sure foundation’ which it has laid by any shifting, uncertain additions of our own. But we may remember, too, that while Christ’s work is, in one aspect, finished, when He bowed His head, and by His own will ‘gave up the ghost,’ in another aspect His work is not finished, nor will be, until the whole benefits of His incarnation and death are diffused through, and appropriated by, the world. He is working to-day, and long ages have yet to pass, in all probability, before the voice of Him that sitteth on the throne shall say ‘It is done!’

John 19:23-24. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus — That is, erected the cross with him upon it; they took his garments, and made four parts, &c. — Because four soldiers only are mentioned in the division of the clothes, it does not follow that only four were present at the crucifixion. Since, if soldiers were necessary at all, a great number must have been present to keep off the crowds which usually press to see such spectacles as near as they can. From Matthew 27:54, it appears that the soldiers who assisted at the crucifixion were commanded by a centurion. It is therefore more than probable that the whole band, which Matthew tells us expressly was gathered together to scourge Jesus, (John 19:27,) was present at his execution, especially as two others suffered at the same time. The four soldiers who parted his garments, and cast lots for his vesture, were the four who nailed him to the cross, (each of them fixing a limb,) and who, it seems, for this service had a right to the crucified person’s clothes. That the scripture might be fulfilled, &c. — That is, all this was done agreeably to an ancient prophecy, wherein these circumstances of the Messiah’s sufferings were mentioned, to show that he was to be crucified naked; and consequently, that he was to suffer a most ignominious, as well as a most painful death. The reader will observe that the words here referred to, they parted my garments among them, &c., are quoted from the 22d Psalm, where they seem to be spoken of David. But the fact is, that no circumstance of David’s life bore any resemblance to this prediction, or to several other passages in this Psalm. So that, in this portion of Scripture, as also in some others, the prophet seems to have been thrown into a preternatural ecstasy, wherein, personating the Messiah, he spoke barely what the Spirit dictated, without any regard to himself. These things therefore the soldiers did — Though with the utmost freedom as to themselves, yet by the secret disposal of Providence, which led them to act in a remarkable correspondence to the divine oracle.

19:19-30 Here are some remarkable circumstances of Jesus' death, more fully related than before. Pilate would not gratify the chief priests by allowing the writing to be altered; which was doubtless owing to a secret power of God upon his heart, that this statement of our Lord's character and authority might continue. Many things done by the Roman soldiers were fulfilments of the prophecies of the Old Testament. All things therein written shall be fulfilled. Christ tenderly provided for his mother at his death. Sometimes, when God removes one comfort from us, he raises up another for us, where we looked not for it. Christ's example teaches all men to honour their parents in life and death; to provide for their wants, and to promote their comfort by every means in their power. Especially observe the dying word wherewith Jesus breathed out his soul. It is finished; that is, the counsels of the Father concerning his sufferings were now fulfilled. It is finished; all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, which pointed at the sufferings of the Messiah, were accomplished. It is finished; the ceremonial law is abolished; the substance is now come, and all the shadows are done away. It is finished; an end is made of transgression by bringing in an everlasting righteousness. His sufferings were now finished, both those of his soul, and those of his body. It is finished; the work of man's redemption and salvation is now completed. His life was not taken from him by force, but freely given up.His garments - The plural here is used to denote the outer garment. It was made, commonly, so as to be easily thrown on or off, and when they labored or walked it was girded about the loins. See the notes at Matthew 5:40.

Four parts - It seems, from this, that there were four soldiers employed as his executioners.

His coat - His under garment, called the tunic.

Was without seam - Josephus (Antiq., b. 3 chapter 8, Section 4) says of the garment or coat of the high priest that "this vesture was not composed of two pieces, nor was it sewed together upon the shoulders and the sides; but it was one long vestment, so woven as to have an aperture for the neck. It was also parted where the hands were to come out." It seems that the Lord Jesus, the great High Priest of his people, had also a coat made in a similar manner. Compare Exodus 39:22.

23, 24. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts; to every soldier—the four who nailed Him to the cross, and whose perquisite they were.

a part, and also his coat—the Roman tunic, or close-fitting vest.

without seam, woven from the top throughout—"perhaps denoting considerable skill and labor as necessary to produce such a garment, the work probably of one or more of the women who ministered in such things unto Him, Lu 8:3" [Webster and Wilkinson].

Both Matthew, Matthew 27:35, and Mark, Mark 15:24, mention this parting of Christ’s garments amongst them, which must be understood of his inward garments; which some tell us might easily be done, because their garments were made up of four parts. But his outward garment, which is called his coat, was all of a piece.

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus,.... The crucifixion of Christ was at the request and solicitation of the Jews, was ordered by the Roman governor, and performed by the Roman soldiers; the sinful men into whose hands Christ was to be delivered:

took his garments; which they had stripped his body of, crucifying him naked; as what properly belonged to them, it being usual then, as now, for executioners to have the clothes of the persons they put to death; these were his inner garments:

and made four parts, to every soldier a part; for it seems there were four of them concerned in his execution, and who were set to watch him:

and also his coat; or upper garment;

now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout: in such an one the Jews say (b) Moses ministered: and of this sort and make was the robe of the high priest, said to be of "woven work", Exodus 28:32 upon which Jarchi remarks, , "and not with a needle"; it was all woven, and without any seam: and so the Jews say (c) in general of the garments of the priests:

"the garments of the priests are not made of needlework, but of woven work; as it is said, Exodus 28:32. Abai says, it is not necessary (i.e. the use of the needle) but for their sleeves; according to the tradition, the sleeve of the garments of the priests is woven by itself, and is joined to the garment, and reaches to the palm of the hand.''

So that this was an entire woven garment from top to bottom, excepting the sleeves, which were wove separately and sewed to it; of this kind also was his coat, which Jacob Iehudah Leon says (d),

"was a stately woollen coat of a sky colour, wholly woven, all of one piece, without seam, without sleeves;''

such a garment Christ our great High Priest wore, which had no seam in it, but was a curious piece of texture from top to bottom. The very learned Braunius (e) says, he has seen such garments in Holland, and has given fine cuts of them, and also of the frame in which they are wrought. What authority Nonnus had to call this coat a black one, or others for saying it was the work of the Virgin Mary, I know not.

(b) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 11. 2. Gloss in ib. (c) T. Bab. Yoma, c. 7. foi. 72. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Cele Hamikdash, c. 8. sect. 16. (d) Relation of Memorable Things in the Tabernacle, &c. c. 5. p. 23. (e) De vestitu Sacerdot. Heb. l. 1. c. 16. p. 346, 360, 361.

{7} 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.

(7) Christ signifies by the division of his garments amongst the bloody butchers (except for his coat which had no seam) that it will come to pass, that he will shortly divide his benefits, and enrich his very enemies throughout the world: but in such a way that the treasure of his Church will remain whole.

John 19:23-24. Οὖν] again connects the history, after the intermediate narrative respecting the superscription, with John 19:18.

ἐσταύρωσαν] For they were the executioners of the crucifixion.

τὰ ἱμάτ. αὐτοῦ] His garments, with the exception, however, of the χιτών, which is afterwards specially mentioned, the shirt-like under-garment. The account of John is more exact and complete than that of the Synoptics (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34).

τέσσαρα] There were accordingly four soldiers, the ordinary τετράδιον στρατιωτῶν (Acts 12:4).

ἐκ τῶν ἄνωθεν ὑφαντὸς διʼ ὅλου] From the top (where the button-hole was, ἀπʼ αὐχένος, Nonnus) woven quite through, throughout, so that thus the garment was a single texture, woven from above entirely throughout, without seam, similar to the priestly vestment in Joseph. Antt. iii. 7. 4. See Braun, de vestitu Hebr. p. 342 ff.; Rosenmüller, Morgenl. V. p. 273 f. On the adverbial διʼ ὅλου, comp. Asclep. 16; Nicand. 1; Plut. Mor. p. 695 f.; Bernhardy, p. 235, also διʼ ὅλων, Plat. Soph. p. 253 C.

ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ, κ.τ.λ.] This casting of lots for the χιτών, after the division of the ἱμάτια, was not an accidental occurrence, but was in connection with the divine determination for the fulfilment of Scripture, which says, etc. The passage is Psalm 22:19, closely following the LXX. The suffering of the theocratic sufferer, in this psalm, is the prophetic type of the suffering of the Messiah. “They have divided my garments amongst one another (ἑαυτ. = ἀλλήλους, comp. Luke 22:17), and cast lots over my raiment,”—this complaint of the Psalmist, who sees himself as being already subjected to the death of a criminal, and the division of his garments among his executioners therewith connected, has found its Messianic fulfilment in the corresponding treatment of Christ, in so far as lots have also been cast over His raiment (in reality, over His under-garment). In this fulfilment the χιτών was that portion of His clothing on which the ἐπὶ τὸν ἱματισμόν μου ἔβαλον κλῆρους was historically carried out; but we are not, for this reason, to say that John took τὸν ἱματισμόν as equivalent to τ. χιτῶνα (Lücke, De Wette.

οἱ μὲν οὖν στρατ. τ. ἐποί] Simple (reminding one of Herod., Xen., and others) concluding formula for this scene of the soldiers’ proceedings. On μὲν οὖν, see on Luke 3:18.

ταῦτα] That related in John 19:23-24. A secret allusion,[244] in these closing words (Hengstenberg, Godet), is arbitrarily forced upon them.

[244] Hengstenberg: “But the occupation itself stands under a secret direction, and sacred irony passes over irony to the side of profane irony.” Here Scholten coincides with Hengstenberg, supplying: “who knew nothing of the O. T., etc.”

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.

23–27. The four Enemies and the four Friends

23. Then the soldiers] Better, The soldiers therefore. The ‘therefore’ looks back to John 19:18.

his garments] The loose, outer garment, or toga, with the girdle and fastenings. This was large enough to be worth dividing, and in some cases was the only garment worn.

four parts] A mark of accurate knowledge; a quaternion of soldiers has charge of the prisoner, as in Acts 12:4; but there the prisoner has to be guarded and kept alive, so four quaternions mount guard in turn, one for each watch. The clothes of executed criminals were the perquisite of the soldiers on duty.

his coat] Better, the coat or shirt: it fitted somewhat close to the body, reaching from the neck to the knees or ancles.

without seam] Josephus tells us that that of the high-priest was seamless, whereas in other cases this garment was commonly made of two pieces (Ant. iii. vii. 4).

John 19:23. Στρατιῶται, the soldiers) viz. four.—καὶ τὸν χιτῶνα, and the tunic) [the inner vest] they took.—ἄραφος, without seam, not sewed together) appropriate to the holy body of the Saviour. Weigh well what Fabricius, in the Centifolium, p. 407, has collected concerning the mode of living of the Saviour. Nor did He ever rend His garments in sunder.

Verses 23, 24. - (c) The seamless garment. Verse 23. - Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, and Luke 23:34 all mention that the soldiers took his garments (ἱμάτια), and divided them according to the ordinary custom followed at executions amongst themselves. These were the head-dress, the large outer robe with its girdle, the sandals, one taking one thing and another another, and each evangelist added that the soldiers cast lots upon the garments, as to who should take which. As these garments may have been of varied value, the lot may have been required; but John, in his narrative, throws fresh light upon this latter and humiliating act. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part. This shows that a quaternion of soldiers, and not the "whole band," had been told off for the infernal deed. Pilate knew now that there was no need of an army to keep the people from popular insurrection. The rest of the garrison were not far off, should they be required; moreover, the servants of the high priest were ready to act on an emergency; but John adds, And also the coat (the χιτών, the לְבּושׁ); the long vesture which clothed his whole person, reaching from the neck to the feet, and which, when removed, left the sacred body naked. This had probably not been removed by either tiered or Pilate before, and the cursed indignity thus reached its climax (Hengstenberg; cf. Job 24:7-10). Now the coat was without seam from the top - from the upper portions - woven throughout (δι ὅλου, an adverbial form) - woven, possibly, by the mother who loved him, and corresponding with the dress of the priests. Keim and Thorns see here "a symbolizing of Jesus as the High Priest" (see Holman Hunt's celebrated picture the "Light of the World"). Certainly John saw the Lord in his glory with a garment of the kind (woven of radiant light, and reaching to the feet, Revelation 1.). The unity of the Savior's seamless vesture has been variously treated in patristic literature: as symbolic of the unity of natures in his Person, by the Monephysites; and by Cyprian ('De Unitate Ecclesiae,' § 7) in his conflict with Novatianists, as symbolic of the unity of the Church, and he actually builds on it his dictum, "He cannot possess the garment of Christ who parts and divides the Church of Christ." This garment could not be conveniently divided. John 19:23Four parts

All the Synoptists relate the parting of the garments. The four pieces to be divided would be, the head-gear, the sandals, the girdle, and the tallith or square outer garment with fringes. Delitzsch thus describes the dress of our Lord: "On His head He wore a white sudar, fastened under the chin and hanging down from the shoulders behind. Over the tunic which covered the body to the hands and feet, a blue tallith with the blue and white fringes on the four ends, so thrown over and gathered together that the gray, red-striped undergarment was scarcely noticeable, except when the sandal-shod feet came into view" ("A Day in Capernaum").

Coat (χιτῶνα)

Or tunic. See on Matthew 5:40.

Without seam (ἄῤῥαφος, or ἄραφος)

Only here in the New Testament. From ἀ, not, and ῥάπτω, to sew together. Like the tunic of the High-Priest. Only John records this detail.

Woven (ὑφαντὸς)

Only here in the New Testament.

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