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1. Scourged (emastigwsen). Matthew and Mark use the Greek form of the Latin word flagellare, fragellow, which occurs only in those two instances in the New Testament. John uses the more common Greek word, though he has fragellion (flagellum), scourge, at ii. 15. Matthew and Mark, however, both use mastigow elsewhere (Matt. x. 17; xx. 29; Mark x. 34). Its kindred noun, mastix, occurs several times in the metaphorical sense of a plague. See on Mark iii. 10, and compare Mark v. 29, 34; Luke vii. 21. The verb is used metaphorically only once, Hebrews xii. 6. Scourging was the legal preliminary to crucifixion, but, in this case, was inflicted illegally before the sentence of crucifixion was pronounced, with a view of averting the extreme punishment, and of satisfying the Jews. (Luke xxiii. 22). The punishment was horrible, the victim being bound to a low pillar or stake, and beaten, either with rods, or, in the case of slaves and provincials, with scourges, called scorpions, leather thongs tipped with leaden balls or sharp spikes. The severity of the infliction in Jesus' case is evident from His inability to bear His cross.
Of thorns (ex akanqwn). So Matthew. Mark has ajkanqinon, the adjective, made of thorns, which John also uses in xix. 5. All attempts to define the botanical character of the thorns used for Christ's crown are guesses. The word for thorns used here is the only one that occurs in the New Testament; the skoloy (thorn in the flesh) of 2 Cor. xii. 7, being properly an impaling-stake.
Both the crowning with thorns and the flagellation are favorite subjects in Christian art. Some of the earliest representations of the latter depict the figure of the Lord as fully draped, and standing unbound at the column, thus illustrating the voluntariness of His sacrifice. In a MS. of the fourteenth century, in the British Museum, He stands, wholly clothed, holding a book in one hand, and blessing with the other. The more devout feeling which predominated in such representations was gradually overpowered by the sense of physical suffering. The earlier paintings represented the back turned toward the spectator, and the face, turned in a forced attitude, exhibited in profile. Later, the face and figure are turned full to the front, and the strokes fall upon the chest. Hence Jerome, in his commentary on Matthew, says that the capacious chest of God (!) was torn with strokes. The standing position is the accepted one, but instances occur in which the Savior is on the ground attached to the column by one hand. Such is the revolting picture by L. Caracci in the Bologna gallery, in which the soldier clutches Jesus by the hair as he plies the bundle of twigs. In a Psalter of the fifteenth century the Savior stands in front of the column, covering His face with His hands.
According to the later type, the moment chosen is when the execution of the sentence is just beginning. One man is binding the hands to the pillar, another is binding together a bundle of loose switches. The German representations are coarser than the Italian, but with more incident. They lack the spiritual feeling which appears in the best Italian specimens. A field for a higher feeling and for more subtle treatment is opened in the moments succeeding the scourging. One of the very finest examples of this is the picture of Velasquez, "Christ at the Column," in the National Gallery of London. The real grandeur and pathos of the conception assert themselves above certain prosaic and realistic details. The Savior sits upon the ground, His arms extended, and leaning backward to the full stretch of the cord which binds His crossed hands. The face is turned over the left shoulder full upon the spectator. Rods, ropes, and broken twigs lie upon the ground, and slender streams of blood appear upon the body. A guardian angel behind the figure of the Lord, stands bending slightly over a child kneeling with clasped hands, and points to the sufferer, from whose head a ray of light passes to the child's heart. The angel is a Spanish nursery-maid with wings, and the face of the child is of the lower Spanish type, and is in striking contrast with the exquisite countenance of Murillo's Christ-child, which hangs next to this picture, and which is of the sweetest type of Andalusian beauty. The Savior's face is of a thoroughly manly, indeed, of a robust type, expressing intense suffering, but without contortion. The large, dark eyes are ineffably sad. The strong light on the right arm merges into the deep shadow of the bound hands, and the same shadow falls with startling effect across the full light on the left arm, marked at the wrist by a slight bloody line.
In the portrayal of the crowning with thorns, in a few instances, the moment is chosen after the crown has been placed, the action being in the mock-worship; but the prevailing conception is that of the act of crowning, which consists in pressing the crown upon the brow by means of two long staves. A magnificent specimen is Luini's fresco in the Ambrosian Library at Milan. Christ sits upon a tribune, clad in a scarlet robe, His face wearing an expression of infinite sweetness and dignity, while a soldier on either side crowds down the crown with a staff. The Italian artists represent the crown as consisting of pliable twigs with small thorns; but the northern artists "have conceived," to quote Mrs. Jameson, "an awful structure of the most unbending, knotted boughs, with tremendous spikes half a foot long, which no human hands could have forced into such a form." In a few later instances the staves are omitted, and the crown is placed on the head by the mailed hand of a soldier. Put on (periebalon). Literally, threw about. Rev., arrayed.
Purple (porfuroun). An adjective. Found only here, ver. 5, and Apoc. xviii. 16. Mark uses the noun porfura, purple, which also occurs in Apoc. xvii. 4; xviii. 12. See on Luke xvi. 19. Matthew has kokkinhn, scarlet.
Robe (imation). Better, as Rev., garment, since robe gives the impression of a trailing garment. See on Matt. v. 40. Matthew has clamuda, a short military cloak (xxviii. 28). Luke describes the garment as lampran, gorgeous, bright or brilliant (xxiii. 11).
3. And said. Add kai hrconto prov aujton, and kept coming unto Him, before and said or kept saying. The imperfect denotes the successive acts of homage of the soldiers as they came up one after the other.
They smote Him with their hands (edidoun autw rapismata). Literally, kept giving Him blows with their hands. See on xviii. 22.
5. Came Jesus forth. From the Praetorium.
6. They cried out. See on xviii. 40.
Crucify. The best texts omit Him.
Take ye Him (labete auton umeiv). According to the Greek order, "take Him ye." Rev., take Him yourselves. See on xviii. 31.
By our law. The best texts omit our: Read by that law, as Rev. 8. The more afraid. "These words of the Jews produced an effect on Pilate for which they were not prepared. The saying gives strength to a dreadful presentiment which was gradually forming within him. All that he had heard related of the miracles of Jesus, the mysterious character of His person, of His words and of His conduct, the strange message which he had just received from his wife - all is suddenly explained by the term "Son of God." Was this extraordinary man truly a divine being who had appeared on the earth? The truth naturally presents itself to his mind in the form of pagan superstitions and mythological legends" (Godet).
11. He that delivered. Caiaphas.
12. From thenceforth (ek toutou). Incorrect. Rev., rightly, upon this. Sought (ezhtei). Imperfect tense. Made repeated attempts.
Caesar's friend. A title conferred, since the time of Augustus, upon provincial governors. Probably, however, not used by the Jews in this technical sense, but merely as a way of saying "Thou art not true to the emperor."
Caesar (tw Kaisari). Literally, the Caesar. The term, which was at first a proper name, the surname of Julius Caesar, adopted by Augustus and his successors, became an appellative, appropriated by all the emperors as a title. Thus the emperor at this time was Tiberius Caesar. A distinction was, however, introduced between this title and that of Augustus, which was first given to Octavianus the first emperor. The title "Augustus" was always reserved for the monarch, while "Caesar" was more freely communicated to his relations; and from the reign of Hadrian at least (A. D. 117-138) was appropriated to the second person in the state, who was considered as the presumptive heir of the empire.
Judgment-seat (bhmatov). See on Acts vii. 5. The best texts omit the article, which may indicate that the tribunal was an improvised one. The Pavement (Liqostrwton). From liqov, stone, and strwtov, strewn or spread.
Gabbatha. 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.
14. Sixth hour. See on i. 39.
Away with him (aron). Literally, take away.
We have no king but Caesar. These words, uttered by the chief priests, are very significant. These chief representatives of the theocratic government of Israel thus formally and expressly renounce it, and declare their allegiance to a temporal and pagan power. This utterance is "the formal abdication of the Messianic hope."
16. Delivered. Luke says, delivered to their will (xxiii. 25). Pilate pronounced no sentence, but disclaimed all responsibility for the act, and delivered Christ up to them (autoiv), they having invoked the responsibility upon themselves. See Matt. xxvii. 24, 25.
And led Him away. The best texts omit.
17. Bearing (bastazwn). See on xii. 6; x. 31.
His cross (ton stauron autou). The best texts read auJtw or eJautw, "bearing the cross for Himself." John does not mention the impressment of Simon of Cyrene for this service. Compare Matt. xxvii. 32; Mark xv. 21; Luke xxiii. 26.
18. In the midst. All the Synoptists describe the character of the two who were crucified with Jesus. Matthew and Mark, robbers; Luke, malefactors (kakourgouv). All three use the phrase, one on the right, the other on the left, and so, substantially, John: on either side one. John says nothing about the character of these two, but simply describes them as two others.
19. Title (titlon). Only here and ver. 20, in the New Testament. John uses the technical Roman term titulus, a placard or notice. Used for a bill or notice of sale affixed to a house. Thus Ovid, of a heartless creditor: "She sent our household goods under the placard (sub-titulum);" i.e., put the house and furniture up for sale ("Remedia Amoris," 302). Meaning also the title of a book; an epitaph. Matthew has aijtian, accusation; Mark, ejpigrafh thv aijtiav superscription of the accusation; Luke, ejpigrafh superscription. John alone mentions the fact that Pilate wrote the inscription.
Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. The wording of the title is differently given by each Evangelist.
Matthew: This is Jesus the King of the Jews.
Mark: The King of the Jews.
Luke: This is the King of the Jews.
John: Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews.
The essential element of the superscription, King of the Jews, is common to all. It expressed, on its face, the main intent of Pilate, which was to cast contempt on the Jews. "In the sense of the man Pilate, it meant: Jesus, the King of the Jewish fanatics, crucified in the midst of Jews, who should all be thus executed. In the sense of the Jews: Jesus, the seditionary, the King of the rebels. In the sense of the political judge: Jesus, for whose accusation the Jews, with their ambiguous accusation, may answer. In the sense of the divine irony which ruled over the expression: Jesus, the Messiah, by the crucifixion become in very truth the King of the people of God" (Lange).
20. Hebrew, Greek, Latin. Some editors vary the order. Rev., Latin, Greek. Such inscriptions in different languages were not uncommon. Julius Capitolinus, a biographer (A. D. 320), in his life of the third Gordian, says that the soldiers erected his tomb on the Persian borders, and added an epitaph (titulum) in Latin, Persian, Hebrew, and Egyptian characters, in order that it might be read by all. Hebrew was the rational dialect, Latin the official, and Greek the common dialect. As the national Hebrew, King of the Jews was translated into Latin and Greek, so the inscription was prophetic that Christ should pass into civil administration and common speech: that the Hebrew Messiah should become equally the deliverer of Greek and Roman: that as Christ was the real center of the religious civilization of Judaism, so He should become the real center of the world's intellectual movement as represented by Greece, and of its legal and material civilization as represented by Rome. The three civilizations which had prepared the way for Christ thus concentrated at His cross. The cross is the real center of the world's history.
21 The chief priests of the Jews. A unique expression, possibly by way of contrast with the King of the Jews.
23. Four 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").
Without seam (arjrJafov, or arafov). Only here in the New Testament. From aj, not, and rJaptw, to sew together. Like the tunic of the High-Priest. Only John records this detail.
Woven (ufantov). Only here in the New Testament.
25. There stood. Imperfect tense, were standing.
Mary Magdalene. Strictly, the (h) Magdalene. She is introduced abruptly, as well known.
26. Woman. See on ii. 4.
Behold. Canon Westcott remarks upon the four exclamations in this chapter - Behold the man! Behold your King! Behold thy son! Behold thy mother! as a remarkable picture of what Christ is, and what He reveals men to be.
27. His own home (ta idia). See on i. 11.
28. Were accomplished (tetelestai). Rev., with stricter rendering of the perfect tense, are finished. Finished corresponds better with it is finished, ver. 30. This sentence may be taken with the preceding one, or with that which follows.
29. Vinegar. See on Matt. xxvii. 48.
Hyssop. Matthew and Mark have kalamw, a reed. Luke says merely that they offered Him vinegar. The vinegar mingled with gall (Matt. xxvii. 34), or the wine mingled with myrrh (Mark xv. 23) was offered to Jesus before his crucifixion as a stupefying draught. The hyssop gives a hint of the height of the cross, as the greatest length of the hyssop reed was not more than three or four feet. The vinegar in this case was offered in order to revive Christ. John does not mention the stupefying draught.
30. Gave up the ghost (paredwke to pneuma). Rev., his spirit. Matthew, ajfhken dismissed. Mark, ejxepneusen, breathed forth (his life). So Luke, who adds, "Father, into thy hands I commend (paratiqemai, see on Luke ix. 16) my spirit."
31. The Jews - Sabbath. The Jews, who had so recently asserted their sole allegiance to Caesar, are now scrupulous about observing the letter of the law.
32. Brake the legs. A detail recorded only by John. This crurifragium, leg-breaking, consisted in striking the legs with a heavy mallet in order to expedite death. It was sometimes inflicted as a punishment upon slaves. Some horrible illustrations are furnished by Suetonius, in his lives of Augustus and Tiberius.
34. With a spear (logch). Only here in the New Testament. Properly, the head of a spear. So Herodotus, of the Arabians: "They also had spears (aicmav) tipped with an antelope's horn sharpened like a spear-point (logchv)" (vii. 96). Used also, as here, for the spear itself.
Pierced (enuxen). Only here in the New Testament. The question has been raised whether the Evangelist means to describe a gash or a prick. Another verb is rendered pierced in ver. 37, the quotation from Zechariah xii. 10, ejxekenthsan, which occurs also at Apoc. i. 7, with reference to Christ's crucifixion, and is used in classical Greek of putting out the eyes, or stabbing, and in the Septuagint of Saul's request to his armor-bearer: "Draw thy sword and thrust me through therewith" (1 Chronicles x. 4). The verb used here, however, nussw, is also used to describe severe and deadly wounds, as in Homer:
"Iliad," v. 45-47.
It has been suggested that the body was merely pricked with the spear to ascertain if it were yet alive. There seems, on the whole, no reason for departing from the ordinary understanding of the narrative, that the soldier inflicted a deep thrust on the side of Jesus (compare xx. 25, 27); nor is it quite apparent why, as Mr. Field urges, a distinction should be kept up between the two verbs in vv. 34 and 37.
Blood and water. It has been argued very plausibly that this was a natural phenomenon, the result of a rupture of the heart which, it is assumed, was the immediate cause of death, and which was followed by an effusion of blood into the pericardium. This blood, separated into its thicker and more liquid parts, flowed forth when the pericardium was pierced by the spear.
I think, however, with Meyer, that John evidently intends to describe the incident as something entirely unexpected and marvelous, and that this explanation better suits the solemn asseveration of ver. 35. That the fact had a symbolic meaning to the Evangelist is evident from 1 John v. 6.
35. He that saw it bare record (o ewrakwv memarturhken). Rev., rendering the perfect tense in both verbs, he that hath seen hath born witness. This can refer only to the writer of this Gospel. Compare 1 John i. 1.
True (alhqinh). Genuine, according to the true ideal of what testimony should be. See on i. 9.
And he (kakeinov). This pronoun is urged by some as a reason for regarding the witness as some other than John, because it is the pronoun of remote reference. But ix. 37 shows clearly that a speaker can use this pronoun of himself; and it is, further, employed in this Gospel to indicate a person "as possessing the quality which is the point in question in an eminent or even exclusive degree" (Godet). See i. 18; v. 39.
True (alhqh). Literally, true things. As distinguished from false. Thus, by the use of the two words for true, there are brought out, as Westcott remarks, "the two conditions which testimony ought to satisfy; the first, that he who gives it should be competent to speak with authority; and the second, that the account of his experience should be exact."
38. A disciple of Jesus. Matt. calls him a rich man; Mark, an honorable counselor, i.e., a member of the Sanhedrim; and Luke, a counselor, good and just.
Besought (hrwthse). Better, as Rev., asked. See on xi. 22; xvi. 23. Mark adds that he went in boldly, which is suggestive in view of John's statement of his secret discipleship, a fact which is passed over by the Synoptists.
Gave him leave. According to Roman law. Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the third century, says: "The bodies of those who are capitally punished cannot be denied to their relatives. At this day, however, the bodies of those who are executed are buried only in case permission is asked and granted; and sometimes permission is not given, especially in the cases of those who are punished for high treason. The bodies of the executed are to be given for burial to any one who asks for them." Avaricious governors sometimes sold this privilege. Cicero, in one of his orations against Verres, has a terribly graphic passage describing such extortions. After dwelling upon the tortures inflicted upon the condemned, he says: "Yet death is the end. It shall not be. Can cruelty go further? A way shall be found. For the bodies of the beheaded shall be thrown to the beasts. If this is grievous to parents, they may buy the liberty of burial" (v. 45). Compare Matthew xiv. 12; Acts viii. 2.
39. Came Nicodemus - came by night. The contrast is marked between his first and his second coming.
Mixture (migma). Only here in the New Testament. Some authorities read eligma, a roll.
Pounds. Roman pounds, of nearly twelve ounces. The large quantity may be explained by the intention of covering the entire body with the preparation, and by the fact that a portion was designed for the couch of the body in the grave. Compare the account of the burial of Asa, 2 Chronicles xvi. 14. "Extraordinary reverence in its sorrowful excitement does not easily satisfy itself" (Meyer).
40. Linen cloths (oqonioiv). Used only by John, if Luke xxiv. 12 is rejected, as by some editors. The Synoptists all have sindwn, linen cloth. See on Mark xiv. 51. Matthew and Luke have ejntulixen, rolled or wrapped, and Mark ejneilhsen, wound, instead of John's edhsan bound. With the spices. Spread over the sheet or bandages in which the body was wrapped.
The manner of the Jews. As contrasted with that of the Egyptians, for instance, which is thus described by Herodotus: "They take first a crooked piece of iron, and with it draw out the brains through the nostrils, thus getting rid of a portion, while the skull is cleared of the rest by rinsing with drugs; next they make a cut along the flank with a sharp Ethiopian stone, and take out the whole contents of the abdomen, which they then cleanse, washing it thoroughly with palm-wine, and again, frequently with an infusion of pounded aromatics. After this they fill the cavity with the purest bruised myrrh, with cassia, and every other sort of spicery except frankincense, and sew up the opening. Then the body is placed in natrum (subcarbonate of soda) for seventy days, and covered entirely over. After the expiration of that space of time, which must not be exceeded, the body is washed, and wrapped round, from head to foot, with bandages of fine linen cloth, smeared over with gum" (ii. 86). Or, possibly, a contrast may be implied with the Roman custom of burning the bodies of the dead. Tacitus says of the Jews: "The bodies of the deceased they choose rather to bury than burn, following in this the Egyptian custom; with whom also they agree in their attention to the dead" ("History," v. 5).
41. A garden. Mentioned by John only.