Exercitations upon the Evangelist St. John
Chapters 18 and 19
For the blood, having been once dedicated to sacred use, might not be put to any common
use without trespass; so that the gardeners paid so much money for it as would purchase a
Christ had struck those to the ground that came to apprehend him, by the power of his
word, that he might thereby provide for the flight of his disciples, and shew his own
divine power. They, getting up again, accost him; Judas kisseth him; they lay hands upon
him; and then Peter draws his sword, &c.
There is frequent mention amongst the Talmudists, of R. Ananias, the sagan of the
priests. He was destroyed, with Rabban Simeon and Ismael, at the siege of Jerusalem.
But I am apt to think he was that sharp and unjust judge that St. Paul had to do with,
Acts 23, rather than our Annas in this place.
Why they should carry our Saviour, when they had taken him, before Annas the sagan,
sooner than to Caiaphas the high priest, the evangelist gives us one reason, viz.
"because he was father-in-law to Caiaphas"; under which another reason may be
deduced, viz. that he was the older man, of greater experience and skill in the law: for
there were sometimes some high priests that were very unlearned fellows, as may be
gathered from that supposition in Joma; "If the high priest be a wise man, he
expounds; if not, they expound to him. If he be accustomed to reading, he reads himself;
if not, they read before him."
It seems therefore that they led Jesus to Annas first, that Caiaphas might be directed
by his counsel; and, himself being but little versed in things of this nature, might
proceed in this affair by the steerage of his father-in-law. And let this high priest
pardon me if I ascribe that sentence of his, "It is expedient that one man should die
for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish," not to his prudence and
gravity, but to his rashness and cruelty; although the Holy Spirit directed it to its
proper end, which the high priest himself did not dream of.
"In the second Temple, which stood but four hundred and twenty years, there were
more than three hundred high priests within that time. Of these four hundred and twenty
years, deduct those forty wherein Simeon the Just ministered, and those eighty wherein
Jochanan sat, and those ten wherein Ismael Ben Phabi, and (as it is said) those eleven
wherein Eleazar Ben Harsom governed; and then reckon, and you will find that hardly any
other high priest sat out his whole year."
As to this difference of numbers, we will not much trouble our heads about it: perhaps
the Gemarists might reckon the sagans together with the high priests, for they were indeed
deputed to minister in their stead, if any uncleanness had happened to them. Let there be
fourscore high priests, or thereabouts, it is certain that so frequent were the changes
and successions amongst them, that the high priest of this year was hardly so the year
that went before or that followed after. Although indeed in this Caiaphas it was something
otherwise, yet did the evangelist justly and properly enough add this clause, that he
was the high priest that same year; tacitly noting the common state of affairs as to
the office of high priest at that time.
This order the Syr., Arab., Vulg. interpreters, and others do still observe: Nonnus,
[Dionysius] Carthusianus, Beza, and, as he quotes him, St. Cyril, invert it. It is true
there is here a tacit transition, and a trajection of the words in verse 24, which is not
very usual; but neither the one nor the other seems to be without some reason for it.
I. It is told us, Matthew 26:56, and Mark 14:50, that "all the disciples forsook
him, and fled." So that probably 'Peter and that other disciple' was amongst the
number when it is said they all fled. The transition of our evangelist therefore
seems to teach us that neither 'Peter nor the other disciple' followed Christ to Annas'
house; but being surprised and confounded with a very great fear, hid themselves for a
while; and (not till after some time) recollecting themselves, they put forward amongst
the crowd to Caiaphas' hall, or else came thither after them.
II. Annas alone could determine nothing judicially concerning Christ: for when an
inquiry must be made concerning his disciples, and the nature of his doctrines, when
witnesses must be produced pro and con, this necessarily required a session
of the Sanhedrim. He sent him therefore to Caiaphas, where the Sanhedrim also was; and the
evangelist lets the mention of that alone till he came to relate their way of proceeding.
But why, or by what right, should Annas be absent from the Sanhedrim? Could there be
any right or legal proceeding in the great council, if the whole number of seventy-one
elders were not complete? Let Maimonides give the answer: "It is not necessary that
the whole bench of seventy-one should all sit together in their places in the Temple; but
when it is necessary for them all to meet, let them be called together. But at other
times, if any one of them have any business of his own, he may go out and do his
affairs and return again. This provision is made, that there might never be fewer than
twenty-three sitting together during the whole session. If any have occasion to go forth,
let him look about him and see if there be twenty-three of his colleagues in the court,
then he may go out; if not, he must stay till some other enter." We give another
reason of Annas' absence by and by.
"They begin on the defendant's side. One of the witnesses saith, I have
something to say in his defence. If any of his disciples say, 'I have wherewith to
accuse him,' they enjoin him silence. If the disciple say, 'I can offer something
in his defence,' they call him up and place him among themselves, and suffer him not to go
down thence the whole day after."
Did they thus proceed with our Saviour? did they endeavour first for the clearing his
innocency? and were there any witnesses produced for this purpose? If so, then here were
'Peter and that other disciple,' who could have witnessed in his behalf: but Peter denies
that he ever knew him.
Nay, the traditional fathers suppose there may be frost and snow in the time of
Passover, by that canon of theirs: "They do not intercalate the year either for
snow or for frost."
The intercalation of the year respected chiefly the Paschal solemnity; namely, that by
the interposing of the intercalated month all things might be ripe and fit for that feast.
If when it came to the month Nisan the barley was not yet ripe enough to offer the sheaf
of the first fruits, then they put a month between, which they called the second Adar. So
if the ways were so bad that people could not travel up to Jerusalem, if the bridges were
so broken that they could not pass the rivers, they intercalated or put a month between,
that at the coming in of the month Nisan every thing might be ready that was requisite for
the Paschal solemnity. But if frost or snow should happen when Nisan was entering in its
ordinary course, they did not put a month between upon that account. From whence it is
plain that frost and snow did sometimes happen at that time.
II. The Passover, therefore here doth not signify the Paschal lamb, but the
Paschal Chagigah: of which we will remark these two or three things:
1. Deuteronomy 16:2, "Thou shalt sacrifice the Passover unto the Lord thy
God, of the flock and the herd." Where R. Solomon; "The flocks are meant of the
lambs and the kids; the herd of the Chagigah." And R. Bechai in locum:
"The flocks are for the due of the Passover; the herd, for the sacrifices
of the Chagigah." So also R. Nachmanid: "The herd, for the celebration of
the 'Chagigah.'" Pesachin: The flock for the Passover, the oxen for the Chagigah.
Where the Gloss, p. 1: "Doth not the Passover consist wholly of lambs and kids?
Exodus 12:5. If so, why is it said oxen? To equal every thing that is used in the
Passover. As the Passover [i.e. the Paschal lamb ] is of due, and is not
taken but out of the common flocks," neither from the first-born nor from the
tenths]; "so this also [i.e. of the oxen] is of due, and not taken but out of the
common herd." See 2 Chronicles 30:24, &c., and 35:8,9.
2. The Chagigah was for joy and mirth, according to that in Deuteronomy 16:14,
"And thou shalt rejoice in the feast," &c. Hence the sacrifices that were
prepared for that use are called sacrifices of peace or eucharistic offerings,
sacrifices of joy and mirth.
3. The proper time of bringing the Chagigah was the fifteenth day of the month. Aruch:
"They ate, and drank, and rejoiced, and were bound to bring their sacrifice of Chagigah
on the fifteenth day"; i.e. the first day of the feast, &c.
"If the lamb be less than what will satisfy the whole company, then they make
ready their Chagigah, eating that first, and then the lamb," &c. And the
reason is given by another Glosser; viz. that the appetites of those that eat might be
pretty well satisfied before they begin the lamb: for if they should fall upon the lamb
first, it being so very small, and the company numerous and hungry, they would be in
danger of breaking the bones, whiles they gnaw it so greedily.
"R. Issai saith, 'The Chagigah on the fourteenth day is not our
duty.'" And a little after: "R. Eliezer saith, 'By the peace offerings which
they slay on the evening of the feast, a man doth not his duty, either as to rejoicing, or
as to Chagigah.'"
And now let us return to the words of our evangelist.
III. It was the fifteenth day of the month when the fathers of the council refused to
enter into the praetorium, lest they should be defiled; for they would eat the Passover,
that is, the Chagigah.
1. The evangelist expresseth it after the common way of speaking, when he calls it the Passover.
"It is written, Observe the month of Abib: and keep the Passover: that all that
you do may go under the denomination of the Passover." The calf and the young bullock
which they kill in the name of the Passover, or for the Passover. Whence we may
observe, the calf is the Passover as well as the lamb.
2. The elders of the Sanhedrim prepare and oblige themselves to eat the Chagigah
[the Passover] on that day, because the next day was the sabbath; and the Chagigah
must not make void the sabbath.
"Rabh Cahna saith, When R. Ismael Bar Jose lay sick, they sent to him saying,
'Pray, sir, tell us two or three things which thou didst once tell us in the name of thy
father.' He saith to them, 'A hundred and fourscore years before the destruction of the
Temple, the wicked kingdom' [the Rome empire] reigned over Israel. Fourscore years before
the destruction of the Temple, they" [the fathers of the Sanhedrim] "determined
about the uncleanness of the heathen land, and about glass vessels. Forty years before
the destruction of the Temple, the Sanhedrim removed and sat in the Tabernae. What
is the meaning of this tradition? Rabh Isaac Bar Abdimi saith, 'They did not judge judgments
of mulcts.'" The Gloss is: "Those are the judgments about finding any that
offered violence, that entice a maid, and the price of a servant. When, therefore, they
did not sit in the room Gazith, they did not judge about these things; and so those
judgments about mulcts or fines ceased."
Here we have one part of their judiciary power lost, not taken away from them by the
Romans, but falling of itself, as it were, out of the hands of the Sanhedrim. Nor did the
Romans indeed take away their power of judging in capital matters, but they, by their own
oscitancy, supine and unreasonable lenity, lost it themselves. For so the Gemara goes on:
"Rabh Nachman Bar Isaac saith, 'Let him not say that they did not judge judgments
of mulcts, but that they did not judge capital judgments. And whence comes this? When
they saw that so many murderers multiplied upon them, that they could not well judge
and call them to account, they said, It is better for us that we remove from place to
place, for how can we otherwise" [sitting here and not punishing them] "not
contract a guilt upon ourselves?'"
I. The Sanhedrim were most stupidly and unreasonably remiss in their punishment of
capital offenders, going upon this reason especially, that they accounted it so horrible a
thing to sentence an Israelite to death. Forsooth, he is of the seed of Abraham, of the
blood and stock of Israel; and you must have a care how you touch such a one!
"R. Eliezer Bar R. Simeon had laid hold on some thieves. R. Joshua Bar Korchah
sent to him, saying, 'O thou vinegar, the son of good wine'" [i.e. O thou
wicked son of a good father], "'how long wilt thou deliver the people of God to the
slaughter?' He answered and said, 'I root the thorns out of the vineyard.' To whom
the other, 'Let the Lord of the vineyard come and root them out himself.'" It is
worth nothing that the very thieves of Israel are the people of God: and O! they must not
be touched by any means, but referred to the judgment of God himself.
"When R. Ismael Bar R. Jose was constituted a magistrate by the king, there
happened some such thing to him; for Elias himself rebuked him, saying, 'How long wilt
thou deliver over the people of God to slaughter?'" Hence that which we alleged
elsewhere: "The Sanhedrim that happens to sentence any one to death within the space
of seven years is called 'a destroyer.' R. Eleazar Ben Azariah saith, 'It is so, if they
should but condemn one within seventy years.'"
II. It is obvious to any one, how this foolish remissness and letting loose the reins
of judgment would soon increase the number of robbers, murderers, and all kind of
wickedness: and, indeed, they did so abundantly multiply, that the Sanhedrim neither could
nor durst, as it ought, call the criminals to account. The laws slept while wickedness was
in the height of its revels; and punitive justice was so out of countenance, that, as to
uncertain murders, they made no search; and certain ones they framed no judgment against.
"Since the time that homicides multiplied, the beheading the heifer ceased."
And in the place before quoted in Avodah; "When they saw the number of
murderers so greatly increase, that they could not sit in judgment upon them, they said,
'Let us remove,'" &c.
So in the case of adultery, which we also observed in our notes upon chapter 8.
"Since the time that adultery so openly advanced under the second Temple, they let
off trying the adulteress by the bitter water," &c.
So that we see the liberty of judging in capital matters was no more taken from the
Jews by the Romans than the beheading of the heifer or the trial of the suspected wife by
the bitter waters was taken away by them; which no one will affirm. But rather,
III. When the Sanhedrim saw that it was in vain to struggle against the mighty torrent
and inundation of all manner of wickedness, that played rex and encroached so fast
upon them, and that the interposure of their authority could do nothing in suppressing
them, they being incapable of passing judgment as they ought, they determine not to sit in
judgment at all. And whereas they thought themselves bound by the majesty and awfulness of
the place, while they sat in the room Gazith [in the very Court of Israel before
the altar], to judge according to the sacredness of the place, but could not indeed do it
by reason of the daring pride and resolution of the criminals, they threw themselves out
of that apartment, and went further off into the place where the exchangers' shops were
kept in the Court of the Gentiles, and so to other places, which we find mentioned in Rosh
IV. It is disputed whether they ever returned to their first place Gazith, or
no. It is affirmed by the Gloss in Avodah Zarah: "When for a time they found
it absolutely necessary, they betook themselves again to that room." We have the same
also elsewhere upon this tradition:
"It is a tradition of R. Chaia. From the day wherein the Temple was destroyed,
though the Sanhedrim ceased, yet the four kinds of death" [which were wont to be
inflicted by the Sanhedrim] "did not cease. For he that had deserved to be stoned to
death, he either fell off from some house, or some wild beast tore and devoured him. He
that had deserved burning, he either fell into some fire or some serpent bit him. He that
had deserved to be slain: [i.e. with the sword], was either delivered into the hands of a
heathen king, or was murdered by robbers. He that had deserved strangling was either
drowned in some river, or choked by a squinancy [angina]."
But it may be objected, Why is it said, "From the time that the Temple was
destroyed," and not, "forty years before the destruction of the Temple?" To
this the Gloss answereth: "Sometimes, according to the urgency and necessity of the
time, the Sanhedrim returned to the room Gazith," &c. It is further
excepted "But they never returned to sit in capital causes, or to try murders.
For the reason of their removal at first was because the numbers of homicides so increased
upon them," &c.
V. When the great council did not sit in Gazith, all courts for capital matters ceased
everywhere else. One Gloss saith thus: "They took no cognizance of capital matters in
any of the lesser sessions, so long as the great Sanhedrim did not sit in the room Gazith."
Another saith; "What time the great Sanhedrim sat in its proper place, where it
ought, near the altar, then thou shalt make thee judges in all thy gates, to judge in
capital causes: but when that removed, then all cognizance about those matters
VI. The Sanhedrim removed, as we have already seen, from Gazith, forty years
before Jerusalem was destroyed: and this is the very thing that was said, "Forty
years before the destruction of the city, judgment in capital causes was taken away from
them." And now let the reader judge what should be the reason of their being deprived
of this privilege: whether the Romans were in fault; or whether rather the Jews, nay, the
Sanhedrim itself, had not brought it upon themselves. When the Sanhedrim flitted from Gazith:
all judgment of this kind vanished, and upon what reasons they did thus flit we have
learned from their own pens.
We will not contend about the time when these forty years should first begin: though I
am apt to think they might begin about half a year before Christ's death. The words which
we have under consideration, spoken by the Sanhedrim to Pilate, seem to refer wholly to
the reason we have already mentioned: "It is not lawful for us to put any man to
death." Why is it not lawful? Because, being forced by the necessity of the times, we
retired from the room Gazith, where if we sit not, neither we ourselves nor any
court under us can take any cognizance of causes of life and death.
But what necessity of times could urge you to remove? So greatly did the criminals
multiply, and grew to such a head, that we neither could not durst animadvert upon them,
according to what the majesty of the place might expect and require from us if we should
sit in Gazith.
That must be observed in the evangelists, that when they had had Christ in examination
in the palace of the high priest all night, in the morning the whole Sanhedrim met, that
they might pass sentence of death upon him. Where then was this that they met?
Questionless in the room Gazith; at least if they adhered to their own rules and
constitutions: "Thither they betook themselves sometimes upon urgent necessity."
The Gloss before quoted excepts "only the case of murder"; which, amongst all
their false accusations, they never charged Christ with.
It is probable they had not put any one to death as yet, since the time that they had
removed out of Gazith; and so might the easilier persuade Pilate in that case. But
their great design was to throw off the odium of Christ's death from themselves, at least
amongst the vulgar crowd, fearing them, if the council themselves should have decreed his
execution. They seek this evasion, therefore, which did not altogether want some colour
and pretext of truth: and it succeeded according to what they did desire; Divine
Providence so ordering it, as the evangelist intimates, verse 32, "That the saying of
Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die": that
is, be crucified, according to the custom of the Romans.
Whilst I am upon this thought, I cannot but reflect upon that passage, than which
nothing is more worthy observation, in the whole description of the Roman beast in the
Revelation, chapter 13:4: "The dragon which gave power unto the beast." We
cannot say this of the Assyrian, Babylonish, or any other monarchy; for the Holy
Scriptures do not say it. But reason dictates, and the event itself tells us, that there
was something acted by the Roman empire in behalf of the dragon which was not compatible
with any other, that is, the putting of the Son of God to death. Which thing we must
remember, as often as we recite that article of our creed, "He suffered under Pontius
Pilate"; that is, was put to death by the Roman empire.
But supposing when Christ said, he came "that he should bear witness to the
truth," he meant in general the gospel; then Pilate asks him, What is that
truth? However, the evangelist mentions nothing, either whether our Saviour gave him
any answer to that question, or whether indeed Pilate stayed in expectation of any answer
2. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and
they put on him a purple robe,
[Platted a crown of thorns, &c.] A most unquestionable token this, that
Christ's kingdom was not of this world, when he was crowned only with thorns and
briers, which were the curse of this earth, Genesis 3:18. Herod had put upon him a
purple robe, Luke 23:11; and the soldiers added this crown. It is likewise said, that they
also clothed him with this robe, that is, after he had been stripped, in order to be
13. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in
the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabatha.
[In a place that is called the Pavement.] What is it could be objected against
it, should we say, that the evangelist, by this title of the Pavement, should mean
the room Gazith, where the Sanhedrim sat? and that, when the Jews would not go into
Pilate's judgment hall, he would himself go into theirs?
Aristeas tells us concerning the Temple, "that it looked towards the east, the
back parts of it towards the west; but the floor was all paved with stone." To
this the Talmudists all witness; and to the Pavement especially Josephus by a memorable
story: "One Julian, a centurion in Titus' army, pursuing and killing the Jews with
infinite hardness and strength, in the very court of the Temple, having many and very
sharp nails fastened to the bottom of his shoes, as every other soldier had, and
running along upon the pavement, his heels tripped up, and he fell backward,"
But had not the room Gazith a pavement laid in a more than ordinary manner?
Whence else had it its name? "It is called the room Gazith (saith Aruch),
because it was paved with smooth square stone." Were not all the other places
They distinguish between bricks, half bricks, squared hewn stones, and rough
or unhewn. Now, therefore, when there were so many apartments about the courts,
were those all paved with rough stone or bricks, and this only of square and
hewn stone? Without doubt the whole building was much more uniform. And then we shall
hardly find out any more probable reason why this place was particularly and above all
other rooms called Gazith, but that it was laid with a more noble and rich pavement
than all the rest. And, therefore, what should forbid that the Pavement, should not
in this place be meant of the room Gazith?
Obj. But Gazith was in the holy place; and it was not lawful for Pilate,
being a Gentile, to enter there.
Sol. I. If he would do it 'per fas et nefas' who could hinder him?
II. It is a question whether he could not sit in that room, and yet be within the
bounds of the Court of the Gentiles, into which it was lawful for a Gentile to enter. Half
of that room, indeed, was within the court of Israel; but there the fathers of the council
themselves did not sit, because it was lawful for none to sit in that court but the king
only. The other half part in which they sat was in Chel, and extended itself, as it
should seem, into the Court of the Gentiles. For if Chel was but ten cubits'
breadth within the walls, it would be much too narrow a room for seventy men to sit in, if
the Gazith did not extend itself a little within the Court of the Gentiles.
[But in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.] The Syriac renders it by a mound or fence:
which may fall in with what we have said: for Chel, which was part of this room,
was the fence to all the courts, excepting the Court of the Gentiles.
That Gab, amongst other things, signifies a surface, doth not stand in
need of much proof: and so the pavement and surface of the floor are
convertible...What if that in Jerusalem Sanhedrim [fol. 18. 3.] should be rendered,
the elders that sit in the upper 'Gab' in the Mount of the Temple. But we will not
14. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he
saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
[And it was, &c.] The preparation of the Passover; that is, of the Chagigah,
as we have already noted at chapter 18:28; and more largely at Mark 14:12; where also we
took notice of the following passage, About the sixth hour.
20. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified
was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
[In the Hebrew.] That is, in the Chaldee tongue, or the language of those Jews
on the other side Euphrates [lingua Trans-euphratensium], as before at chapter 5.
22. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
[What I have written I have written.] this was a common way of speaking amongst
the Rabbins. "A widow if she take" [or occupy] "the moveables" of her
husband deceased for her own maintenance, What she takes she takes; i.e. that which
she hath done stands good, and the moveables go to her.
"If any one shall say, I bind myself to offer an oblation out of the frying pan,
and offers indeed something from a gridiron, and so on the contrary; that which he hath
offered he hath offered." That is (and indeed it is frequently used amongst
them), that which is done is done, and cannot be recalled.
"If the putting off the shoe of the husband's brother be before the spitting in
his face, or the spitting in his face before the putting off the shoe, that which is
done is done," and it stands good.
Pilate doth almost act the prophet as well as Caiaphas. What I have written [Jesus
of Nazareth, the King of the Jews] I have written, and it shall stand and
obtain; nor shall they have any other king Messiah than this for ever.
23. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made
four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without
seam, woven from the top throughout.
[They took his garments--and coat, &c.] By the word garments, we are
to understand all his clothes, excepting his coat, or upper garment; for which, because it
was without seam, they cast lots.
Targumist upon Psalm 22:18. They cast lots upon my sindon, or linen.
Proverbs 31:24: that is, sindon, as it is the same with talith, the upper
Matthew 5:40: "If any man will take away thy coat," or outward
garment, "let him have thy inward garment also."
25. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary
the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
[There stood by the cross, &c.] He stood under the cross [or the
gallows] and wept. It is told of R. Eliezer Ben R. Simeon, who, being very
angry, had commanded a fuller to be hanged; but his wrath abating, and he coming to
himself, went after him to have freed him, but could not; for they had hanged the man
before he came. He therefore repeated that passage, "He that keepeth his lips and his
tongue keepeth his soul from trouble. He stood under the gallows and wept," &c.
[Mary of Cleophas.] That is, 'Mary the wife of Cleophas,' or Alpheus.
I. Consult Mark 15:40: "There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was
Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses." Now it is well
enough known that Alpheus was the father of James the less and of Joses, Matthew 10:3.
II. We very oftentimes meet with the name amongst the Talmudists, which, in the
reading, may be turned either into Alphai or Cleophi.
26. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he
loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
[Woman, behold thy son!] I. "The widow is maintained by the goods of the
heirs" [of him that is deceased] "so long as she remain a widow, till she
receive her dower."
II. Joseph being deceased, and Jesus now dying, there were no heirs, and probably no
goods or estate, for the support and maintenance of his mother Mary. This, Christ at his
last breath takes particular care of; and probably had made provision before; for it is
hardly conceivable that this was the first overture he had with St. John in this affair,
but that he had obtained a promise from him, in his mother's behalf, some time before
this. And hence perhaps that peculiar love he bore to him beyond all the rest. So that
those words, Woman, behold thy son! and on the other side to him, Behold thy
mother! seem no other than as if he had said, "This man, from the time that thou
art now deprived of thy son, shall be in the stead of a son to thee, and shall cherish and
provide for thee": and so, vice versa, to his disciple John.
29. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with
vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.
[There was set a vessel full of vinegar.] but was not this an unusual and
uncustomary thing, that there should be a vessel filled with vinegar? Should it not
have been rather with myrrhate wine, or wine mingled with myrrh? as it is
It seems evident, from the other evangelists, that our Saviour had the proffer of
something to drink at two several times.
I. Before he was nailed to the cross, Matthew 27:33,34, "When they were come unto
a place called Golgotha, they gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall," verse 35,
"and they crucified him." It was the custom towards those that were condemned by
the Sanhedrim to allow them a cup, but it was of wine mingled with myrrh or frankincense;
that by drinking that their brains might intoxicate, and themselves become the more
insensible of their torments, and less apprehensive of their death.
When any one was leading out to execution, they gave them to drink a little
frankincense in a cup of wine. And they gave it for this reason, as it immediately
follows, that their understanding might be disordered. It was a narcotic draught,
on purpose to disguise and stupefy the senses.
"Wine mingled with myrrh," saith Mark;--"vinegar mingled with gall,"
saith Matthew. Perhaps both these were administered; for it follows, in the place above
quoted, The women of quality in Jerusalem were wont to bring them this cup of their own
accord. And no doubt there were women in Jerusalem enough that would not be wanting in
this good office towards Jesus: but he, saith St. Mark, would not receive it. After this,
it is probable, the soldiers, or some of the Jews, might, in scorn and derision, offer him
a draught of vinegar and gall, of which he also refused to drink. But be it so, that there
was but one cup given him, and that of vinegar mingled with gall, yet we have observed, in
our notes upon Matthew 27:34, how easily these two evangelists may be reconciled.
II. As to those that were condemned by the Sanhedrim, there was no need that they
should have any other drink than the intoxicating wine; for they were quickly dead, and
felt no thirst. But the cross kept the wretch a long time in exquisite torment, and those
torments provoked a mighty thirst. So that perhaps there might be a vessel, full either of
water or something else that was drinkable, placed near the cross, by which he that was
crucified might allay his thirst, as need should require. Whether this vinegar might be
according to the custom of the Romans, or whether only offered at this time in sport and
mockery, I will make no inquiry at present. Christ knew beforehand that vinegar would be
given him when he should say, "I thirst"; and therefore did he on purpose say,
"I thirst," that vinegar might be given him, and the prophecy fulfilled.
[And they filled a sponge with vinegar.] The sponge which sucks up the drink.
"The sponge that drinks up any moisture that is unclean, though it be dry on the
outside, yet if it fall into a furnace it defileth it."
[And put it upon hyssop.] Matthew 27:48; put it on a reed. So also St.
I. If hyssop, as the nearness of sound might persuade us it doth, then there are
several kinds of it. Whatever hyssop hath an adjunct [or an epithet] is
not fit; that is, to sprinkle the unclean. For there was, as it follows afterward, Grecian
hyssop: fucous hyssop, perhaps of the colour of blacklead: Roman hyssop, and wild
II. Now, that there was a sort of hyssop that grew into stalks, like canes or
reeds, is evident from that which immediately follows in the next halach, where it is thus
distinguished; He gathers hyssop for food, and he gathered it for wood. Partly also
from Succah, where, amongst the mention that is made of canes and reeds and twigs,
wherewith they were wont to cover the booths they made at the feast of Tabernacles, this hyssop
is reckoned up for one.
31. The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not
remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day), besought
Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
[That sabbath day was an high day] Because, 1. It was the sabbath. 2. It was the
day when all the people presented themselves in the Temple, according to that command in
Exodus 23:17. 3. That was the day when the sheaf of the first fruits was offered according
to that command, Leviticus 23:10,11.
I. On the fifteenth day of the month was a holy day, the first day of the feast,
wherein they made ready their Chagigah, with which they feasted together for joy of the
feast. That is worth our noting; "Every day they swept the ashes of the altar at the
time of cockcrowing: only on the day of Expiation they did it at midnight; and on the
three feasts they did it after the first watch." A little after: "In the
three feasts, when infinite numbers of Israelites assembled, and numberless sacrifices
were offered, they swept the ashes off the altar just after the first watch. For before
cockcrowing, the court was crowded with Israelites." I do not scruple here the
rendering of cockcrowing; although in the very place alleged, it is under the
controversy, whether it signify cockcrowing, or the proclamation of the sagan,
or ruler of the Temple; viz. that proclamation mentioned, "The sagan saith
unto them, 'Go and see whether the time for slaying the sacrifices be at hand.' If it were
time, then he that was sent out to see returned with this answer, 'The day begins to
If the phrase the cockcrowing be to be taken in this sense, then however we see
that the people were assembled together before morning light: and yet I do not doubt but
it ought to be rendered the cockcrowing, which might be made clear by many good
proofs, if there were place or leisure for it. Now the people's assembling in the court
thus soon in the morning on these feast days was upon this account; because on the first
day of the feast, innumerable peace offerings were to be made, which were the Chagigah;
and on the second day, as many burnt offerings for the appearance of the people before the
It is true indeed the victims were not slain before the morning light; but we may very
well suppose that before they could be slain they must be searched and examined by the
Mumcheh, or any that were deputed to that office, to see whether the beasts allotted for
sacrifice were without blemish, and fit for the altar, yea or no. And upon this account
they assembled, and the sacrifices were brought into the court so early in the morning.
And now let us call a little to mind Annas the sagan, or ruler of the Temple. Might
not he also be in the Temple very early in the morning? Did not his charge require it, to
see that all things might be provided and put into a readiness for the service of that
day? Let us consider what hath been newly quoted; "The sagan or ruler saith,
'Go and see if the time for killing the sacrifice be come'"; i.e. whether daylight
appear or no. And from hence, it may be, we may gather the reason why Annas was not
amongst the rest in Caiaphas' palace; and why they brought our Saviour before him first;
viz. because his affairs in the Temple would not permit him to sit at that time with the
Sanhedrim; and yet they had a mind Christ should be carried before him, before he himself
should be called away into the Temple for the necessary discharge of his office there.
At the due time the sacrifices appointed for the Chagigah were slain: those
parts of them that pertained to the altar or to the priest were given to them; the rest of
the beast was shared amongst the owners that had offered it; and from thence proceeded
their feastings together, and their great mirth and rejoicings, according to the manner of
This was the preparation of the Passover, verse 14, and that was the Passover
to which the elders of the council reserving themselves would by no means enter into the
judgment hall, chapter 18:28.
II. That day drawing towards night, those that were deputed by the Sanhedrim to reap
the sheaf of the first fruits went out: "Those that were deputed by the Sanhedrim to
reap went forth in the evening of the feast day" [the first day of the feast],
"and bound their corn in sheafs pretty near the ground, that the reaping might be the
easier. All the neighbouring towns about gathered together, that it might be done with the
greater pomp. When it grew duskish, he that was about to reap said, 'The sun is set'; and
they answered, 'Well.' 'The sun is set'; and they answered, 'Well.' 'With this sickle';
'Well.' 'With this sickle'; 'Well.' 'In this basket'; 'Well.' 'In this basket'; 'Well.'
And if it happened to be on the sabbath day he said, 'On this sabbath'; and they answered,
'Well.' 'On this sabbath'; Well.' 'I will reap,' and they said, 'Reap.' 'I will reap';
'Reap.' And so as he said these things thrice over, they answered thrice to every one of
them, 'Well, Well, Well.' And all this upon the account of the Baithuseans, who
said, 'The sheaf of the first fruits ought not to be reaped on the close of the feast
About that hour of the day wherein our Saviour was buried, they went forth to this
reaping; and when the sabbath was now come, they began the work; for the sabbath itself
did not hinder this work.
"R. Ananias, the sagan of the priests, saith, 'On the sabbath day they
reaped the sheaf only to the measure of one seah, with one sickle, in one basket': but
upon a common day they reaped three seahs, with three sickles, in three baskets. But the
wise men say, 'The sabbath days and other days as to this matter are alike.'"
III. This night they were to lodge in Jerusalem, or in booths about, so near the city
that they might not exceed the bounds of a sabbath day's journey.
In the morning, again, they met very early in the court, as the day before, and the
sacrifices are brought for the people's appearing before the Lord: the sheaf of first
fruits is offered in its turn: the rites and usages of which offering are described in the
place above quoted. So that upon this 'high day' there happened to be three great
solemnities in one, viz. the sabbath, the sheaf offering, and the appearing of the
people in the court before the Lord, according to the command, Exodus 23:17.
34. But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there
out blood and water.
[With a spear pierced his side.] The Arabic version of the Erpenian edition adds
the word, he pierced his right side; afraid (as it should seem) lest the miracle
should not be great enough, if the blood and water should have been supposed to have
issued from his left side because of the water that is said to be contained in the
pericardium: which being pierced, it is conceived blood and water could not but upon
natural reasons flow out of it. But this issue of blood and water had something of mystery
in it beyond nature: if nothing preternatural had been in it, I hardly imagine the
evangelist would have used that threefold asseveration concerning the truth of the thing
as we see he doth; "And he that saw it bare record," &c.
[Came there out blood and water.] It is commonly said that the two sacraments of
the new testament, water and blood, flowed out of this wound: but I would
rather say that the antitype of the old testament might be here seen.
I. The apostle teacheth us that the ratification of the old covenant was by blood
and water, Hebrews 9:19; "Moses took the blood of calves and of goats, with
water," &c. I confess, indeed, that Moses makes no mention of water,
Exodus 24: but the apostle, writing to the Hebrews, does not write without such authority
as they could not tell how to gainsay. And if my memory do not fail me, I think I have
read somewhere among some of the Jewish authors (but the place itself has unhappily
slipped from me), that when there was some pause to be made betwixt the slaying of the
sacrifice and the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar (such a kind of pause as Moses
made when he read to the people the articles of their covenant), they mingled water with
the blood, lest it should congeal and coagulate. However, the authority is sufficient that
the apostle tells us that the first testament was dedicated by blood and water. The
antitype of which is clearly exhibited in this ratification of the new testament: and
hence it is that the evangelist, by so vehement asseverations, confirms the truth of this
passage, because it so plainly answers the type, and gives such assurance of the
fulfilling of it.
II. It must not by any means let pass that in Shemoth Rabba; "'He smote the
rock, and the waters gushed out,' Psalm 78:20, but the word yod-zayin-vav-bet-
yod signifies nothing else but blood; as it is said, 'The woman that hath an issue
of blood upon her,' Leviticus 15:20. Moses therefore smote the rock twice, and first
it gushed out blood, then water."
"That rock was Christ," 1 Corinthians 10:4. Compare these two together: Moses
smote the rock, and blood and water, saith the Jew, flowed out thence: the soldier pierced
our Saviour's side with a spear, and water and blood, saith the evangelist, flowed
St. John concludes this asseveration of his, that ye might believe. It is not
without moment what is commonly said, viz. that by this flowing out of water and blood, it
is evident his pericardium was pierced; and so there was an undoubted assurance given of
his death: but I hardly believe the evangelist in this clause had any direct eye towards
it; for would he be so vehement in asserting, "He that saw bare record: and he
knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe" that Jesus was indeed dead? Surely
there was no need of such mighty asseverations for that. Questionless, therefore, he would
intimate something else, viz. that you may believe that this is the true blood of the new
covenant, which so directly answers the type in the confirmation of the old. Nor do I
think that the water itself, which issued from his side, was that only which was contained
in the pericardium, but that something supernatural was in this matter.
36. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of
him shall not be broken.
[A bone of him shall not be broken.] These words may have some reference to that
of Psalm 34:20: but they are more commonly referred by expositors to that law about the
Paschal lamb, Exodus 12:46: for "Christ is our Passover," 1 Corinthians 5:7.
"If any one break a bone of the Passover, let him receive forty
stripes." "The bones, the sinews, and what remains of the flesh, must all be
burned on the sixteenth day. If the sixteenth day should happen on the sabbath" [and
so indeed it did happen in this year wherein Christ was crucified], "then let them be
burned on the seventeenth: for they drive away neither the sabbath nor any holy day."
37. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
[They shall look on him whom they pierced.] It is observed by all expositors,
how the Greek version in that place of Zechariah [12:10], from whence this passage is
taken, doth vary: for they have it, they shall look towards me, because they have
insulted. So the Roman edition, and so some others. Hence,
It is questioned whether those interpreters did so render the words; or whether this
were not an interpolation. To pass by the testimonies of the ancients that ascribe it to
the Seventy, let us observe these two things:
I. It is no unusual thing for the Greek interpreters in their renderings sometimes to
favour the Jewish traditions, and sometimes the common interpretation of the nation. There
want not instances of both kinds: it is the latter we have to do with at this time;
wherein take one or two examples, instead of many that might be reckoned up.
What reason can be given that they should render Caphtorim, Cappadocians, and Caphtor,
Cappadocia, Deuteronomy 2:23, but only because the Pelusiotes and Pelusium were
commonly so termed by the Jews? Who could have imagined any reason why they say of Eli,
that he judged Israel 'twenty' years, when in the original it is forty, 1
Samuel 4:18, but that they favoured the common figment of that nation, that the
Philistines had such a dread of Samson, that for twenty years after his death they stood
in as much awe of him as if he was then alive and judged Israel? Of this nature is their
rendering son by instruction, (Psa 2:12)...
II. The Chaldee paraphrast thus renders the words They shall ask after me, because
they are carried away. Which R. Solomon thus interprets: "They shall look back to
mourn, because the Gentiles have pierced some of them and killed them in their
captivity." Which agrees so well with the sense of the Greek version, "They
shall look on me [mourning], because the Gentiles have insulted over my people in their
captivity," that I cannot suspect any interpolation in the Greek copies...
Think you that figment about Messiah Ben Joseph (to which the Talmudists apply these
words of Zechariah, as also doth Aben Ezra upon the place) was invented when the Greek
version was first framed? If not, which is my opinion, then it is probable that the
Chaldee paraphrast gave the sense that most obtained in the nation at that time,
with which that of the Greek accords well enough...