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A Commentary on the New Testament
from the Talmud and Hebraica
Exercitations upon the Gospel of St. Mark
3. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James
and John and Andrew asked him privately,
[Upon the mount of Olives, over against the Temple.] "The east gate of the
Court of the Gentiles had the metropolis Sushan painted on it. And through this gate the
high priest went out to burn the red cow." And, "All the walls of that court
were high, except the east wall; because of the priest, when he burnt the red cow, stood
upon the top of mount Olivet, and took his aim, and looked upon the gate of the
Temple, in that time when he sprinkled the blood." And, "The priest stood with
his face turned westward, kills the cow with his right hand, and receives the blood with
the left, but sprinkleth it with his right, and that seven times, directly towards the
Holy of Holies."
It is true, indeed, the Temple might be well seen from any tract of Olivet: but
the word over against, if it doth not direct to this very place, yet to some place
certainly in the same line: and it cannot but recall to our mind that action of the high
7. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such
things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.
[Be not troubled.] Think here, how the traditions of the scribes affrighted the
nation with the report of Gog and Magog, immediately to go before the coming of the
"R. Eliezer Ben Abina saith, When you see the kingdoms disturbing one another, then
expect the footsteps of the Messiah. And know that this is true from hence, that so it
was in the days of Abraham; for kingdoms disturbed one another, and then came redemption
to Abraham." And elsewhere; "So they came against Abraham, and so they shall
come with Gog and Magog." And again, "The Rabbins deliver. In the first year of
that week [of years] that the Son of David is to come, shall that be fulfilled, 'I
will rain upon one city, but I will not rain upon another,' Amos 4:7. The second year, the
arrows of famine shall be sent forth. The third, the famine shall be grievous, and men and
women and children, holy men, and men of good works, shall die. And there shall be a
forgetfulness of the law among those that learn it. The fourth year, fulness, and not
fulness. The fifth year, great fulness; for they shall eat and drink and rejoice, and the
law shall return to its scholars. The sixth year, voices. (The Gloss is, 'A fame shall be
spread, that the Son of David comes,' or, 'they shall sound with a trumpet.') The seventh
year, wars; and in the going out of that seventh year the Son of David shall come."
8. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there
shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are
the beginnings of sorrows.
[These are the beginnings of sorrows.] Isaiah 66:7,8: Before she travailed
she brought forth; before the labour of pains came she was delivered, and brought forth a
male. Who hath heard such a thing? Does the earth bring forth in one day, or is a nation
also brought forth at once? For Sion was in travail and brought forth her sons.
The prophet here says two things:--
I. That Christ should be born before the destruction of Jerusalem. The Jews themselves
collect and acknowledge this out of this prophecy: "It is in the Great Genesis
[Bereshith Rabba] a very ancient book: thus R. Samuel Bar Nachaman said, Whence
prove you, that in the day when the destruction of the Temple was, Messias was born? He
answered, From this that is said in the last chapter of Isaiah, 'Before she travailed she
brought forth; before her bringing forth shall come, she brought forth a male child.' In
the same hour that the destruction of the Temple was, Israel cried out as though she were
bringing forth. And Jonathan in the Chaldee translation said, Before her trouble came she
was saved; and before the pains of childbirth came upon her, Messiah was revealed."
In the Chaldee it is, A king shall manifest himself.
"In like manner in the same book: R. Samuel Bar Nachaman said, It happened that
Elias went by the way in the day wherein the destruction of the Temple was, and he heard a
certain voice crying out and saying, 'The holy Temple is destroyed.' Which when he heard,
he imagined how he could destroy the world: but travelling forward he saw men ploughing
and sowing, to whom he said, 'God is angry with the world and will destroy his house, and
lead his children captives to the Gentiles; and do you labour for temporal victuals?' And
another voice was heard, saying, 'Let them work, for the Saviour of Israel is born.' And
Elias said, 'Where is he?' And the voice said, 'In Bethlehem of Judah,'" &c.
These words this author speaks, and these words they speak.
II. As it is not without good reason gathered, that Christ shall be born before the
destruction of the city, from that clause, "Before she travailed she brought forth,
before her bringing forth came [the pangs of travail], she brought forth a male
child"; so also, from that clause, Is a nation brought forth at once? for Sion
travailed and brought forth her children, is gathered as well, that the Gentiles were
to be gathered and called to the faith before that destruction; which our Saviour most
plainly teacheth, verse 10, "But the gospel must first be preached among all
nations." For how the Gentiles, which should believe, are called 'the children of
Sion,' and 'the children of the church of Israel,' every where in the prophets, there is
no need to show, for every one knows it.
In this sense is the word pangs or sorrows, in this place to be
understood; and it agrees not only with the sense of the prophet alleged, but with a most
common phrase and opinion in the nation concerning the sorrows of the Messiah, that
is, concerning the calamities which they expected would happen at the coming of the
"Ulla saith, The Messias shall come, but I shall not see him. So also saith
Rabba, Messias shall come, but I shall not see him; that is, he shall not be to be seen.
Abai saith to Rabba, Why? Because of the sorrows of the Messias. It is a tradition.
His disciples asked R. Eliezer, What may a man do to be delivered from the sorrows of
Messias? Let him be conversant in the law and in the works of mercy." The Gloss is,
"the terrors and the sorrows which shall be in his days." "He that feasts
thrice on the sabbath day shall be delivered from three miseries, from the sorrows of
Messiah, from the judgment of hell, and from the war of Gog and Magog." Where the
Gloss is this, "'From the sorrows of Messias': for in that age, wherein the Son of
David shall come, there will be an accusation of the scholars of the wise men. The
word sorrows denotes such pains as women in childbirth endure."
32. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which
are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
[But of that day and hour knoweth no man.] Of what day and hour?
That the discourse is of the day of the destruction of Jerusalem is so evident, both by
the disciples' question, and by the whole thread of Christ's discourse, that it is a
wonder any should understand these words of the day and hour of the last judgment.
Two things are demanded of our Saviour, verse 4: the one is, "When shall these
things be, that one stone shall not be left upon another?" And the second is,
"What shall be the sign of this consummation?" To the latter he answereth
throughout the whole chapter hitherto: to the former in the present words. He had said,
indeed, in the verse before, "Heaven and earth shall pass away," &c.; not
for resolution to the question propounded (for there was no inquiry at all concerning the
dissolution of heaven and earth), but for confirmation of the truth of the thing which he
had related. As though he had said, "Ye ask when such an overthrow of the
Temple shall happen; when it shall be, and what shall be the signs of it. I answer, These
and those, and the other signs shall go before it; and these my words of the thing itself
to come to pass, and of the signs going before, are firmer than heaven and earth itself.
But whereas ye inquire of the precise time, that is not to be inquired after; for of
that day and hour knoweth no man."
We cannot but remember here, that even among the beholders of the destruction of the
Temple there is a difference concerning the day of the destruction; that that day and hour
was so little known before the event, that even after the event, they who saw the flames
disagreed among themselves concerning the day. Josephus, an eyewitness, saw the
burning of the Temple, and he ascribed it to the tenth day of the month Ab or Lous. For
thus he; "The Temple perished the tenth day of the month Lous (or August), a
day fatal to the Temple, as having been on that day consumed in flames by the king of
Babylon." Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai saw the same conflagration; and he, together
with the whole Jewish nation, ascribes it to the ninth day of that month, not the tenth;
yet so that he saith, "If I had not lived in that age I had not judged it but to have
happened on the tenth day." For as the Gloss upon Maimonides writes, "It was the
evening when they set fire to it, and the Temple burnt until sunset the tenth day. In the
Jerusalem Talmud, therefore, Rabbi and R. Joshua Ben Levi fasted the ninth and tenth
days." See also the tract Bab. Taanith.
[Neither the angels.] "'For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the
year of my redeemed is come,' Isaiah 63:4. What means 'the day of vengeance is in mine
heart?' R. Jochanan saith, I have revealed it to my heart, to my members I have not
revealed it. R. Simeon Ben Lachish saith, I have revealed it to my heart, but to the
ministering angels I have not revealed it." And Jalkut on that place thus:
My heart reveals it not to my mouth; to whom should my mouth reveal it?
[Nor the Son.] Neither the angels, nor the Messias. For in that sense the
word Son, is to be taken in this place and elsewhere very often: as in that
passage, John 5:19, "The Son," that is, the Messias, "can do nothing of
himself, but what he seeth the Father do": verse 20, "The Father loveth the
Messias," &c: verse 26, "He hath given to the Messias to have life in
himself," &c. And that the word Son is to be rendered in this sense,
appears from verse 27; "He hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because
he is the Son of man." Observe that, "because he is the Son of man."
I. It is one thing to understand "the Son of God" barely and abstractly for
the second person in the Holy Trinity; another to understand him for the Messias, or that
second person incarnate. To say that the second person in the Trinity knows not something
is blasphemous; to say so of the Messias, is not so, who, nevertheless, was the same with
the second person in the Trinity: for although the second person, abstractly considered
according to his mere Deity, was co-equal with the Father, co-omnipotent, co-omniscient,
co-eternal with him, &c.; yet Messias, who was God-man, considered as Messias, was a
servant and a messenger of the Father, and received commands and authority from the
Father. And those expressions, "The Son can do nothing of himself," &c. will
not in the least serve the Arian's turn; if you take them in this sense, which you must
necessarily do; "Messias can do nothing of himself, because he is a servant and a
II. We must distinguish between the excellences and perfections of Christ, which flowed
from the hypostatical union of the natures, and those which flowed from the donation and
anointing of the Holy Spirit. From the hypostatical union of the natures flowed the
infinite dignity of his person, his impeccability, his infinite self-sufficiency to
perform the law, and to satisfy the divine justice. From the anointing of the Spirit
flowed his power of miracles, his foreknowledge of things to come, and all kind of
knowledge of evangelic mysteries. Those rendered him a fit and perfect Redeemer; these
a fit and perfect Minister of the gospel.
Now, therefore, the foreknowledge of things to come, of which the discourse here is, is
to be numbered among those things which flowed from the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and
from immediate revelation; not from the hypostatic union of the natures. So that those
things which were revealed by Christ to his church, he had them from the revelation of the
Spirit, not from that union. Nor is it any derogation or detraction from the dignity of
his person, that he saith, 'He knew not that day and hour of the destruction of
Jerusalem'; yea, it excellently agrees with his office and deputation, who, being the
Father's servant, messenger, and minister, followed the orders of the Father, and obeyed
him in all things. "The Son knoweth not," that is, it is not revealed to him
from the Father to reveal to the church. Revelation 1:1, "The revelation of Jesus
Christ, which God gave unto him."
We omit inquiring concerning the knowledge of Christ, being now raised from death:
whether, and how far, it exceeded his knowledge, while yet he conversed on earth. It is
without doubt, that, being now raised from the dead, he merited all kind of revelation
(see Rev 5:9, "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book,
and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain," &c.); and that he,
conversing on earth before his death, acted with the vigour of the Holy Spirit and of that
unspeakable holiness which flowed from the union of the human nature with the divine, the
divine nature, in the meantime, suspending its infinite activity of omnipotence. So that
Christ might work miracles, and know things to come, in the same manner as the prophets
also did, namely, by the Holy Ghost, but in a larger measure; and might overcome the devil
not so much by the omnipotence of the divine nature, as by the infinite holiness of his
person, and of his obedience. So that if you either look upon him as the minister and
servant of God; or if you look upon the constitution, as I may so call it, and condition
of his person, these words of his, "Of that day and hour knoweth not the Son
also," carry nothing of incongruity along with them; yea, do excellently speak out
his substitution as a servant, and the constitution of his person as God-man.
The reason why the divine wisdom would have the time of the destruction of Jerusalem so
concealed, is well known to itself; but by men, since the time of it was unsearchable, the
reason certainly is not easy to be searched. We may conjecture that the time was hid,
partly, lest the godly might be terrified with the sound of it, as 2 Thessalonians 2:2;
partly, that the ungodly, and those that would be secure, might be taken in the snares of
their own security, as Matthew 24:38. But let secret things belong to God.
3. And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there
came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake
the box, and poured it on his head.
[Of spikenard.] What if I should render it, nardin of Balanus?
"Nardin consists of omphacium, balaninum, bulrush, nard, amomum, myrrh, balsam,"
&c. And again, "Myrobalanum is common to the Troglodytes, and to Thebais, and to
that part of Arabia which divides Judea from Egypt; a growing ointment, as appears by the
very name, whereby also is shown that it is the mast [glans] of a tree."
Balanus, as all know among the Greeks, is glans, mast, or an acorn:
so also is pistaca, among the Talmudists. There are prescribed by the Talmudists
various remedies for various diseases: among others, this; For a pleurisy (or, as
others will have it, a certain disease of the head), take to the quantity of the mast
of ammoniac. The Gloss is, the mast of ammoniac is the mast of cedar. The Aruch
saith, "the mast of ammoniac is the grain of a fruit, which is called glans."
The word nard, is Hebrew from the word nerad; and the word spikenard
is Syriac, from the word pistaca. So that the ointment might be called Balanine
ointment, in the composition of which, nard and mast, or myrobalane,
were the chief ingredients.
[Poured it on his head.] In Talmudic language, "What are the testimonies,
that the woman married is a virgin? If she goes forth to be married with a veil let
down over her eyes, yet with her head not veiled. The scattering of nuts is also a
testimony. These are in Judea; but what are in Babylon? Rabh saith, If ointment be upon
the head of the Rabbins." (The Gloss is, "The women poured ointment upon the
heads of the scholars, and anointed them.") "Rabh Papa said to Abai, Does
that doctor speak of the aromatic ointment used in bridechambers?" (The Gloss is,
"Are the Rabbins such, to be anointed with such ointments?") "He answered, O
thou unacquainted with the customs, did not thy mother pour out ointment for you (at
thy wedding) upon the heads of the Rabbins? Thus, a certain Rabbin got a wife for
his son in the house of Rabbah Bar Ulla; and they said to him, Rabbah Bar Ulla also got a
wife in the house of a certain Rabbin for his son, and he poured out ointment upon the
head of the Rabbins."
From the tradition produced it may be asked, whether it were customary in Judea to wet
the heads of the Rabbins with ointments, in the marriages of virgins, as it was in
Babylon? Or, whether it were so customary otherwise to anoint their heads; as that such an
anointing at weddings were not so memorable a matter as it was in Babylon? Certainly, in
both places, however they anointed men's heads for health's sake, it was accounted
unfitting for Rabbins to smell of aromatical ointments: "It is indecent (say the
Jerusalem Talmudists) for a scholar of the wise men to smell of spices." And you have
the judgment of the Babylonians in this very place, when it is inquired among them, and
that, as it were, with a certain kind of dissatisfaction, Whether Rabbins be such as that
they should be anointed with aromatical ointments, as the more nice sort are wont to be
anointed? From this opinion, everywhere received among them, you may more aptly
understand, why the other disciples as well as Judas, did bear the lavish of the ointment
with some indignation: he, out of wicked covetousness; but they, partly, as not
wiling that so precious a thing should be lost, and partly as not liking so nice a custom
should be used towards their master, from which the masters of the Jews themselves were so
averse. And our Saviour, taking off the envy of what was done, applies this anointing to
his burial, both in his intention and in the intention of the woman; that it might not
seem to be done out of some delicate niceness.
5. For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been
given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
[More than three hundred pence.] The prices of such precious ointments (as it
seems in Pliny) were commonly known. For thus he, "The price of costus is
sixteen pounds. The price of spike(nard) is ninety pounds. The leaves have made a
difference in the value. From the broadness of them it is called Hadrosphaerum; with
greater leaves it is worth X. xxx," that is, thirty pence. "That with a
lesser leaf is called Mesosphaerum, it is sold at X. lx," sixty pence.
"The most esteemed is that called Microsphaerum, having the least leaf, and the price
of it is X. lxxv," seventy-five pence. And elsewhere: "To these the
merchants have added that which they call Daphnois, surnamed Isocinnamon, and they make
the price of it to be X. ccc" three hundred pence.
II. It is not easy to reduce this sum of three hundred pence to its proper sense;
partly because a penny was two-fold, a silver penny, and a gold one: partly because there
was a double value and estimation of money, namely, that of Jerusalem and that of Tyre, as
we observed before. Let these be silver (which we believe), which are of much less value
than gold: and let them be Jerusalem pence (which we also believe), which are cheaper than
the Tyrian; yet they plainly speak the great wealth of Magdalene, who poured out an
ointment of such a value, when before she had spent some such other.
Which brings to my mind those things which are spoken by the Masters concerning the
box of spices, which the husband was bound to give the wife according to the
proportion of her dowry: "But this is not spoken, saith Rabh Ishai, but of Jerusalem
people. There is an example of a daughter of Nicodemus Ben Gorion, to whom the wise
men appointed four hundred crowns of gold for a chest of spices for one day. She said to
them, 'I wish you may so appoint for their daughters'; and they answered after her,
'Amen.'" The Gloss is, "The husband was to give to his wife ten zuzees
for every manah, which she brought with her to buy spices, with which she used to
wash herself," &c. Behold! a most wealthy woman of Jerusalem, daughter of
Nicodemus, in the contract and instrument of whose marriage was written, "A thousand
thousand gold pence out of the house of her father, besides those she had out of the house
of her father-in-law": whom yet you have in the same story reduced to that extreme
poverty, that she picked up barley-corns for her food out of the cattle's dung.
7. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good:
but me ye have not always.
[For ye have the poor with you always.] "Samuel saith, 'There is no
difference between this world and the days of the Messias,' unless in regard of the
affliction of the heathen kingdoms; as it is said, 'A poor man shall not be wanting
out of the midst of the earth,'" Deuteronomy 15:11. Observe a Jew confessing, that
there shall be poor men even in the days of the Messias: which how it agrees with their
received opinion of the pompous kingdom of the Messias, let him look to it. "R.
Solomon and Aben Ezra write, 'If thou shalt obey the words of the Lord, there shall not be
a poor man in thee: but thou wilt not obey; therefore a poor man shall never be
wanting.'" Upon this received reason of the thing, confess also, O Samuel, that there
shall be disobedient persons in the days of the Messias; which, indeed, when the true
Messias came, proved too, too true, in thy nation.
12. And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his
disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the
[And the first day of unleavened bread.] So Matthew 26:17; Luke 22:7. And now
let them tell me, who think that Christ indeed kept his Passover the fourteenth day, but
the Jews not before the fifteenth, because this year their Passover was transferred unto
the fifteenth day by reason of the following sabbath: let them tell me, I say, whether the
evangelists speak according to the day prescribed by Moses, or according to the day
prescribed by the masters of the traditions, and used by the nation. If according to
Moses, then the fifteenth day was the first of unleavened bread, Exodus 12:15,18:
but if according to the manner of the nation, then it was the fourteenth. And whether the
evangelists speak according to this custom, let us inquire briefly.
Sometime, indeed, the whole seven days' feast was transferred to another month; and
that not only from that law, Numbers 9, but from other causes also: concerning which see
the places quoted in the margin [Hieros. in Maasar Sheni, fol. 56.3. Maimon. in Kiddush.
Hodesh. cap. 4.]. But when the time appointed for the feast occurred, the lamb was always
slain on the fourteenth day.
I. Let us begin with a story where an occasion occurs not very unlike that for which
they of whom we speak think the Passover this year was transferred; namely, because of the
following sabbath. The story is this: "After the death of Shemaiah and Abtalion, the
sons of Betira obtained the chief place. Hillel went up from Babylon to inquire concerning
three doubts. When he was now at Jerusalem, and the fourteenth day of the first month fell
out on the sabbath [observe that], it appeared not to the sons of Betira, whether
the Passover drove off the sabbath or no. Which when Hillel had determined in many words,
and had added, moreover, that he had learned this from Shemaiah and Abtalion, they laid
down their authority, and made Hillel president. When they had chosen him president, he
derided them, saying, 'What need have you of this Babylonian? Did you not serve the two
chief men of the world, Shemaiah and Abtalion, who sat among you?'" These things
which are already said make enough to our purpose, but, with the reader's leave, let us
add the whole story: "While he thus scoffed at them, he forgot a tradition. For they
said, 'What is to be done with the people if they bring not their knives?' He answered, 'I
have heard this tradition, but I have forgot. But let them alone; for although they are
not prophets, they are prophets' sons.' Presently every one whose passover was a lamb
stuck his knife into the fleece of it; and whose passover was a kid, hung his knife upon
the horns of it."
And now let the impartial reader judge between the reason which is given for the
transferring the Passover this year unto the fifteenth day, namely, because of the sabbath
following, that they might not be forced to abstain from servile work for two days
together; and the reason for which it might with good reason be transferred that year
concerning which the story is. The fourteenth day fell on a sabbath; a scruple ariseth,
whether the sabbath gives way to the Passover, or the Passover to the sabbath. The very
chief men of the Sanhedrim, and the oracles of traditions, are not able to resolve the
business. A great article of religion is transacting; and what is here to be done! O ye
sons of Betira, transfer but the Passover unto the next day, and the knot is untied.
Certainly if this had been either usual or lawful, they had provided that the affairs of
religion, and their authority and fame, should not have stuck in this strait. But that was
not to be suffered.
II. Let us add a tradition which you may justly wonder at: "Five things, if they
come in uncleanness, are not eaten in uncleanness: the sheaf of firstfruits, the two
loaves, the shewbread, the peace offerings of the congregation, and the goats of the new
moons. But the Passover which comes in uncleanness is eaten in uncleanness: because
it comes not originally unless to be eaten."
Upon which tradition thus Maimonides: "The Lord saith, 'And there were some that
were unclean by the carcase of a man,' Numbers 9:6, and he determines of them, that they
be put off from the Passover of the first month to the Passover of the second. And the
tradition is, that it was thus determined, because they were few. But if the whole
congregation should have been unclean, or if the greatest part of it should have been
unclean, yet they offer the Passover, though they are unclean. Therefore they say,
'Particular men are put off to the second Passover, but the whole congregation is not put
off to the second Passover.' In like manner all the oblations of the congregation, they
offer them in uncleanness if the most are unclean; which we learn also from the Passover.
For the Lord saith of the Passover, [Num 9:2] that it is to be offered in its set time
[note that]; and saith also of the oblations of the congregation, Ye shall do this to the
Lord in your set times, and to them all he prescribes a set time. Every thing, therefore,
to which a time is set, is also offered in uncleanness, if so be very many of the
congregation, or very many of the priests, be unclean."
"We find that the congregation makes their Passover in uncleanness, in that time
when most of them are unclean. And if known uncleanness be thus dispensed with, much more
doubted uncleanness." But what need is there of such dispensation? Could ye not put
off the Passover, O ye fathers of the Sanhedrim, for one or two days, that the people
might be purified? By no means: for the Passover is to be offered in its set time,
the fourteenth day, without any dispensation. For,
III. Thus the canons of that church concerning that day: in the light of the
fourteenth day, they seek for leaven by candlelight. The Gloss is; "In the night,
to which the day following is the fourteenth day." And go to all the commentators,
and they will teach, that this was done upon the going out of the thirteenth day. And
Maimonides; "From the words of the scribes, they look for and rid away leaven in the
beginning of the night of the fourteenth day, and that by the light of the candle. For in
the night time all are within their houses, and a candle is most proper for such a search.
Therefore, they do not appoint employments in the end of the thirteenth day, nor doth a
wise man begin to recite his phylacteries in that time, lest thereby, by reason of their
length, he be hindered from seeking for leaven in its season." And the same author
elsewhere; "It is forbidden to eat leaven on the fourteenth day from noon and
onwards, viz. from the beginning of the seventh hour. Our wise men also forbade eating it
from the beginning of the sixth hour. Nay, the fifth hour they eat not leaven, lest
perhaps the day be cloudy, and so a mistake arise about the time. Behold, you learn that
it is lawful to eat leaven on the fourteenth day, to the end of the fourth hour; but in
the fifth hour it is not to be used." The same author elsewhere writes thus;
"The passover was not to be killed but in the court, where the other sacrifices were
killed. And it was to be killed on the fourteenth day afternoon, after the daily
The Temple: Its Ministry
and Services by Alfred Edersheim.
[For more on the Passover and daily sacrifices, please see
Also see Chronology of the Crucifixion Week for info regarding
Christ as our Passover Lamb.]
And now, reader, tell me what day the evangelists call the first day of unleavened
bread: and whether it be any thing probable that the Passover was ever transferred
unto the fifteenth day? Much less is it probable that Christ this year kept his Passover
one day before the Passover of the Jews.
For the Passover was not to be slain but in the court, where the other sacrifices were
slain, as we heard just now from Maimonides: and see the rubric of bringing in the lambs
into the court, and of slaying them. And then tell me seriously whether it be credible,
that the priests in the Temple, against the set decree of the Sanhedrim that year (as the
opinion we contradict imports), would kill Christ's one, only, single lamb; when by that
decree it ought not to be killed before tomorrow? When Christ said to his disciples,
"Ye know, that after two days is the Passover"; and when he commanded them,
"Go ye, and prepare for us the Passover," it is a wonder they did not reply,
"True, indeed, Sir, it ought to be after two days; but it is put off this year to a
day later, so that now it is after three days; it is impossible therefore that we should
obey you now, for the priests will not allow of killing before tomorrow."
We have said enough, I suppose, in this matter. But while I am speaking of the day of
the Passover, let me add a few words, although not to the business concerning which we
have been treating; and they perhaps not unworthy of our consideration:
"He that mourns washes himself, and eats his Passover in the even. A proselyte,
which is made a proselyte on the eve of the Passover, the school of Shammai saith, Let him
be baptized, and eat his Passover in the even: the school of Hillel saith, He that
separates himself from uncircumcision [that is, from heathens and heathenism] is as
if he separated himself from a sepulchre." The Gloss, "And hath need of seven
days' purification." "There were soldiers at Jerusalem, who baptized
themselves, and ate their Passovers in the even." A thing certainly to be noted,
proselytes the same day made proselytes, and eating the Passover; and that as it seems
without circumcision, but admitted only by baptism.
The care of the school of Hillel in this case did not so much repulse a proselyte from
eating the Passover, who was made a proselyte and baptized on the day of the Passover; as
provided for the future, that such a one in following years should not obtrude himself to
eat the Passover in uncleanness. For while he was in heathenism, he contracted not
uncleanness from the touch of a sepulchre; but being made a proselyte, he contracted
uncleanness by it. These are the words of the Gloss.
[That we prepare that thou mayest eat the Passover.] For the Passovers were
prepared by the servants for their masters. "If any say to his servant, 'Go and kill
me the passover,' and he kills a kid, let him eat of it: if he kill a lamb, let him eat of
it: if a kid and a lamb, let him eat of the former," &c.
26. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
[And when they had sung an hymn.] I. "What difference is there between the
first Passover and the second?" [that is, the Passover of the first month and of the
second, Numbers 9]. "In the first, every one is bound under that law, 'Leaven shall
not be seen nor found among you.' In the second, 'Leaven and unleavened bread may be with
a man in his house.' In the first, he is bound to a hymn when he eats the Passover.
In the second, he is not bound to a hymn when he eats it. In both, he is bound to a
hymn while he makes or kills. Both are to be eaten roast, and with
unleavened bread, and bitter herbs, and both drive away the sabbath." The Gemarists
ask, "Whence this is, that they are bound to a hymn, while they eat the
Passover? R. Jochanan in the name of R. Simeon Ben Josedek saith, The Scripture saith,
'You shall have a song, as in the night when a feast is kept,' Isaiah 30:29. The night
which is set apart for a feast is bound to a hymn: the night which is not set apart
for a feast is not bound to a hymn." The Gloss writes thus; "As ye are
wont to sing in the night when a feast is kept: but there is no night wherein they are
obliged to a song, besides the night when the Passover is eaten."
II. That hymn is called by the Rabbins the Hallel; and was from the beginning of
Psalm 113, to the end of Psalm 118, which they cut in two parts; and a part of it they
repeated in the very middle of the banquet, and they reserved a part to the end.
How far the former portion extended, is disputed between the schools of Shammai and
Hillel. That of Shammai saith, Unto the end of Psalm 113. That of Hillel saith, Unto the
end of Psalm 114. But these things must not stop us. The hymn which Christ now sang with
his disciples after meat was the latter part. In which, as the Masters of the Traditions
observe, these five things are mentioned: "The going out of Egypt. The cutting in two
of the Red Sea. The delivery of the law. The resurrection of the dead: and the sorrows of
the Messias. The going out of Egypt, as it is written, 'When Israel went out of Egypt.'
The cutting in two of the Red Sea, as it is written, 'The sea saw it, and fled.' The
delivery of the law, as it is written, 'The mountains leaped like rams.' The resurrection
of the dead, as it is written, 'I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.'
And the sorrows of the Messias, as it is written, 'Not unto us, Lord, not unto us.'"
[They went out into the mount of Olives.] They were bound by traditional canons
to lodge within Jerusalem. "On the first Passover, every one is bound to lodge
also on the second Passover he is bound to lodge." The Gloss thus: "He that
keeps the Passover is bound to lodge in Jerusalem the first night." But it is
disputed, whether it be the same night wherein the lamb is eaten; or the night first
following the feast day. See the place: and let not the lion of the tribe of Judah be
restrained in those cobwebs [Pesach. fol. 95 .2.]
36. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away
this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
[Abba, Father.] As it is necessary to distinguish between the Hebrew and Chaldee
idiom in the words Abi, and Abba, so you may, I had almost said, you must,
distinguish of their sense. For the word Abi, signifies indeed a natural father,
but withal a civil father also, an elder, a master, a doctor, a magistrate: but the word Abba,
denotes only a natural father, with which we comprehend also an adopting father: yea, it
denotes, My father.
Let no man say to his neighbour, 'My father' is nobler than thy father. "R.
Chaija asked Rabh the son of his brother, when he came into the land of Israel, Doth my
father live? And he answereth, And doth your mother live?" As if he should
have said, You know your mother is dead, so you may know your father is dead.
"Solomon said, Observe ye what my father saith?" So in the Targum
And we may observe in the Holy Scriptures, wheresoever mention is made of a natural
father, the Targumists use the word Abba: but when of a civil father, they use
I. Of a natural father.
Genesis 22:7, "And he said, 'Abi,' my father." The Targum reads,
"And said, 'Abba,' my father." Genesis 27:34: "Bless me, even me
also 'Abi,' O my father." The Targum reads, Bless me also, 'Abba,' my
father. Genesis 48:18: Not so, 'Abi,' my father. Targum, Not so, 'Abba,' my
father. Judges 11:36: 'Abi,' my father, if thou hast opened thy mouth. Targum, 'Abba,'
my father, if thou hast opened thy mouth. Isaiah 8:4: The Targum reads, before the
child shall know to cry 'Abba,' my father, and my mother. See also the Targum upon
Joshua 2:13, and Judges 14:16, and elsewhere very frequently.
II. Of a civil father.
Genesis 4:20,21: He was 'Abi,' the father of such as dwell in tents. "He
was 'Abi,' the father of such as handle the harp," &c. The Targum reads, He
was 'Rabba,' the prince or the master of them. 1 Samuel 10:12: But who is
'Abihem,' their father? Targum, Who is their 'Rab,' master or prince? 2
Kings 2:12: 'Abi, Abi,' my father, my father. The Targum, Rabbi, Rabbi. 2
Kings 5:13: And they said, 'Abi,' my father. The Targum, And they said, 'Mari,'
my Lord. 2 Kings 6:21: 'Abi,' my father, shall I smite them? Targum, 'Rabbi,'
shall I kill, &c.
Hence appears the reason of those words of the apostle, Romans 8:15: Ye have
received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. And Galatians 4:6:
"Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts,
crying Abba, Father." It was one thing to call God Abi, Father, that
is, Lord, King, Teacher, Governor, &c.; and another to call him Abba, My
Father. The doctrine of adoption, in the proper sense, was altogether unknown to the
Jewish schools (though they boasted that the people of Israel alone were adopted by God
above all other nations); and yet they called God Father, and our Father,
that is, our God, Lord, and King, &c. But "since ye are sons (saith the apostle),
ye cry, Abba, O my Father," in the proper and truly paternal sense.
Thus Christ in this place, however under an unspeakable agony, and compassed about on
all sides with anguishments, and with a very cloudy and darksome providence; yet he
acknowledges, invokes, and finds God his Father, in a most sweet sense.
We cry, 'Abba,' Father. Did the saints, invoking God, and calling him Abba,
add also Father? Did Christ also use the same addition of the Greek word Father,
and did he repeat the word Abba or Abi? Father seems rather here to
be added by Mark, and there also by St. Paul, for explication of the word 'Abba':
and this is so much the more probable also, because it is expressed Father, and not
O Father, in the vocative.
51. And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his
naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:
[Having a linen cloth cast about his naked body.] It is well rendered by the
Vulgar clothed in sindon or fine linen: for to that the words have respect:
not that he had some linen loosely and by chance cast about him, but that the garment
wherewith he always went clothed, was of sindon, that is, of linen. Let us
hearken a little to the Talmudists.
"The Rabbins deliver: Sindon [linen] with fringes, what of them? The school
of Shammai absolves, the school of Hillel binds, and the wise men determine according to
the school of Hillel. R. Eliezer Ben R. Zadok saith, Whosoever wears hyacinth [purple]
in Jerusalem, is among those who make men admire." By hyacinthinum [purple]
they understand those fringes that were to put them in mind of the law, Numbers 15. And by
sindon, linen, is understood a cloak, or that garment, which, as it serves
for clothing the body, so it is doubly serviceable to religion. For, 1. To this garment
were the fringes fastened, concerning which mention is made, Numbers 15:38. 2. With
this garment they commonly covered their heads when they prayed. Hence that in the
Gemarists in the place quoted: "talith, or the cloak whereby the boy
covereth his head, and a great part of himself; if any one of elder years goes forth
clothed with it in a more immodest manner, he is bound to wear fringes." And
elsewhere, "The priests who veil themselves when they go up into the pulpit, with
a cloak which is not their own," &c.
But now it was customary to wear this cloak, in the summer especially, and in Jerusalem
for the most part, made of sindon or of linen. And the question between the
schools of Shammai and Hillel arose hence, that when the fringes were woolen, and the
cloak linen, how would the suspicion of wearing things of different sorts be avoided? R.
Zeira loosed his sindon. The Gloss is: "He loosed his fringes from his sindon
[that is, from his talith, which was of 'sindon,' linen], because it was of linen,"
&c. "The angel found Rabh Ketina clothed in sindon; and said to him, O
Ketina, Ketina, sindon in the summer, and a short cloak in the winter."
You see that word which is spoke by the evangelist, about his naked body,
carries an emphasis: for it was most usual to be clothed with sindon for an outer garment.
What therefore must we say of this young man? I suppose in the first place, that he was
not a disciple of Jesus; but that he now followed, as some curious looker on, to see what
this multitude would at last produce. And to such a suspicion they certainly do consent,
who think him to have been roused from his bed, and hastily followed the rout with nothing
but his shirt on, without any other clothes. I suppose, secondly, St. Mark in the phrase having
a sindon cast about him, spake according to the known and vulgar dialect of the
nation, clothed with a sindon. For none shall ever persuade me that he would use an
idiom, any thing uncouth or strange to the nation; and that when he used the very same
phrase in Greek with that Jewish one, he intended not to propound the very same sense. But
now you clearly see, they themselves being our teachers, what is the meaning of being
clothed with a sindon, with them, namely, to have a talith or cloak made of
linen; that garment to which the fringes hung. I suppose, in the last place, that this
young man, out of religion, or superstition rather, more than ordinary, had put on his sindon,
and nothing but that upon his naked body, neglecting his inner garment (commonly
called chaluk), and indeed neglecting his body. For there were some amongst the
Jews that did so macerate their bodies, and afflict them with hunger and cold, even above
the severe rule of other sects.
Josephus in his own Life writes thus: "I was sixteen years old, and I resolved to
make trial of the institution of the three sects among us, the Pharisees, the Sadducees,
and the Essenes; for I judged I should be able very well to choose the best of them, if I
thoroughly learned them all. Afflicting, therefore, and much tormenting myself, I tried
them all. But judging with myself that it was not enough to have tried these sects,
and hearing of one Banus, that lived in the wilderness, that he used a garment made of
leaves, or the bark of trees, and no food but what grew of its own accord, and
often by day and by night washing himself in cold water, I became a follower of him, and
for three years abode with him."
And in that place in the Talmudists, which we but now produced, at that very story of
Rabh Ketina, wearing a sindon in the winter for his talith, we have these
words; "The religious in elder times, when they had wove three wings [of the
talith], they joined the purple," whereof the fringes were made: "but
otherwise, they are religious who impose upon themselves things heavier than ordinary."
And immediately follows the story of the angel and Ketina, who did so. There were some who
heaped up upon themselves burdens and yokes of religion above the common rule, and that
this is to be understood by such as laid upon themselves heavier things than ordinary,
both the practice of some Jews persuade, and the word itself speaks it, being used by the
Gemarists in the same sense elsewhere.
Such, we suppose, was this young man (as Josephus was, when a young man, of whom
before), who, when others armed themselves against the cold with a double garment, namely,
an inner garment, and a talith or cloak, clothed himself with a
single garment, and that of sindon or linen, and under the show of some more
austere religion, neglecting the ordinary custom and care of himself.
The thing, taken in the sense which we propound, speaks the furious madness of this
most wicked rout so much the more, inasmuch as they spared not a man, and him a young
man, bearing most evident marks of a more severe religion.
56. For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.
[Their witness agreed not together.] The traditional canons, in these things,
divide testimonies into three parts:--
I. There was a vain testimony: which being heard, there is no more inquiry made
from that witness, there is no more use made of him, but he is set aside, as speaking
nothing to the business.
II. There was a standing testimony, for let me so turn it here, which, although
it proved not the matter without doubt, yet it was not rejected by the judges, but
admitted to examination by citation, that is, others being admitted to try to
disprove it if they could.
III. There was the testimony of the words of them that agreed or fitted
together (this also was a standing evidence), when the words of two witnesses
agreed, and were to the same purpose: an even evidence. Of these, see the tract Sanhedrin;
where also discourse is had concerning exact search and examination of the witnesses by inquisition,
and scrutiny, and citation: by which curious disquisition if they had
examined the witnesses that babbled and barked against Christ, Oh! the unspeakable and
infinite innocence of the most blessed Jesus, which envy and madness itself, never so much
sworn together against his life, could not have fastened any crime upon!
It is said, verse 55, they sought for witness against Jesus. This is neither
equal, O fathers of the Sanhedrim! nor agreeable to your rule: In judgments about the
life of any man, they begin first to transact about quitting the party who is tried; and
they begin not with those things which make for his condemnation. Whether the
Sanhedrim now followed that canon in their scrutiny about Christ's case, let them look to
it: by their whole process it sufficiently appears, whither their disquisition tended. And
let it be granted, that they pretended some colour of justice and mercy, and permitted
that any one who would, might come forth, and testify something in his behalf,
where was any such now to be found? when all his disciples turned their backs upon him,
and the Fathers of the Traditions had provided, that whosoever should confess him to be
Christ should be struck with the thunder of their excommunication, John 9:22.
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