Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 20 October 2012; Revised 26 October 2017
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found here. Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations.
Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Parsing information for Greek words is taken from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. Explanation of grammatical abbreviations and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Good News of Mark" because Mark describes his book as "good news" (1:1). Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Mark and his book.
Date: Nisan 15, A.D. 30 (Friday)
Yeshua Judged by Jewish Leaders
Parallel Passages: Matthew 27:1-2; Luke 22:66-71; John 18:28
1a Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation;
[And: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The NASB omits the conjunction that begins the verse.] Early in the morning: Grk. prōi, early in the morning (BAG). Morris suggests the time as 6 am to 7 am (762). Hearings for capital cases had to begin and end in daytime (Sanh. 4:1). Mark then reiterates the three groups represented on the council. The three groups are listed together five times in Mark's narrative (8:31; 11:27; 14:43, 53).
the chief priests: pl. of Grk. archiereus, a high or chief priest. Besides the ruling high priest (Caiaphas), the plural noun would include former holders of the high priest office and other priests in the Temple hierarchy, approximately fifteen to twenty. The chief priests were generally aligned with the Sadducees (Acts 4:1; 5:17; Josephus (Ant. XX, 9:1) and ex–officio members of the Sanhedrin (Jeremias 179, 197, 230). The chief priests as a group wielded considerable power in the city. The reference to the chief priests occurs five times in this chapter. In Matthew's parallel narrative (chapter 27) "chief priests" occurs seven times. Luke (chapter 23) and John (chapter 19) mention "chief priests" just three times in their parallel narratives. The repetition is intentional as a reminder of the ones primarily responsible for Yeshua's death. Luke emphasizes this point through the words of a man on the road to Emmaus, "the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him" (Luke 24:20).
with the elders: pl. of Grk. presbuteros primarily carries the idea of ruling authority, leadership or acting in an official capacity. See the notes on 7:3 and 14:43. The term "elders" in reference to the leadership of Israel occurs first in Exodus 19:7. It was from this group that the seventy elders were chosen to assist Moses (Num 11:24). Presbuteros also occurs in "elders of Israel" (Num 11:16; Josh 7:23; 24:1; 2Sam 3:17; 17:15; 1Kgs 8:1; 2Chr 5:2; Ezek 20:3) and "elders of the sons of Israel" (Deut 31:9), which emphasizes that the national leaders were not of the tribe of Levi. and the scribes: pl. of Grk. grammateus (Heb. sofer) was a professional who performed various legal duties. The foremost work of the scribes was as teachers of Torah. Here they are presented as a constituent group in the Sanhedrin. See the note on 1:22.
and: Grk. kai, conj. The conjunction could have the intensive meaning of "indeed." the whole: Grk. holos, signifier of a person or thing understood as a complete unit, but not necessarily indicative of every individual member; all, whole, entire. Council: a governing board or council, an Israelite governance structure. In Greek culture sunedrion originally meant the place where a governing council met, then the body of councilors or their actual meeting (LSJ). In the LXX sunedrion renders Heb. math (SH-4962), male, man, men (Ps 26:4 as a deliberative body), qahal (SH-6951), assembly, congregation (Prov 26:26); and sôd (SH-5475), council, counsel (Jer 15:17). The Greek term also occurs in Proverbs 11:13; 15:22; 20:19; 22:10; 24:7; 27:22 and 31:23 without Heb. equivalent for those sitting in the gate for counsel or judgment.
The usage of sunedrion in the LXX does not denote the Great Sanhedrin of seventy-one members that governed in Jerusalem, but rather small sanhedrins or groups of elders who acted as counselors and judges. These sanhedrins existed until the abolishment of the rabbinic patriarchate in about 425 A.D. (Shoenberg). The earliest record of a Great Sanhedrin is by Josephus who wrote of a political Sanhedrin convened by the Romans in 57 B.C. From this decision the Roman governor Gabinius divided the Land into 5 sunedria (Ant. XIV, 5:4). Some time later Josephus applied the term to the high council in Jerusalem when it gained authority over the whole country. Herod, when a youth, had to appear before the sunedrion at Jerusalem to answer for his doings in Galilee (Ant. XIV, 9:3-5). From the Roman usage the Jews transliterated it to the Hebrew sanhedrin (DNTT 1:363).
Sunedrion is used in the apostolic narratives of (1) a local Jewish court or judicial assembly (Matt 5:22; 10:17; Mark 13:9; Acts 5:21, 27, 34, 41; 6:12, 15; 22:30; 23:1, 6, 15, 20, 28; 24:20); and (2) the meeting room of a judicial assembly (Luke 22:66; Acts 4:15). The term appears 22 times in the apostolic narratives. Versions are divided over translation of the term in this verse, some with "council" and others with "Sanhedrin." Most versions imply the full membership of the Great Sanhedrin. However, this meeting likely did not include all seventy-one members. Conspiracies require keeping out people who would object. Josephus uses the term for an ad hoc group assembled for a special purpose or task (Ant., XX, 9:1, 6). In addition, the phrase "and the whole council" could be translated, "indeed the whole meeting" and allude to the gathering of the constituents already mentioned.
immediately: Grk. eutheōs, adv., immediately, forthwith, or right away. The adverb is a dramatic device that shifts the scene The words "and immediately" actually begins the verse in the Greek text. held: Grk. poieō, aor. act. part., to bring about a result. a consultation: Grk. sumboulion, engagement in deliberation by a group, to take counsel together, to form a plan (cf. Matt 27:1). The noun is formed from sun ("together") and boulomai ("to reach a decision upon deliberation"). Lane contends that noun-verb combination sumboulion poiēsantes means "taking a decision or "making a resolution" instead of "held a council meeting" and this description of Mark was merely the conclusion of the meeting that began in the court of Caiaphas.
On the contrary, combining the four apostolic narratives depicts three distinct meetings, first involving Annas, second Caiaphas with a small group of conspirators and now Caiaphas with a larger group. Mark's list of participants at this point is much expanded from those identified at 14:55. While John gives the record of the first hearing and Matthew and Mark give the report of the second hearing, only Luke provides the transcript of the third hearing.
"When it became daylight, the assembly of elders of the people were gathered together, both chief priests and scribes, and they led him into their council meeting, saying, 67 "If You are the Messiah, tell us." But he said to them, "If I should tell you, you would not believe; 68 moreover if I should question you, you would not answer. 69 But from now the Son of Man will be sitting at the right hand of the power of God." 70 And they all said, "Are you then the Son of God?" And he said to them, "You are saying that, 'I am.'" 71 And they said, "What more need have we of testimony? For we have heard from his own mouth." (Luke 22:66-71 mine)
The added detail in Luke's account of the third hearing indicates that no judgment was pronounced until Yeshua repeated his Messianic claim. The narrative of the third hearing (Matt 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71) presents some important elements. First, they all agree on the time of the meeting as after sunrise. Second, they agree substantially on who was present. Third, there were no witnesses heard as in the second hearing. Fourth, there is no vote mentioned or "calling for the question" as in the second hearing.
Additional Note on the Jewish Trials of Yeshua
The Jewish court system at this time consisted of three types of courts: (1) Court of Three, which handled civil matters and a few criminal matters; (2) Court of Twenty-Three ("Small Sanhedrin"), which handled civil, criminal and religious matters. This court could be found in large towns. Two Small Sanhedrins met at the Temple in Jerusalem (Sanh. 10:4; 88b); and (3) Court of Seventy-One ("Great Sanhedrin"), which handled all the matters of the lower courts plus some special issues. The Great Sanhedrin held its meetings at the Temple in Jerusalem. The official meeting place for the Great Sanhedrin was a room called the Hall of Hewn Stones (Heb. Gazith), located on the south side of the Temple (Sanh. 10:4; 88b), also known as the Cell of the Counselors (Yoma 1:1). The functions of the courts are given in Sanh. 1:1. For an overview of the Jewish judicial system see my web article Jewish Jurisprudence.
The apostolic narratives taken together describe Yeshua enduring five trials (Geldenhuys 586): (1) a preliminary hearing before Annas (John 18:19-23); (2) a preliminary hearing before Caiaphas and members of the Temple hierarchy (Matt 26:57-68); (3) a final trial before a larger council after the arrival of daylight when a legal trial could take place (Luke 22:66-71); (4) a hearing before Pilate (Matt 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1; John 18:29); and (5) a hearing before Herod Antipas (Luke 23:7). A tally of the verses of these respective narratives reveals that twice as many verses are devoted to the trial before Pilate than all three Jewish hearings combined. See my comparative chart of the three Jewish hearings at Mark 14:53.
Although often characterized as trials these hearings of Yeshua before Annas and Caiaphas and his henchmen were little more than inquisitions. The chief priests wanted Yeshua dead and they would only do what was necessary to give the appearance of due process. There is a question of whether the group meeting chaired by Caiaphas was the entire Great Sanhedrin. None of the apostolic narratives gives any indication of the numbers present, which in itself seems strange given the mention of chief priests, elders, Pharisees and scribes in the various accounts of the arrest and trial. At least two members of the Sanhedrin were secret supporters of Yeshua (Nicodemus, John 3:1; 7:50-51; and Joseph of Arimathea, Mark 15:43). Since all those present condemned Yeshua (Mark 14:64) these two men could not have been in attendance.
Brad Young doubts whether Yeshua ever appeared before the Great Sanhedrin (Jesus the Jewish Theologian, 231). He contends that leaders like Gamaliel would never have allowed such unfair proceedings in a trial (cf. Acts 5:34-39). For Young the Council must be a committee of Sadducean priests. David Flusser flatly asserts that the "Sanhedrin" here was not the Court of Seventy-One, but the Temple ruling committee, which consisted of the chief priests, elders of the Temple and the Temple secretaries who were scribes (142). While Flusser, being a non-Messianic Jewish scholar, may have desired to absolve the Great Sanhedrin of the death of Yeshua, his suggestion would make the trial even more illegal. It would also explain why certain Mishnah regulations were not followed:
1. According to Jewish tradition, it was customary to give 40 days in which to allow for possible pleas on the defendant's behalf before he could be sentenced (Sanh. 43a). In fact, if the accused left the Beth Din guilty, and someone said: 'I have a statement to make in his favor,' he was to be brought back and the witness heard (Sanh. 33b).
2. Yeshua was not buried in either of the two graves reserved for those executed by order of the supreme council (Sanh. 6:7).
3. In a unanimous decision the Council is required to wait another day to consider his innocence. "If the Sanhedrin unanimously find [the accused] guilty, he is acquitted. Why? Because we have learned by tradition that sentence must be postponed till the morrow in hope of finding new points in favor of the defense. But this cannot be anticipated in this case" (Sanh. 17a).
Support for the interpretation of Flusser and Young may also be deduced from the omission of the terms "Court of Seventy-One" "Great Sanhedrin," and "Beth din" ("house of judgment") used throughout the Tractate Sanhedrin for the Supreme Court. The apostles would certainly have been acquainted with these terms and yet they are not used in any of the narratives of Yeshua's trials. Luke's narrative of the third hearing helps to clarify the matter: "and they led him into the council [Grk. sunedrion]" (Luke 22:66). The combination of the verb "they led" and the preposition eis ("into"), denoting physical movement indicates transition to the third hearing. The Greek word sunedrion, while often used of the Jewish Supreme Court, can also mean a council chamber or a meeting of a council.
Another matter to consider is that the Sadducean chief priests are prominent in every list of persons involved in the plot against Yeshua and his trial. Matthew and Mark point out the conspiracy to kill Yeshua just two days before Passover, but in John's narrative it's evident that the chief priests had wanted to kill Yeshua for over a year (John 5:18; 7:1, 19; 8:37; 11:53). If they had submitted the matter to the Great Sanhedrin it would have meant following all the rules of jurisprudence and hearing the voice of dissidents, such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, and other disciples. The chief priests would not be above preempting the Supreme Court's jurisdiction. The Talmud records an incident in which a priest who had performed his duties while unclean was taken out of the temple court by young priests who broke his skull with clubs instead of taking him before a Beth Din (Sanh. 82b).
Although Stern believes that Yeshua faced the full Great Sanhedrin, he acknowledges that some scholars believe this particular council was not the official one at all. He goes on to say that "there seems to be little doubt that this body, whoever it consisted of, included important establishment figures and in condemning Yeshua carried out an action which expressed the desire of many Pharisees and Sadducees" (100). In an official trial of a capital case a quorum of 23 was required, but Caiaphas was probably not concerned about this requirement. Caiaphas could have regarded his first hearing as the equivalent of a grand jury and if he could gather sufficient evidence then he could take Yeshua before the executive session and avoid a protracted trial. In this Caiaphas succeeded better than he hoped.
Yeshua Before Pilate
Parallel Passages: Matthew 27:2, 11-26; Luke 23:1-6, 13-25; John 18:28-40; 19:1-16
1b and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate.
and binding: Grk. deō, aor. act. part., to bind in the sense of physical restraint. The action was probably performed by a member of the Temple police. Jesus: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of Yeshua ("salvation"), our Lord's Hebrew name given to him by his parents in accordance with angelic direction. Yeshua is the only name by which he was known to contemporaries. See the note on 1:1 for the background of this precious name. they led Him away: Grk. apopherō, aor. act. ind., to take leave, to go away or to depart. and delivered: Grk. paradidōmi, aor. act. ind., to convey from one position to another, in general "to hand over." In this case the verb is a reference to subjecting Yeshua to the continued judicial process.
As if by a prearranged signal Yeshua is taken to Pilate, by the two chief priests (perhaps more), the scribes and the elders. It was quite a showy procession. Luke emphasizes the point with the testimony of the man on the Emmaus Road, "our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death" (Luke 24:20). Taking Yeshua to Pilate at such an early hour was necessary. The working day of a Roman official began at the earliest hour of daylight and legal trials in the Roman forum were customarily held shortly after sunrise (Lane 549). If the chief priests had delayed until later in the morning they would have found Pilate to be unavailable for the meeting.
Him to Pilate: Grk. Pilatos. Pontius Pilate was the fifth governor of Judea from the time that Archelaus was deposed in A.D. 6. Pilate ruled A.D. 26 to 36 and therefore the judge in the trial of Yeshua. An inscription with his name on it has been found in Caesarea, on the coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa. His official title was Prefect (Latin Praefectus) and he was answerable to Emperor Tiberius. So far as criminal and political jurisdiction he possessed the power similar to a senatorial proconsul and imperial legate (Lane 549). The Roman prefect had four primary responsibilities:
1. As the emperor's personal financial agent, he was responsible for the collection of taxes. To facilitate things, a governor could mint coins and negotiate with wealthy institutions (like the Temple in Jerusalem) that could advance the money.
2. He was an accountant: he inspected the books and supervised large scale building projects.
3. The governor was the province's supreme judge. Appeal was not impossible, but the voyage to Rome was expensive. The Judean governor was supposed to travel through the three main districts -Samaria, Judaea and Idumea- to administer justice in the assize towns.
4. He commanded an army. In the more important provinces, this could consist of legions; but Pilate had only auxiliary troops. Two cohorts had their barracks in Jerusalem (at the old palace and at the fortress Antonia); a third cohort guarded the Judean capital, Caesarea; and two cohorts of infantry and one cavalry regiment were on duty throughout the province. (Jona Lendering, Pontius Pilate)
According to Jewish sources Pilate despised the Jewish people and their religious sensitivities. Josephus reported that Pilate also robbed the Temple treasury to build an aqueduct to bring water into Jerusalem with the origin of the stream two hundred furlongs (25 miles) away (Ant. XVIII, 3:1). In response "many ten thousands of the people" came together to protest and to demand that he cease and desist on his project. Pilate had soldiers infiltrate the great crowd wearing ordinary clothes and at his signal they began attacking the Jews. A great number was killed and many others were wounded (cf. Luke 13:1).
Philo in his work Embassy to Gaius reports an incident in which Pilate set up gilded shields in the Praetorium in Jerusalem (XXXVIII). Philo's lengthy polemic is told in the form of a letter, supposedly from King Agrippa I to Gaius Caligula, in which the Jewish king attempts to persuade the emperor not to set up his statue in the Jerusalem temple and holds up Tiberius as a model of restraint. Philo employs a dramatic flashback to relate the story of Pilate. In the matter of the shields some of the Jewish people appealed to the sons of Herod the Great to intercede. Pilate refused the petition, so one of the kings went a step further and wrote a letter to Caesar Tiberius. This may have been Herod Antipas, which would explain the animosity between the two men in Luke 23:12. Tiberius responded favorably and rebuked Pilate harshly for violating Jewish law, and commanded him immediately to remove the shields to the temple of Augustus at Caesarea.
The priests explain to Pilate that they brought Yeshua because they had no authority for capital punishment (John 18:31). The priests were really being disingenuous, since their concern was avoiding an assumed violent backlash from Yeshua's supporters (Mark 14:2). After all, Jewish leaders had been quite ready to stone a woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-5). It would be better for the Jewish people to hate the Romans rather than hate their own leaders. Just as Pilate would later do, the priests wanted to "wash their hands" of any involvement in Yeshua's execution.
Only in Luke's version of this meeting at the Praetorium do we find the text of the actual accusation made by the chief priests to Pilate, listing three specific charges:
"We found this One perverting our nation and forbidding payment of taxes to Caesar and saying Himself to be Messiah, a King." (Luke 23:2 mine)
The first charge of perverting (Grk. diastrephō) means to divert from proper behavior, which probably alludes to Yeshua's criticism of legal practices that were actually violations of Torah and his minimizing of the importance of some traditions. Thus, the implication was that Yeshua had been insensitive to Jewish law just as Pilate had been and reproved by Tiberius for it. The truth is that Yeshua's teaching not only instructed people to obey Torah, but imposed an even more rigorous interpretation of Torah.
The second charge is a patent lie (Matt 12:15-21; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:19-25). Early in the Passion Week Jewish leaders approach Yeshua and tried to entrap him by asking his opinion on paying the poll-tax to Caesar. In Matthew and Mark the question was posed by Pharisees and Herodians. In Luke the question was posed by spies sent by Pharisees and the chief priests. The Pharisees were probably scribes since all the Pharisees on the Sanhedrin were scribes (Jeremias 236). In any event Yeshua gave his unequivocal support to paying the Roman tax.
The third charge is true on the face of it, but they state his claim as "a messiah-king." In other words, they refused to acknowledge that he is THE Messiah, the Davidic King sent to rule Israel. The last king of the Jews was Herod the Great. Upon his death his son Archelaus became ethnarch over the Samaria, Judea and Idumea; Philip became tetrarch over Ituraea and Trachonitis; and Herod Antipas became tetrarch over Galilee and Perea. Caesar Augustus specifically denied Antipas the royal title of "king," which he coveted. In Pilate's mind for any Jew to declare himself as king without Caesar's approval would be viewed as a seditious move toward independence from Rome. The truth is the Yeshua is king of the earth and higher than any human authority (1Cor 15:24; 1Tim 6:15; Rev 1:5; 11:15; 15:3; 19:16).
It is at this point in the narrative that John reports that the priests refused to enter the Praetorium so that they could "eat the Passover" (John 18:28). Many scholars have concluded that this verse overturns the entire Synoptic narrative and that Yeshua must have eaten some other kind of meal before he was crucified. Many solutions have been offered to reconcile these supposedly contradictory narratives, but the end result is to impugn the integrity of the apostolic authors. Stern's solution is that the Pesach in John 18:28 verse refers to other food eaten during Pesach, specifically the chagigah (festival sacrifice), which was consumed with great joy and celebration on the afternoon following the Seder (206).
Another consideration is the workload of the priests in charge of the slaughter on Nisan 14. According to Josephus a census in the time of Nero counted some 256,000 sheep slaughtered for the Passover (Wars VI, 9:3). It's very likely that the priests were not able to prepare for their own Seders at the regular time because of their duties, and when they might have been sharing the meal they were conspiring with Judas to arrest Yeshua. The priests could eat the Passover on Nisan 15 because the Passover lamb was a type of peace offering. Jewish instruction for Passover found in the Tractate Pesachim specify that chagigah sacrifices had to be eaten on the day offered, but peace offerings are eaten for two days (3a).
2 Pilate questioned Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" And He answered him, "It is as you say."
Pilate questioned Him: After the initial conversation between Pilate and the priests Yeshua was brought inside for the official interview. Are You the King: Grk. basileus, king or chief ruler. In the LXX basileus appears frequently to translate Heb. melek. In the Tanakh the title "king" was not associated with the size of territory governed (often a city), but the authority wielded. The executive and judicial functions (and sometimes legislative) of government were vested in one man. Thanks to Luke's narrative the question of Pilate is understandable.
of the Jews: Grk. Ioudaioi, pl. of Ioudaios, Jew, Jewish or Jewess (BAG), although the term in biblical contexts does not mean the opposite of "Christian" as in common use today. The noun, occurring 194 times in the Besekh, is used to identify biological descendants of Jacob. In the LXX Ioudaios translates Heb. Y’hudi (pl Y’hudim). Y’hudi was derived from Y’hudah, the name given to Jacob’s son (Gen 29:35) and thereafter his tribal descendants (Ex 31:2). The plural Y’hudim first appears in 2 Kings 16:6; 25:25 and Jeremiah 34:9 to refer to Judeans or citizens of the Kingdom of Judah. The southern kingdom also included the tribes of Benjamin and Simeon, so Mordecai of the tribe of Benjamin is identified as a Yehudi (Esth 2:5; 6:10).
The meaning of Y'hudim expanded during the exile to refer to all those taken in captivity from the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah living throughout the Persian empire (Esth 8:9, 11, and 17). Indeed, the broader use of Y'hudim/Ioudaioi mirrors the Aramaic form Y'hudain that occurs in Ezra (4:12, 23; 5:1, 5; 6:7, 14) and Daniel (3:8, 12). This same usage is found in the writings of Josephus, the Jewish historian, in which he distinguishes Jews from other people groups (e.g., Apion 1:1, 5, 8, 13, 19, 22, 26-27, 32-35). The genitive phrase "of the Jews" could mean that the King is of Jewish lineage or that the King rules over the Jewish people or both.
Pilate would not have understood "King of the Jews" as a theological concept, but rather, as Lane explains, a secularized form of "Messiah" (550). The title as such occurs not at all in the Tanakh, but its first usage on the lips of the Magi (Matt 2:2) indicates its general meaning in other countries. Considering the biblical usage of Ioudaioi it's most likely that Pilate meant "king of the Judeans" and thus recognized Yeshua as a direct threat to his governorship and therefore guilty of treason. All the narratives agree that Pilate posed the question in this manner rather than asking "do you claim to be…" The question in the Greek text is "You are the King of the Jews?" The question satisfies the legal requirement of the Roman court to obtain a formal response to the charges. It is noteworthy that Pilate does not ask Yeshua if he was the King of Israel. There's no reason why he should since Israel as a political state did not exist and there had not been a king of Israel since before the Babylonian exile. See the note on verse 32 below.
And He answered him: Grk. apokrinō, aor. pass. part., to make a response to a specific query, to answer or reply. The Greek phrase is lit. "And he answering him says." It is as you say: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether in oral or written form. The Greek phrase is only two words "You says." Kasdan suggests that for Yeshua to have given a direct "yes" would imply that he was seeking an earthly kingdom at this time (363). A "no" answer would deny that he is in reality a king. So, Yeshua's response is tantamount to affirming that he is the King of the Jews, but not in the sense that Pilate might envision. We may say that God's kingdom exists where He reigns in the hearts of people, but Yeshua's status as king, and particularly as King of the Jews, is not dependent on the recognition of all the Jews in the world.
3 The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly.
The chief priests: pl. of Grk. archiereus, See verse 1 above. began to accuse: Grk. katēgoreō, impf., to charge with an offense, to accuse. Him harshly: pl. of Grk. polus, lit. "many things." Mark may intend this statement as a summary of the three specific charges mentioned in Luke 23:2. They are especially incensed that Yeshua would claim the throne of David.
4 Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, "Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!"
Then Pilate questioned: Grk. eperōtaō, impf., to put a question to in the sense of a formal interrogation. Him again: Grk. palin, adv., indicative of repetition, used of an additional occurrence, thus 'again' or 'once more.' saying, "Do You not answer: Grk. apokrinō, pres. mid., to reply, to make a response to a specific question, which implies a choice out of a number of possibilities. Pilate naturally expected that Yeshua would mount some defense against his accusers and ask for the right for a formal hearing under Roman law. He could have even appealed to Caesar as Paul did (Acts 25:11). However, he had already had his trial and he was through with that apostate group. See how many charges: pl. of Grk. posos, pron., 'how much' or 'how great.' Marshall has "how many things." they bring against You: Grk. katēgoreō, pres. See the previous verse. Yeshua considered it beneath his dignity to give any credence to the false charges.
5 But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.
But Jesus: Yeshua. made no further answer: Grk. apokrinō, pres. mid. See the previous verse. The opening phrase is lit. "But Jesus [Yeshua] not any more nothing answered" (Marshall). so Pilate was amazed: Grk. thaumazō, pres. act. inf., to be extraordinarily impressed, to be amazed, approaching admiration. Pilate fully expected an accused man to be vociferous in defending himself, perhaps even lashing out in anger. Instead Pilate witnessed a serenity, almost approaching indifference, that he found intriguing.
6 Now at the feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested.
Now at: Grk. kata, prep., the root meaning is down, but the resultant meaning with the principal noun in the accusative case (as here) is 'along,' 'at,' or 'according to' (DM 107). the feast: Grk. heortē, a public religious festival and in the Besekh always of a joyous gathering of the Jewish people for celebrations of the calendar prescribed in the Torah, generally with a focus on sacrifices and communal eating. (See my web article God's Appointed Times.) The word occurs 25 times in the Besekh and all but eight occur in the book of John. In the LXX heortē renders Heb. chag, feast, festival-gathering, pilgrim feast or festival sacrifice of Israel (BDB 290). The phrase does not mean that Pilate attended the festival, but that his action was according to a custom during this time.
he used to release: Grk. apoluō, impf., may mean (1) to set free from a condition or obligation, to release or to free; or (2) to cause to depart from a place, to send off or dismiss. The first meaning applies here. for them any one prisoner: Grk. desmios, one who is bound as a captive or prisoner. whom they requested: Grk. paraiteomai, impf. mid. ind., the expectation of a favor from the side of someone, to ask for. The governor did not select the prisoner. This was an amazing accommodation for the Romans to make with a subject nation, but it was probably done to avoid a festival becoming a lightning rod for rebellion. The three pilgrim festivals brought hundreds of thousands of Jews to Jerusalem and due to their historic character helped to motivate the national spirit.
Kasdan says that because Pesach is a festival of freedom for all Jews, it is not surprising that the Mishnah specifies that a Passover sacrifice could be offered "for prisoner who has the assurance of a release" (Pes. 8:7) (364). The allowance is based on the assumption that the release would occur in time for him to share in the paschal animal slaughtered on Nisan 14. Since the lamb killed for the Seder was a type of peace offering it could be eaten the day after the slaughter (Lev 7:15-16; 19:5-6). The Mishnah rule occurs in a lengthy instruction regarding special circumstances and does not specifically mention the Roman acceptance of the custom, but Kasdan and Lane (553) believe the Mishnah provision implies the Roman amnesty at Passover,
The Gemara goes on to clarify the instruction depending on whether the prisoner is in Israelite custody or heathen custody (Pes. 91a).
"GEMARA. Rabbah son of R. Huna said in R. Johanan's name: They learned this only of a heathen prison; but [if he is incarcerated in] an Israelite prison, one slaughters for him separately; since he was promised, he will [definitely] be released, as it is written, The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies. R. Hisda observed: As to what you say, [If he is in] a heathen prison [one may] not [kill on his behalf alone]; that was said only [when the prison is] without the walls of Beth Pagi; but [if it is] within the walls of Beth Pagi, one slaughters on his behalf alone. What is the reason? It is possible to convey it [the flesh] to him and he will eat it."
7 The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection.
The man named Barabbas: Grk. Barabbas, a transliteration of Heb. Bar-Abba, "son of a father." In Greek the sigma letter is added to the end to make the name masculine. Barabbas seems a strange name to give a baby since names normally reflected some wish of the parent. Children were typically named after relatives within the clan and tribe (Luke 1:61) based the original tribal organization (Num 2:2). The continuance of a family's name in Israel was extremely important (Deut 25:6; Ruth 4:5, 10). There is no human personality anywhere in Scripture named "Abba," so the choice of the name may suggest that the mother was unwed and she could not or would not identify the father.
The name Barabbas is drawn from bar, "son of," and abba, "father." (For abba see the note on 14:36.) Bar is generally identified as Aramaic for "son of." Stern, as other commentators, states that the entire name is Aramaic (83). Yet, in Jewish correspondence of the time there are examples of where the Aramaic bar is used in Hebrew correspondence and, likewise, Hebrew ben is sometimes used in Aramaic correspondence, and both of these occasionally appear in Greek (Hamp 19).
However, scholars ignore the fact that bar was a Hebrew word for "son" (SH-1248), and occurs four times in the Tanakh (Ps 2:12; Prov 31:2 [3t]). While bar may have originated from Aramaic its early assimilation into Israelite culture made the word Hebrew, just as English has absorbed words from other languages. Thus, the connection of bar with a name (e.g., Bar-abbas, Bar-tholomew, Bar-Jesus, Bar-Jona, Bar-nabas, Bar-sabas, Bar-timaeus) says nothing about the ethnicity or language of the person or in this case the parents who gave the name.
Danker says that Matthew 27:16-17, according to old tradition, records his full name as Iēsoun Barabbas, or Jesus Barabbas (67). The full name is found in the Matthew text of the MSS Old Syriac (2nd-3rd cent.), Armenian (4th-5th cent.), Georgian (5th cent.), Peshitta (7th cent.), Theta (9th cent.), the Minuscule 700 (11th cent.), and Family 1 (12-14 cent.) (GNT 109). The full name was apparently in some early MSS because the church father Origen (A.D. 254), in his commentary on Matthew disapproved of identifying Barabbas with the name Jesus. He said, "in the whole range of the scriptures we know that no one who is a sinner is called Jesus" (quoted in Metzger 56). However, Origen apparently forgot about the Jewish magician and false prophet named Bar-Jesus that Paul encountered in Paphos (Acts 13:6).
The fact is that "Jesus" (Heb. Yeshua) was a common name. Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua, which means "YHVH is salvation" (BDB 221). Yeshua has the same Hebrew root as yoshia (“He will save”) and is also the masculine form of the Hebrew word yeshu‘ah, ("salvation”) (Stern 4). Both Yeshua and Y’hoshua are rendered in the LXX as Iēsous. Moreover, the name "Jeshua" (Heb. Yeshua) occurs in the Tanakh thirty times, four of whom were of the tribe of Levi (1Chr 24:11; 31:15; Ezra 2:6; 3:2; Neh 3:19; 8:7). The name of Joshua (Heb. Y’hoshua) is given to three important men in the Tanakh (Deut 3:21; 1Sam 6:14, 18; 2Kgs 23:8). It's quite possible that Barabbas was of the tribe of Levi.
Metzger goes on to say that the translation committee for UBS4/NA27 (the Greek New Testament used by modern Bible versions) believed that the original text of Matthew had the double name in both verses and that Iēsoun was deliberately suppressed in most witnesses for reverential considerations. This attitude might also explain why Yeshua is translated as Jeshua in the Christian Old Testament and not "Jesus." Stern finds in the double name of Yeshua Barabbas mentioned in the context of the trial of Yeshua ben Adonai as a paradoxical irony. The narrative presents two Yeshuas: one the son of a human father, the other the Son of God the Father (Stern 83).
had been imprisoned: Grk. deō, perf. pass. part., bound in the sense of physical restraint. with the insurrectionists: Grk. stasiastēs, one who violently defies public authority, an insurgent or rebel. who had committed: Grk. poieō, plperf., to do or perform something. murder: Grk. phonos, the unlawful taking of human life, i.e., murder, as well as the lawful taking of life in capital punishment (Acts 9:1). Taking the life of another in defense of oneself or others is not included in the meaning of this word. Jeremias suggests that Barabbas belonged to the anti-Roman party of the Sicarii (52). The Sicarii (lit. "dagger-men) were contract assassins and a splinter group of the Jewish Zealots. in the insurrection: Grk. stasis, a position or stance that challenges public order, an uprising, sedition or insurgency. The noun has the definite article in Greek, suggesting a specific event that had occurred in the past. The two men named "Yeshua" are further contrasted. Barabbas was a murderer, a spiritual kin of Satan who was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Yeshua was the sinless Savior, the one who would soon provide atonement for Barabbas.
8 The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them.
The crowd: Grk. ochlos, an aggregate of people, which may indicate either a mass of people in general (most often the case) or sometimes as persons constituting a lower class in contrast to persons in authority. Given the question they ask the crowd could be simply a mob hired by the chief priests or friends of Barabbas. went up: Grk. anabainō, aor. part., to go up to a point or place that is higher than the point of origin. The verb probably refers to going up steps. and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them: The Greek phrase lit. means "began to ask as he used to do for them" (Marshall). The question refers to a standing custom begun by Pilate.
9 Pilate answered them, saying, "Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?"
Do you want: Grk. thelō, pres., to have a desire for something. me to release: Grk. apoluō, aor. subj., to set free from a condition or obligation, here used of confinement. for you the King: Grk. basileus, king or chief ruler. In contrast to the chief priests Pilate uses the definite article, meaning not just a self-proclaimed king, but The King. of the Jews: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 2 above. Stating the title in this manner is intentional, but connects Yeshua's position in relation to the ethnic people, not a political state. The question no doubt intends to taunt Yeshua's accusers. Pilate is really saying "your King," which the chief priests had already denied.
Pilate apparently did not believe Yeshua to be guilty, but rather than pronouncing an acquittal he decided it would be politically expedient to deal with this case in terms of the Passover amnesty. Two forms of amnesty existed in Roman law: the abolitio or acquittal of a prisoner not yet condemned, and the indulgentia, or pardoning of one already condemned (Lane 552). Since Yeshua had yet to be condemned and sentenced, then Pilate clearly intended to grant the abolitio. Since it was the custom to release a prisoner at Passover time he assumed that the people would ask for Yeshua.
Some scholars have challenged the historicity of the Passover amnesty, primarily because Josephus offers no evidence that such a custom ever existed. However, Lane points out there was a parallel in Roman law that an imperial magistrate could pardon and acquit individual prisoners in response to the shouts of the populace, and at least two such court records of actual pardons at the behest of public clamor exist (553). In a parallel situation public sentiment influenced the release of Peter from the Sanhedrin's custody (Acts 4:21).
10 For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.
For he was aware: Grk. ginoskō, impf., to have information about or to form a judgment about something. Pilate was not a stupid man for all his antipathy toward the Jews. that the chief priests: pl. of Grk. archiereus, a high or chief priest. See the note on verse 1 above. had handed Him over: Grk. paradidōmi, plperf., to convey from one position to another, to deliver. because of envy: Grk. phthonos, a state of envy. Envy is included in Paul's list of works of the flesh (Gal 5:21) and there the word is plural because it can be it is manifested in various forms. Generally speaking envy may be defined as a feeling of discontent due to perceived advantages, possessions or success of another person and desiring that same thing for oneself.
However, the desire can sour and become glad when the one with the perceived advantage experiences misfortune or pain. The desire can lead to a jealousy of an embittered mind and consider God at fault for allowing the disparity in advantages to exist at all. Then, instead of trying to raise oneself to the level of the one with the perceived advantage, the envious one desires to depress the envied one to his own level. The chief priests could well have been envious of Yeshua's popularity, teaching ability and inherent goodness that condemned their greed and corruption.
11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead.
But the chief priests: pl. of Grk. archiereus, a high or chief priest. There were at most twenty chief priests, so Mark leaves the identity of those involved in this situation obscure. stirred up: Grk. anaseiō, aor., to move something here or there in a brisk fashion with the notion of agitating or inciting toward some purpose. From Mark's point of view the chief priests were the instigators behind the demands of the crowd and perhaps even recruited the crowd. It's also possible that since releasing a prisoner was a custom in Passover that friends of Barabbas were present and hoping for an audience.
the crowd: Grk. ochlos, an aggregate of people without specific implication of size. The term can imply persons constituting a lower class in contrast to persons in authority or with distinction in the community. to ask: The verb "to ask" is not in the Greek text. him to release: Grk. apoluō, aor. subj., to grant freedom to, to release from custody, 'he should release.' Barabbas: See the note on verse 7. for them instead: Grk. mallon, an adverb that refers to a change in procedure or circumstances involving an alternative with a focus on an increase in consideration.
12 Answering again, Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?"
Answering: Grk. apokrinō, aor. pass. part., to make a response to a specific query to answer, reply, counter or rejoin. again: Grk. palin, adv., emphasizes something repetitive in a narrative, 'again,' 'once more.' The adverb refers back to the question in verse 9. Pilate: See the note on verse 1. said to them, "Then what shall I do: Grk. poieō, aor. subj., to bring about a state or condition, to do something of an objective nature. with Him whom you call: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether in oral or written form, here to call or to name. the King: Grk. basileus, king or chief ruler. See verse 2 above. of the Jews: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 2 above.
They shouted: Grk. krazō, aor. act. ind., to utter a loud cry or to express something with vigorous voice, to call out. back: Grk. palin, lit. "again." See the note on the previous verse. Crucify Him: Grk. stauroō, aor. act. imp., to cause to undergo physical crucifixion, the method of capital punishment that Romans reserved for non-citizens. In the LXX stauroō translates Heb. talah (hang, hang up) in Esther 7:9, which depicts the execution of Haman. The imperative mood of the verb indicates the passionate urgency Yeshua's enemies felt. The verb occurs eight times in this chapter. Crucifixion was not a normal Jewish means of execution, and, in fact, the Torah pronounced a curse on anyone hanged on a tree (Deut 21:23). The Mishnah prescribed four methods of execution—stoning, burning, beheading and strangling (Sanh. 7:1).
Affixing a person to an upright stake with nails was used by the Romans to execute criminals who were not Roman citizens. Roman executions normally took place outside a town. In Roman-occupied Israel public crucifixions were common. The cross was a vertical wooden stake with a crossbar, usually shaped more like a "T" than the Christian symbol. At the execution site the stake was sunk into the earth in an upright position. There were two possible ways of erecting the stauros-stake. The condemned man could be fastened to the cross lying on the ground at the place of execution, and so lifted up with the cross. Alternatively, and more commonly, the stake would be implanted in the ground before the execution. As this was the simpler form of erection, the one being punished carried the cross-beam to the place of execution.
On arrival at the place of execution the victim was stripped and scourged. The prisoner was often tied (the normal method) or nailed by his wrists to the crossbeam (if a quicker death was desired). John's narrative indicates Yeshua was nailed by his hands (John 20:20, 25). The victim was then hoisted up with the cross-beam and made fast to the vertical stake. The cross beam was fixed so that the victim's feet were off the ground, but not necessarily very high off the ground. There was also a horn-like wooden block placed on the stake which the crucified man straddled to provide a seat for the body. The block took some of the weight of the body and prevented the flesh tearing from the nails. Finally the feet were tied or nailed to the post. Luke's narrative indicates Yeshua's feet were also nailed (Luke 24:39).
The prisoner was left hanging in excruciating torment until he expired, usually many hours later from exhaustion, loss of blood circulation and coronary failure or suffocation. The body was left to rot for days, with carrion birds allowed to degrade the corpse further. This was a horrific way to die (DNTT 1:392-393). John's narrative records that in addition to the shout for crucifixion the chief priests added, "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15), which reveals their utter spiritual bankruptcy. There was no reason to make a public denial of God as their king. Their declaration is ironic in that Yeshua's enemies had tried to trap him into making a treasonous statement against Rome in the dispute over payment of taxes (12:14) and yet here they are committing treason against the God of Israel.
14 But Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they shouted all the more, "Crucify Him!"
What evil: Grk. kakos, adj., may mean (1) morally or socially reprehensible, something that violates community standards, thus bad, wrong or evil; or (2) causing harm with focus on personal or physical injury, bad, injurious or harmful. In the LXX kakos is used predominately to render Heb. ra, which has the same dual meaning (DNTT 1:562). Kakos here refers to evil as a moral quality. has He done: This sounds like a strange question for a cruel Roman governor to ask. He was not asking how Yeshua had violated Torah. "What has he done that is so bad that you want him killed?" But they shouted: Grk. krazō, aor., to utter a loud cry, to scream or to cry out. all the more: Grk. perissōs, adv., to a high degree, 'intensely,' or 'even more.'
"Crucify Him: Grk. stauroō, aor. imp. See the previous verse. The crowd was beyond reason. The call to crucify Yeshua was probably like a repeated slogan that forestalled any logical discussion with Pilate. Matthew's narrative has a few distinctive elements at this point in the story. First, Pilate's wife sent a message to him to have nothing to do with Yeshua because of a bad dream (Matt 27:19). Second, after the insistence of the crowd on crucifixion for Yeshua, Pilate took water and washed his hands declaring himself innocent of Yeshua's blood (Matt 27:24). Third, the crowd surprisingly responded with "His blood shall be on us and on our children!" (Matt 27:25).
The self-imposed curse is shocking because the crowd is taking responsibility for the condemnation of Yeshua. Unless they were members of the Sanhedrin they had no direct accountability. The tragic fact of history is that because of this statement the early church fathers and their successors blamed all Jews for the crucifixion of Yeshua (so-called deicide), and this prejudice and malice led to persecution and discrimination against Jews by the Roman Church for centuries. Not until 1965 did the Roman Catholic Church take official action to repudiate both the deicide charge and all forms of antisemitism. (See the declaration of Pope Paul VI.)
Stern observes that a mob cannot speak in an official capacity for anyone, let alone for a people yet unborn (83). In the light of Ezekiel 18, no one can invoke a curse on someone else, because each person is responsible for his own sin. Moreover, even were the curse effectual, Yeshua prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
15 Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
Wishing: Grk. boulomai, pres. mid. part., to will, to wish or to want. to satisfy: The verb translates a noun verb combination, Grk. ikanos, sufficient; and Grk. poieō, aor. inf., to do or accomplish something. The combination functions as an idiom 'to satisfy.' the crowd: Grk. ochlos. See verse 8 above. The crowd in front of Pilate included chief priests who were urging the crowd and taunting Pilate (verse 11 above). Pilate released Barabbas for them: Pilate no doubt knew that Barabbas was far more dangerous than Yeshua, but in the end it was political expediency that determined his actions. According to John's narrative the chief priests had the audacity to challenge Pilate's loyalty to Caesar: "If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar" (John 19:12). In the Roman empire distinguished officials were referred to by the name amicus Caesaris, 'Caesar's friend' (Santala 224).
Pilate well understood the implied threat. He had already been taken to task by Caesar over not respecting Jewish law (see the note on 1b above) and failure to give them what they wanted was a sure invitation to outside interference. Challenging Pilate in this manner succeeds, and he places himself on his judge's seat, known in Hebrew as Gabbatha (John 19:13), and from there pronounces his final verdict. and after having Jesus scourged: Grk. phragelloō, aor. part., to inflict punishment after sentencing with a specially designed whip, to flog or to scourge. The beating fulfilled the prophecy, "The plowmen plowed on my back; wounding me with long furrows" (Ps 129:3 CJB). he handed Him over: Grk paradidōmi, aor., to deliver. See the note on verse 1b above. to be crucified: Grk. stauroō, aor. pass. subj. See the note on verse 13. Scourging normally preceded crucifixion, so that the prisoner was weakened considerably before being hung on the cross.
The trial before Pilate has fostered considerable debate and discussion over who is to blame for Yeshua's crucifixion. For centuries the Church blamed all Jews. Now in the modern era sympathy for the Jews has caused some interpreters to shift all the blame to Pilate (Young, Jewish Theologian 225). After all, it was Pilate who gave the capital punishment order. Tacitus, the Roman historian states that Yeshua was crucified at the order of Pilate without any mention of the Jewish trials (Ann. XV, 44:29). Sometimes the issue of blame overlooks the sovereign plan that Yeshua had to die as he himself predicted at least three times. Peter on the day of Pentecost affirmed that Yeshua died as a result of "the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). Yeshua was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8).
Yet, paradoxically, God's sovereignty did not eliminate man's responsibility. The rest of Peter's statement fixes the blame, "you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death." Even though Roman soldiers did the dastardly deed they were merely agents for Jewish leadership. Stephen lambasted the Sanhedrin for illegally executing Yeshua and actually accused the Sanhedrin of murder (Acts 7:51-52). Josephus, the Jewish historian, records that Pilate condemned Yeshua to the cross "at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us" (Ant. XVIII, 3:3). So from his point of view and the later expressed viewpoint of the apostles, the Sanhedrin was culpable.
Yeshua, though, narrowed the responsibility down to one man when he said to Pilate, "he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin" (John 19:11). Two individual men had responsibility, Caiaphas and Pilate, and Caiaphas had the greater sin. These two men illustrate the reality that Yeshua died for Jews and Gentiles, and the order of their actions stands behind all the passages that speak of the good news being for the Jews first and then for the Gentiles (Acts 14:1; 18:4; 19:10, 17; 20:21; Rom 1:16; 2:9-10).
With the ministry of Paul the Body of Messiah gained a new perspective. Paul was certainly well acquainted with the chain of events that concluded on Golgotha. However, he draws attention at least a dozen times in his letters to Yeshua giving his life as an atoning sacrifice. So the focus became not who was responsible for executing Yeshua, but the meaning of his death. Yeshua died for all (Rom 5:6; 6:10; 2Cor 5:14-15). Even Peter modified his tone when he wrote his first letter, "For Messiah once suffered for sins - the righteous for the unrighteous - in order to bring you to God" (1Pet 3:18 TLV).
Scourging and Mocking
Parallel Passage: Matthew 27:26-31; John 19:1-3
16 The soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they called together the whole Roman cohort.
The soldiers: pl. of Grk. stratiōtēs, soldier in the military sense. The Greek term is somewhat broad in scope and would include ranks below Centurion. The basic Roman soldier was called a milites. took Him away: Grk. apagō, to lead out, to lead away. into the palace: Grk. aulē, an enclosed open space or a dwelling place. In the LXX the term translates Heb. chatser (SH-2691), a court or courtyard of the tabernacle (Ex 27:9) or temple (1Kgs 7:12), or a prison (Jer 32:2) or a private house (2Sam 17:18; Neh 8:16) or the residence of the king (Jer 36:20; Esth 1:5; Dan 2:49).
that is, the Praetorium: Grk. Praitōrion, the residence of the Roman procurator in Jerusalem. The official residence of the Roman governors of Judea was actually at Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast (Josephus, Wars, II, 9:2). The traditional view is that this residence was in the Fortress of Antonia on the northwest side of the Temple (cf. Acts 21:32-35). This view may be right, but it is difficult to find evidence to support it. E.W.G. Masterman in the ISBE article Praetorium says that Josephus makes it almost certain that the headquarters of the procurator were at the palace of Herod located on the southwest hill called Zion (Wars, I, 21:1; V, 4:4).
Philo reports an incident in which Pilate set up gilded shields in Herod's palace (Embassy to Gaius, XXXVIII), which conforms to the report of Josephus that Pilate had introduced images of Caesar on ensigns into Jerusalem (Ant. XVIII, 3:1). Some years later the last procurator Florus (AD 64-66) lodged in the same palace (Wars, II, 14:8; 15:5). Masterman points out how greatly this view of the situation of the Praetorium would modify the traditional claims of the "Via Dolorosa," the whole course of which depends on theory that the "Way of Sorrow" began at the Antonia, the Praetorium of late ecclesiastical tradition.
and they called together: Grk. sugkaleō, to call together, to assemble, probably by means of a trumpet call. the whole Roman cohort: Grk. speira, cohort, which consisted of ten centuria or 480 men, not counting officers. The term occurs ten times in the Besekh.
17 They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him;
They dressed Him up: Grk. peritithēmi, pres., to put or place around or on. The present tense is used for dramatic emphasis. in purple: Grk. porphura is a loanword in Jewish rabbinic literature, based on the name of the purple fish (a shell-fish, murex) from which a dye was obtained for use in cloth (BAG 100). Elsewhere in the apostolic writings porphura is used to refer to the clothing of a rich man (Luke 16:19), fabric sold by Lydia of Thyatira (Acts 16:14), the garment worn by the great harlot (Rev 17:4), and a commodity in commerce (Rev 18:12). Here the term is used as an idiom for an article of clothing. Rienecker suggests that the garment was the cloak of one of the soldiers, possibly a castoff and faded rag, but with color enough left in it to suggest the royal purple.
and after twisting: Grk. plekō, aor. part., to plait, of making a wreath to serve as a crown. a crown: Grk. stephanos referred to a wreath or crown, often made from palm branches and a symbol of distinction. In the apostolic writings the term is used of a literal crown, e.g., the crown of thorns, a winning athlete’s wreath (1Cor 9:25) and a crown worn by the overcomers in Revelation 3:11. In the LXX stephanos translates the Heb. atarah, the royal crown and corresponding figurative uses (e.g., 2Sam 12:30; 1Chr 20:2; SS 3:11) (DNTT 1:405). of thorns: Grk. akanthinos, having thorns, thorny. they put it on Him: Grk. endiduskō, pres., to put on. Setting the crown on Yeshua's head was no doubt done with some force so that his skin was pierced by the thorns. The Roman emperors appear on coins wearing garlands (Jeremias 88). Yeshua's "kingly crown" of thorns reflects the soldiers' mockery.
18 and they began to acclaim Him, "Hail, King of the Jews!"
they began: Grk. archomai, aor. mid., to commence in order of time. to acclaim Him: Grk. aspazomai, pres. mid. inf., to greet, but in this instance the verb means to pay one's respects in buffoonery. Hail: Grk. chairō, pres. imp., greetings, an expression of greeting that is normally tantamount to assuring the other of one's good will. Here the verb is a form of mockery. King of the Jews: For the title see verse 2 above. For the soldiers the title had only an earthly meaning. They were not impressed as they knew that many kings of lands conquered by the Roman Empire had been humiliated.
19 They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him.
They kept beating: Grk. tuptō, impf., to strike, to hit. His head with a reed: Grk. kalamos is an old word for a growing reed (Matt 11:7), which grew in immense brakes in the Jordan Valley (Robertson). In normal usage kalamos indicates a reed that was often used for measuring with a Hebrew unit of measure equaling six cubits. A cubit was 17 to 18 inches long based on the length of the forearm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. and spitting: Grk. emptuō, impf., to spit on. Here Yeshua's prophecy of 10:34 is fulfilled. There is irony here in that the spittle of Yeshua healed and restored a man's hearing on one occasion (7:33) and a man's sight on another occasion (8:23), but here the spittle of the sinner only expresses disdain. on Him and kneeling: Grk. tithēmi, pres. part., a physical motion, usually to place or put, but used here to indicate kneeling. and bowing: Grk. proskuneō, impf., to worship, to pay homage, here a mockery in terms of Caesar worship or oriental ideas of kingship (Rienecker).
20 After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him.
After they had mocked: Grk. empaizō, aor., to make an object of ridicule, to mock, to make a laughingstock. All the mockery fulfilled the prophecy, "For dogs have surrounded me. A company of evil-doers have enclosed me" (Ps 22:16 HNV). they took the purple robe off Him: See verse 17 above. and put on: Grk. enduō, aor., to put on, to clothe. His own garments: pl. of Grk. himation, a covering for the body, generally referring to clothing or apparel, but in this context it means an outer garment. In the LXX himation rendered the Heb. beged, meaning both the outer garment and the clothes as a whole (DNTT 1:316). In the Tanakh beged meant garment, clothing, raiment, or robe of any kind (BDB 94). For Yeshua the beged was a simple rectangular cloak or robe, typically made of wool, that was worn daily. The himation was worn over an undergarment, Grk. chitōn (Matt 5:40). In the LXX chitōn renders Heb. kethoneth, "tunic," the principal ordinary garment made of linen and worn next to the skin by both men and women (BDB 509). Since the noun is plural it probably stands for both garments, which implies that the soldiers had stripped Yeshua naked. And they led Him out: Grk. exagō, pres., to lead or take out. to crucify Him: Grk. stauroō, aor. subj. See verse 13 above.
En Route to the Cross
Parallel Passage: Matthew 27:32; Luke 23:26-32; John 19:17
21 They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.
They pressed into service: Grk. aggareuō, pres., to compel or force someone to do something, often with a military nuance. In this instance a Roman soldier requisitioned help. a passer-by: Grk. paragō, pres. part., to pass in the act of going. coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. part., to come or to arrive, implying a position from which action or movement takes place. from the country: Grk. agros normally refers to a plot of ground used mainly for agriculture (Matt 13:24), i.e., a field, and occasionally as the countryside outside a city or village (Mark 15:21; 16:15; Luke 23:26). The arrival is not mere coincidence, but a God-ordained appointment.
Simon: Grk. Simōn, which almost transliterates the Hebrew name Shim'on ("he has heard") exactly. of Cyrene: Grk. Kurēnaios, a Cyrenian. Located in northern Africa, Cyrene was the capital city of the Roman district of Cyrenaica during the apostolic era. Cyrenaica and Crete formed one province. Simon of Cyrene may have belonged to the rather large population of Greek-speaking Jews who resided in Cyrene during the first part of the first century A.D. There were also Jewish Cyrenians living in Jerusalem who belonged to the synagogue mentioned in Acts 6:9. Some of the festival pilgrims from Cyrene would no doubt have stayed in the guest house attached to this synagogue (Jeremias 71). Later some members from this group embraced the Messiah and as his disciples ventured into Antioch to preach the good news there to Hellenistic Jews. (On this evangelistic mission see my web article What is a Christian?)
the father: Grk. patēr, referring to one's immediate biological father. of Alexander: Grk. Alexandros, a popular Greek name that meant "defending men," from the Greek alexō ("to defend, help") and anēr ("man"). The name is borne by five persons in the Besekh (also Acts 4:6; 19:33; 1Tim 1:20; 2Tim 4:14). Nothing more is known of this Alexander. It was not unusual for a Jew to have a Greek name; since other disciples also bore Greek names (Andrew, Philip, and Timothy). Quite possibly what happened was that, like today, the parents knew someone with the name or just simply liked how it sounded.
Rufus: Grk. Rouphos, masc. name, from the Latin rufus, "red." He is mentioned in Romans 16:13 as someone to whom Paul directs greetings. Everett Harrison suggests that on the supposition that Mark composed his book at Rome, the mention of Rufus may be explained because of his being well known to local readers ("Romans," Expository Bible Commentary). According to church tradition this is the same Rufus who eventually became bishop in Thebes, Greece (Hippolytus, On the Seventy Apostles). Thebes was a short distance north of Athens. to bear: Grk. airō, aor. subj., to cause to move upward or to move by lifting or taking from one position to another.
His cross: Grk. stauros, a structure used in carrying out a death sentence, cross. The term does not specifically imply the nature of its construction. In early Classical Greek writers (e.g. Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon) the stauros referred to an upright stake, especially a pointed one (Thayer). The corresponding Hebrew word is tzelav (Gruber-Notes 8), but stauros does not occur in the LXX at all (DNTT 1:393). However, Josephus, in referring to Esther 7:9 uses stauros for the Hebrew word ets ('tree,' 'gallows') (Antiquities of the Jews, XI, 6:10-11). See the note on verse 13 above concerning crucifixion.
John's narrative of the trip to the cross makes no mention of the assistance provided by Simon. Luke's narrative at this point (Luke 23:27-32) contains three distinctive elements: (1) a description of a crowd following Yeshua and they were mourning, which forms a sharp contrast with the crowd that demanded the release of Barabbas and the death of Yeshua. (2) Yeshua makes a prophetic announcement of coming judgment. (3) Luke mentions that the two robbers crucified with Yeshua were a part of this procession.
Parallel Passages: Matthew 27:33-49; Luke 23:22-36; John 19:18-29
22 Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull.
Then they brought Him: Grk. pherō, to move an entity from one position to another by physical movement. to the place: Grk. topos, a geographical area or a named locality. Golgotha: Grk. Golgotha. Golgotha is a transliteration of a Hebrew word gulgolet, the basic meaning being "something round or rolling" and then by implication, "head or skull" (Hamp 46). This word is found throughout the pages of the Tanakh (e.g. 2Kgs 9:35). The second "L”, or Hebrew letter lamed, was simply assimilated in the Greek transliteration, which is a very common occurrence in languages. Golgotha was later translated into the Latin word for skull, Calvary.
Scholars almost uniformly identify Golgotha as Aramaic (e.g., BAG, Danker, Geldenhuys 613, Lane 560, and Morris 804). Identification of Golgotha as Aramaic is based on the grammatical point that the alpha at the end of Golgotha reflects the definite article of an Aramaic word. However, the designation of Hebrew words in the apostolic narratives as Aramaic proceeds not from actual evidence but from a belief that Aramaic was the common language of the time and Hebrew was spoken little outside of rabbinic circles. David Flusser, Orthodox Jewish scholar at Hebrew University, rebuts this common belief:
"The spoken languages of that period [first century] were Hebrew, Aramaic, and to an extent Greek….It is possible that Jesus did, from time to time, make use of the Aramaic language. But during that period Hebrew was both the daily language and the language of study. ….There is thus no ground for assuming that Jesus did not speak Hebrew; and when we are told (Acts 21:40) that Paul spoke Hebrew, we should take this piece of information at face value" (Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, Adama Books, 1987, p. 11).
We can know that Golgotha is Hebrew and not Aramaic because John clearly says in 19:17 that the word is Hebrew (Grk. Hebraisti). The Greek word-group for Hebrew (Hebraios, Hebrais, Hebraisti) occurs 14 times in the Greek New Testament. Yet, the belief in Aramaic as the language of Yeshua and the apostles is so entrenched in Christian scholarship that some versions render the word-group with "Aramaic" in about half the passages (e.g., CEV, ESV, NCV, NIV, NLT). Even Messianic Jewish Versions (CJB, TLV) show influence of this bias. Only the GNB, HCSB, HNV, KJV, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, and RSV consistently translate the Hebraios word-group as "Hebrew.”
An important consideration is that the LXX uses Hebrais to translate the word Ibri, "Hebrew,” the language of the Judeans (e.g. 2Kgs 18:26, 28; 2Chr 32:18; Neh 13:24; Isa 36:11, 13), but uses Suristi (Syrian) to translate Aramit, "Aramaic" (e.g., 2Kgs 18:26; Ezra 4:7; Isa 36:11; Dan 2:4). Suristi does not occur in the Greek New Testament at all, although the related form Suros (Syrian) does occur in Luke 4:27. It is clear that the Greek of the apostolic writings is the Greek of the LXX and Greek words in the Besekh mean what they mean in the LXX. Put another way, the LXX is foundational to correctly translating and interpreting the Besekh. If the apostolic authors had intended to say "Aramaic" they would have used Suristi (or Suros), not Hebrais. It's as simple as that.
It seems very strange that the scholars should be so convinced that Yeshua and the apostles communicated primarily in Aramaic instead of Hebrew, the language of the Tanakh. As far as we can tell from the Tanakh, the only language God ever used to speak to His people was Hebrew. A number of scholars (Bivin, Buth, Flusser, Hamp, Lindsey, Penner, Safrai, Stern, and Tverberg) have presented strong evidence that Yeshua and the apostles spoke conversational Hebrew as their first language.
which is translated: Grk. methermēneuō, pres. pass. part., to render a term from one language to another, to translate. place: Grk. topos. of a Skull: Grk. kranion, skull. If Golgotha was Aramaic John should have written the definition as – "place of the skull (Grk. tou kraniou)” to insure that both "Golgotha" and "skull" had the definite article according to Aramaic grammar. But since John had already said that the word is Hebrew, then he accurately gives the translation, "place of a skull" (Grk. kraniou topos) (Hamp 46).
The location of Golgotha is a matter of some debate, because it's not clear whether this name is a reference to the shape of the hillside (as seen in the modern Garden Tomb) or simply to its purpose as a place of execution. The Catholic Church places the site west of the Temple Mount at the current Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Protestant tradition locates the site north of the Temple Mount. Kasdan suggests that the site was east of the city in the area of the Mount of Olives, just east of the Golden Gate (371, 379). Wherever Golgotha was located it was clearly "outside the camp" (Heb 13:13), i.e. outside the city.
23 They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it.
They tried to give Him: Grk. didōmi, impf., lit. "they were giving." The imperfect tense, indicating continuous action in past time is represented in the translation of "they tried." wine: Grk. oinos, wine, the fermented beverage. mixed with myrrh: Grk. smurnizō, perf. pass. part., to add myrrh, in this case to the wine. but He did not take it: Grk. lambanō, aor., lit. "to receive." According to an old Jewish tradition, respected women of Jerusalem provided a narcotic drink to those condemned to death in order to decrease the pain (Sanh. 43a), based on the instruction of Proverbs 31:6, "Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter." Mark does not identify the ones who performed this act of charity, but they may have been the "daughters of Jerusalem" who accompanied Yeshua to his crucifixion (Luke 23:27-29). Nevertheless, Yeshua declined to drink of the charitable cup.
Commentators generally say that Yeshua refused the wine in order to endure with full consciousness the sufferings appointed for him (10:38; 14:36) (Lane 564, Kasdan 371). There could have been two other factors that motivated Yeshua's decision. First, he had said of the second cup at his Passover, "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes" (Luke 22:18). If he drunk of this wine he would have violated his own word, making himself a liar. Second, he was the Lamb that would take away the sins of the world, an atoning sacrifice. Not only was he the Lamb, but he was (and is) also the great high priest. The Torah prohibited priests from drinking fermented wine or strong drink when they offered sacrifices in God’s presence (Lev 10:9; Ezek 44:21). Yeshua was faithful to the end in obeying the Torah.
24 And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take.
And they crucified: Grk. stauroō, pres. See verse 13 above. The present tense denotes purpose, not an accomplished act. Like the other narratives Mark only states the fact of Yeshua being crucified without giving gory details. Nevertheless enough information was provided to confirm the fulfillment of prophecy.
"Bind the festival sacrifice (Heb chag) with cords to the horns of the altar" (Ps 118:27)
"they pierced my hands and my feet." (Ps 22:16)
"But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities" (Isa 53:5)
"I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced." (Zech 12:10)
and divided up among themselves: Grk. diamerizō, pres. mid., to distribute, to divide among themselves. His garments: pl. of Grk. himation. See the note on verse 20 above. casting: Grk. ballō, pres. part., to cast, scatter or throw. lots: Grk. klēros, an object used in deciding, a lot, that is, a pebble or small stick. The team of Roman soldiers in charge of the crucifixion had the right to claim the clothing of the condemned man. The casting of the lots would decide what each man would take. John's account points out that this action fulfilled the Scripture "They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots (Ps 22:18).
25 It was the third hour when they crucified Him.
The NASB leaves untranslated the first word, Grk. de, conj., "now," used to show slight contrast or transition in narrative. It was: Grk. eimi, impf., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). The imperfect tense denotes continuous action in past time. the third: Grk. tritos, the numeral three. hour: Grk. hōra, a period of time in the day. The time reference is somewhat relative since there were no clocks. Jews reckoned time from sunrise, so the third hour would be a least 9 A.M. when: Grk. kai, conj., "and." This is typical Hebraic syntax.
they crucified Him: Grk. stauroō, aor. See verse 13 above. The verbal clause is lit. "and they crucified him," which appears to be a redundancy given the mention in verse 24a, but the difference in verb tenses explains the repetition. The use of "when" is more interpretation than translation. The time reference as it stands has no parallel in Matthew and Luke and seems at odds with John 19:14, which mentions the sixth hour before the trial had been completed. Four suggestions have been offered to reconcile the passages:
(1) Copyist Invention: Lane suggests that in spite of firm textual support for the verse, it must be a gloss inserted by an early reviser who noticed that Mark failed to state the hour when Yeshua was nailed to the cross (567). The reviser chose "third hour" because it appeared consistent with the three-hour interval in verse 33. There is, of course, no evidence to support this proposal.
(2) Transcription Error: Metzger points out that a few late MSS read ektos (sixth), but believes that tritos arose out of confusion between the Greek numerals gamma "G" (= 3) and sigma "ú" (= 6) (99). Against this proposal is the fact that most MSS contain the "third hour" reading. Surely, copyists would not keep on making the same mistake in multiple MSS in different locations.
(3) Roman Time: B.F. Westcott suggested that John used the "Roman" method of computing time, whereby the day began at midnight as with us. The sixth hour in John 19:14 would thus be 6 A.M., whereas Mark, using the Israeli method of beginning the day at sunrise, would mean about 9 A.M. by his "third hour." Morris demonstrates that evidence for this thesis is weak (800). John 4:6 has Yeshua stopping at the well outside Sychar at the sixth hour, and this can hardly be 6 A.M.
(3) Verse Division Error. Both Lane and Morris cite A. Mahoney, who argued that the words "at the third hour" should be taken with the preceding verse about the casting of lots and not with the words about the crucifixion (CBQ, XXVIII, 1966, pp. 292-99). Mahoney thinks that this casting of lots took place at the time of the scourging, well before the crucifixion." Lane believes his proposal conflicts with verse 20 which speaks of the return of Yeshua's clothing to him following the scourging (567). Lane probably didn't reckon with the fact that the only ones who would claim the clothing would be members of the crucifixion team, not soldiers in the cohort. Morris allows that the suggestion has merit (800). With this solution a lit. translation of the verses would be:
"24 And they are about to crucify him, and they divide the garments of him casting a lot on them what one might take; now it was third hour. 25 And they crucified him."
Are there any arguments for the legitimacy of the verse as it stands? Scholarly suggestions include the following:
(1) What should be noted is that nowhere is it said that Yeshua was crucified at the sixth hour, although the Synoptic Narratives say there was darkness from the sixth hour to the ninth hour (verse 33 below).
(2) The literal wording of John 19:14 is, "Now it was preparation day of the Passover festival, the hour was about the sixth." The apostles are unanimous that Yeshua was taken to Pilate shortly after sunrise. It seems unlikely that it would take five or six hours for Yeshua's trial before Pilate to be concluded. The adverb "about" is a numerical estimate, and as such indicates that the sixth hour had not yet arrived.
(3) John doesn't mention the darkness that lasted from the sixth hour (noon) to the ninth hour (3 P.M.). In John's narrative the sixth hour is not significant for the crucifixion, but as the time when the chagigah sacrifice must be completed. This is one of the reasons for the urgency of the priests to get the trial of Yeshua over with.
With the above considerations Mark most likely gave us the actual time of the crucifixion.
26 The inscription of the charge against Him read, "THE KING OF THE JEWS."
The inscription: Grk. epigraphē, something inscribed on a surface, a written document. of the charge: Grk. aitia, the basis for something, reason, cause or circumstance. As a legal term it may mean cause or case (for indictment or punishment). Danker says that Pilate declares that he has no cause for an indictment, that is, he has no case = no indication of crime (11). against Him: lit. "of him." read: Grk. epigraphō, perf. pass. part., to inscribe. The perfect tense points to action completed in past time with continuing results to the present. The sign was completed before Yeshua made the journey to Golgotha.
THE KING OF THE JEWS: For this title see the commentary on verse 2 above. John's narrative records that the complete message of the sign read in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, "Yeshua of Nazareth, the King of the Judeans" (John 19:19-20). Hebrew was the language of the Jews, the Scripture and the Mishnah. Latin was the language of the Roman government for official purposes. Greek was the trade language for the Empire, a legacy of Alexander the Great.
27 They crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left.
They crucified: Grk. stauroō, pres. See verse 13 above. two robbers: pl. of Grk. lēstēs may mean either (1) one who engages forceful and illicit seizure of property, a robber or bandit; or (2) one who engages in violent activity against established social order, a revolutionary or insurrectionist. Matthew uses the same word as Mark, but Luke's use of kakourgos (evildoer, criminal) in 23:39 to describe these two men would favor the first definition. John makes no mention of the basis for their crucifixion (19:18).
with Him, one on His right: Grk. dexios, "right" as a direction relative to Yeshua's position. and one on His left: Grk. euōnumos, having an auspicious name, a euphemistic term for the left position because bad omens came from the left. Here "left" as a direction relative to Yeshua's position. Quite possibly the robber that gave the good confession (Luke 23:40-42) was on Yeshua's right and the one that hurled abuse at Yeshua was on his left. Consider Solomon's axiom, "A wise man's heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man's heart directs him toward the left" (Eccl 10:2). There is no explanation of how Yeshua ended up on the middle cross, but in that position his hands would be stretched out toward both sinners. The middle cross illustrates the universality of atonement, that Yeshua died for the whole world, for those who repent and for those who do not.
[28 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "And He was numbered with transgressors."]
The earliest and best MSS do not contain this verse, so the NASB put it in brackets. In any event the Scripture quoted is from Isaiah 53:12.
29 Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, "Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,
Those passing by: Grk. paraporeuomai, pres. mid. part., to make one's way. Golgotha must have been near a track or road that ran through the area. It's not clear whether these people just happened to be in the area or had come intentionally to Golgotha. The form of their verbal abuse would suggest the latter. were hurling abuse: Grk. blasphēmeō, impf., to cause damage to reputation by arrogant or demeaning speech or action, thus, to malign, to vilify, to slander, to blaspheme. at Him, wagging: Grk. kineō, pres. part., to cause to be in motion, to shake as a ridiculing gesture. their heads: pl. of Grk. kephalē, the head as an anatomical term. and saying: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, in this case oral. In narrative writing the verb "saying" serves as quotation marks.
Ha: Grk. oua, an interjection expressing a variety of emotions, in this case of scornful awe, "ah!" or "ha!" You who are going to destroy: Grk. kataluō, pres. part., to destroy or demolish. the temple: Grk. naos, a term that refers to the sanctuary proper, or the holy place, in contrast to hieros, a term that applied to the entire temple complex with its outer courts. and rebuild: Grk. oikodomeō, fut., to erect a structure. it in three: Grk. tritos, the numeral three. days: Grk. hēmera normally refers to the daylight hours, but also to the timeframe within which something takes place. The lie told by the false witnesses in Yeshua's trial before Caiaphas is repeated. See the comment on 14:58.
30 save Yourself, and come down from the cross!"
save: Grk. sōzō, aor. imp., to rescue from a hazardous condition or circumstance, here of bodily peril. Yourself, and come down: Grk. katabainō, aor. part., to proceed in a direction that is down. from the cross: Grk. stauros. See the note on verse 21.
31 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes were mocking Him among themselves and saying, "He saved others; He cannot save Himself.
In the same way: Grk. homoiōs, adv., likewise, in a similar manner. the chief priests: pl. of Grk. archiereus, a high or chief priest. See the note on verse 2 above. also, along with the scribes: pl. of Grk. grammateus (Heb. sofer) was a professional who performed various legal duties. See the note on verse 1 above, were mocking: Grk. empaizō, pres. part., to make an object of ridicule, to mock, ridicule or make a laughingstock. Matthew adds "elders" to the mocking group (Matt 27:41), identifying all of them as members of the Sanhedrin. Him among: Grk. pros, prep., to, or toward. themselves: pl. of Grk. allēlōn, a reciprocal pronoun, each other or one another. The Jewish leaders were saying similar things as the passers-by, but to one another. and saying, He saved others: Whether the mockers made this comment in derision it nevertheless was true. He rescued thousands of people from hunger, demonic oppression, bad health, and sins. He cannot save Himself: Again, this is a true statement uttered in ignorance of Yeshua's mission.
32 "Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!" Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.
Let this Christ: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Anointed One or Messiah. See the note on 1:1. It's important to remember that "Christ" is a Jewish term. "Christ" was not a Christian deity that would replace Judaism with a new religion and then force Jews to convert under pain of death. the King: Grk. basileus. See the note on verse 2 above. of Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means "God prevails" (BDB 975). The noun refers to both the covenant name of the chosen people and a reference to the individual biological descendants of Jacob (Gen 32:28). The word "Israel" occurs 68 times in the Besekh, four of which refer to the "land of Israel" (Matt 2:20, 21; 9:33; 10:23) and, except for Ephesians 2:12, the rest of the passages refers to the descendants of Jacob in a corporate sense.
The members of the Sanhedrin who mockingly referred to Yeshua as "King of Israel" knew well the title's significance in the Tanakh. The issue of a king for the people of Israel begins in the Torah:
"When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,' 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman." Deut 17:14-15
Sure enough after some three hundred years under various judges the Israelites asked Samuel for a king (1Sam 8:5-6). Samuel viewed this development as a tragedy because from the time of the Exodus until that point God had been Israel's king (Judg 8:23; 1Sam 8:7; 12:12). The united monarchy beginning with Saul lasted from about 1043 B.C. to 932 B.C., and the divided monarchy from 931 to 722 B.C. During that time only one king came closest to truly pleasing God, and that was David (1Sam 13:14). Only David received this fitting tribute: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5). The experience of these centuries with a human monarchy demonstrated over and over that a theocratic people need a completely perfect and righteous king.
The promise of the perfect king was given to David: "When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom (2Sam 7:12). This promise was renewed during the exile when God promised Ezekiel, "My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them." Finally, the birth of Yeshua represented these promises and so the Magi came seeking the King of the Jews (or perhaps "Judeans," Matt 2:1). After this the title "King of the Jews" appears 16 times, all in reference to Yeshua, all used by the Romans. The title "King of the Jews" was not really a Jewish title. The Sanhedrin knew the proper title to be "King of Israel."
In the rest of the Besekh, Yeshua is referred to as king several times, all significant. Paul calls Yeshua "King of Kings" (1Tim 6:15). In Hebrews Paul likens Yeshua to Melchizedek, the priestly king (Heb 7:1-3). Yeshua not only rules, he also redeems (Heb 7:24-25). In the book of Revelation Yeshua is sovereign ruler over all the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5), King of the Nations (Rev 15:3), the King of Kings (Rev 17:14) who leads a vast army to destroy the beast and to establish his reign on the earth (Rev 19:11-16). With Yeshua the nation of Israel again has God as king and yet a king of flesh and blood.
The reader should note that Yeshua's critics said "Israel" and not Palestine. Contrary to the erroneous labeling on Christian Bible maps and usage by Christian commentators there was no Palestine in Bible times. There is no Palestine now and to use the term in any biblical context can only be described as antisemitic. Both Matthew (Matt 2:20-21) and Yeshua (Matt 20:23; Luke 4:27; 7:9) identify the land as Israel even though the Romans only used the province names of Judea, Samaria and Galilee. See my web article The Land is Not Palestine. now come down: Grk. katabainō, aor. mid. See verse 30 above. from the cross: Grk. stauros. See verse 21 above. so that we may see: Grk. horaō, aor. subj., to perceive with the eyes, as well as mental perception based on experience.
and believe: Grk. pisteuō, aor. subj., in general Greek usage, means to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman, which essentially means to confirm or support (BDB 52). In the Niphal form 'aman means to be true, reliable or faithful and can be applied to men (e.g., Moses, Num 12:7), but especially to God who keeps his covenant and gives grace to those who love him (Deut 7:9). In the Hiphil form 'aman means to stand firm or trust as Abraham trusted in God's promise (Gen 15:6). In the Hebrew concept trust and faithfulness are inseparable. If one trusts, then one is faithful. Affirming a creed or believing in the existence of God is not the same as trusting in Yeshua's atoning work for salvation. Genuine trust must then produce faithfulness. Of course, Yeshua's critics were not speaking of walking by faith, but sight. Then had "seen" on many occasions and had not believed.
Those who were crucified with Him: Grk. sustauroō, perf. pass. part. See the note on verse 13. were also insulting Him: oneidizō, impf., to find fault with in demeaning fashion. Initially the two robbers were verbally abusive, which seems kind of strange. Yeshua was not to blame for their predicament.
Last Words of Yeshua
Parallel Passages: Matt 27:45-56; Luke 23:44-49
33 When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour.
When the sixth: Grk. ektos, the numeral six. hour: See the note on verse 25. About noon. Of interest is that the Romans marked noon on their sundials with VI, not XII (Morris 158). came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., took place, happened or occurred. darkness: Grk. skotos, the absence of light. fell: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., came. "Fell" is an unfortunate translation. How does darkness fall? over: Grk. epi, prep., over. the whole: Grk. olos, an adj. denoting a complete unit and necessarily every individual part. land: Grk. gē can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the planet earth in contrast to the heavens (BAG). The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets designates either (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) "the land" in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (TWOT 1:74).
With the preposition epi ("over") and the definite article, the phrase designates Golgotha, although the darkness could have spread much further, even over the entire land of Israel. until the ninth hour: about 3 P.M. The average reader might assume the darkness was caused by an eclipse, but there's no evidence of any natural cause for the darkness. It was a supernatural act of God, a visible sign of His judgment. Darkness was one of the plagues on Egypt (Ex 10:21-22) and is often associated with the judgment of God in writings of the prophets (Isa 8:22; 47:5; Jer 13:16; Joel 2:2; 3:14-15; Amos 8:9; Zeph 1:15).
The timing of the darkness is no accident. The sixth hour (3 P.M.) was the common time for the afternoon prayers at the temple. On this day at this time the priests were preparing the annual sacrifice of the national Passover lamb (Kasdan 374). In contrast to the lambs sacrificed on Nisan 14, this sacrifice on Nisan 15 was a sin offering.
At the ninth: Grk. enatos, the numeral nine. hour: Grk. hōra. See verse 25 above. Jesus: Yeshua. cried out: Grk. boaō, aor., use one's voice a high volume, to call or cry out, to shout. with a loud: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive, great. voice: Grk. phōnē, the faculty of producing an auditory impression, voice. In spite of his pain Yeshua raised his voice so all could hear him. Yeshua's declaration is generally taken to be Aramaic by commentators. See the note on Golgotha in verse 22 above. These words of Yeshua closely parallel the words in Psalm 22:1 in both the original Hebrew and in the Aramaic Targumim, though his words, as recorded in Mark 15:34 match neither exactly.
ELOI, ELOI: Grk. Elōi. Eloi is not Aramaic or Hebrew, but is in fact Greek. It is found in the LXX at Judges 5:5 where it translates the Hebrew word Elohi, a personal possessive form of El that means "My God." The Aramaic word for "My God" would be Elahi, as in Daniel 4:8 and 6:22, not Eloi. Matthew records that Yeshua said Eli, Eli (27:46). Yeshua, of course, did not say it one way for Matthew and another for Mark while on the cross. Matthew's narrative was originally written in Hebrew and so he preserved the Hebrew text of Psalm 22:1. It would seem that Mark opted to translate the words of David for his readers, and thus there is no contradiction between the two forms.
LAMA: Grk. lema, adv. meaning "why," is a very common word in the Hebrew Tanakh. SABACHTHANI: Grk. sabachthani appears to be of Aramaic origin, meaning "leave" or "forsake." It is used a total of five times in the Tanakh, all of which are found in the Aramaic portions of Daniel and Ezra. However, this word is found in the Hebrew of the Mishnah, which means that it had become assimilated into Hebrew. Because of assimilation the word became Hebrew just as words that were assimilated from French into English became English (such as "pork" and "beef"). which is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 25 above. translated: Grk. methermēneuō, pres. pass. part., to render a term from one language to another, to translate.
MY: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers. GOD: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. MY: Grk. egō. GOD: Grk. theos. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). In the LXX theos primarily renders the general names of God: El, Eloah and Elohim, but also YHVH (DNTT 2:67-70). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos. The noun occurs over 1300 times in the Besekh and is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel.
WHY: Grk. tís, interrogative pron. HAVE YOU FORSAKEN: Grk. egkataleipō, aor., may mean (1) leave, in the sense of permitting something to remain after a loss; or (2) abandon, forsake with the suggestion of peril. The second meaning applies here. ME: Grk. egō. The cry of Yeshua on the cross is certainly understandable, but presents a conundrum. Yeshua was nearing death and it had been dark for over two hours. In the dark Yeshua may well have felt isolated and abandoned. Perhaps his emotions were influenced by the awareness of the sin burden of the world resting on his shoulders. God had declared to Moses, "Cursed is everyone who hangs upon a cross" (Deut. 21:23) and now Yeshua experienced the full horror of what it meant to be cursed of God. The sinless Son of God died the sinner's death and as a result he understood in a very personal sense the separation between the sinner and God.
Over against his emotional reaction was the knowledge of the prophecy that the Messiah would not be abandoned to Sheol (Ps 16:10). He trusted in the faithfulness of His Father. Yeshua's questioning cry is actually a quotation of Psalm 22:1. Messianic Jews point out that in accordance with Jewish practice the citation of the first verse implies the entire Psalm. Perhaps Yeshua even recited the entire Psalm, but the bystanders could not hear Him. (There is an echo of this idea in Hebrews 5:7-9.) Yeshua was not complaining, expressing resentment or denouncing His Father, but affirming that all that was prophesied in the Messianic Psalm had been fulfilled.
Some Christians have erroneously concluded on the basis of 2 Corinthians 5:21 that Yeshua became sinful on the cross. The source of this mistaken belief is the failure of standard Christian Bibles to accurately interpret the Hebrew theology of the verse in harmony with the rest of Scripture. The TLV renders the verse, "He made One who knew no sin to become a sin offering on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." In the Tanakh the Hebrew word chattath (rendered by Grk. hamartia in the LXX) may mean either "sin" or "sin offering" (BDB 308). The Complete Jewish Bible, New Living Translation and The Message concur with the TLV's use of "sin offering." Yeshua as the unblemished Lamb of God, the perfect Passover lamb, bore our sins as a sin offering. He did not become sinful (cf. 1Cor 5:7; Heb 7:26; 1Pet 1:19; 1Jn 3:5).
Although the darkness that came over the land might have represented the Father turning His face away from the Son during those three hours, the cry of Yeshua represented how he felt rather than being the Father's attitude. He knew that the Father would not really forsake him because Psalm 22:24 says, "For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard." David goes on to speak of the positive outcome of the affliction: "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations will worship before You" (verse 27).
The Father didn't really forsake His Son, because after death Yeshua went to Paradise that very day (Luke 23:43), sat at the right hand of the Father in Heaven (Heb 1:3; 10:12; 12:2) and rested on the Sabbath. Then the Father raised Yeshua's body on the first day of the week. Yeshua' death was foreordained, after all, so his words on the cross also need to be considered in that context. The good news is that we have a high priest in Heaven who can sympathize with our sufferings and our sorrows. He has been there.
This saying is the fourth of seven "words" Yeshua uttered from the cross. Three of the sayings appear exclusively in Luke's narrative and three appear exclusively in John's narrative. The other saying appears both here and in Matthew. In Luke, Yeshua forgives his adversaries, reassures the good thief, and commends his spirit to the Father. In John, he speaks to his mother, says he thirsts, and declares the end of his earthly life. In Mark and Matthew, Yeshua cries out to God. This is the list in chronological order.
● "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
● "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
● "Woman, behold your son: behold your mother" (John 19:26-27).
● "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me" (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).
● "I thirst" (John 19:28).
● "It is finished" (John 19:30).
● "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46).
Yeshua's first three statements from the cross relate primarily to others, and he spoke them between 9:00 A.M. and noon. Yeshua's last four statements refer to himself and were spoken between noon and 3:00 P.M. ("Seven Words from the Cross," HBD). Traditionally, these seven sayings express 1. Forgiveness, 2. Salvation, 3. Relationship, 4. Abandonment, 5. Distress, 6. Triumph and 7. Reunion.
35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, "Behold, He is calling for Elijah."
When some of the bystanders: Grk. paristēmi, perf. part., to be bystander, to stand aside. He is calling for Elijah: Grk. Ēlias, which represents the Heb. Eliyah ("My God is Yah"). The prophet's name first occurs in 1 Kings 17:1 as Eliyahu and thereafter 62 times, but also as Eliyah (first in 2Kgs 1:3 and thereafter 4 times) (BDB 45). The LXX transliterates the name uniformly as Ēlias, and thus this form is followed in the Greek New Testament. The spelling of the prophet's name in the Besekh is an interesting historical story in English versions. The early English versions from 1395 to 1729 all render the name in the Besekh literally as "Elias." It was John Wesley in his 1755 translation of the New Testament who introduced "Elijah." The KJV-1768 version retained "Elias," but "Elijah" endured and was incorporated by succeeding English versions.
It's not clear why the bystanders should think Yeshua was calling for Elijah since Psalm 22 contains no mention of Elijah. They were probably at a distance when they heard Yeshua speak these words and Eli could have been easily mistaken for Eliyah. One scholar suggested that Yeshua cried out Eli atah "You are my God" and the bystanders heard Eliyah ta "Elijah come!" (Lane 573).
36 Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, "Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down."
Someone ran: Grk. trechō, aor. part., to move forward rapidly, to run. and filled: Grk. gemizō, aor. part., to load something, to fill. a sponge: Grk. spoggos, sponge. The skeleton of marine animals whose structure retains water. It was especially useful in bathing. The only instances of its use in the Bible center around giving Yeshua a drink while upon the cross (HBD). with sour wine: Grk. oxos, vinegar wine mixed with water, cheap sour wine. Marshall renders the term as vinegar. This is not the same quality wine mentioned in verse 23 above. A sour wine vinegar is mentioned in the Tanakh as a refreshing drink (Num 6:13; Ruth 2:14) and in Greek and Roman literature as well. It was a common beverage appreciated by laborers and soldiers because it relieved thirst more effectively than water and was inexpensive (Lane 573).
put it on a reed: Grk. kalamos. See verse 19 above. and gave Him a drink: Grk. potizō, impf., to furnish liquid for drinking, to give a drink. This action may have been in response to the saying "I thirst" (John 19:28). However, while the sponge may have been pressed to Yeshua's lips, the text is not clear concerning whether Yeshua took any of the vinegar. Let us see: Grk. horaō, aor. subj., to see with the eyes or perceive with the mind. whether Elijah: Because he never experienced death, Elijah has long been the focus of prayers of distress as it is part of Jewish tradition that Elijah might appear to help those in need (Kasdan 374). will come: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., to come or arrive. to take Him down: Grk. kathaireō, aor. inf., to take down from a position. Elijah had been taken up into heaven by a whirlwind (2Kgs 2:11), and yet he appeared with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:4). Yeshua confirmed that Elijah would return as Malachi prophesied (Mal 4:5-6; Matt 17:11) and he may well be one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11.
37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.
And Jesus: See the note on verse 1. uttered: Grk. aphiēmi, aor. part., to release or to let go. Marshall has "letting go." a loud: Grk. megas. See verse 34 above. cry: Grk. phōnē. See verse 34 above. and breathed His last: Grk. ekpneō, aor., to breathe out or forth, in a euphemistic sense to breathe one's last, to expire. It would appear that Yeshua willed himself to die, since normally a man could linger for days before expiring.
38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
And the veil: Grk. katapatesma, curtain which translates the Heb. parokhet. The design was given originally to Moses (Ex 26:31-33). According to Kasdan the veil was some 40 cubits long (60 feet) and 20 cubits (30 feet) wide (376). It consisted of a pattern of 72 squares, and the veil was the thickness of the palm of the hand. of the temple: Grk. naos. See the note on verse 29. The curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Holy Place. was torn: Grk. schizō, aor. pass., to cause to be in parts through force, to tear or rend. in two: Grk. duo, the numeral two, here of two parts. from top: Grk. anōthen, adv., from above, here both literally of the top of the curtain and metaphorically of heaven. to bottom: Grk. katō, adv., of a position that is relatively lower in position or perceived as such. The implication is clearly that God ripped the curtain apart, symbolic of removing the barrier between God and man because of the atoning work of Yeshua.
This was an auspicious day in Jewish history. Though the real reason is never told, The Talmud explains that the Sh'khinah glory of God left the Temple forty years prior to its destruction. Four signs occurred to show evidence of this: (1) the lot for selecting priests did not come up in the right hand; (2) the westernmost light of the menorah refused to burn continually; (3) the doors of the Temple would open of themselves; and (4) the red wool no longer turned white supernaturally (Yoma 39b).
The fourth sign was the most significant and the most distressing. It was customary to tie a cord of red wool on the horn of the scapegoat, before it was let go in the wilderness. When the red wool turned white, it was a sign that God forgave the people’s sin (cf. Isa. 1:18). In a similar fashion the Priests used to bind a shining crimson strip of cloth on the outside door of the Temple. If the strip of cloth turned into the white color, they would rejoice; if it did not turn white they were full of sorrow and shame (Yoma 67a). The people began to realize more and more that the sacrifice of Yom Kippur did not have the power to cleanse their sinful hearts. There is no doubt that these signs commenced after the veil was torn in two. After all, it was only the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua that ended the efficacy of animal sacrifices (Heb 9:13-15) and made the priesthood of believers eligible to enter the most holy place (Heb 10:19-20; 1Pet 2:5).
39 When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"
When the centurion: Grk. kenturiōn, for the Latin hekatontarches. A centurion was the commander of a centuria, consisting of 80 men. The centurion was the equivalent of a modern non-commissioned officer equivalent in rank to an Army First Sergeant. They were the career soldiers who ran the day to day life of the soldiers as well as issuing commands in the field. The term occurs 20 times in the Besekh.
who was standing: Grk. paristēmi, perf. part., to be bystander, to stand aside. The centurion was one of the bystanders mentioned in verse 35. right in front: Grk. enantios, adj., in front of, before. of Him saw: Grk. horaō, aor. part., to perceive with the eyes, as well as mental perception based on experience. The verb actually begins the verse and could be rendered as "seeing." the way He breathed His last: ekpneō, aor. See verse 37 above. he said, Truly: Grk. alēthōs, corresponding to what is really so, truly, really, actually. The centurion was a man who could assess a situation and deduce the truth.
this man: Grk. anthrōpos, a human being, man or mankind, here referring to Yeshua. was the Son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. See the note on 1:1. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 34 above. The title "Son of God," a title which among Jews meant the Davidic King, only occurs previously in 1:1 (Maj-Text and TR) and 3:11. In both those verses "God" has the definite article and in 3:11 "son" also has the definite article. Here neither "son" nor "God" has the definite article. This suggests that unless the centurion was a proselyte or a God-fearer he may have only meant that Yeshua was a son of a god. It's not likely that a pagan would grasp the Jewish concept of the Davidic deliverer, but he did understand as Nebuchadnezzar that a higher power was at work (Dan 3:25). He likely never saw a man endure crucifixion with poise and grace and even offer forgiveness to his enemies.
Parallel Passages: Matt 27:55-56; Luke 23:44-49
40 There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome.
There were: Grk. eimi, impf. also some women: pl. of Grk. gunē, adult female person without respect to marital status. looking on: Grk. theōreō, pres. part., to pay attention to, to observe, to behold. from a distance: Grk. makrothen, adv., at a position relatively distant from another position. among whom were Mary: Grk. Maria, fem. name, an attempt at transliterating the Heb. Miryam (Miriam in English). The meaning of the name is not known for certain, although some scholars say its meaning is "rebellion."
The first Miriam in Scripture is the sister of Aaron (Ex 15:20) and with such a negative meaning its unlikely that the parents would have given this name to their daughter at birth. The best interpretation I've found is at BehindtheName.com which says that Miriam "was most likely originally an Egyptian name, perhaps derived in part from mry "beloved" or mr "love." There are at least a half dozen women with the name Miriam in the apostolic writings. Magdalene: lit. of Magdala. Traditionally the term has been interpreted to mean that she was from Magdala, a town thought to have been on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Consistently in the narratives, this Miriam is distinguished from other women named Miriam by adding her place of origin. See my web article on Miriam of Magdala.
and Mary: Miriam. the mother: Grk. mētēr in the usual sense of motherhood. Given the names of the sons this Miriam is likely the wife of Clopas. Little is known of her but her sons may have been well known in the early community of faith. of James: Grk. Iakōbos is a Grecized form of Iakōb ("Jacob"), which transliterates the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"), but rendered as "James" in Christian Bibles. Besides the patriarch Jacob there are five men named Jacob ("James"). the Less: Grk. mikros, a term of measurement, small, short or little. Since "small and great" was an idiom for young and old, the adjective might mean "the younger." This appellation serves to distinguish this Jacob from others of the same name. Nothing more is known of this Jacob. and Joses: Grk. Iōsēs, a variant of Iōsēph; Heb. Yosef, Joseph. and Salome: Grk. Salōmē. According to Matthew 27:56 Salome was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of the disciples Jacob and John.
41 When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.
When He was in Galilee: Grk. Galilaia from the Heb. Galil, lit. "circle" or "region.” Galilee was the northern part of Israel above the hill country of Ephraim and of Judah. In the time of Yeshua Galilee was a Roman province measuring about 40 miles north to south and about 30 miles east to west. Galilee was bounded by the Province of Syria on the west and north, the River Jordan and Sea of Galilee on the east and the Province of Judea on the south.
they used to follow: Grk. akoloutheō, impf., to be in motion in sequence behind someone, to follow as the crowds tried to keep up with Yeshua. The verb also means to be in close association with someone. Both meanings would apply here. These women were not ashamed to be associated with Yeshua on this day. and minister: Grk. diakoneō, impf., to serve or care in meeting of personal needs or to render helpful personal attendance, to be at service with to assist. See Luke 8:1-3 for a similar description of women who followed and served.
and there were many other women: lit. "and many others." The adjectives "many others" are feminine. who came up: Grk. sunanabainō, aor. part., of travel to a destination without focus on ascent, to go or come up together. with Him to Jerusalem: This second group of women probably did not originate from Galilee, but came from nearby locales, such as Bethany.
The fact that various women traveled with Yeshua as disciples would not have been unusual. They weren't there to provide domestic services. Even the Pharisees accepted women into their ranks (Moseley 112). Many of these women provided financial support (Luke 8:3). There is a well established biblical principle that those who provide ministry be supported by those who benefit from their ministry (Ex 20:15; 25:2; Jer 22:13; Matt 10:10; Mark 9:41; 1Cor 9:4, 7, 10-11; Gal 6:6).
Burial of Yeshua
Parallel Passages: Matt 27:57-61; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42
42 When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath,
When: Grk. ēdē, lit. "And now." evening: Grk. opsia, a variant form of opsios, the period between daylight and darkness, evening. See the note on 14:17. By itself "evening" is not a definite clock time, since the term generally referred to any time after the noon hour. More exact determination must be made from the context. The mention of the ninth hour in verse 34 above would indicate the time in this verse is later. The evening sacrifice specified in (Ex 29:39, 41; Num 28:1-4) was conducted about 3 P.M. (the ninth hour) respectively (Edersheim-Temple 108; Josephus, Ant. XIV, 4:3). had already come: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., to come to be, to become or to take place; lit. "having come." because: Grk. epei, conj., since, inasmuch.
it was: Grk. eimi, impf., to be, which may be rendered as "is, was, or will be" depending on the tense and context. Here the imperfect tense (continuous action in past time) has the sense of "was being" and points backwards to the beginning of Friday in 14:17. the preparation day: Grk. paraskeuē in Greek culture meant lit. "preparation," but in the Besekh the term refers to a definite day, and for Jews it was Friday on which day everything had to be prepared for the Sabbath and no work was permitted (BAG; Lane 498; Geldenhuys 620, Morris 776). This is the meaning of the term in Jewish writings, such as Josephus (Ant. XVI, 6:2) and the Talmud (Shab. 117b); and in later Christian writings as Didache 8 and Martyrdom of Polycarp VII.
The noun occurs only twice in the LXX (Ex 35:24; 39:42) where it refers to contributions made for the construction and adornment of the tabernacle. In those two verses paraskeuē renders Heb. avodah, "labor" or "service" in various capacities, especially service of God by priests and Levites (BDB 715). The noun is derived from the verb paraskeuazō, to prepare, which occurs in a variety of contexts (Acts 10:10; 1Cor 14:8; 2Cor 9:2; 1Pet 2:8; LXX 1Sam 24:3; Prov 15:18; 23:2; 24:27; 29:5; Jer 6:4; 12:5; 46:9; 51:11). The term clearly refers to the sixth day of the week every where it appears in the apostolic narratives (Matt 27:62; Luke 23:54; John 19:14, 31, 42). The significance of the term in Jewish usage was its allusion to the religious and practical preparation activities to observe God's appointed time.
that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun, who, which, what. is: Grk. eimi, pres. Mark adds this explanatory clause for Gentile readers. the day before the Sabbath: Grk. prosabbaton, the day before the Sabbath, i.e. Friday, used only here in the Besekh. The term is formed from pro, "earlier than" or "before," and sabbaton, which transliterates the Heb. shabbat, the day of rest assigned to the seventh day of the week. No other commandment is so strongly and repeatedly emphasized in the Tanakh than the command to observe the Sabbath (DNTT 3:405). See my web article Remember the Sabbath. While the Sabbath was a day of rest for all Israelites, it was not really a day off for the priests. Yeshua made an observation of this very fact, "Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?" (Matt 12:5).
43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.
Joseph: Grk. Iōsēph, a transliteration of Heb. Yosef, which is explained in Genesis 30:24 and means "he adds, increases" (BDB 415). of Arimathea: Grk. Arimathaia. The location of Arimathea is not certainly known, although Luke 23:51 describes it as a Jewish city. The Oxford Bible Atlas identifies the city as Ramathaim-Zophim, about 15 miles east of Joppa (86). came: Grk. erchomai, aor. part., to come or to arrive, "was coming." a prominent: Grk. euschēmōn, adj., focuses on appropriateness as perceived by an onlooker. Marshall renders the adj. as "honorable." member of the Council: Grk. bouleutēs, member of a council, a councilor. who himself was waiting: Grk. prosdechomai, pres. mid. part., to look forward with a receptive frame of mind, wait for. for the kingdom of God: See the note on 1:15 for this expression. He was eager to see the righteous reign of the Davidic King.
and he gathered up courage: Grk. tolmaō, aor. part., to act with apparent abandonment or audacity. The verb functions in an idiomatic manner to describe what Jews call chutzpah. and went in: Grk. eiserchomai, aor., to enter into a manufactured structure. Unlike the chief priests at the beginning of this chapter Joseph entered the Praetorium without concern for any potential uncleanness that might result. After all, he was going to handle a dead body, so it didn't matter. before Pilate: Grk. Pilatos. See verse 1 above. Joseph could have gone to the Centurion in charge of the crucifixion, but that would have meant working through layers of Roman Army command and would certainly have taken more time that he had. So, Joseph skipped over the Army chain of command and went straight to the one who would make the decision.
and asked: Grk. aiteō, aor. mid., to request, to ask for. for the body: Grk. sōma, the physical body, here dead. of Jesus: Yeshua. See verse 1 above. Joseph could hardly demand the release of Yeshua's body, since under Roman law a condemned man forfeited all property and honors, including the right to burial (Lane 578). The Romans often left bodies on crosses until they were consumed by scavenger birds. Normally a family member would make such a request, but there is no evidence that Yeshua's siblings were in the city and his mother would likely have been emotionally devastated. Joseph took the initiative to act as Mary's agent. The Torah required that "his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day." (Deut 21:23). This requirement is repeated in Sanh. 6:7.
In Hebrew culture burial of the dead was as urgent a duty as visitation of the sick and an act of piety (cf. 2Sam 21:12-14), even of someone condemned and hung on a tree. After all, God visited the sick (Gen 18:1) and buried the dead (Deut 34:6), leaving an example for His people to follow (Sot. 14a). Since the day was growing late Joseph acted as quickly as possible under the circumstances. In fact, Joseph going to the Praetorium to see Pilate should be viewed as coincidental with the onset of evening. The verbs "evening came" (verse 42) and "Joseph came" are both aorist participles. Joseph made sure that Yeshua's body did not remain on the cross all night and that's the point of the Torah rule.
44 Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead.
Pilate wondered: Grk. thaumazō, aor., to be extraordinarily impressed, be amazed, to wonder at, to be surprise about. In other words Pilate assumed Joseph wouldn't be asking for the body unless Yeshua was dead and was surprised that Yeshua had not lingered longer. if: Grk. ei, a particle used to expressed contingency, if. He was dead: Grk. thnēskō, perf. act. ind., to die physically. The words "by this time" are not in the Greek text. and summoning: Grk. proskaleō, aor. mid. part., to call to one's presence. the centurion: See the note on verse 39 above. He was probably the same centurion mentioned in verse 39. he questioned: Grk. eperōtaō, aor., to put a question to as a matter of formality. him as to whether He was already: Grk. palai, adv., in reference to time, much earlier than the present time or relatively close to the present time, already. dead: Grk. apothnēskō, aor., to die.
45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.
And ascertaining: Grk. ginōskō, aor. part., to be in receipt of information, lit. "knowing." this from the centurion: See the note on verse 39 above. he granted: Grk. dōreomai, aor. mid., to give, perhaps with a nuance of formality. the body: Grk. ptōma, corpse. to Joseph: See the note on verse 43.
46 Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
Joseph bought: Grk. agorazō, aor. part., to buy. a linen cloth: Grk. sindōn, unused fine linen. took Him down: Grk. kathaireō, aor. part., to take down from a position. Yeshua was taken down, but not by Elijah. wrapped: Grk. eveileō, aor., to wrap, to roll, to wrap in. Him in the linen cloth: John 19:39-40 reports that Nicodemus assisted Joseph by providing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, which were enclosed in the wrapping. and laid: Grk. katatithēmi, aor., to lay down, to place a body in a tomb. Him in a tomb: Grk. mnēmeion, a place for depositing remains of a deceased person held in memory, burial place, grave or tomb. No mention is made of how Yeshua was taken to the tomb. The two men could have devised a pallet as used by the four men who brought an invalid to Yeshua (Mark 2:4). Lane suggests that Joseph had the assistance of his own servants to accomplish all these tasks (580).
which had been hewn out: Grk. latomeō, perf. pass. part., to hew, to cut out of stone. in the rock: Grk. petra, rock, referring to a rock formation as distinct from a single stone. The tomb was cut into the hillside. The site traditionally identified as the tomb of Yeshua and its immediate vicinity is now known to have been a cemetery in the first century (Lane 580). and he rolled: Grk. proskuliō, aor., to roll to, to roll up. a stone: Grk. lithos, stone, of various types. against the entrance: Grk. thura, a passage providing access to a place, entrance, doorway, gateway. The disc-shaped stone would be about a yard in diameter, like a millstone. The groove into which the stone fitted sloped toward the doorway, and once in place would require the strength of several men to move it (Lane 581).
of the tomb: Rock tombs were common in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, sometimes containing chambers and sometimes a single room provided with a bench or shelf on which the body was placed, the entrance being closed by a large flat stone rolled or pushed into position (Rienecker). The inner chamber was accessed by a rectangular doorway about two feet high (cf. John 20:5, 11, they "stooped to look inside").
Flusser notes that the Sanhedrin maintained tombs for burying executed persons.
"And they did not bury him [the executed person] in his ancestral tomb, but two burial places were prepared by the Beth Din, one for those who were decapitated or strangled, and the other for those who were stoned or burned." (Sanh. 6:7)
Since Yeshua was not buried in either of the two graves reserved for those executed Flusser concluded that Yeshua was not condemned by the Great Sanhedrin (139), which is quite a leap in logic. However, the record is clear that Yeshua was condemned by the Sanhedrin. The issue of the Sanhedrin providing a burial place is moot, since Yeshua was not executed by the standard Jewish method of capital punishment. Joseph may have supplied the tomb because the Sanhedrin refused to do so. Since moving a corpse would make them unclean (Num 19:11), the two men likely went afterwards to one of the many pools near the temple to immerse.
47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid.
Mary Magdalene: Miriam of Magdala. and Mary: Miriam. See verse 40 above for the names mentioned here. were looking on to see: Grk. theōreō, impf., to pay attention to, to observe, to watch. where: Grk. pou, adv., expresses interest in a place, where. He was laid: Grk. tithēmi, perf. pass., to arrange for association with a site, to place or put. The two women may have kept their distance out of respect for Yeshua's naked body.
Luke repeats Mark's statement of the women watching and then follows it with "Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment." (Luke 23:56) "Spices" is the plural of Grk. arōma, which refers to any kind of fragrant herb, salve, oil or spice, especially those used in embalming the dead. "Perfumes" is the plural of Grk. muron, a fragrant ointment. The women acted quickly in the waning hours of the day to purchase what they needed. The verb "prepared" suggests some work performed by the women. In any event, the women completed their preparations by the time the sixth day was over and they had to wait until the first day to fulfill their mission.
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