Chapter 13 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 15
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
THE MORNING OF GOOD FRIDAY
(St. Matthew 27:1,2,11-14; St. Mark
15:1-5; St. Luke 23:1-5; St. John 18:28-38; St. Luke
23:6-12; St. Matthew 27:3-10; St. Matthew 27:15-18;
St. Mark 15:6-10; St. Luke 23:13-17; St. John 18:39,40; St. Matthew 27:19;
Matthew 27:20-31; St. Mark 15:11-20; St. Luke 23:18-25; St. John 19:1-16.)
The pale grey light had passed into that of early morning, when
the Sanhedrists once more assembled in the Palace of Caiaphas.1
A comparison with the terms in which they who had formed the gathering of the
previous night are described will convey the impression, that the number of
those present was now increased, and that they who now came belonged to the
wisest and most influential of the Council. It is not unreasonable to suppose,
that some who would not take part in deliberations which were virtually a
judicial murder might, once the resolution was taken, feel in Jewish casuistry absolved from guilt in advising how the informal sentence might best be carried
into effect. It was this, and not the question of Christ's guilt, which formed
the subject of deliberation on that early morning. The result of it was to
'bind' Jesus and hand Him over as a malefactor to Pilate, with the resolve, if
possible, not to frame any definite charge;2
but, if this became necessary, to lay all the emphasis on the purely political,
not the religious aspect of the claims of Jesus.34
is so expressly stated in St. John xviii. 28, that it is difficult to
understand whence the notion has been derived that the Council assembled in
their ordinary council-chamber.
John xviii. 29, 30.
Luke xxiii. 2.
St. Matt. xxvii. 1 with. xxvi. 59, where the words 'and elders' must be struck
out; and St. Mark xv. 1 with xiv. 55.
To us it may seem strange, that they who, in the lowest view of
it, had committed so grossly unrighteous, and were now coming on so cruel and
bloody a deed, should have been prevented by religious scruples from entering
the 'Prętorium.' And yet the student of Jewish casuistry will understand it;
nay, alas, history and even common observation furnish only too many parallel
instances of unscrupulous scrupulosity and unrighteous conscientiousness. Alike
conscience and religiousness are only moral tendencies natural to man; whither
they tend, must be decided by considerations outside of them: by enlightenment
and truth.5 The
'Prętorium,' to which the Jewish leaders, or at least those of them who
represented the leaders - for neither Annas nor Caiaphas seems to have been personally
present - brought the bound Christ, was (as always in the provinces) the
quarters occupied by the Roman Governor. In Cęsarea this was the Palace of
Herod, and there St. Paul was afterwards a prisoner. But in Jerusalem there
were two such quarters: the fortress Antonia, and the magnificent Palace of
Herod at the north-western angle of the Upper City. Although it is impossible
to speak with certainty, the balance of probability is entirely in favour of
the view that, when Pilate was in Jerusalem with his wife, he occupied the
truly royal abode of Herod, and not the fortified barracks of Antonia.6
From the slope at the eastern angle, opposite the Temple-Mount, where the
Palace of Caiaphas stood, up the narrow streets of the Upper City, the
melancholy procession wound to the portals of the grand Palace of Herod. It is
recorded, that they who brought Him would not themselves enter the portals of
the Palace, 'that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.'
are the Urim and Thummim of the 'anima naturaliter Christiana.'
is, of course, not the traditional site, nor yet that which was formerly in
favour. But as the Palace of Herod undoubtedly became (as all royal residences)
the property of the State, and as we have distinct evidence that Roman
Procurators resided there, and took their seat in front of that Palace on a
raised pavement to pronounce judgment (Jos. War ii. 14. 8; comp. Philo,
ad Caj. § 38), the inference is obvious, that Pilate, especially as he was
accompanied by his wife, resided there also.
have given rise to more earnest controversy than this. On two things at least
we can speak with certainty. Entrance into a heathen house did
Levitically render impure for that day - that is, till the evening.7
The fact of such defilement is clearly attested both in the New Testament8
and in the Mishnah, though its reasons might be various.9
A person who had so become Levitically unclean was technically called Tebhul
Yom ('bathed of the day'). The other point is, that, to have so become
'impure' for the day, would not have disqualified for eating the Paschal
Lamb, since the meal was partaken of after the evening, and when a new
day had begun. In fact, it is distinctly laid down10
that the 'bathed of the day,' that is, he who had been impure for the day and
had bathed in the evening, did partake of the Paschal Supper, and an
instance is related,11
when some soldiers who had guarded the gates of Jerusalem 'immersed,' and ate
the Paschal Lamb. It follows that those Sanhedrists could not have abstained
from entering the Palace of Pilate because by so doing they would have been
disqualified for the Paschal Supper.
various reasons for this need not here be discussed. As these pages are passing
through the press (for a second edition) my attention has been called to Dr. Schürer's
brochure ('Ueber fagein to pasca,'
Giessen, 1883), intended to controvert the interpretation of St. John xviii.
28, given in the text. This is not the place to enter on the subject at length.
But I venture to think that, with all his learning, Dr. Schürer has not
quite met the case, nor fully answered the argument as put by Kirchner
and Wieseler. Putting aside any argument from the supposed later date of
the 'Priest-Codex,' as compared with Deuter., and indeed the purely Biblical
argument, since the question is as to the views entertained in the time of
Christ, Schürer argues: 1. That the Chagigah was not designated
by the term Pesach. 2. That the defilement from entering a heathen house
would not have ceased in the evening (so as to allow them to eat the Passover),
but have lasted for seven days, as being connected with the suspicion that an abortus
- i.e. a dead body - might be buried in the house. On the first point we refer
to Note 1 on the next page, only adding that, with all his ingenuity, Schürer
has not met all the passages adduced on the other side, and that the view
advocated in the text is that adopted by many Jewish scholars.
The argument on the second point is even more
unsatisfactory. The defilement from entering the Prętorium, which the
Sanhedrists dreaded, might be - or rather, in this case must have been - due to
other causes than that the house might contain an abortus or a dead
body. And of such many may be conceived, connected either with the suspected
presence of an idol in the house or with contact with an idolator. It is,
indeed, true that Ohol. xviii. 7 refers to the suspicion of a buried abortus
as the cause of regarding the houses of Gentiles as defiled; but even so, it
would be too much to suppose that a bare suspicion of this kind would make a
man unclean for seven days. For this it would have been necessary that the dead
body was actually within the house entered, or that what contained it had been
touched. But there is another and weightier consideration. Ohol. xviii.
7 is not so indefinite as Dr. Schürer implies. It contains a most
important limitation. In order to make a house thus defiled (from suspicion of
an abortus buried in it), it states that the house must have been
inhabited by the heathen for forty days, and even so the custody of a
Jewish servant or maid would have rendered needless a bediqah, or
investigation (to clear the house of suspicion). Evidently, the Prętorium
would not have fallen under the category contemplated in Ohol. xviii. 7,
even if (which we are not prepared to admit) such a case would have involved a
defilement of seven days. Thus Schürer's argument falls to the ground.
Lastly, although the Chagigah could only be brought by the offerer in
person, the Paschal Lamb might be brought for another person, and then the tebhul
yom partake of it. Thus, if the Sanhedrists had been defiled in the morning
they might have eaten the Pascha at night. Dr. Schürer in his brochure
repeatedly appeals to Delitzsch (Zeitschr. f. Luther. Theol. 1874, pp.
1-4); but there is nothing in the article of that eminent scholar to bear out
the special contention of Schürer, except that he traces the defilement
of heathen houses to the cause in Ohal.xviii.7. Delitzsch
concludes his paper by pointing to this very case in evidence that the N.T.
documents date from the first, and not the second century of our era.
xviii. 7; Tohar. vii. 3.
Pes. 36 b, lines 14 and 15 from bottom.
The point is of importance, because many writers have
interpreted the expression 'the Passover' as referring to the Paschal Supper,
and have argued that, according to the Fourth Gospel, our Lord did not on the
previous evening partake of the Paschal Lamb, or else that in this respect the
account of the Fourth Gospel does not accord with that of the Synoptists. But
as, for the reason just stated, it is impossible to refer the expression
'Passover' to the Paschal Supper, we have only to inquire whether the term is
not also applied to other offerings. And here both the Old Testament12
and Jewish writings13
show, that the term Pesach, or 'Passover,' was applied not only to the
Paschal Lamb, but to all the Passover sacrifices, especially to what was called
the Chagigah, or festive offering (from Chag, or Chagag,
to bring the festive sacrifice usual at each of the three Great Feasts).
According to the express rule (Chag. i. 3) the Chagigah was brought on
the first festive Paschal Day.14
It was offered immediately after the morning-service, and eaten on that day -
probably some time before the evening, when, as we shall by-and-by see, another
ceremony claimed public attention. We can therefore quite understand that, not
on the eve of the Passover but on the first Paschal day, the Sanhedrists would
avoid incurring a defilement which, lasting till the evening, would not only
have involved them in the inconvenience of Levitical defilement on the first
festive day, but have actually prevented their offering on that day the
Passover, festive sacrifice, or Chagigah. For, we have these two express
rules: that a person could not in Levitical defilement offer the Chagigah;
and that the Chagigah could not be offered for a person by some one else
who took his place (Jer. Chag. 76 a, lines 16 to 14 from bottom). These
considerations and canons seem decisive as regards the views above expressed.
There would have been no reason to fear 'defilement' on the morning of the
Paschal Sacrifice; but entrance into the Prętorium on the morning of the
first Passover-day would have rendered it impossible for them to offer the Chagigah,
which is also designated by the term Pesach.
xvi. 1-3; 2 Chron. xxxv. 1, 2, 6, 18.
subject has been so fully discussed in Wieseler, Beitr., and in Kirchner,
Jüd. Passahfeier, not to speak of many others, that it seems needless to enter
further on the question. No competent Jewish archęologist would care to deny
that 'Pesach' may refer to the 'Chagigah,' while the motive
assigned to the Sanhedrists by St. John implies, that in this instance it must
refer to this, and not to the Paschal Lamb.
14. xsp l# Nw#)rh bw+ Mwy.
But concession was made to those who had neglected it on the first day to bring
it during the festive week, which in the Feast of Tabernacles was extended to
the Octave, and in that of Weeks (which lasted only one day) over a
whole week (see Chag. 9 a; Jer. Chag. 76 c). The Chagigah
could not, but the Paschal Lamb might be offered by a person on behalf
It may have been about seven in the morning, probably even
Pilate went out to those who summoned him to dispense justice. The question
which he addressed to them seems to have startled and disconcerted them. Their
procedure had been private; it was of the very essence of proceedings at Roman
Law that they were in public. Again, the procedure before the Sanhedrists had
been in the form of a criminal investigation, while it was of the essence of
Roman procedure to enter only on definite accusations.16
Accordingly, the first question of Pilate was, what accusation they brought
against Jesus. The question would come upon them the more unexpectedly, that
Pilate must, on the previous evening, have given his consent to the employment
of the Roman guard which effected the arrest of Jesus. Their answer displays
humiliation, ill-humour, and an attempt at evasion. If He had not been 'a
malefactor,' they would not have 'delivered'17
Him up! On this vague charge Pilate, in whom we mark throughout a strange
reluctance to proceed - perhaps from unwillingness to please the Jews, perhaps
from a desire to wound their feelings on the tenderest point, perhaps because
restrained by a Higher Hand - refused to proceed. He proposed that the
Sanhedrists should try Jesus according to the Jewish Law. This is another
important trait, as apparently implying that Pilate had been previously aware
both of the peculiar claims of Jesus, and that the action of the Jewish
authorities had been determined by 'envy.'18
But, under ordinary circumstances, Pilate would not have wished to hand
over a person accused of so grave a charge as that of setting up Messianic
claims to the Jewish authorities, to try the case as a merely religious
this in connection with the other fact, apparently inconsistent with it, that on
the previous evening the Governor had given a Roman guard for the arrest of the
prisoner, and with this other fact of the dream and warning of Pilate's wife, a
peculiar impression is conveyed to us. We can understand it all, if, on the
previous evening, after the Roman guard had been granted, Pilate had spoken of
it to his wife, whether because he knew her to be, or because she might be
interested in the matter. Tradition has given her the name Procula;20
while an Apocryphal Gospel describes her as a convert to Judaism;21
while the Greek Church has actually placed her in the Catalogue of Saints. What
if the truth lay between these statements, and Procula had not only been a
proselyte, like the wife of a previous Roman Governor,22
but known about Jesus and spoken of Him to Pilate on that evening? This would
best explain his reluctance to condemn Jesus, as well as her dream of Him.
commentators suppose it to have been much earlier. I have followed the view of Keim.
nisi accusatus fuerit, condemnari non potest. In regard to the publicity of
Roman procedure, comp. Acts xvi. 19; xvii. 6; xviii. 12; xxv. 6; Jos.
War ii. 9. 3; 14. 8; 'maxima frequentia amplissimorum ac sapientissimorum
civium adstante' (Cicero).
the word is the same as that in reference to the betrayal of Judas.
Matt. xxvii. 18.
xxii. 30; xxii. 28, 29; xxiv. 9, 18-20.
H. E. i. 30.
according to Nicod. ch. ii.
(Jos. Ant. xviii. 3, 5).
As the Jewish authorities had to decline the Governor's offer
to proceed against Jesus before their own tribunal, on the avowed ground that
they had not power to pronounce capital sentence,23
it now behoved them to formulate a capital charge. This is recorded by St. Luke
alone.24 It was,
that Jesus had said, He Himself was Christ a King. It will be noted, that in so
saying they falsely imputed to Jesus their own political expectations
concerning the Messiah. But even this is not all. They prefaced it by this,
that He perverted the nation and forbade to give tribute to Cęsar. The latter
charge was so grossly unfounded, that we can only regard it as in their mind a
necessary inference from the premiss that He claimed to be King. And, as
telling most against Him, they put this first and foremost, treating the
inference as if it were a fact - a practice this only too common in
controversies, political, religious, or private.
apparently strange statement, St. John xviii. 32, affords another undesigned
confirmation of the Jewish authorship of the Fourth Gospel. It seems to imply,
that the Sanhedrin might have found a mode of putting Jesus to death in the
same informal manner in which Stephen was killed and they sought to destroy
Paul. The Jewish law recognised a form of procedure, or rather a want of
procedure, when a person caught in flagrante delicto of blasphemy might
be done to death without further inquiry.
Luke xxii. 2, 3.
This charge of the Sanhedrists explains what, according to all
the Evangelists, passed within the Prętorium. We presume that Christ was
within, probably in charge of some guards. The words of the Sanhedrists brought
peculiar thoughts of Pilate. He now called Jesus and asked Him: 'Thou art the
King of the Jews?' There is that mixture of contempt for all that was Jewish,
and of that general cynicism which could not believe in the existence of
anything higher, we mark a feeling of awe in regard to Christ, even though the
feeling may partly have been of superstition. Out of all that the Sanhedrists
had said, Pilate took only this, that Jesus claimed to be a King. Christ, Who
had not heard the charge of His accusers, now ignored it, in His desire to
stretch out salvation even to a Pilate. Not heeding the implied irony, He first
put it to Pilate, whether the question - be it criminal charge or inquiry - was
his own, or merely the repetition of what His Jewish accusers had told Pilate
of Him. The Governor quickly disowned any personal inquiry. How could he raise
any such question? he was not a Jew, and the subject had no general interest.
Jesus' own nation and its leader had handed Him over as a criminal: what had He
The answer of Pilate left nothing else for Him Who, even in
that supreme hour, thought only of others, not of Himself. but to bring before
the Roman directly that truth for which his words had given the opening. It was
not, as Pilate had implied, a Jewish question: it was one of absolute
truth; it concerned all men. The Kingdom of Christ was not of this world at
all, either Jewish or Gentile. Had it been otherwise, He would have led His
followers to a contest for His claims and aims, and not have become a prisoner
of the Jews. One word only in all this struck Pilate. 'So then a King art
Thou!' He was incapable of apprehending the higher thought and truth. We mark
in his words the same mixture of scoffing and misgiving. Pilate was now in no
doubt as to the nature of the Kingdom; his exclamation and question
applied to the Kingship. That fact Christ would now emphasise in the
glory of His Humiliation. He accepted what Pilate said; He adopted his words.
But He added to them an appeal, or rather an explanation of His claims, such as
a heathen, and a Pilate, could understand. His Kingdom was not of this world,
but of that other world which He had come to reveal, and to open to all
believers. Here was the truth! His Birth or Incarnation, as the Sent of
the Father, and His own voluntary Coming into this world - for both are
referred to in His words25
- had it for their object to testify of the truth concerning that other world,
of which was His Kingdom. This was no Jewish-Messianic Kingdom, but one that
appealed to all men. And all who had moral affinity to 'the truth' would listen
to His testimony, and so come to own Him as 'King.'
John xviii. 37.
But these words struck only a hollow void, as they fell on
Pilate. It was not merely cynicism, but utter despair of all that is higher - a
moral suicide - which appears in his question: 'What is truth?' He had
understood Christ, but it was not in him to respond to His appeal. He, whose
heart and life had so little kinship to 'the truth,' could not sympathise with,
though he dimly perceived, the grand aim of Jesus' Life and Work. But even the
question of Pilate seems an admission, an implied homage to Christ. Assuredly,
he would not have so opened his inner being to one of the priestly accusers of
That man was no rebel, no criminal! They who brought Him were
moved by the lowest passions. And so he told them, as he went out, that he
found no fault in Him. Then came from the assembled Sanhedrists a perfect
hailstorm of accusations. As we picture it to ourselves, all this while the
Christ stood near, perhaps behind Pilate, just within the portals of the
Prętorium. And to all this clamour of charges He made no reply. It was as if
the surging of the wild waves broke far beneath against the base of the rock,
which, untouched, reared its head far aloft to the heavens. But as He stood in
the calm silence of Majesty, Pilate greatly wondered. Did this Man not even
fear death; was He so conscious of innocence, so infinitely superior to those
around and against Him, or had He so far conquered Death, that He would not
condescend to their words? And why then had He spoken to him of His Kingdom and
of that truth?
Fain would he have withdrawn from it all; not that he was moved
for absolute truth or by the personal innocence of the Sufferer, but that there
was that in the Christ which, perhaps for the first time in his life, had made
him reluctant to be unrighteous and unjust. And so, when, amidst these confused
cries, he caught the name Galilee as the scene of Jesus' labours, he gladly
seized on what offered the prospect of devolving the responsibility on another.
Jesus was a Galilean, and therefore belonged to the jurisdiction of King Herod.
To Herod, therefore, who had come for the Feast to Jerusalem, and there
occupied the old Maccabean Palace, close to that of the High-Priest, Jesus was
Luke xxiii. 6-12.
27. anepemyen. Meyer marks this as
the technical term in handing over a criminal to the proper judicial authority.
To St. Luke alone we owe the account of what passed there, as,
indeed, of so many traits in this last scene of the terrible drama.28
The opportunity now offered was welcome to Herod. It was a mark of
reconciliation (or might be viewed as such) between himself and the Roman, and
in a manner flattering to himself, since the first step had been taken by the
Governor, and that, by an almost ostentatious acknowledgement of the rights of
the Tetrarch, on which possibly their former feud may have turned. Besides,
Herod had long wished to see Jesus, of Whom he had heard so many things.29
In that hour coarse curiosity, a hope of seeing some magic performances, was
the only feeling that moved the Tetrarch. But in vain did he ply Christ with
questions. He was as silent to him as formerly against the virulent charges of
the Sanhedrists. But a Christ Who would or could do no signs, nor even kindle
into the same denunciations as the Baptist, was, to the coarse realism of
Antipas, only a helpless figure that might be insulted and scoffed at, as did
the Tetrarch and his men of war.30
And so Jesus was once more sent back to the Prętorium.
is worse than idle - it is trifling to ask, whence the Evangelists derived
their accounts. As if those things had been done in a corner, or none of those
who now were guilty had afterwards become disciples!
Luke ix. 7-9.
is impossible to say, whether 'the gorgeous apparel' in which Herod arrayed
Christ was purple, or white. Certainly it was not, as Bishop Haneberg
suggests (Relig. Alterth. p. 554), an old high-priestly garment of the
It is in the interval during which Jesus was before Herod, or
probably soon afterwards, that we place the last weird scene in the life of
Judas, recorded by St. Matthew.31
We infer this from the circumstance, that, on the return of Jesus from Herod,
the Sanhedrists do not seem to have been present, since Pilate had to call them
presumably from the Temple. And here we recall that the Temple was close to the
Maccabean Palace. Lastly, the impression left on our minds is, that henceforth
the principal part before Pilate was sustained by 'the people,' the Priests and
Scribes rather instigating them than conducting the case against Jesus. It may
therefore well have been, that, when the Sanhedrists went from the Maccabean
Palace into the Temple, as might be expected on that day, only a part of them
returned to the Prętorium on the summons of Pilate.
Matt. xxvii. 3-10.
Luke xxiii. 13; comp. St. Matt. xxvii. 17.
But, however that may have been, sufficient had already passed
to convince Judas what the end would be. Indeed, it is difficult to believe
that he could have deceived himself on this point from the first, however he
had failed to realise the fact in its terrible import till after his deed. The
words which Jesus had spoken to him in the Garden must have burnt into his
soul. He was among the soldiery that fell back at His look. Since then Jesus
had been led bound to Annas, to Caiaphas, to the Prętorium, to Herod. Even if
Judas had not been present at any of these occasions, and we do not suppose
that his conscience had allowed this, all Jerusalem must by that time have been
full of the report, probably in even exaggerated form. One thing he saw: that
Jesus was condemned. Judas did not 'repent' in the Scriptural sense; but 'a
change of mind and feeling' came over him.33
Even had Jesus been an ordinary man, and the relation to Him of Judas been the
ordinary one, we could understand his feelings, especially considering his
ardent temperament. The instant before and after sin represents the difference
of feeling as portrayed in the history of the Fall of our first parents. With
the commission of sin, all the bewitching, intoxicating influence, which
incited to it, has passed away, and only the naked fact remains. All the
glamour has been dispelled; all the reality abideth. If we knew it, probably
scarcely one out of many criminals but would give all he has, nay, life itself,
if he could recall the deed done, or awake from it to find it only an evil
dream. But it cannot be; and the increasingly terrible is, that it is
done, and done for ever. Yet this is not 'repentance,' or, at least, God alone
knows whether it is such; it may be, and in the case of Judas it only was,
'change of mind and feeling' towards Jesus. Whether this might have passed into
repentance, whether, if he had cast himself at the Feet of Jesus, as
undoubtedly he might have done, this would have been so, we need not here ask.
The mind and feelings of Judas, as regarded the deed he had done, and as
regarded Jesus, were now quite other; they became increasingly so with
ever-growing intensity. The road, the streets, the people's faces - all seemed
now to bear witness against him and for Jesus. He read it everywhere; he felt
it always; he imagined it, till his whole being was on flame. What had been;
what was; what would be! Heaven and earth receded from him; there were voices
in the air, and pangs in the soul - and no escape, help, counsel, or hope
verb designating Scriptural repentance is metanoew;
that here used is metamelomai,
as in St. Matt. xxi. 29, as in St. Matt. xxi. 29, 32; 2 Cor. vii. 8; Heb. vii.
It was despair, and his a desperate resolve. He must get rid of
these thirty pieces of silver, which, like thirty serpents, coiled round his
soul with terrible hissing of death. Then at least his deed would have nothing
of the selfish in it: only a terrible error, a mistake, to which he had been
incited by these Sanhedrists. Back to them with the money, and let them have it
again! And so forward he pressed amidst the wondering crowd, which would give
way before that haggard face with the wild eyes, that crime had made old in
those few hours, till he came upon that knot of priests and Sanhedrists,
perhaps at that very moment speaking of it all. A most unwelcome sight and
intrusion on them, this necessary but odious figure in the drama - belonging to
its past, and who should rest in its obscurity. But he would be heard; nay, his
words would cast the burden on them to share it with him, as with hoarse cry he
broke into this: 'I have sinned - in that I have betrayed - innocent blood!'
They turned from him with impatience, in contempt, as so often the seducer
turns from the seduced - and, God help such, with the same fiendish guilt of
hell: 'What is that to us? See thou to it!' And presently they were again deep
in conversation or consultation. For a moment he stared wildly before him, the
very thirty pieces of silver that had been weighed to him, and which he had now
brought back, and would fain have given them, still clutched in his hand. For a
moment only, and then he wildly rushed forward, towards the Sanctuary itself,34
probably to where the Court of Israel bounded on that of the Priests, where
generally the penitents stood in waiting, while in the Priests' Court the
sacrifice was offered for them. He bent forward, and with all his might hurled
from him35 those
thirty pieces of silver, so that each resounded as it fell on the marble
expression naoV is always used
in the N.T. of the Sanctuary itself, and not of the outer courts; but it would
include the Court of the Priests, where the sacrifices were offered.
so understand the riyaV of St.
Matt. xxvii. 5.
Out he rushed from the Temple, out of Jerusalem, 'into
shall it be? Down into the horrible solitude of the Valley of Hinnom, the
'Tophet' of old, with its ghastly memories, the Gehenna of the future, with its
ghostly associations. But it was not solitude, for it seemed now peopled with
figures, faces, sounds. Across the Valley, and up the steep sides of the
mountain! We are now on 'the potter's field' of Jeremiah - somewhat to the west
above where the Kidron and Hinnom valleys merge. It is cold, soft clayey soil,
where the footsteps slip, or are held in clammy bonds. Here jagged rocks rise
perpendicularly: perhaps there was some gnarled, bent, stunted tree.37
Up there climbed to the top of that rock. Now slowly and deliberately he
unwound the long girdle that held his garment. It was the girdle in which he
had carried those thirty pieces of silver. He was now quite calm and collected.
With that girdle he will hang himself38
on that tree close by, and when he has fastened it, he will throw himself off
from that jagged rock.
topographical notice is based on Bädeker-Socin's Palästina, pp. 114-116.
not with any idea that his death would expiate for his sin. No such idea
attached to suicide among the Jews.
It is done; but as, unconscious, not yet dead perhaps, he swung
heavily on that branch, under the unwonted burden the girdle gave way, or
perhaps the knot, which his trembling hands had made, unloosed, and he fell
heavily forward among the jagged rocks beneath, and perished in the manner of
which St. Peter reminded his fellow-disciples in the days before Pentecost.3940
But in the Temple the priests knew not what to do with these thirty pieces of
money. Their unscrupulous scrupulosity came again upon them. It was not lawful
to take into the Temple-treasury, for the purchase of sacred things, money that
had been unlawfully gained. In such cases the Jewish Law provided that the
money was to be restored to the donor, and, if he insisted on giving it, that
he should be induced to spend it for something for the public weal. This
explains the apparent discrepancy between the accounts in the Book of Acts and
by St. Matthew. By a fiction of law the money was still considered to be
Judas', and to have been applied
by him41 in the
purchase of the well-known 'potter's field,' for the charitable purpose of
burying in it strangers.42
But from henceforth the old name of 'potter's field,' became popularly changed
into that of 'field of blood' (Haqal Dema). And yet it was the act of
Israel through its leaders: 'they took the thirty pieces of silver - the price
of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value, and gave
them for the potter's field!' It was all theirs, though they would have fain
made it all Judas': the valuing, the selling, and the purchasing. And 'the
potter's field' - the very spot on which Jeremiah had been Divinely directed to
prophesy against Jerusalem and against Israel:43
how was it now all fulfilled in the light of the completed sin and apostasy of
the people, as prophetically described by Zechariah! This Tophet of Jeremiah,
now that they had valued and sold at thirty shekel Israel's Messiah-Shepherd -
truly a Tophet, and become a field of blood! Surely, not an accidental
coincidence this, that it should be the place of Jeremy's announcement of
judgment: not accidental, but veritably a fulfilment of his prophecy! And so
St. Matthew, targuming this prophecy in form44
as in its spirit, and in true Jewish manner stringing to it the prophetic description furnished by Zechariah, sets the event before us as the fulfilment
of Jeremy's prophecy.45
i. 18. 19.
presented in the text, there is no real divergence between the accounts of St.
Matthew and the Book of Acts. Keim has formulated the supposed
differences under five particulars, which are discussed seriatim by Nebe,
Leidensgesch. vol. ii. pp. 12 &c.
Matt. xxvii, 7.
alterations in the words quoted are, as previously explained, a 'targuming' of
Commentators, however, regard the word 'Jeremy' as a lapse of memory, or an
oversight by the Evangelist, or else as a very early error of transcription.
Other explanations (more or less unsatisfactory) may be seen in the
commentaries. Böhl (Alttest. Cit. p. 78), following Valckenar,
thinks the mistake arose from confounding Zriou
(written abbreviated) with Iriou.
But the whole question is of no real importance.
We are once more outside the Prętorium, to which Pilate had
summoned from the Temple Sanhedrists and people. The crowd was momentarily
increasing from the town.46
It was not only to see what was about to happen, but to witness another
spectacle, that of the release of a prisoner. For it seems to have been the
custom, that at the Passover47
the Roman Governor released to the Jewish populace some notorious prisoner who
lay condemned to death. A very significant custom of release this, for which
they now began to clamour. It may have been, that to this also they were
incited by the Sanhedrist who mingled among them. For if the stream of popular
sympathy might be diverted to Bar-Abbas, the doom of Jesus would be the more
securely fixed. On the present occasion it might be the more easy to influence
the people, since Bar-Abbas belonged to that class, not uncommon at the time,
which, under the colourable pretence of political aspirations, committed
robbery and other crimes. But these movements had deeply struck root in popular
sympathy. A strange name and figure, Bar-Abbas. That could scarcely have been
his real name. It means 'Son of the Father.'48
Was he a political Anti-Christ? And why, if there had not been some conjunction
between them, should Pilate have proposed the alternative of Jesus or
Bar-Abbas, and not rather that of one of the two malefactors who were actually
crucified with Jesus?
to the better reading of St. Mark xv. 8 'the multitude was going up.'
can they who regard the Johannine account as implying that Christ was crucified
on the morning before the Passover, explain the words of St. John, 'Ye
have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the Passover?'
ancient reading 'Jesus Bar-Abbas' is not sufficiently attested to be adopted.
But when the Governor, hoping to enlist some popular sympathy,
put this alternative to them - nay, urged it, on the ground that neither he nor
yet Herod had found any crime in Him, and would even have appeased their thirst
for vengeance by offering to submit Jesus to the cruel punishment of scourging,
it was in vain. It was now that Pilate sat down on 'the judgment seat.' But ere
he could proceed, came that message from his wife about her dream, and the
warning entreaty to have nothing to do 'with that righteous man.' An omen such
as a dream, and an appeal connected with it, especially in the circumstances of
that trial, would powerfully impress a Roman. And for a few moments it seemed
as if the appeal to popular feeling on behalf of Jesus might have been
But once more the Sanhedrists prevailed. Apparently, all who had been followers
of Jesus had been scattered. None of them seem to have been there; and if one
or another feeble voice might have been raised for Him, it was hushed in fear
of the Sanhedrists. It was Bar-Abbas for whom, incited by the priesthood, the
populace now clamoured with increasing vehemence. To the question - half
bitter, half mocking - what they wished him to do with Him Whom their own
leaders had in their accusation called 'King of the Jews,' surged back, louder
and louder, the terrible cry: 'Crucify him!' That such a cry should have been
raised, and raised by Jews, and before the Roman, and against Jesus, are in
themselves almost inconceivable facts, to which the history of these eighteen
centuries has made terrible echo. In vain Pilate expostulated, reasoned,
appealed. Popular frenzy only grew as it was opposed.
Mark xi. 11.
All reasoning having failed, Pilate had recourse to one more
expedient, which, under ordinary circumstances, would have been effective.50
When a Judge, after having declared the innocence of the accused, actually
rises from the judgment-seat, and by a symbolic act pronounces the execution of
the accused a judicial murder, from all participation in which he wishes
solemnly to clear himself, surely no jury would persist in demanding sentence
of death. But in the present instance there was even more. Although we find
allusions to some such custom among the heathen,51
that which here took place was an essentially Jewish rite, which must have
appealed the more forcibly to the Jews that it was done by Pilate. And, not
only the rite, but the very words were Jewish.52
They recall not merely the rite prescribed in Deut. xxi. 6, &c., to mark
the freedom from guilt of the elders of a city where untracked murder had been
committed, but the very words of such Old Testament expressions as in 2 Sam.
iii. 28, and Ps. xxvi. 6, lxxiii. 13,53
and, in later times, in Sus. ver. 46. The Mishnah bears witness that this rite
As administering justice in Israel, Pilate must have been aware of this rite.55
It does not affect the question, whether or not a judge could, especially in
the circumstances recorded, free himself from guilt. Certainly, he could not;
but such conduct on the part of a Pilate appears so utterly unusual, as,
indeed, his whole bearing towards Christ, that we can only account for it by
the deep impression which Jesus had made upon him. All the more terrible would
be the guilt of Jewish resistance. There is something overawing in Pilate's,
'See ye to it' - a reply to the Sanhedrists' 'See thou to it,' to Judas, and in
the same words. It almost seems, as if the scene of mutual imputation of guilt
in the Garden of Eden were being reenacted. The Mishnah tells us, that, after
the solemn washing of hands of the elders and their disclaimer of guilt, priest
responded with this prayer: 'Forgive it to Thy people Israel, whom Thou hast
redeemed, O Lord, and lay not innocent blood upon Thy people Israel!' But here,
in answer to Pilate's words, came back that deep, hoarse cry: 'His Blood be
upon us,' and - God help us! - 'on our children!' Some thirty years later, and
on that very spot, was judgment pronounced against some of the best in
Jerusalem; and among the 3,600 victims of the Governor's fury, of whom not a
few were scourged and crucified right over against the Prętorium, were many of
the noblest of the citizens of Jerusalem.56
A few years more, and hundreds of crosses bore Jewish mangled bodies within
sight of Jerusalem. And still have these wanderers seemed to bear, from century
to century, and from land to land, that burden of blood; and still does it seem
to weigh 'on us and our children.'
Matt. xxvii. 24, 25.
the quotations in Wetstein, ad loc., and Nebe, u. s. p. 104.
52.aqwoV apo tou aimatoV is a Hebraism =
the LXX. version.
Evangelist put what he said into the well-remembered Old Testament words.
War 14. 8. 9.
The Evangelists have passed as rapidly as possible over the
last scenes of indignity and horror, and we are too thankful to follow their
example. Bar-Abbas was at once released. Jesus was handed over to the soldiery
to be scourged and crucified, although final and formal judgment had not yet
Indeed, Pilate seems to have hoped that the horrors of the scourging might
still move the people to desist from the ferocious cry for the Cross.58
For the same reason we may also hope, that the scourging was not inflicted with
the same ferocity as in the case of Christian martyrs, when, with the object of
eliciting the incrimination of others, or else recantation, the scourge of
leather thongs was loaded with lead, or armed with spikes and bones, which lacerated
back, and chest, and face, till the victim sometimes fell down before the judge
a bleeding mass of torn flesh. But, however modified, and without repeating the
harrowing realism of a Cicero, scourging was the terrible introduction to
crucifixion - 'the intermediate death.' Stripped of His clothes, His hands tied
and back bent, the Victim would be bound to a column or stake, in front of the
Prętorium. The scourging ended, the soldiery would hastily cast upon Him His
upper garments, and lead Him back into the Prętorium. Here they called the
whole cohort together, and the silent, faint Sufferer became the object of
their ribald jesting. From His bleeding Body they tore the clothes, and in
mockery arrayed Him in scarlet or purple.59
For crown they wound together thorns, and for sceptre they placed in His Hand a
reed. Then alternately, in mock proclamation they hailed Him King, or
worshipped Him as God, and smote Him or heaped on Him other indignities.60
John xix. 1, following.
John xix.4, following.
Sagum, or short woollen military cloak, scarlet or purple (the two
colours are often confounded, comp. Wetstein ad loc.), fastened by a
clasp on the right shoulder. It was also worn by Roman generals, and sometimes
(in more costly form and material) presented to foreign kings.
already marks in this a notable breach of military discipline. Keim
(Jesu von Naz. iii. 2, pp. 393, &c.) gives a terribly graphic and realistic
account of the whole scene. The soldiers were, as mostly in the provinces,
chiefly provincials - in this case, probably Syrians. They were all the more
bitterly hostile to the Jews (Jos. Ant. xix. 9. 1; War ii. 12, 1. 2; v.
11, 1 - there also derision at execution). A strange illustration of the scene
is afforded by what happened only a few years afterwards at Alexandria, when
the people in derision of King Agrippa I., arrayed a well-known maniac
(Karabas) in a common door-mat, put a papyrus crown on his head, and a reed in
his hand, and saluted him 'Maris,' lord (Philo, In Flacc. ed. Mang.
ii. 522; Wetstein, N.T, i. p. 535). On all the classical illustrations
and corroborations of the whole proceedings in every detail, the reader should
consult Wetstein, ad loc.
Such a spectacle might well have disarmed enmity, and for ever
allayed worldly fears. And so Pilate had hoped, when, at his bidding, Jesus
came forth from the Prętorium, arrayed as a mock-king, and the Governor
presented Him to the populace in words which the Church has ever since
treasured: 'Behold the Man!' But, so far from appeasing, the sight only incited
to fury the 'chief priests' and their subordinates. This Man before them was
the occasion, that on this Paschal Day a heathen dared in Jerusalem itself
insult their deepest feeling, mock their most cherished Messianic hopes!
'Crucify!' 'Crucify!' resounded from all sides. Once more Pilate appealed to
them, when, unwittingly and unwillingly, it elicited this from the people, that
Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God.
If nothing else, what light it casts on the mode in which Jesus
had borne Himself amidst those tortures and insults, that this statement of the
Jews filled Pilate with fear, and led him to seek again converse with Jesus
within the Prętorium. The impression which had been made at the first, and been
deepened all along, had now passed into the terror of superstition. His first
question to Jesus was, whence He was? And when, as was most fitting - since he
could not have understood it - Jesus returned no answer, the feelings of the
Romans became only the more intense. Would he not speak; did He not know that
he had absolute power 'to release or to crucify' Him?61
Nay, not absolute power - all power came from above; but the guilt in the abuse
of power was far greater on the part of apostate Israel and its leaders, who
knew whence power came, and to Whom they were responsible for its exercise.
is the proper order of the words. To 'release' is put first to induce Christ to
So spake not an impostor; so spake not an ordinary man - after
such sufferings and in such circumstances - to one who, whencesoever derived, had
the power of life or death over Him. And Pilate felt it - the more keenly, for
his cynicism and disbelief of all that was higher. And the more earnestly did
he now seek to release Him. But, proportionately, the louder and fiercer was
the cry of the Jews for His Blood, till they threatened to implicate in the
charge of rebellion against Cęsar the Governor himself, if he persisted in
Such danger a Pilate would never encounter. He sat down once
more in the judgment-seat, outside the Prętorium, in the place called
'Pavement,' and, from its outlook over the City, 'Gabbatha,'62
'the rounded height.' So solemn is the transaction that the Evangelist pauses
to note once more the day - nay, the very hour, when the process had commenced.
It had been the Friday in Passover-week,63
and between six and seven of the morning.64
And at the close Pilate once more in mockery presented to them Jesus: 'Behold
Once more they called for His Crucifixion - and, when again challenged, the
chief priests burst into the cry, which preceded Pilate's final sentence, to be
presently executed: 'We have no king but Cęsar!'
derivation of Wünsche (tybh bg) 'back of the Temple,' is on every
ground to be rejected. Gabbath (tb@ag@a) or Gabbetha means 'a
rounded height.' It occurs also as the name of a town (Jer. Taan. 69 b).
have simply rendered the paraskeuh tou
pasca by Friday in Passover-week. The evidence for regarding paraskeuh, in the Gospels, as the terminus
technicus for Friday, has been often set forth. See Kirchner, D.
jud. Passahf. pp. 47, &c.
hour ('about the sixth') could only refer to when the process was taken in
ought to mention that the verb ekaqisen
in St. John xix. 13, has been taken by some critics in the transitive sense:
'Pilate . . . brought Jesus forth and seated Him in the judgment-seat,'
implying an act of mock-homage on the part of Pilate when, in presenting to the
Jews their King, he placed Him on the judgment-seat. Ingenious as the
suggestion is, and in some measure supported, it does not accord with the whole
tenour of the narrative.
With this cry Judaism was, in the person of its
representatives, guilty of denial of God, of blasphemy, of apostasy. It
committed suicide; and, ever since, has its dead body been carried in show from
land to land, and from century to century: to be dead, and to remain dead, till
He come a second time, Who is the Resurrection and the Life!
Chapter 13 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 15