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22. Exegetical Commentary on John 19


      [3 B The Passion: the arrest, trials, death, and burial of Jesus (18:1-19:42)]

        [3 C Jesus is brought before Pilate (18:28-19:16a)]

          4 D Jesus is scourged and mocked by the Roman soldiers (19:1-3)

          5 D Pilate again seeks to release Jesus, but the crowd cries out for crucifixion (19:4-7)

          6 D Pilate questions Jesus a second time, concerning his identity and authority (19:8-11)

          7 D Pilate yields to the demand of the Jewish leaders to crucify Jesus (19:12-16a)

        4 C Jesus is crucified, dies, and is buried (19:16b-42)

          1 D The crucifixion of Jesus (19:16b-18)

          2 D Pilate and his inscription (19:19-22)

          3 D The soldiers divide Jesus’ garments and cast lots for his tunic (19:23-24)

          4 D Jesus gives the care of his mother to John (the beloved disciple) (19:25-27)

          5 D Jesus cries out in thirst and is given wine (19:28-29)

          6 D Jesus gives over the Spirit (19:30)

          7 D Jesus’ side is pierced (19:31-37)

          8 D Jesus’ body is buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (19:38-42)


Bampfylde, G., “John XIX. 28, a Case for a Different Translation,” Novum Testamentum 11 (1969): 247-60.

Barton, G. A., “‘A Bone of Him Shall Not Be Broken,’ John 19:36,” Journal of Biblical Literature 49 (1930): 12-18.

Dunlop, L., “The Pierced Side: Focal Point of Johannine Theology,” Bible Today 86 (1976): 960-65.

Fitzmyer, J. A., “Crucifixion in Ancient Palestine, Qumran Literature, and the New Testament,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 40 (1978): 493-513.

Ford, J. M., “‘Mingled Blood’ from the Side of Christ (John xix. 34),” New Testament Studies 15 (1968/69): 337-38.

Hart, H. St. J., “The Crown of Thorns in John 19, 2-5,” Journal of Theological Studies 3 (1952): 66-75.

Kerrigan, A., “John 19, 25-27 in the Light of Johannine Theology and the Old Testament,” Antonianum 35 (1960): 369-416.

Koehler, T., “The Sacramental Theory in Joh 19, 1-27,” University of Dayton Review 5 (1968): 49-58.

Langkammer, H., “Christ’s ‘Last Will and Testament’ (Jn 19, 26-27) in the Interpretation of the Fathers of the Church and the Scholastics,” Antonianum 43 (1968): 99-109.

Michaels, J. R., “The Centurion’s Confession and the Spear Thrust (John 19:34ff),” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 29 (1967): 102-9.

Mulder, H., “John 18, 28 and the Date of the Cruxification,” in Miscellanea Neotestamentica 2, ed. T. Baarda, A. F. J. Klijn, and W. C. van Unnik, Novum Testamentum Supplement 48 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1978): 87-107.

O’Rourke, J. J., “Two Notes on St. John’s Gospel,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 25 (1963): 124-28.

Sava, A. F., “The Wound in the Side of Christ,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 19 (1957): 343-46.

Spurrell, J. M., “An Interpretation of ‘I Thirst’,” Church Quarterly Review 167 (1966): 12-18.

Twomey, J. J., “Barabbas was a Robber,” Scripture 8 (1956): 115-19.

Wead, D. W., “‘We Have a Law’: John 19:7,” Novum Testamentum 11 (1969): 185-89.

Wilkinson, J., “The Incident of the ‘Blood and Water’ in John 19:34,” Scottish Journal of Theology 28 (1975): 149-72.

Zeitlin, S., “The Date of the Crucifixion according to the Fourth Gospel,” Journal of Biblical Literature 51 (1932): 263-71.

Zerwick, M., “The Hour of the Mother—John 19:25-27,” Bible Today 1 (1965): 1187-94.


          4 D Jesus is scourged and mocked by the Roman soldiers (19:1-3)

Introduction. Pilate has failed in his first attempt to free Jesus (18:38b-40). It appears that his actions in having Jesus scourged are best explained as another attempt on his part to release Jesus by giving the authorities the satisfaction of seeing Jesus subjected to flogging and public ridicule. Probably Pilate hoped that this would be enough for them, and they would then consent to Jesus’ release. But Pilate failed to understand the depth of hatred which the authorities had for Jesus or the lengths to which they were willing to go to see him killed.

19:1 ejmastivgwsen Literally, of course, this was not done by Pilate but his officers, who took Jesus at Pilate’s order and scourged him. The Evangelist’s choice of wording here may constitute an allusion to Isa 50:6, “I gave my back to those who scourge me…”.

Three forms of corporal punishment were employed by the Romans, in increasing degree of severity: (1) fustigatio (beating), (2) flagellatio (flogging), and (3) verberatio (scourging). The first could be on occasion a punishment in itself, but the more severe forms were part of the capital sentence as a prelude to crucifixion. The most severe, verberatio, is what is indicated here by the Greek verb mastigovw. Men died on occasion while being scourged; frequently it was severe enough to rip a person’s body open or cut muscle and sinew to the bone.

19:2 plevxante" stevfanon ejx ajkanqw'n After the scourging Jesus was mocked by the Roman soldiers who had scourged him. They wove a crown of thorns and placed it on his head, and cast about him a cloak of royal purple.

stevfanon ejx ajkanqw'n This was a crown plaited of some thorny material, intended as a mockery of Jesus’ “kingship”. Traditionally it has been regarded as an additional instrument of torture, but it seems more probable the purpose of the thorns was not necessarily to inflict more physical suffering but to imitate the spikes of the “radiant corona,” a type of crown portrayed on ruler’s heads on many coins of the period; the spikes on this type of crown represented rays of light pointing outward (the best contemporary illustration is the crown on the head of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor).

iJmavtion porfurou'n John here specifies only a “purple garment,” but according to Matt 27:28 this was a clamuv", the outer cloak worn by governmental officials and soldiers.

19:3 kaiV h[rconto proV" aujtoVn kaiV e[legon Repeatedly (note the imperfect tense) the soldiers came up to Jesus and mocked him with the exclamation, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and gave him slaps (cf. 18:22).

          5 D Pilate again seeks to release Jesus, but the crowd cries out for crucifixion (19:4-7)

19:4 KaiV ejxh'lqen pavlin e[xw It appears that the scourging took place inside the praetorium, since Pilate went out to the Jewish authorities in 18:38 and presumably came inside again in 19:1 for the scourging. Now he went out again. He said to the Jewish authorities, “Behold, I am bringing him outside to you, in order that you may know that I find no case [no cause of guilt] against him.” This is the second time Pilate has proclaimed Jesus “not guilty”; the first was in 18:38.

19:5 ejxh'lqen ou oJ =Ihsou'" e[xw So Pilate had Jesus brought out, still wearing the thorny crown (toVn ajkavnqinon stevfanon, cf. the phrase in 19:2) and the purple cloak. Pilate presented Jesus before the crowd outside the praetorium saying, “Behold the man!” (ijdouV oJ a[nqrwpo"). Pilate may have meant no more than something like “Here is the accused!” or in a contemptous way, “Here is your king!” Others have taken Pilate’s statement as intended to evoke pity from Jesus’ accusers: “Look at this poor fellow!” (Jesus would certainly not have looked very impressive after the scourging). For the Evangelist, however, Pilate’s words may constitute an unconscious allusion to Zech 6:12, “Behold, a man whose name is [the] Branch…”. In this case Pilate was (unknowingly and ironically) presenting Jesus to the nation under a messianic title!

19:6 stauvrwson stauvrwson This time the reaction of the high priests and officers of the temple police is even more hostile than in 18:40, where they cried out for Barabbas. This time they insist that Jesus be crucified. This should come as no surprise to a reader of the Fourth Gospel, since Jesus spoke of his death by crucifixion in 12:32-33; these words of Jesus were alluded to again in 18:32.

levgei aujtoi'" oJ Pila'to" In answer to this call for crucifixion, Pilate said to them, “You take him and crucify him.” How are we to understand Pilate’s words? Was he offering a serious alternative to the priests who wanted Jesus crucified? Was he offering them an exception to the statement in 18:31 that the Jewish authorities did not have the power to carry out a death penalty? Although a few scholars have suggested that the situation was at this point so far out of Pilate’s control that he really was telling the high priests they could go ahead and crucify a man he had found to be innocent, this seems unlikely. It is far more probable that we should understand Pilate’s statement here as one of frustration and perhaps sarcasm. This seems to be supported by the context, for the Jews make no attempt at this point to seize Jesus and crucify him. Rather they continue to pester Pilate to order the crucifixion.

19:7 hJmei'" novmon e[comen Realizing that they must be more direct in their charges against Jesus if they are to succeed in their plan to have Pilate crucify him, the Jewish authorities finally admit their real grievance against Jesus: he was worthy of the death penalty because he had broken the law (i.e., blasphemed) by making himself to be Son of God. The law to which they refer was not the entire Pentateuch, but one specific law, the law against blasphemy (Lev 24:16) which called for the death penalty for offenders.

It is now clear that the real accusation against Jesus was theological: it concerned his claim to be intimately related to God. The Jewish authorities had reacted violently to this claim before (cf. 5:18, 8:59).

          6 D Pilate questions Jesus a second time, concerning his identity and authority (19:8-11)

19:8 ”Ote ou h[kousen oJ Pila'to" tou'ton toVn lovgon, ma'llon ejfobhvqh… The Evangelist has not explicitly stated before that Pilate was afraid. But there is a hint of fear in the hesitancy Pilate had already exhibited in dealing with this man whom he thought at first to be just another revolutionary. There are a number of possible explanations for Pilate’s apprehension, but it seems best to regard him as superstituous. He appeared to have been impressed with Jesus when he talked with him earlier (18:33-38), and now when he hears that his prisoner has made claims of divinity, he is really worried.

19:9 kaiV eijsh'lqen eij" toV praitwvrion pavlin… In verses 4 and 5 Pilate had brought Jesus out and presented him before the crowd. No mention is made of Jesus going back inside the praetorium, but it is reasonable to assume that Pilate, in the face of the shouting (verse 6) had him brought back inside.

kaiV levgei tw'/ =Ihsou' Now Pilate began to question the prisoner again. His interest in Jesus’ origin is easily explained by the statement of the Jewish authorities in verse 7 that he made himself to be Son of God. So Pilate asked Jesus, “Where are You from?” For the moment Jesus was silent; he gave Pilate no answer to this question (although he will speak again in verse 11). Had Jesus answered this question of Pilate it is unlikely Pilate could have, or would have, believed it.

19:10 ejmoiV ouj lalei'"… Pilate’s reaction is understandable. He has been frustrated by the Jewish authorities in his attempt to release Jesus; twice he has told them he has found the prisoner “not guilty” and their reaction has become progressively more vehement. Now his prisoner adds to his frustration by what must have appeared to Pilate as a stubborn refusal to reply to a reasonable question. So, not surprisingly, Pilate reminds his prisoner who he is, and that he (Pilate) as the bearer of the imperium (the imperial power of Rome) has the power of life and death over the accused.

19:11 oujk eice" ejxousivan kat= ejmou' oujdemivan eij mhV h dedomevnon soi a[nwqen Pilate has reminded Jesus that he bears the imperium, the imperial power of Rome, on behalf of Caesar. Now Jesus tells Pilate that he would have no authority over him at all unless it came to him not from Caesar but from God. (On the word a[nwqen see the notes on 3:3; note that 3:27 also expresses a very similar thought: “A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given to him from heaven”.)

oJ paradouv" mev soi We might take this as a reference to Judas at first; but Judas did not deliver Jesus up to Pilate, but to the Jewish authorities. The singular may be a reference to Caiaphas, who as high priest was representative of all the Jewish authorities, or it may be a generic singular referring to all the Jewish authorities directly. In either case the end result is more or less the same.

meivzona aJmartivan e[cei Because Pilate has no authority over Jesus except that which has been given to him from God, the one who handed Jesus over to Pilate is guilty of greater sin. This does not absolve Pilate of guilt; it simply means his guilt is less than those who handed Jesus over to him, because he is not acting against Jesus out of deliberate hatred or calculated malice, like the Jewish authorities. These are thereby guilty of greater sin.

          7 D Pilate yields to the demand of the Jewish leaders to crucify Jesus (19:12-16a)

19:12 ejk touvtou The meaning of this prepositional phrase is temporal (“from this time”) but may in context have causal or inferential force (cf. 6:66 for a similar use with similar ambiguity). Pilate was further convinced of Jesus’ innocence, and made futher efforts to have him released. He appears to have gone back outside to speak with the Jewish authorities. They would have none of this, however, and began to cry out, “If you release this one, you are no friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself to be king opposes Caesar.”

fivlo" tou' Kaivsaro" Is the Evangelist using the phrase in a technical sense, as a title bestowed on people for loyal service to the Emperor, or in a more general sense merely describing a person as loyal to the Emperor? L. Morris thinks it is “unlikely” that the title is used in the technical sense.153 Bernard argues that the technical sense of the phrase as an official title was not used before the time of Vespasian (AD 69-79).154 But there appears to be significant evidence for much earlier usage.155 E. Bammel listed significant and convincing arguments that the official title was indeed in use at the time.156

Granting that the title was in use during this period, what is the likelihood that it had been bestowed on Pilate? Pilate was of the equestrian order, that is, of lower nobility as opposed to senatorial rank. As such he would have been eligible to receive such an honor. It also appears that the powerful Sejanus was his patron in Rome, and Sejanus held considerable influence with Tiberius. Tacitus quoted Marcus Terentius in his defense before the Senate as saying that close friendship with Sejanus “was in every case a powerful recommendation to the Emperor’s friendship.”157 Thus it seems quite likely that Pilate held this honor.

Therefore it appears that the Jewish authorities were putting a good deal of psychological pressure on Pilate to convict Jesus. They had, in effect, finally specified the charge against Jesus as treason: “Everyone who makes himself to be king opposes Caesar”. If Pilate now failed to convict Jesus the Jewish authorities could complain to Rome that Pilate had released a traitor. This possibility carried more weight with Pilate than might at first be evident: (1) Pilate’s record as governor was not entirely above reproach; (2) Tiberius, who lived away from Rome as a virtual recluse on the island of Capri, was known for his suspicious nature, especially toward rivals or those who posed a political threat; and (3) worst of all, Pilate’s patron in Rome, Sejanus, had recently come under suspicion of plotting to seize the imperial succession for himself. Sejanus was deposed in October AD 31. It may have been to Sejanus that Pilate owed his appointment in Judea. Pilate was now in a very delicate position. The Jewish authorities may have known something of this and deliberately used it as leverage against him. Whether or not they knew just how potent their veiled threat was, it had the desired effect. Pilate went directly to the bhvma (bhma, “judgment seat”) to pronounce his judgment.

19:13 oJ ou Pila'to" ajkouvsa" Thus, when Pilate heard that the charge against Jesus was now treason, and realized that if he did not crucify Jesus as the Jewish authorities were wanting him to do, they would report to Rome that he had released a political prisoner who was a traitor, his fear overcame his reservations about Jesus’ innocence. He brought Jesus outside and took his seat on the bhma to pronounce sentence.

Liqovstrwton (Liqostrwton) This is something of a generic term for “stone pavement” (it was used in the LXX of 2 Chr 7:3 to describe the pavement of Solomon’s temple). The precise location is still uncertain, although a paved court on the lower level of the Fortress Antonia has been suggested. It is not certain whether it was laid prior to AD 135, however.

Gabbaqav (Gabbatha) The Evangelist does not say this is the Aramaic (or Hebrew) translation for Liqovstrwton. He simply points out that in Aramaic (or Hebrew) the place had another name. A number of meanings have been suggested, but the most likely appears to mean “elevated place”. It is possible that this was a term used by the common people for the bhvma itself, which always stood on a raised platform.

19:14 h deV paraskeuhV tou' pavsca The term paraskeuhv, “the day of preparation,” appears in all the Gospels as a description of the day on which Jesus died. It could refer to any Friday as the day of preparation for the Sabbath (Saturday), and this is the way the synoptic gospels use the term (Matt 27:62, Mark 15:42, and Luke 23:54). John, however, specifies in addition that this was not only the day of preparation of the Sabbath, but also the day of preparation of the passover, so that the Sabbath on the following day was the passover (cf. 19:31).

For a survey of the various options in reconciling the Johannine account with the synoptics, see L. Morris.158 It seems that his solution, that different calendrical systems were being followed by John versus the synoptists, is the best, although it is not without problems. A more recent discussion at much greater length which adopts essentially the same solution as Morris is that of I. H. Marshall.159

h wJ" e{kth John also records that Jesus’ condemnation took place about the sixth hour. It does not appear likely that the Fourth Gospel is reckoning from midnight (Roman legal time) as B. F. Westcott believed (cf. the note on 1:39). Thus, counting from 6:00 a.m., the time would be around noon.

This creates a problem with the time of the crucifixion given in Mark 15:25, which specifies the third hour. Under the same reckoning this would be around 9:00 a.m. A number of proposals have been made which attempt to resolve the difficulty short of dismissing either John’s or Mark’s account. Barrett mentions a possible transcriptional error resulting from confusion of the Greek characters for 3 [G] and 6 [digamma].160 This is interesting, but obviously there is no way to discover if such a confusion actually took place. (Barrett himself thinks John altered the time for theological reasons.) It seems simplest to say that neither Mark nor John were giving precise time references (such were impossible in a world where time was reckoned by the approximate position of the sun in the sky). John, by the inclusion of wJ" (“about”), makes it clear that his reference is only approximate. The difference between sometime late in the third hour and sometime early in the sixth would be only about 15 of arc. Both expressions could easily refer to sometime later in the morning, just prior to noon.

For John, the time is especially important. When the note concerning the hour is connected with the day, the preparation of the passover, it becomes apparent that Jesus is going to die on the cross at the very time that the passover lambs are being slain in the temple courts. Exod 12:6 required that the passover lamb be kept alive until the 14th Nisan, the eve of the passover, and then slaughtered by the head of the household at twilight (literally, “between the two evenings”). By this time the slaughtering was no longer done by the heads of households, but by the priests in the temple courts. But so many lambs were needed for the tens of thousands of pilgrims who came to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast (some estimates run in excess of 100,000) that the slaughter could not be completed during the evening, and so the rabbis redefined “between the two evenings” as beginning at noon, when the sun began to decline toward the horizon. Thus the priests had the entire afternoon of 14th Nisan in which to complete the slaughter of the passover lambs. According to the Fourth Gospel, this is the time Jesus was dying on the cross.

i[de oJ basileuV" uJmw'n So Pilate spoke once more to the Jewish authorities, saying, “Behold, your King.” Perhaps Pilate was using one last bit of mockery as a final attempt to gain sympathy for Jesus’ release. But for the Evangelist, there is irony in Pilate’s words: Jesus really was their King (cf. 1:11).

19:15 a on a on, stauvrwson aujtovn The crowd’s response was swift and vocal: “Away [with him]! Away [with him]! Crucify him!” The cry for crucifixion is again raised as it was in 19:6. There may be a Johannine word-play in the cry of the crowd, since the verb aijrevw means both “to take away” and “to raise up,” in which case the crowd is crying out for Jesus to be raised up on the cross.

Pilate asked one final question: “Shall I crucify your King?,” to which the Jewish authorities (here specified as the high priests) responded, “We have no King except Caesar,” a reminder to Pilate of the difficult position in which he found himself (see discussion at vv. 12-13).

19:16a Tovte ou parevdwken aujtoVn aujtoi'" So Pilate “handed him over to them in order that he be crucified”. The nearest antecedent of aujtoi'" is the high priests in the preceding verse, but it seems clear that the Jewish authorities did not carry out the sentence. John 19:23 makes it plain that Roman soldiers were involved (as in all three of the synoptic accounts). The point is that Pilate handed Jesus over to their will; that is, the Jewish authorities got what they had wanted all along: the order for Jesus to be crucified.

        4 C Jesus is crucified, dies, and is buried (19:16b-42)

          1 D The crucifixion of Jesus (19:16b-18)

19:16b-17 Parevlabon ou toVn =Ihsou'n It was the Roman soldiers (and not the high priests, cf. aujtoi'" in the previous verse) who took charge of Jesus at this point, as becomes clear in verse 23.

bastavzwn eJautw'/ toVn stauroVn As was customary practice in a Roman crucifixion, the prisoner was made to carry his own cross. In all probability this was only the crossbeam, called in Latin the patibulum, since the upright beam usually remained in the ground at the place of execution. According to Matt 27:32 and Mark 15:21, the soldiers forced Simon to take the cross; Luke 23:26 states that the cross was placed on Simon so that it might be carried behind Jesus. A reasonable explanation of all this is that Jesus started out carrying the cross until he was no longer able to do so, at which point Simon was forced to take over.

eij" toVn legovmenon Kranivou Tovpon Jesus was led out to that place which is called ‘the Place of the Skull’ where he was to be crucified. It is clear from verse 20 that this was outside the city. The Latin word for kranivon is calvaria, from which the English word ‘Calvary’ comes (cf. Luke 23:33 in the Authorized Version).

o} levgetai 'Ebrai>stiV Golgoqa The Aramaic behind the Greek transliteration would have been atlglg, or the Hebrew tlglg.

19:18 aujtoVn ejstauvrwsan The Evangelist does not elaborate on the details of the crucifixion. For the readers of the first century this would not have been necessary.

kaiV met= aujtou' a[llou" duvo Here the two men who were crucified with Jesus are also mentioned, although John does not tell us anything about them.

          2 D Pilate and his inscription (19:19-22)

19:19 e[grayen deV kaiV tivtlon oJ Pila'to" We should probably understand e[grayen in a causative sense, as with Jesus’ scourging in 19:1. Pilate gave orders for this to be done. The inscription read “JESUS THE NAZARENE THE KING OF THE JEWS.” John says simply that it was placed “on the cross” (ejpiV tou' staurou'). Luke 23:38 says the inscription was placed “over him” (Jesus), and Matt 27:37 that it was placed over Jesus’ head. On the basis of Matthew’s statement Jesus’ cross is usually depicted as the crux immissa, the cross which has the crossbeam set below the top of the upright beam. The other commonly used type of cross was the crux commissa, which had the crossbeam atop the upright beam. But Matthew’s statement is not conclusive, since with the crux commissa the body would have sagged downward enough to allow the placard to be placed above Jesus’ head.

The placard with Pilate’s inscription is mentioned in all the gospels, but for John it was certainly ironic. Jesus really was the King of the Jews, although he was a King rejected by his own people (cf. 1:11). What Pilate’s own motivation for placing the title over Jesus was is considerably more obscure. He may have meant this as a final mockery of Jesus himself, but Pilate’s earlier mockery of Jesus seemed to be motivated by a desire to gain pity from the Jewish authorities in order to have him released. More likely Pilate saw this as a subtle way of getting back at the Jewish authorities who had pressured him into the execution of what he considered to be an innocent man.

19:20 toVn tivtlon polloiV ajnevgnwsan tw'n =Ioudaivwn We are told that many of the Jews read the placard that Pilate had written, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city. This seems to indicate clearly, as mentioned above at verse 17, that the site was outside the city walls.

'Ebrai>stiv, 'Rwmai>stiv, 'Ellhnistiv Pilate’s inscription was written in three languages, so that anyone could read it. The Kingship of Jesus, denied so vehemently by the Jewish authorities, was being proclaimed to the entire world. Only John records that the inscription was written in three languages. This eyewitness reminiscence symbolized for the Evangelist the universal scope of Jesus’ reign (cf. 4:42, 12:20-26).

19:21 oiJ ajrcierei'" tw'n =Ioudaivwn Nowhere else in the Fourth Gospel are these two expressions combined. Earlier in 19:15 the chief priests were simply referred to as oiJ ajrcierei'". It seems likely that this is another example of Johannine irony, to be seen in contrast to the inscription on the cross which read “oJ basileuV" tw'n =Ioudaivwn”.

Predictably the chief priests did not like the placard which Pilate had ordered to be written and placed upon the cross. So they were trying to tell Pilate [e[legon, a conative imperfect] to change the inscription from “THE KING OF THE JEWS” to “THIS ONE SAID ‘I AM THE KING OF THE JEWS.’”

19:22 o} gevgrafa, gevgrafa Pilate refused to change the inscription, however, saying with an air of finality indicated by the double use of the perfect tense, “What I have written, I have written.”161 There is probably additional Johannine irony in the fact that Jesus, rejected as King and Messiah by his own people, the Jews, has now been proclaimed to all the world as King by a Gentile. Now that he has been lifted up from the earth, Jesus has begun to draw all men (men from every nation) to himself, just as he predicted in 12:32.

          3 D The soldiers divide Jesus’ garments and cast lots for his tunic (19:23-24)

19:23 e[labon taV iJmavtia aujtou' kaiV ejpoivhsan tevssara mevrh The soldiers who had crucified Jesus took his garments and made four shares, one share to each soldier. The Fourth Gospel is the only one to specify the number of soldiers involved in the crucifixion. This was a quaternion, a squad of four soldiers. It was accepted Roman practice for the soldiers who performed a crucifixion to divide the possessions of the person executed among themselves.

kaiV toVn citw'na The outer garments are referred to as taV iJmavtia, which the soldiers divided. But the undergarment, the citwvn, a long tunic worn under the outer clothing, was seamless (a[rafo"), woven from the top down in a single piece.

19:24 lavcwmen periV aujtou' Rather than tear the seamless tunic into four parts, the soldiers cast lots for it. This is interpreted by the Evangelist as a fulfillment of Ps 22:18 [22:19 LXX].

A Note on the significance of the seamless tunic for the Evangelist:

Many interpretations have been proposed, including the completeness or oneness of Jesus’ teaching (Origen), the unity of the church (Cyprian), or the virgin birth of Jesus (Cyril). Several possibilities warrant further consideration: (1) the symbolism may be intended to suggest the clothing of a priest, and thus point out that Jesus died a priest as well as a king. The LXX uses citwvn to translate the Hebrew tntk in Exod 28:4 and Lev 16:4 as a reference to the linen undergarment worn by the high priest. This is not explicitly said to be a seamless garment in Exod 28:4 and Lev 16:4, but Exod 39:27 states that the tunic was woven linen. Josephus, however, describes the tunic of the high priest as one single woven piece of cloth.162

(2) This does not explain, however, why the Evangelist makes a point of the soldiers’ decision not to divide the tunic. The verb used by the soldiers to describe the tearing of the tunic is scivzw, and the cognate noun scivsma is used to describe factions or divisions among people in 7:43, 9:16, and 10:19. This has led to the suggestion that the Evangelist wants to stress the unity of Jesus’ followers (cf. 17:21). This is far from certain, however, since the verb used here is the normal verb for tearing something and is so used of the fishermen’s nets in 21:11.

(3) Perhaps it is best to consider this simply an eyewitness recollection, and the mention of the seamless design of the citwvn is an explanation of why the soldiers did not divide it. The fact that they did not divide it, but cast lots instead, is seen as a fulfillment of scripture (Ps 22:18).

          4 D Jesus gives the care of his mother to John (the beloved disciple) (19:25-27)

19:25 EiJsthvkeisan deV paraV tw'/ staurw'/ tou' =Ihsou' The Evangelist now shifts the scene to the people present at the foot of the cross. Several women are mentioned, but it is not easy to determine how many. It is not clear whether “his mother’s sister” (hJ ajdelfhV th'" mhtroV" aujtou') and “Mary the wife of Clopas” (Mariva hJ tou' Klwpa') are to be understood as the same individual (in which case only three women are mentioned: Jesus’ mother, her sister Mary, and Mary Magdalene) or as two different individuals (in which case four women are mentioned: Jesus’ mother, her sister, Mary Clopas’ wife, and Mary Magdalene).

It is impossible to be certain, but when John’s account is compared to the synoptics it is easier to reconcile the accounts if four women were present than if there were only three. It also seems that if there were four women present, this would have been seen by the Evangelist to be in juxtaposition to the four soldiers present who performed the crucifixion, and this may explain the transition from the one incident in 23-24 to the other in 25-27. Finally, if only three were present, this would mean that both Jesus’ mother and her sister were named Mary, and this is highly improbable in a Jewish family of that time.

If there were four women present, the name of the second, the sister of Jesus’ mother, is not mentioned. It is entirely possible that the sister of Jesus’ mother mentioned here is to be identified with the woman named Salome mentioned in Mark 15:40 and also with the woman identified as “the mother of the sons of Zebedee” mentioned in Matt 27:56. If so, and if John the Apostle is to be identified as the Beloved Disciple, then the reason for the omission of the second woman’s name becomes clear; she would have been John’s own mother, and he consistently omitted direct reference to himself or his brother James or any other members of his family in the Fourth Gospel.

19:26-27 =Ihsou'" ou ijdwVn thVn mhtevra kaiV toVn maqhthVn parestw'ta From the cross Jesus saw his mother standing nearby, and the Beloved Disciple also standing nearby. He commended his mother to the care of the Beloved Disciple, speaking to both of them directly. The phrase ajp= ejkeivnh" th'" w{ra" might be understood to mean that the Beloved Disciple led Jesus’ mother away so that she did not witness the death of her son, but it does not necessarily have to mean this. More probably all it means is that from that moment own, the Beloved Disciple cared for Jesus’ mother as his own.

          5 D Jesus cries out in thirst and is given wine (19:28-29)

19:28 eijdwV"tetevlestai After the commendation of his mother to the care of the Beloved Disciple, Jesus knew that all things had already been completed (tetevlestai). All the work that the Father had given him to do was now finished (cf. 4:34, 5:36, and 17:4; see especially the Notes on 17:4 for further discussion of this concept).

i{na teleiwqh'/ hJ grafhv But Jesus was still completely in control of the situation, even as he hung upon the cross. In order that the scripture might be fulfilled [teleiwqh'/, a word-play on the previous statement that all things were completed (tetevlestai)], he said, “I thirst”. The scripture referred to is probably Ps 69:21, “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink”. Also suggested, however, is Ps 22:15, “My tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth, and You [God] lay me in the dust of death”. Psalm 22:1 reads, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?,” a statement Jesus makes from the cross in both Matt 27:46 and Mark 15:34. In light of the connection in the Fourth Gospel between thirst and the living water which Jesus offers, it is highly ironic that here Jesus himself, the source of that living water, expresses his thirst. And since 7:39 associates the living water with the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ statement here in 19:28 amounts to an admission that at this point he has been forsaken by God (cf. Ps 22:1).

19:29 skeu'o" e[keito There was a jar of cheap wine standing nearby, so they put a sponge soaked in the wine on some hyssop, and lifted it up to Jesus’ mouth.

o[xou" The cheap wine was called in Latin posca, and referred to a cheap vinegar wine diluted heavily with water. It was the drink of slaves and soldiers, and was probably there for the soldiers who had performed the crucifixion.

uJsswvpw/ The hyssop used to lift the wet sponge may have been a form of reed (kavlamo" is used in Matt 27:48 and Mark 15:36); the biblical name can refer to several different species of plant (at least eighteen different plants have been suggested).

          6 D Jesus gives over the Spirit (19:30)

19:30 o{te ou e[laben toV o[xo"… When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,”It is finished” (tetevlestai). And bowing his head, he gave over his spirit (parevdwken toV pneu'ma). Many of the themes of the Fourth Gospel are summed up here. Jesus has now signified that the work the Father had given him to do has been accomplished (see the Notes on 17:4 for extended discussion of this). He has obediently fulfilled his Father’s will (cf. 18:11). Jesus was in complete control of events up to the very end; not until he indicates by this cry that all is completed does his death come, and it is spoken of as “handing over his spirit,” indicating he voluntarily gave up his life (10:18). Now that Jesus has finished his work and been lifted up from the earth, he will begin to draw all men to himself (12:32).

parevdwken toV pneu'ma suggests also the giving of the Holy Spirit [cf. 7:39], although it does not take place at this very moment. The reference is proleptic, looking ahead to 20:22, which in turn looks ahead to Pentecost.

          7 D Jesus’ side is pierced (19:31-37)

19:31 OiJ ou =Ioudai'oihjrwvthsan toVn Pila'ton The Jewish authorities, because this was the day of preparation for the Sabbath and the passover (cf. 19:14), requested Pilate to order the legs of the three who had been crucified to be broken. This would hasten their deaths, so that the bodies could be removed before the beginning of the Sabbath at 6:00 p.m. This was based upon the law of Deut 21:22-23 and Josh 8:29 which specified that the bodies of executed criminals who had been hanged on a tree should not remain there overnight. According to Josephus this law was interpreted in the first century to cover the bodies of those who had been crucified.163 Philo of Alexandria also mentions that on occasion, especially at festivals, the bodies were taken down and given to relatives to bury.164 The normal Roman practice would have been to leave the bodies on the crosses, to serve as a warning to other would-be offenders.

19:32 hlqon ou oiJ stratiw'tai Thus the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men who had been crucified with Jesus. This breaking of the legs was called in Latin the crurifragium, and was done with a heavy mallet.

19:33 ejpiV deV toVn =Ihsou'n ejlqovnte" When the soldiers came to Jesus to carry out the crurifragium, they saw that he was already dead, so they did not break his legs. This will be seen by the Evanglist in verse 36 below as a further fulfillment of scripture.

19:34 lovgch/ aujtou' thVn pleuraVn e[nuxen One of the soldiers thrust his spear into Jesus’ side. If it was obvious to them that the victim was already dead it is difficult to see why one of the soldiers would try to inflict a wound. The verb itself, nuvssw, can indicate anything from a slight prod to a mortal wound. It seems probable that one of the soldiers gave an exploratory stab to see if the body would jerk. If not, it was really dead. We may suppose this thrust was hard enough to penetrate the side, since the Evangelist states that blood and water came out immediately.

A Note on the significance for the Evangelist of the blood and water:

What are we to make of the reference to the blood and water that came forth from Jesus’ side? It seems probable to connect them with the statements in 1 John 5:6-8. In both passages water, blood, and testimony are mentioned. The Spirit is also mentioned in 1 John 5:7 as the source of the testimony, while here it is one of the disciples (v. 35). We have already noted in the preceding context the connection between the Spirit and the living water with Jesus’ statement of thirst just before he died (see the discussion at 19:28 above). It seems most probable to understand the reference to the water which flowed out of Jesus’ side as a symbolic reference to the Holy Spirit who can now be given because Jesus is now glorified (cf. 7:39); he has now departed and returned to that glory which he had with the Father before the creation of the world (cf. 17:5). The mention of blood recalls the motif of the passover lamb as a sacrificial victim (see the discussion at 19:14 above). Later references to sacrificial procedures in the Mishnah appear to support this: m. Pesahim 5.3 and 5.5 state that the blood of the sacrificial animal should not be allowed to congeal but should flow forth freely at the instant of death so that it could be used for sprinkling, and m. Tamid 4.2 actually specifies that the priest is to pierce the heart of the sacrificial victim and cause the blood to come forth.

19:35 kaiV oJ eJwrakwV" memartuvrhken This is a statement confirming that the account of the crucifixion as described above is eyewitness testimony. Thus although the events described have theological significance for the Evangelist, we are to understand that they actually occurred, and were not composed simply to make a theological point.

19:36-37 ejgevneto gaVr tau'ta i{na hJ grafhV plhrwqh'/ The Evangelist now quotes two passages from the OT which he understands to have been fulfilled in the crucifixion.

The first, “Not a bone of him shall be broken,” may be quoted from a number of different OT passages: Exod 12:10 LXX, Exod 12:46, Num 9:12, or Ps 34:20. Of these, the first is the closest in form to the quotation here. The first three are all more likely candidates than the last, since the first three all deal with descriptions of the passover lamb. We have discussed already the significance of this symbolism for the author of the Fourth Gospel (see the extended discussion at 1:29). It seems very probable that this is the symbolism in view here.

The second quotation, “They shall look upon the One whom they have pierced,” is easier to locate; it is a citation of Zech 12:10. Here a single phrase is quoted from Zech 12, but the entire context is associated with the events surrounding the crucifixion. The “Spirit of grace and of supplication” is poured out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the first part of verse 10. A few verses later in 13:1 Yahweh says “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.” The blood which flowed from Jesus’ pierced side may well be what the Evangelist sees as the connection here, since as the shedding of the blood of the sacrificial victim it represents cleansing from sin.

Although the Jewish authorities and Roman soldiers certainly “looked upon him whom they had pierced” as he hung on the cross, the Evangelist may also have in mind the parousia here. The context in Zech 12-14 is certainly the second advent, so that these who have crucified Jesus will look upon him in another sense when he returns in judgment.

          8 D Jesus’ body is buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (19:38-42)

19:38 MetaV deV tau'ta After these events Joseph of Arimathea, described here as a secret follower of Jesus for fear of the Jewish authorities, went to Pilate and asked for permission to remove Jesus’ body from the cross. See the Notes on 19:31 above.

19:39 hlqen deV kaiV Nikovdhmo" With Joseph of Arimathea came Nicodemus. The Evangelist reminds the readers in a parenthetical note that it was the same Nicodemus who had first come to Jesus by night (3:1, see also 7:50). Nicodemus brought a mixture spices for the burial of Jesus’ body. From the extraordinary amount he brought we may assume Nicodemus was a wealthy man. He brought about a hundred pounds of this mixture of spices. This would be about 75 pounds (34 kg) by present standards, since the Roman pound (livtra) weighed about 12 ounces (340.5 grams).

19:40 e[labon ou toV sw'ma tou' =Ihsou' The Evangelist states that Joseph and Nicodemus prepared Jesus’ body for burial according to Jewish custom (they may or may not have been assisted by unmentioned servants from their respective households). Jewish burial custom dictated that the body be washed, anointed with oil, and bound up with the spices.

kaiV e[dhsan aujtoV ojqonivoi" The Fourth Gospel uses ojqonivoi" to describe the wrappings, and this has caused a good deal of debate, since it appears to contradict the synoptic accounts which mention a sindwvn, a large single piece of linen cloth. If one understands ojqonivoi" to refer to smaller strips of cloth, like bandages, there would be a difference, but diminutive forms have often lost their diminutive force in Koin, so there may not be any difference.165 The plural could refer to the separate headcloth and the main wrapping together.

19:41 kaiV ejn tw'/ khvpw/ mnhmei'on kainoVn Joseph and Nicodemus then placed the body of Jesus in a garden tomb near (ejn) the place where he was crucified. John makes special note of the fact that this was a new tomb, one in which no one had ever been buried before. It is possible that by mentioning this, along with the quantity of spices brought for the burial by Nicodemus, the Evangelist wants us to see the burial of Jesus as a royal burial, one befitting a king.

19:42 o{ti ejgguV" h toV mnhmei'on The reason for choosing this particular tomb is given: it was nearby, and the evening was approaching. The passover and the Sabbath would begin at 6:00 p.m., so those who had come to prepare and bury the body could not afford to waste time.

153 Morris, The Gospel According to John, 798.

154 Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John, 2:621.

155 Some of this evidence is given in BAGD, 395 s.v. Kaivsaro".

156 E. Bammel, Theologische Literatur Zeitung 77 (1952): 205-10.

157 Annals 6.8.

158 Morris, The Gospel According to John, “Additional Note H: The Last Supper and the Passover,” 774-86, which also includes basic bibliographic information on a variety of studies on the problem (785-86).

159 I. Howard Marshall, Last Supper and Lords Supper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981).

160 Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, 545.

161 See BDF 342.4.

162 Antiquities 3.7.4 [161].

163 The Jewish War 4.5.2 [317].

164 Flaccus 10 [83].

165 BDF 111.3.

Related Topics: Crucifixion

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