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A Commentary on the New Testament
from the Talmud and Hebraica
Exercitations upon the Gospel of St. Matthew
Of the present Authority of the Council, and of its Place.
3. Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the
people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas.
[Assembled together unto the palace of the high priest.] Those ominous prodigies
are very memorable, which are related by the Talmudists to have happened forty years
before the destruction of the Temple.
"A tradition. Forty years before the Temple was destroyed, the western
candle" (that is, the middlemost in the holy candlestick) "was put out. And the
crimson tongue" (that was fastened to the horns of the scapegoat, or the doors of the
Temple) "kept its redness. And the lot of the Lord" (for the goat that was to be
offered up on the day of Expiation) "came out on the left hand. And the gates of the
Temple, which were shut over night, were found open in the morning. Rabban Jochanan Ben
Zaccai said, 'Therefore, O Temple, wherefore dost thou trouble us? we know thy fate;
namely, that thou art to be destroyed: for it is said, Open, O Lebanon, thy gates, that
the flame may consume thy cedars.'" "A tradition. Forty years before the Temple
was destroyed, judgment in capital causes was taken away from Israel." "Forty
years before the Temple was destroyed, the council removed and sat in the sheds."
With these two last traditions lies our present business. What the Jews said, John
18:31, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death, signifies the same thing
with the tradition before us, "Judgments in capital causes are taken away from
Israel." When were they first taken away? "Forty years before the destruction of
the Temple," say the Talmudists: no doubt before the death of Christ; the words of
the Jews imply so much. But how were they taken away? It is generally received by all that
the Romans did so far divest the council of its authority, that it was not allowed by them
to punish any with death; and this is gathered from those words of the Jews, "It is
not lawful for us to put any man to death."
But if this, indeed, be true, 1. What do then those words of our Saviour mean, they
will deliver you up to the councils? 2. How did they put Stephen to death? 3. Why was
Paul so much afraid to commit himself to the council, that he chose rather to appeal to
The Talmudists excellently well clear the matter: "What signifieth that tradition
(say they) of the removal of the council forty years before the ruin of the Temple? Rabh
Isaac Bar Abdimi saith, 'It signifieth thus much, that they did not judge of fines.'"
And a little after; "But R. Nachman Bar Isaac saith, 'Do not say that it did not
judge of fines, but that it did not judge in capital causes.' And the reason was this, because
they saw murderers so much increase that they could not judge them. They said
therefore, 'It is fit that we should remove from place to place, that so we may avoid the
guilt.'" That is, the number and boldness of thieves and murderers growing so great
that, by reason thereof, the authority of the council grew weak, and neither could nor
dared put them to death. "It is better (say they) for us to remove from hence, out of
this chamber Gazith, where, by the quality of the place, we are obliged to judge them,
than that, by sitting still here, and not judging them, we should render ourselves
guilty." Hence it is that neither in the highest nor in the inferior councils any one
was punished with death. ("For they did not judge of capital matters in the inferior
councils in any city, but only when the great council sat in the chamber Gazith,"
saith the Gloss.) The authority of them was not taken away by the Romans, but rather
relinquished by themselves. The slothfulness of the council destroyed its own authority.
Hear it justly upbraided in this matter: "The council which puts but one to death in
seven years is called Destruction. R. Lazar Ben Azariah said, 'Which puts one to death in
seventy years.' R. Tarphon and R. Akiba said, 'If we had been in the council' (when it
judged of capital matters), 'there had none ever been put to death by it.' R. Simeon Ben
Gamaliel said, 'These men have increased the number of murderers in Israel.'" Most
certainly true, O Simeon! for by this means the power of the council came to be weakened
in capital matters, because they, either by mere slothfulness, or by a foolish tenderness,
or, as indeed the truth was, by a most fond estimation of an Israelite as an Israelite,
they so far neglected to punish bloodshed and murder, and other crimes, till wickedness
grew so untractable that the authority of the council trembled for fear of it, and dared
not kill the killers. In this sense their saying must be understood, It is not lawful
for us to put any man to death: their authority of judging not being taken from them
by the Romans, but lost by themselves, and despised by their people.
Notwithstanding it was not so lost, but that sometimes they exercised it; namely, when
they observed they might do it safely and without danger. "Dat veniam corvis,"
&c spares crows, but vexeth pigeons. Thieves, murderers, and wicked men armed
with force, they dared not call into their judgment; they were afraid of so desperate a
crew: but to judge, condemn, torture, and put to death poor men and Christians, from whom
they feared no such danger, they dreaded it not, they did not avoid it. They had been
ready enough at condemning our Saviour himself to death if they had not feared the people,
and if Providence had not otherwise determined of his death.
We may also, by the way, add that also which follows after the place above cited, In
the day of Simeon Ben Jochai, judgments of pecuniary matters were taken away from Israel.
In the same tract this is said to have been in "the days of Simeon Ben Shetah,"
long before Christ was born: but this is an error of the transcribers.
But now, if the Jewish council lost their power of judging in pecuniary causes by the
same means as they lost it in capital, it must needs be that deceits, oppressions, and
mutual injuries were grown so common and daring that they were let alone, as being above
all punishment. The Babylonian Gemarists allege another reason; but whether it be only in
favour of their nation, this is no fit place to examine.
That we may yet further confirm our opinion, that the authority of that council in
capital matters was not taken away by the Romans, we will produce two stories, as clear
examples of the thing we assert: one is this; "R. Lazar son of R. Zadok said, 'When I
was a little boy, sitting on my father's shoulders, I saw a priest's daughter that had
played the harlot compassed round with fagots and burnt.'" The council no doubt
judging and condemning her, and this after Judea had then groaned many years under the
Roman yoke; for that same R. Lazar saw the destruction of the city.
The other you have in the same tract, where they are speaking of the manner of pumping
out evidence against a heretic and seducer of the people: "They place (say they) two
witnesses in ambush, in the inner part of the house, and him in the outward, with a candle
burning by him that they may see and hear him. Thus they dealt with Ben Satda in Lydda.
They placed two disciples of the wise in ambush for him, and they brought him before the
council, and stoned him." The Jews openly profess that this was done to him in the
days of R. Akiba, long after the destruction of the city; and yet then, as you see, the
council still retained its authority in judging of capital causes. They might do it for
all the Romans, if they dared do it to the criminals.
But so much thus far concerning its authority: let us now speak of its present seat.
"The council removed from the chamber Gazith to the sheds, from the sheds into
Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Jafne, from Jafne to Osha, from Osha to Shepharaama, from
Shepharaama to Bethshaarim, from Bethshaarim to Tsippor, from Tsippor to Tiberias,"
&c. We conjecture that the great bench was driven from its seat, the chamber Gazith,
half a year, or thereabout, before the death of Christ; but whether they sat then in the
sheds [a place in the Court of the Gentiles] or in the city, when they debated about the
death of Christ, does not clearly appear, since no authors make mention how long it sat
either here or there. Those things that are mentioned in chapter 27:4-6, seem to argue
that they sat in the Temple; these before us, that they sat in the city. Perhaps in both
places; for it was not unusual with them to return thither, as occasion served, from
whence they came; only to the chamber Gazith they never went back. Whence the Gloss upon
the place lately cited, "They sat in Jafne in the days of Rabban Jochanan; in Osha,
in the days of Rabban Gamaliel; for they returned from Osha to Jafne," &c. Thus
the council, which was removed from Jerusalem to Jafne before the destruction of the city,
returned thither at the feast, and sat as before. Hence Paul is brought before the council
at Jerusalem when Jafne at that time was its proper seat. And hence Rabban Simeon,
president of the council, was taken and killed in the siege of the city; and Rabban
Jochanan his vice-president was very near it, both of them being drawn from Jafne to the
city, with the rest of the bench, for observation of the Passover.
Whether the hall of the high priest were the ordinary receptacle for the council, or
only in the present occasion, we do not here inquire. It is more material to inquire
concerning the bench itself, and who sat president in judging. The president of the
council at this time was Rabban Gamaliel, (Paul's master,) and the vice-president, Rabban
Simeon his son, or Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai (which we do not dispute now). Whence
therefore had the chief priest, here and in other places, the precedence and the chief
voice in judging? For thus in Stephen's case the high priest is the chief of the
inquisition, Acts 7:1; also in Paul's case, Acts 23:2, see also Acts 9:1. Had the priests
a council and judgment seat of their own? or might they in the chief council, when the
president was absent, hear causes of life and death? To this long question, and that
enough perplexed, we reply these few things:
I. We confess, indeed, that the priests had a bench and council of their own, yet
denying that there was a double council, one for ecclesiastical, the other for civil
affairs, as some would have it.
We meet often with mention of the chamber of the counsellors, next the
court...Concerning which thus the Babyl. Joma: "The tradition of R. Juda.
What, was it the chamber of? Was it not the chamber of the counsellors? At first it
was called the chamber of the counsellors: but when the high priesthood came to be
bought with money, and changed yearly as the king's presidents are changed every
year, from that time forward it was called the chamber of the presidents."
Hear the Glosser on this place: "The high priests were wicked, and did not fulfil
their whole year; and he that succeeded the other changed this building and adorned it,
that it might be called by his own name." Hear also the Gemara: "The first
Temple stood four hundred and ten years, and there were not above eighteen priests under
it. The second stood four hundred and twenty years, and there were more than three hundred
under it. Take out forty years of Simeon the Just, eighty of Jochanan, ten of Ismael Ben
Phabi, and eleven of Eleazar Ben Harsum, and there doth not remain one whole year to each
of the rest."
Behold the chamber of the counsellors, properly so called, because the priests
did meet and sit there not to judge, but to consult; and that only of things belonging to
the Temple! Here they consulted, and took care that all persons and things belonging and
necessary to the worship of God should be in readiness; that the buildings of the Temple
and the courts should be kept in repair; and that the public Liturgy should be duly
performed: but in the meantime they wanted all power of judging and punishing; they had
not authority to fine, scourge, or put to death, yea, and in a word, to exercise any
judgment; for by their own examination and authority they could not admit a candidate into
the priesthood, but he was admitted by the authority of the council: "In the chamber
Gazith sat the council of Israel, and held the examinations of priests: whosoever was not
found fit was sent away in black clothes, and a black veil; whosoever was found fit was
clothed in white, and had a white veil, and entered and ministered with his brethren the
2. We meet also with mention of the council house of the priests. "The high
priests made a decree, and did not permit an Israelite to carry the scapegoat into the
wilderness." But in the Gloss, The council of the priests did not permit this.
"The council of the priests exacted for the portion of a virgin four hundred
zuzees, and the wise men did not hinder it."
First, This was that council of which we spoke before in the chamber of the
counsellors. Secondly, That which was decreed by them concerning the carrying away of
the scapegoat belonged merely to the service of the Temple, as being a caution about the
right performance of the office in the day of atonement. Thirdly, and that about the
portion of a virgin was nothing else but what any Israelite might do: and so the Gemarists
confess; "If any noble family in Israel (say they) would do what the priests do, they
may." The priests set a price upon their virgins, and decreed by common consent, that
not less than such a portion should be required for them; which was lawful for all the
Israelites to do for their virgins if they pleased.
3. There is an example brought of "Tobias a physician, who saw the new moon at
Jerusalem, he and his son, and his servant whom he had freed. The priests admitted him and
his son for witnesses, his servant they rejected: but when they came before the bench,
they admitted him and his servant, and rejected his son." Observe, 1. That the
council is here opposed to the priests. 2. That it belonged to the council to
determine of the new moon, because on that depended the set times of the feasts: this is
plain enough in the chapter cited. 3. That what the priests did was matter of examination
only, not decree.
4. "The elders of the city (Deut 22:18) are the triumvirate bench":
'at the gate' (v 24) means the bench of the chief priest. The matter there in
debate is about a married woman, who is found by her husband to have lost her virginity,
and is therefore to be put to death: Deuteronomy 22:13, &c. In that passage, among
other things, you may find these words, verse 18: "And the elders of that city shall
lay hold of that man and scourge him." The Gemarists take occasion from thence to
define what the phrase there and in other places means, "The elders of the
city": and what is the meaning of the word gate, when it relates to the bench:
"That (say they) signifies the triumvirate bench: this the bench or
council of the high priest": that is, unless I be very much mistaken, every council
of twenty-three; which is clear enough both from the place mentioned and from reason
1. The words of the place quoted are these: "R. Bon Bar Chaija inquired before R.
Zeira, What if the father [of the virgin] should produce witnesses which invalidate
the testimony of the husband's witnesses? if the father's witnesses are proved false, he
must be whipped, and pay a hundred selaim in the triumvirate court; but the witnesses are
to be stoned by the bench of the twenty-three, &c. R. Zeira thought that this was a
double judgment: but R. Jeremias, in the name of R. Abhu, that it was but a single one:
but the tradition contradicts R. Abhu; for To the elders of the city, verse 5, is, To
the triumvirate-bench, but at the gate, means the bench of the high priest."
It is plain, that the bench of the high priest is put in opposition to the
triumvirate bench; and, by consequence, that it is either the chief council, or the
council of the twenty-three, or some other council of the priests, distinct from all
these. But it cannot be this third, because the place cited in the Talmudists, and the
place in the law cited by the Talmudists, plainly speak of such a council, which had power
of judging in capital causes. But they that suppose the ecclesiastical council among the
Jews to have been distinct from the civil, scarce suppose that that council sat on capital
causes, or passed sentence of death; much less is it to be thought that that council sat
only on life and death; which certainly ought to be supposed from the place quoted, if the
council of the high priest did strictly signify such a council of priests. Let us
illustrate the Talmudical words with a paraphrase: R. Zeira thought, that that cause of a
husband accusing his wife for the loss of her virginity belonged to the judgment of two
benches; namely, of the triumvirate, which inflicted whipping and pecuniary mulcts; and of
the 'twenty-three,' which adjudged to death; but Rabbi Abhu thinks it is to be referred to
the judgment of one bench only. But you are mistaken, good Rabbi Abhu; and the very phrase
made use of in this case refutes you; for the expression which is brought in, "To the
elders of the city," signifies the triumviral bench; and the phrase, "at the
gate," signifies the bench of twenty-three; for the chief council never at in the
2. Now the council of twenty-three is called by the Talmudists the bench,
or the council of the chief priest, alluding to the words of the lawgiver,
Deuteronomy 17:9, where the word priests denotes the inferior councils, and judge
the chief council.
II. In the chief council, the president sat in the highest seat, (being at this time,
when Christ was under examination, Rabban Gamaliel, as we said); but the high priest
excelled him in dignity everywhere: for the president of the council was chosen not so
much for his quality, as for his learning and skill in traditions. He was (a phrase very
much used by the author of Juchasin, applied to presidents), that is, keeper,
father, and deliver of traditions; and he was chosen to this office, who was
fittest for these things. Memorable is the story of Hillel's coming to the presidentship,
being preferred to the chair for this only thing, because he solved some doubts about the
Passover, having learned it, as he saith himself, from Shemaiah and Abtalion. We will not
think it much to transcribe the story: "The sons of Betira once forgot a tradition:
for when the fourteenth day [on which the Passover was to be celebrated] fell out on the
sabbath, they could not tell whether the Passover should take place of the sabbath or no.
But they said, There is here a certain Babylonian, Hillel by name, who was brought up
under Shemaiah and Abtalion; he can resolve us whether the Passover should take place of
the sabbath or no. They sent therefore for him, and said to him, 'Have you ever heard in
your life, [that is, have you received any tradition,] whether, when the fourteenth day
falls on the sabbath, the Passover should take place of the sabbath or no?' He answered,
'Have we but one Passover that takes place of the sabbath yearly? or are there not many
Passovers that put by the sabbath yearly? namely, the continual sacrifice.' He proved this
by arguments a pari, from the equality of it, from the less to the greater, &c.
But they did not admit of this from him, till he said, 'May it thus and thus happen to me,
if I did not hear this of Shemaiah and Abtalion.' When they hear this they immediately
submitted, and promoted him to the presidentship," &c.
It belonged to the president chiefly to sum up the votes of the elders, to determine of
a tradition, to preserve it, and transmit it to posterity; and, these things excepted, you
will scarce observe any thing peculiar to him in judging which was not common to all the
rest. Nothing therefore hindered but that the high priest and the other priests (while he
excelled in quality, and they in number) might promote acts in the council above the rest,
and pursue them with the greatest vigour; but especially when the business before them was
about the sum of religion, as it was here, and in the examples alleged of Paul and
Stephen. It was lawful for them, to whose office it peculiarly belonged to take care of
scared things, to show more officious diligence in matters where these were concerned than
other men, that they might provide for their fame among men, and the good of their places.
The council, indeed, might consist of Israelites only, without either Levites or priests,
in case such could not be found fit: "Thus it is commanded that in the great council
there should be Levites and priests; but if such are not to be found, and the council
consists of other Israelites only, it is lawful." But such a scarcity of priests and
Levites is only supposed, was never found; they were always a great part, if not the
greatest, of the council. Rabban Jochanan Ben Zacchai, the priest, was either now
vice-president of the council, or next to him. Priests were everywhere in such esteem with
the people and with the council, and the dignity and veneration of the high priest was so
great, that it is no wonder if you find him and them always the chief actors, and the
principal part in that great assembly.
6. Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper.
[Now when Jesus was in Bethany, &c.] That this supper in Bethany was the
same with that mentioned John 13, I dare venture to affirm; however that be taken by very
many for the paschal supper. Let us examine the matter a little home:
I. This supper was before the Passover; so was that: that this was, none need doubt; no
more may they of the other, if we consider these things:
1. It is said by John in express words, before the feast of the Passover, verse
1, Passover, indeed, not seldom signifies the lamb itself; sometimes the very time
of eating the lamb; sometimes the sacrifice of the day following, as John 18:28. But the
feast of the Passover, alway signifies the whole seven days' paschal feast, both in
the language of the Scripture and of the Talmudists: a Jew would laugh at one that should
interpret it otherways.
2. When Christ said to Judas going out, "What thou doest, do quickly," some
thought he meant this, "Buy those things that we have need of against the
feast," at the twenty-ninth verse. For what feast, I pray? for the paschal
supper? That, according to the interpreters which we here oppose, was just past. For the
remaining part of the feast of that solemnity? Alas, how unseasonable! Where were
those things, I pray, then to be bought, if this were the very night on which they had
just eaten the lamb? The night of a feast day was festival: where were there any such
markets to be found then? It was an unusual thing indeed, and unheard of, to rise from the
paschal supper to go to market: a market on a festival-night was unusual and unheard of.
It would argue some negligence, and a little good husbandry, if those things that were
necessary for the feast were not yet provided; but that they must be to run, now late at
night, to buy those things they knew not where, they knew not how. It is certainly very
harsh, and contrary to reason, to understand these things thus, when, from the first
verse, the sense is very plain, before the feast of the Passover. The Passover was
not yet come, but was near at hand: the disciples, therefore, thought that our Saviour had
given order to Judas to provide all those things that were necessary to the paschal
solemnity against it came.
3. Observe that also of Luke 22:3, &c.: "Satan entered into Judas, and he went
his way, and communed with the chief priests," &c. And after, in the seventh
verse, "Then came the day of unleavened bread." Hence I inquire, Is the method
of Luke direct or no? If not, let there be some reason given of the transposition; if it
be direct, then it is plain that the devil entered into Judas before the Passover: but he
entered into him at that supper in John 13:27; therefore that supper was before the
4. Let them who take that supper in John 13 for the paschal supper, tell me how this is
possible, that Judas after the paschal supper (at which they do not deny that he was
present with the rest of the disciples) could make his agreement with the priests, and get
his blades together ready to apprehend our Saviour, and assemble all the council, verse
57. The evangelists say that he made an agreement with the chief priests, Matthew 26:14, and
with the captains, Luke 22:4, and "with all the council," Mark 14:10,11. But
now, which way was it possible that he could bargain with all these in so small a space as
there was between the going out of Judas from supper and the betraying of our Lord in the
garden? What! were these all together at supper that night? This is a matter to be laughed
at rather than credited. Did he visit all these from door to door? And this is as little
to be thought, since he had scarce time to discourse with any one of them. Every one
supped this night at home, the master of a family with his family. It would be ridiculous
to suppose that these chief priests supped together, while, in the mean time, their
families sat down at home without their head. It is required by the law that every master
of a family should be with his family that night, instructing them, and performing sacred
rites with and for them. These were, therefore, to be sought from house to house by Judas,
if that were the first time of his treating with them about this matter: and let reason
answer whether that little time he had were sufficient for this? We affirm, therefore,
with the authority of the evangelists, that that supper, John 13, was before the Passover;
at which, Satan entering into Judas, he bargained with the priests before the Passover, he
appointed the time and place of his betraying our Saviour, and all things were by them
made ready for this wicked deed before the Passover came. Observe the method and order of
the story in the evangelists, Matthew 26:14-17; Mark 14:10-12: "Then went Judas to
the priests, and said, 'What will ye give me,' &c. And from that time he sought
opportunity to betray him. Now, the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the
disciples came," &c. When was it that Judas came to the priests to treat about
betraying Christ? surely before the first day of unleavened bread. Luke also, whom we
quoted before, proceeds in the very same method: "From that time (say they), he
sought for an opportunity to betray him." If then first he went to and agreed with
the priests when he rose up from the paschal supper, as many suppose, he did not then seek
for an opportunity, but had found one. The manner of speaking used by the evangelists most
plainly intimates some space of deliberation, not sudden execution.
5. Let those words of John be considered, chapter 14:31, Arise, let us go hence,
and compared with the words, chapter 18:1, "When Jesus had spoken these words, he
went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron." Do not these speak of two
plainly different departures? Did not Christ rise up and depart when he said, "Arise,
let us go hence?" Those words are brought in by the evangelist without any end or
design, if we are not to understand by them that Christ immediately changed his place: and
certainly this change of place is different from that which followed the paschal supper,
6. In that thirteenth chapter of John there is not the least mention nor syllable of
the paschal supper. There is, indeed, plain mention of a supper before the feast of the
Passover, that is, before the festival day; but of a paschal supper there is not one
syllable. I profess seriously, I cannot wonder enough how interpreters could apply that
chapter to the paschal supper, when there is not only no mention at all in it of the
paschal supper, but the evangelist hath also pronounced, in most express words, and than
which nothing can be more plain, that that supper of which he speaks was not on the
feast of the Passover, but before the feast.
7. If those things which we meet with, John 13, of the sop given to Judas, &c. were
acted in the paschal supper, then how, I pray, was it possible for the disciples to
mistake the meaning of those words, "What thou doest, do quickly?" In the
paschal supper he said, "He that dips with me in the dish is he"; and the hand
of Judas, as some think, was at that very moment in the dish. To Judas asking, "Is it
I?" he plainly answered, "Thou hast said": and besides, he gave him a sop
for a token, as they say who maintain that opinion: then with what reason, or with what
ignorance, after so clear a discovery of the thing and person, could the disciples imagine
that Christ said, "Buy quickly those things that are necessary, or give something to
8. And to what poor, I pray? It was unseasonable, truly, late at night, to go to
seek for poor people here and there, who were now dispersed all about in several families
eating the passover: for the poorest Israelite was obliged to that duty as well as the
richest. They who supposed that Christ commanded him to give something to the poor, could
not but understand it of a thing that was presently to be done. For it had been ridiculous
to conceive, that Christ sent him so hastily away form supper to give something to the
poor tomorrow. But, if it be granted that the matter was transacted at Bethany, and that
two days before the Passover, which we assert, then it is neither necessary you should
suppose that supper to have been so late at night; nor were poor people, then and there,
to be far sought for, since so great a multitude of men followed Christ everywhere.
II. This supper was at Bethany, two days before the Passover: the same we conclude of
that supper, John 13, both as to the place and time; and that, partly, by the carrying on
of the story to that time, partly, by observing the sequel of that supper. Six days before
the Passover Christ sups at Bethany, John 12:1.
The next day (five days before the Passover) he came to Jerusalem riding on an ass,
John 12:12: and in the evening he returned to Bethany, Matthew 21:17; Mark 11:11.
The day following (four days before the Passover) he went to Jerusalem, Mark 11:11,15,
&c.; and at evening he returned the same way to Bethany, Mark 11:19.
The day after (three days before the Passover), he goes again to Jerusalem, Mark 11:27.
In the evening, he went out to the mount of Olives, Matthew 24:1,3; Mark 13:1,3; Luke
21:37. Now where did he sup this night? at Bethany. For so Matthew and Mark, "After
two days was the Passover," &c. "Now when Jesus was in Bethany." And
from this time forward there is no account either of his supping or going to Jerusalem
till the evening of the Passover.
From that supper both the evangelists begin their story of Judas' contriving to betray
our Lord; Matthew 26:14; Mark 14:10: and very fitly; for at that supper the devil had
entered into him, and hurried him forward to accomplish his villainy.
We therefore thus draw up the series of the history out of the holy writers: Before
the feast of the Passover (John 13:1), namely, two days (Matt 26:2,6), as Jesus
was supping in Bethany, a woman anoints his head: and some of the disciples murmur at it.
Our Saviour himself becomes both her advocate and encomiast. Before supper was done Christ
riseth from the table, and washeth his disciples' feet; and, sitting down again, acquaints
them with the betrayer. John asking privately about him, he privately also gives him a
token by a sop, and gives a sop to Judas. With this the devil entered into him, and now he
grows ripe for his wickedness: "The devil had before put it into his heart to betray
him," verse 2; now he is impatient till he hath done it. He riseth up immediately
after he had the sop, and goes out. As he was going out, Jesus said to him, "What
thou doest, do quickly": which some understood of buying necessaries for the feast,
that was now two days off. It was natural and easy for them to suppose, that he, out of
his diligence (having the purse, and the care of providing things that were necessary),
was now gone to Jerusalem, though it were night, there being a great deal to be done, to
get all things ready against the feast. He goes away; comes to Jerusalem; and the next day
treats with the priests about betraying our Lord, and concludes a bargain with them. They
were afraid for themselves, lest they should be either hindered by the people, or suffer
some violence from them on the feast day. He frees them from this fear, provided they
would let him have soldiers and company ready at the time appointed. Our Saviour lodges at
Bethany that night, and spends the next day and the night after there too: and, being now
ready to take his leave of his disciples, he teaches, instructs, and comforts them at
large. Judas, having craftily laid the design of his treachery, and set his nets in
readiness, returns, as is probable, to Bethany; and is supposed by the disciples, who were
ignorant of the matter, to have performed his office exceeding diligently, in providing
necessaries for the approaching feast. On the day itself of the Passover, Jesus removes
from Bethany with his disciples: "Arise (saith he), let us go hence," John
14:31, and comes to Jerusalem.
7. There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment,
and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
[Poured it upon his head, as he sat at meat.] Therefore, it was not the same
supper with that in John 12:1; for then our Saviour's feet were anointed, now his head.
I admire that any one should be able to confound these two stories. Oil, perfumed with
spices, was very usual in feasts, especially sacred; and it was wont to be poured upon the
head of some one present.
"The school of Shammai saith, He holds sweet oil in his right hand, and a cup of
wine in his left. He says grace first over the oil, and then over the wine. The school of
Hillel saith, Oil in his right hand, and wine in his left. He blesseth the sweet oil, and
anoints the head of him that serves: but if the waiter be a disciple of the wise, he
anoints the wall; for it is a shame for a disciple of the wise to smell of perfumes."
Here the waiter anoints the head of him that sits down.
8. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what
purpose is this waste?
[To what purpose is this waste?] It was not without cause that it was called
"precious ointment," verse 7, and "very costly," John 12:3: to shew
that it was not of those common sorts of ointments used in feasts, which they thought it
no waste to pour upon the waiter's head, or to daub upon the wall. But this ointment was
of much more value, and thence arose the cavil.
9. For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
[And be given to the poor.] That it was Judas especially who cavilled at this,
we have reason to believe from what is said of him in another supper, John 12:4. Compare
this with those words, John 13:29. When Jesus said to Judas, "What thou doest, do
quickly," some thought he had meant, "Give something to the poor." That
supper, I presume, was the same with this: and see, how these things agree! When a
complaint arose of that prodigal waste of the ointment here, and before in John 12, and
that it seemed unfit to some that that should be spent so unadvisedly upon our Lord which
might have been bestowed much better, and more fitly, upon the poor, how easily might the
others think that Christ had spoken to him about giving somewhat to the poor, that he
might show his care of the poor, notwithstanding what he had before said concerning them,
and the waste of the ointment.
12. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my
[She did it for my burial.] She had anointed his feet, John 12:3, out of love,
duty, and honour to him; but this (which is added over and above to them) is upon account
of his burial; and that not only in the interpretation of Christ, but in the design of the
woman. She, and she first, believes that Christ should die; and, under that notion, she
pours the ointment upon his head, as if she were now taking care of his body, and
anointing it for burial: and it is as if Christ had said to those that took exceptions and
complained, "You account her too officious and diligent for her doing this; and
wasteful rather than prudent, in the immoderate profession of her friendship and respect;
but a great and weighty reason moves her to it. She knows I shall die, and now takes care
of my burial: what you approve of towards the dead, she hath done to one ready to die.
Hence her fame shall be celebrated, in all ages, for this her faith, and this expression
15. And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto
you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
[Thirty pieces of silver.] The price of a slave, Exodus 21:32. Maimon. "The
price of a slave, whether great or little, he or she, is thirty selaim of pure
silver: if the slave be worth a hundred pounds, or worth only one penny." Now a selaa,
in his weight, weighed three hundred and eighty-four barleycorns.
17. Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples
came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the
[Where wilt thou that we prepare, &c.] For they might anywhere; since the
houses at Jerusalem were not to be hired, as we have noted elsewhere, but during the time
of the feast they were of common right.
19. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the
[Please see "The Temple: Its Ministry and Services" by Alfred
Passover" for information on the workings of the Temple
during this feast.]
[They made ready the Passover.] Peter and John were sent for this purpose, Luke
22:8: and perhaps they moved the question, where wilt thou, &c. They only knew
that Judas was about another business, while the rest supposed he was preparing
necessaries for the Passover.
This Peter and John were to do, after having spoken with the landlord, whom our Saviour
pointed out to them by a sign, to prepare and fit the room.
I. A lamb was to be bought, approved, and fit for the Passover.
II. This lamb was to be brought by them into the court where the altar was.
"The Passover was to be killed only in the court where the other sacrifices were
slain: and it was to be killed on the fourteenth day after noon, after the daily
sacrifice, after the offering of the incense," &c. The manner of bringing the
Passover into the court, and of killing it, you have in Pesachin, in these words:
"The Passover is killed in three companies; according as it is said, [Exodus 12:6,] and
all the assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it (the Passover); assembly,
congregation, and Israel. The first company enters and fills the whole court:
they lock the doors of the court: the trumpets sound: the priests stand in order, having
golden and silver vials in their hands: one row silver, and the other gold; and they are
not intermingled: the vials had no brims, lest the blood should stay upon them, and be
congealed or thickened: an Israelite kills it, and a priest receives the blood, and gives
it to him that stands next, and he to the next, who, taking the vial that was full, gives
him an empty one. The priest who stands next to the altar sprinkles the blood at one
sprinkling against the bottom of the altar: that company goes out, and the second comes
in," &c. Let them tell me now, who suppose that Christ ate his Passover one day
sooner than the Jews did theirs, how these things could be performed by him or his
disciples in the Temple, since it was looked upon as a heinous offence among the people
not to kill or eat the Passover in the due time. They commonly carried the lambs into the
court upon their shoulders: this is called its carrying, in Pesachin: where
the Gloss, "The carrying of it upon a man's shoulders, to bring it into the court, as
into a public place."
III. It was to be presented in the court under the name of the Paschal lamb, and
to be killed for the company mentioned. See what the Gemarists say of this thing in
Pesachin: "If they kill it for such as are not to eat, or as are not numbered,
for such as are not circumcised or unclean, it is profane: if for those that are to eat,
and not to eat, numbered and not numbered, for circumcised and not circumcised, clean and
unclean, it is right": that is, for those that are numbered, that atonement may be
made for the not numbered; for the circumcised, that atonement may be made for the
uncircumcised, &c. So the Gemarists and the Glosses.
IV. The blood being sprinkled at the foot of the altar, the lamb flayed, his belly cut
up, the fat taken out and thrown into the fire upon the altar, the body is carried back to
the place where they sup: the flesh is roasted, and the skin given to the landlord.
V. Other things were also provided. Bread according to God's appointment, wine, some
usual meats, and the same called Charoseth: of which commentators speak everywhere.
20. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
[He sat down with the twelve.]
I. The schools of the Rabbins distinguish between sitting at the table, and lying
at the table: "If they sit to eat, every one says grace for himself; if they lie,
one says grace for all." But now "that lying," as the Gloss on the place
saith, "was when they leaned on their left side upon couches, and ate and drank as
they thus leaned." And the same Gloss in another place; "They used to eat lying
along upon their left side, their feet being on the ground, every one on a single
couch": Babyl. Berac. As also the Gemara; to lie on one's back is not called lying
down; and to lie on one's right side is not called lying down.
II. The Israelites accounted such lying down in eating a very fit posture requisite in
sacred feasts, and highly requisite and most necessary in the Paschal supper: "We do
not use lying down but only to a morsel," &c. "And indeed to those that did
eat leaning, leaning was necessary. But now our sitting is a kind of leaning along. They
were used to lean along every one on his own couch, and to eat his meat on his own table:
but we eat all together at one table."
Even the poorest Israelite must not eat till he lies down. The canon is speaking
about the Paschal supper; on which thus the Babylonians: "It is said that the feast
of unleavened bread requires leaning or lying down, but the bitter herbs not: concerning
wine, it is said in the name of Rabh Nachman that it hath need of lying down: and it is
said in the name of Rabh Nachman, that it hath not need of lying down: and yet these do
not contradict one another; for that is said of the two first cups, this of
the two last." They lie down on the left side, not on the right, "because they
must necessarily use their right hand in eating." So the Gloss there.
III. They used and were fond of that custom of lying down, even to superstition,
because it carried with it a token and signification of liberty: "R. Levi saith, It
is the manner of slaves to eat standing: but now let them eat lying along, that it may be
known that they are gone out of bondage to liberty. R. Simon in the name of R. Joshua Ben
Levi, Let that which a man eats at the Passover, and does his duty, though it be but as
big as an olive, let it be eaten lying along." "They eat the unleavened bread
the first night lying down, because it is a commemoration of deliverance. The bitter herbs
have no need of lying down, because they are in memory of bondage. Although it be the
bread of affliction, yet it is to be eaten after the manner of liberty." See more
there. "We are obliged to lie down when we eat, that we may eat after the manner of
kings and nobles."
IV. "When there were two beds, the worthiest person lay uppermost; the
second to him, next above him. But when there were three beds, the worthiest person lay in
the middle, the second above him, the third below him." On which thus the Gloss:
"When there were two, the principal person lay on the first couch, and the next to
him lay above him, that is, on a couch placed at the pillow of the more worthy person. If
there were three, the worthiest lay in the middle, the next above him, and the third below
him; that is, at the coverlids of his feet. If the principal person desires to speak with
the second, he must necessarily raise himself so as to sit upright; for as long as he sits
bending he cannot speak to him; for the second sat behind the head of the first, and the
face of the first was turned another away: and it would be better with the second [in
respect of discourse] if he sat below him; for then he might hear his words, even as
he lay along." This affords some light to that story, John 13:23,24; where Peter, as
seems likely, lying behind our Saviour's head in the first place next after him, could not
discourse with him, nor ask about the betrayer: therefore looking over Christ's head upon
John, he gave him a sign to inquire. He sitting in the second place from Christ with his
face towards him, asketh him,
22. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him,
Lord, is it I?
[Lord, is it I?] The very occasion, namely, eating together and fellowship,
partly renews the mention of the betrayer at the Paschal supper; as if he had said,
"We are eating here friendly together, and yet there is one in this number who will
betray me": partly, that the disciples might be more fully acquainted with the matter
itself: for at the supper in John 13, he had privately discovered the person to John only;
unless perhaps Peter understood it also, who knew of John's question to Christ, having at
first put him upon it by his beckoning. The disciples ask, Is it I? partly through
ignorance of the thing, partly out of a sincere and assured profession of the contrary.
24. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the
Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
[It had been good for him if he had not been born] It were better for him
that he were not created. A very usual way of speaking in the Talmudists.
26. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it,
and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
[Jesus took bread, &c.] Bread at supper, the cup after supper:
"After supper he took the cup," saith Luke 22:20; and Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:25;
but not so of the bread.
That we may more clearly perceive the history of this supper in the evangelists, it may
not be amiss to transcribe the rubric of the paschal supper, with what brevity we can, out
of the Talmudists; that we may compare the things here related with the custom of the
I. The paschal supper began with a cup of wine: "They mingle the first cup for
him. The school of Shammai saith, He gives thanks, first for the day, and then for the
wine: but the school of Hillel saith, He first gives thanks for the wine, and then for the
day." The Shammeans confirm their opinion, Because the day is the cause of their
having wine: that is, as the Gloss explains it, that they have it before meat.
"They first mingle a cup for every one, and [the master of the family]
blesseth it; 'Blessed be he that created the fruit of the vine': and then he repeats the
consecration of the day, [that is, he gives thanks in the plural number for all the
company, saying, 'Let us give thanks,'] and drinks up the cup. And afterward he
blesseth concerning the washing of hands, and washeth." Compare this cup with that,
II. Then the bitter herbs are set on: "They bring in a table ready covered, upon
which there is sour sauce and other herbs." Let the Glossers give the
interpretation: "They do not set the table till after the consecration of the day:
and upon the table they set lettuce. After he hath blessed over the wine, they set herbs,
and he eats lettuce dipped, but not in the sour sauce, for that is not yet brought:
and this is not meant simply of lettuce, unless when there be other herbs." His
meaning is this, before he comes to those bitter herbs which he eats after the unleavened
bread, when he also gives thanks for the eating of the bitter herbs, "as it is
written," Ye shall eat (it) with unleavened bread and bitter herbs:
"First unleavened bread, and then bitter herbs. And this first dipping is used only
for that reason, that children may observe and inquire; for it is unusual for men to eat
herbs before meat."
III. "Afterward there is set on unleavened bread, and the sauce...and the lamb,
and the flesh also of the Chagigah of the fourteenth day." Maimonides doth not
take notice of any interposition between the setting on the bitter herbs, and the setting
on the unleavened bread: but the Talmudic Misna notes it in these words; They set
unleavened bread before him. Where the Gloss, "This is said, because they have
moved the table from before him who performed the duty of the Passover: now that removal
of the table was for this end, that the son might ask the father, and the father answered
him, 'Let them bring the table again, that we may make the second dipping'; then the son
would ask, 'Why do we dip twice?' Therefore they bring back the table with unleavened
bread upon it, and bitter herbs," &c.
IV. He begins, and blesseth, "'Blessed be He that created the fruits of the
earth': and he takes the herbs and dips them in the sauce Charoseth, and eats as
much as an olive, he, and all that lie down with him; but less than the quantity of an
olive he must not eat: then they remove the table from before the master of the
family." Whether this removal of the table be the same with the former is not much
worth our inquiry.
V. "Now they mingle the second cup for him: and the son asks the father; or
if the son doth not ask him, he tells him himself, how much this night differs from all
other nights. 'On other nights (saith he) we dip but once, but this night twice. On other
nights we eat either leavened or unleavened bread; on this, only unleavened, &c. On
other nights we eat either sitting or lying; on this, all lying.'"
VI. "The table is set before them again; and then he saith, 'This is the passover,
which we therefore eat, because God passed over the houses of our fathers in Egypt.' Then
he lifts up the bitter herbs in his hand and saith, 'We therefore eat these bitter herbs,
because the Egyptians made the lives of our fathers bitter in Egypt.' He takes up the
unleavened bread in his hand, and saith, 'We eat this unleavened bread, because our
fathers had not time to sprinkle their meal to be leavened before God revealed himself and
redeemed them. We ought therefore to praise, celebrate, honour, magnify, &c. him, who
wrought all these wonderful things for our fathers and for us, and brought us out of
bondage into liberty, out of sorrow into joy, out of darkness into great light; let us
therefore say, Hallelujah: Praise the Lord, praise him, O ye servants of the Lord, &c.
to, And the flint-stone into foundations of waters' [that is, from the beginning of
Psalm 113 to the end of Psalm 114]. And he concludes, 'Blessed be thou, O Lord God, our
King eternal, redeeming us, and redeeming our fathers out of Egypt, and bringing us to
this night; that we may eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs': and then he drinks off the
VII. "Then washing his hands, and taking two loaves, he breaks one, and lays the
broken upon the whole one, and blesseth it; 'Blessed be he who causeth bread to grow out
of the earth': and putting some bread and bitter herbs together, he dips them in the sauce
Charoseth,--and blessing, 'Blessed be thou, O Lord God, our eternal King, he who
hath sanctified us by his precepts, and hath commanded us to eat,' he eats the unleavened
bread and bitter herbs together; but if he eats the unleavened bread and bitter herbs by
themselves, he gives thanks severally for each. And afterward, giving thanks after the
same manner over the flesh of the Chagigah of the fourteenth day, he eats also of
it, and in like manner giving thanks over the lamb, he eats of it."
VIII. "From thenceforward he lengthens out the supper, eating this or that as he
hath a mind, and last of all he eats of the flesh of the passover, at least as much as an
olive; but after this he tastes not at all of any food." Thus far Maimonides in the
place quoted, as also the Talmudists in several places in the last chapter in the tract Pesachin.
And now was the time when Christ, taking bread, instituted the eucharist: but whether
was it after the eating of those farewell morsels, as I may call them, of the lamb,
or instead of them? It seems to be in their stead, because it is said by our evangelist
and Mark, As they were eating, Jesus took bread. Now, without doubt, they speak
according to the known and common custom of that supper, that they might be understood by
their own people. But all Jews know well enough, that after the eating of those morsels of
the lamb it cannot be said, As they were eating; for the eating was ended with
those morsels. It seems therefore more likely that Christ, when they were now ready to
take those morsels, changed the custom, and gave about morsels of bread in their stead,
and instituted the sacrament. Some are of opinion, that it was the custom to taste the
unleavened bread last of all, and to close up the supper with it; of which opinion, I
confess, I also sometimes was. And it is so much the more easy to fall into this opinion,
because there is such a thing mentioned in some of the rubrics about the passover; and
with good reason, because they took up this custom after the destruction of the Temple.
[Blessed and brake it.] First he blessed, then he brake it. Thus it always used
to be done, except in the paschal bread. One of the two loaves was first divided into two
parts, or, perhaps, into more, before it was blessed. One of them is divided: they
are the words of Maimonides, who also adds, "But why doth he not bless both the
loaves after the same manner as in other feasts? Because this is called the bread of
poverty. Now poor people deal in morsels, and here likewise are morsels."
Let not him that is to break the bread, break it before Amen be pronounced from the
mouths of the answerers.
[This is my body.] These words, being applied to the Passover now newly eaten,
will be more clear: "This now is my body, in that sense, in which the paschal
lamb hath been my body hitherto." And in the twenty-eighth verse, "This
is my blood of the new testament, in the same sense, as the blood of bulls and goats hath
been my blood under the Old." Exodus 24, Hebrews 9.
27. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink
ye all of it;
[The cup.] Bread was to be here at this supper by divine institution: but how
came the wine to be here? and how much? and of what sort?
I. "A tradition. It is necessary that a man should cheer up his wife and his
children for the feast. But how doth he cheer them up? With wine." The same things
are cited in the Babylonian Talmud: "The Rabbins deliver," say they, "that
a man is obliged to cheer up his wife and his domestics in the feast; as it is said, 'And
thou shalt rejoice in thy feast.' (Deut 16:14). But how are they cheered up? With wine. R.
Judah saith, 'Men are cheered up with something agreeable to them; women, with that which
is agreeable to them.' That which is agreeable to men to rejoice them is wine. But what is
that which is agreeable to women to cheer them? Rabh Joseph saith, 'Dyed garments in
Babylon, and linen garments in the land of Israel.'"
II. Four cups of wine were to be drunk up by every one: "All are obliged to
four cups, men, women, and children: R. Judah saith, 'But what have children to do
with wine?' But they give them wheat and nuts," &c.
The Jerusalem Talmudists give the reason of the number, in the place before quoted, at
full. Some, according to the number of the four words made use of in the history of the
redemption of Israel out of Egypt, And I will bring forth, and I will deliver, and I
will redeem, and I will take: some, according to the number of the repetition of the
word cup, in Genesis 40:11,13, which is four times; some, according to the number
of the four monarchies; some, according to the number of the four cups of vengeance which
God shall give to the nations to drink, Jeremiah 25:15, 51:7; Psalm 11:6, 75:8. And
according to the number of the four cups which God shall give Israel to drink, Psalm 23:5,
16:5, 116:13. The cup of two salvations.
III. The measure of these cups is thus determined: "Rabbi Chaia saith, 'Four
cups contain an Italian quart of wine.'" And more exactly in the same place:
"How much is the measure of a cup? Two fingers square, and one finger and a half,
and a third part of a finger deep." The same words you have in the Babylonian
Talmud at the place before quoted, only with this difference, that instead of the third
part of a finger, there is the fifth part of a finger.
IV. It is commanded, that he should perform this office with red wine. So the
Babylonian, "It is necessary that it should taste, and look like wine."
The Gloss, that it should be red.
V. If he drinks wine pure, and not mingled with water, he hath performed his
duty; but commonly they mingled water with it: hence, when there is mention of wine in
the rubric of the feasts, they always use the word they mingle him a cup.
Concerning that mingling, both Talmudists dispute in the forecited chapter of the
Passover: which see. "The Rabbins have a tradition. Over wine which hath not water
mingled with it they do not say that blessing, 'Blessed be He that created the fruit of
the vine'; but, 'Blessed be he that created the fruit of the tree.'" The Gloss,
"Their wine was very strong, and not fit to be drunk without water,"
&c. The Gemarists a little after: "The wise agree with R. Eleazar, 'That one
ought not to bless over the cup of blessing till water be mingled with it.'" The
mingling of water with every cup was requisite for health, and the avoiding of
drunkenness. We have before taken notice of a story of Rabban Gamaliel, who found and
confessed some disorder of mind, and unfitness for serious business, by having drunk off
an Italian quart of wine. These things being thus premised, concerning the paschal wine,
we now return to observe this cup of our Saviour.
After those things which used to be performed in the paschal supper, as is before
related, these are moreover added by Maimonides: "Then he washeth his hands, and
blesseth the blessing of the meat" [that is, gives thanks after meat], "over
the third cup of wine, and drinks it up." That cup was commonly called the cup of
blessing; in the Talmudic dialect. The cup of blessing is when they give thanks
after supper, saith the Gloss on Babyl. Berac. Where also in the text many thinkings
are mentioned of this cup: "Ten things are spoken of the cup of blessing. Washing
and cleansing": [that is, to wash the inside and outside, namely, that nothing
should remain of the wine of the former cups]. "Let pure wine" be poured
into the cup, and water mingled with it there. "Let it be full: the crowning";
that is, as the Gemara, "by the disciples." While he is doing this, let the
disciples stand about him in a crown or ring. The veiling; that is, "as Rabh
Papa, he veils himself and sits down; as R. Issai, he spreads a handkerchief on his head. He
takes up the cup in both hands, but puts it into his right hand; he lifts it from the
table, fixeth his eyes upon it, &c. Some say he imparts it (as a gift) to his
Which of these rites our Saviour made use of, we do not inquire; the cup certainly was
the same with the "cup of blessing": namely, when, according to the custom,
after having eaten the farewell morsel of the lamb, there was now an end of supper, and
thanks were to be given over the third cup after meat, he takes that cup, and after having
returned thanks, as is probable, for the meat, both according to the custom, and his
office, he instituted this for a cup of eucharist or thanksgiving; The cup of blessing
which we bless, 1 Corinthians 10:16. Hence it is that Luke and Paul say that he took
the cup "after supper"; that is, that cup which closed up the supper.
It must not be passed by, that when he instituted the eucharistical cup, he said,
"This is my blood of the new testament," as Matthew and Mark: nay, as Luke and
Paul, "This cup is the new testament in my blood." Not only the seal of the
covenant, but the sanction of the new covenant: the end of the Mosaical economy, and the
confirming of a new one. The confirmation of the old covenant was by the blood of bulls
and goats, Exodus 24, Hebrews 9, because blood was still to be shed: the confirmation of
the new was by a cup of wine; because, under the new testament, there was no further
shedding of blood. As it is here said of the cup, "This cup is the new testament in
my blood," so it might be said of the cup of blood (Exo 24:8), "That cup was the
old testament in the blood of Christ." There, all the articles of that covenant being
read over, Moses sprinkled all the people with blood, and said, "This is the blood of
the covenant which God hath made with you": and thus that old covenant or testimony
was confirmed. In like manner, Christ having published all the articles of the new
covenant, he takes the cup of wine, and gives them to drink, and saith, "This is the
new testament in my blood": and thus the new covenant is established.
There was, besides, a fourth cup, of which our author speaks also; "Then he
mingled a fourth cup, and over it he finished the Hallel; and adds, moreover, the
blessing of the hymn, which is, 'Let all thy works praise thee, O Lord,' &c.; and
saith, 'Blessed is He that created the fruit of the vine'; and afterward he tastes of
nothing more that night," &c. 'Finisheth the Hallel'; that is, he begins
there where he left off before, to wit, at the beginning of Psalm 115, and goes on to the
end of Psalm 118.
Whether Christ made use of this cup also, we do not dispute; it is certain he used the
hymn, as the evangelist tells us, when they had sung a hymn, at the thirtieth
verse. We meet with the very same word in Midras Tillim.
And now looking back on this paschal supper, let me ask those who suppose the supper in
John 13 to be the same with this, What part of this time they do allot to the washing of
the disciples' feet? what part to Judas' going out? and what part to his discoursing with
the priests, and getting ready his accomplices for their wicked exploit?
I. It seems strange, indeed, that Christ should put off the washing of the disciples'
feet to the paschal supper, when, 1. That kind of action was not only unusual and unheard
of at that supper, but in nowise necessary or fitting: for 2. How much more conveniently
might that have been performed at a common supper before the Passover, as we suppose, when
he was not straitened by the time, than at the paschal supper, when there were many things
to be done which required despatch!
II. The office of the paschal supper did not admit of such interruption, nor was it
lawful for others so to decline from the fixed rule as to introduce such a foreign matter:
and why should Christ so swerve from it, when in other things he conformed himself to the
custom of the nation, and when he had before a much more fit occasion for this action than
when he was thus pressed and straitened by the time?
III. Judas sat at super with the rest, and was there when he did eat, Matthew 26:20,21;
Mark 14:18: and, alas! how unusual was it for any to depart, in that manner, from that
supper before it was done! It is enough doubted by the Jewish canons whether it were
lawful; and how far any one, who had joined himself to this or that family, might
leave it to go to another, and take one part of the supper here, and another part there:
but for a person to leave the supper and go about another business, is a thing they never
in the least dreamed of; they would not, they could not, suppose it. You see how light a
matter Judas' going away to buy necessaries, as the disciples interpreted it, seemed to
them, because he went away from a common supper: but if they had seen him thus dismissed,
and sent away from the paschal supper, it would have seemed a monstrous and wonderful
thing. What! to leave the paschal supper, now begun, to go to market! To go from a common
supper at Bethany, to buy necessaries for the Passover, against the time of the Passover,
this was nothing strange or unusual: but to go from the paschal supper, before it was
done, to a market or fair, was more unusual and strange than that it should be so lightly
passed over by the disciples.
We, therefore, do not at all doubt that Judas was present both at the Passover and the
eucharist; which Luke affirms in direct words, 22:20,21: nor do we doubt much of his being
present at the hymn, and that he went not away before all was done: but when they all rose
up from the table, and prepared for their journey to mount Olivet (in order to lie at
Bethany, as the disciples supposed), the villainous traitor stole away, and went to the
company [cohortes], that he had appointed the priests two days before to make ready
for him at such a time and place. Methinks I hear the words and consultations of this
bloody wretch: "Tomorrow (saith he) will be the Passover, and I know my Master will
come to it: I know he will not lie at Jerusalem, but will go back to Bethany, however late
at night, where he is used to lie. Make ready, therefore, for me armed men, and let them
come to a place appointed immediately after the paschal supper; and I will steal out
privately to them while my Master makes himself ready for his journey; and I will conduct
them to seize upon him in the gardens without the city, where, by reason of the
solitariness of the place and the silence of the night, we shall be secure enough from the
multitude. Do ye make haste to despatch your passovers, that you may meet together at the
council after supper, to examine and judge him, when we shall bring him to you; while the
silence of the night favours you also, and protects you from the multitude." Thus,
all things are provided against the place and time appointed; and the thief, stealing away
from the company of the disciples as they were going out towards the mount of Olives and
hastening to his armed confederates without delay, brings them prepared along with him,
and sets upon his Master now in the garden.
34. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock
crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
[Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.] The same also he had said,
John 13:38, "The cock shall not crow till thou hast denied me thrice." Therefore
some say, that that was the same supper with this of the Passover. Very right indeed, if
[it] ought to be rendered, the cock shall not crow once, or the cock shall not
crow at all. But it is not so; but it amounts to this sense, "Within the time of
cockcrowing" thou shalt deny me thrice; for Peter had denied him but once before the
first crowing of the cock, and thrice before the second, Mark 14:68,72. From hence,
therefore, we may easily observe in what sense those words are to be understood, which
were spoken to Peter two days before the Passover, John 13:38, "The cock shall not
crow," &c.: not that the cock should not crow at all between that time and
Peter's denying; but as if our Saviour had said, "Are you so secure of yourself, O
Peter? Verily, I say unto you, the time shall be, and that shortly, when you shall deny me
thrice within the time of cockcrowing." At cockcrowing, Mark 13:35. At the
Paschal supper it is said, "This night, before the cock crow," &c.
Matt 26:34; Mark 14:30; Luke 22:34. But there is nothing of this said in that supper, John
Concerning the cockcrowing, thus the masters: "R. Shilla saith, Whosoever begins
his journey before cockcrowing, his blood be upon his head. R. Josia saith, If before the
second crowing: but some say, Before the third. But of what kind of cock is this
spoken?" Of a middling cock; that is, as the Gloss explains it, "a cock
that doth not crow too soon nor too late." The Misna on which this Gloss is hath
these words; "Every day they remove the ashes from the altar about cockcrowing; but
on the day of atonement at midnight," &c.
You may wonder that a dunghill cock should be found at Jerusalem, when it is forbid by
the canons that any cocks should be kept there: "They do not keep cocks at
Jerusalem, upon account of the holy things; nor do the priests keep them throughout
all the land of Israel." The Gloss gives the reason; "Even Israelites are forbid
to keep cocks at Jerusalem, because of the holy things: for Israelites have eaten there
peace offerings and thank offerings: but now it is the custom of dunghill cocks to turn
over dunghills, where perhaps they might find creeping things that might pollute those
holy things that are to be eaten." By what means, and under what pretence, the canon
was dispensed with, we do not dispute. It is certain there were cocks at Jerusalem, as
well as at other places. And memorable is the story of a cock which was stoned by the
sentence of the council for having killed a little child.
36. Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the
disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
[Gethsemane.] The place of the olive presses, at the foot of mount Olivet.
In John, it is "a garden beyond Cedron." "They do not make gardens or
paradises in Jerusalem, because of the stink. The Gloss, "Because of the stink
that riseth from the weeds which are thrown out: besides, it is the custom to dung
gardens; and thence comes a stink." Upon this account there were no gardens in the
city, (some few gardens of roses excepted, which had been so from the days of the
prophets,) but all were without the walls, especially at the foot of Olivet.
49. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.
[Kissed him.] It was not unusual for a master to kiss his disciple; but
for a disciple to kiss his master was more rare. Whether therefore Judas did this
under pretence of respect, or out of open contempt and derision, let it be inquired.
60. But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they
none. At the last came two false witnesses.
[Many false witnesses came.] ...
65. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what
further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard this blasphemy.
[Then the high priest rent his clothes.] "When witnesses speak out the
blasphemy which they heard, then all, hearing the blasphemy, are bound to rend their
clothes." "They that judge a blasphemer, first ask the witnesses, and bid him
speak out plainly what he hath heard; and when he speaks it, the judges standing on their
feet rend their garments, and do not sew them up again," &c. See there the
Babylonian Gemara discoursing at large why they stand upon their feet, why they rend their
garments, and why they may not be sewed up again [Sanhedr. cap. 7. hal. 10].
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