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John 19:15-22

Context

19:15 Then they 1  shouted out, “Away with him! Away with him! 2  Crucify 3  him!” Pilate asked, 4  “Shall I crucify your king?” The high priests replied, “We have no king except Caesar!” 19:16 Then Pilate 5  handed him over 6  to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

So they took Jesus, 19:17 and carrying his own cross 7  he went out to the place called “The Place of the Skull” 8  (called in Aramaic 9  Golgotha). 10  19:18 There they 11  crucified 12  him along with two others, 13  one on each side, with Jesus in the middle. 19:19 Pilate also had a notice 14  written and fastened to the cross, 15  which read: 16  “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.” 19:20 Thus many of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem 17  read this notice, 18  because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the notice was written in Aramaic, 19  Latin, and Greek. 19:21 Then the chief priests of the Jews 20  said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The king of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am king of the Jews.’” 19:22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

1 tn Grk “Then these.”

2 tn The words “with him” (twice) are not in the Greek text. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context.

3 sn See the note on Crucify in 19:6.

4 tn Grk “Pilate said to them.” The words “to them” are not translated because it is clear in English who Pilate is addressing.

5 tn Grk “Then he”; the referent (Pilate) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Or “delivered him over.”

7 tn Or “carrying the cross by himself.”

sn 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.

8 sn Jesus was led out to the place called “The Place of the Skull” where he was to be crucified. It is clear from v. 20 that this was outside the city. The Latin word for the Greek κρανίον (kranion) is calvaria. Thus the English word “Calvary” is a transliteration of the Latin rather than a NT place name (cf. Luke 23:33 in the KJV).

9 tn Grk “in Hebrew.”

10 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.

11 tn Grk “where they.” This is a continuation of the previous verse in Greek, but contemporary English style tends toward shorter sentences. A literal translation would result in a lengthy and awkward English sentence.

12 sn See the note on Crucify in 19:6.

13 tn Grk “and with him two others.”

14 tn Or “an inscription.”

sn Mention of the inscription is an important detail, because the inscription would normally give the reason for the execution. It shows that Jesus was executed for claiming to be a king. It was also probably written with irony from the executioners’ point of view.

15 tn Grk “Pilate also wrote a notice and placed it on the cross.” The two verbs should be read as causatives, since it is highly unlikely that the Roman governor would perform either of these actions himself. He ordered them to be done.

sn John says simply that the notice was fastened to the cross. 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). Pilate’s own motivation for placing the title over Jesus 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 one he considered to be an innocent man.

16 tn Grk “Now it was written.”

17 tn Grk “the Jews.” Here the phrase refers to the residents of Jerusalem in general. See also the note on the phrase Jewish religious leaders” in v. 7.

map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

18 tn Or “this inscription.”

19 tn Grk “in Hebrew.”

20 tn Or “the Jewish chief priests.” Nowhere else in the Fourth Gospel are the two expressions οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς τῶν ᾿Ιουδαίων (Joi arcierei" twn Ioudaiwn) combined. Earlier in 19:15 the chief priests were simply referred to as οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς. It seems likely that this is another example of Johannine irony, to be seen in contrast to the inscription on the cross which read ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν ᾿Ιουδαίων (Jo basileu" twn Ioudaiwn). For this reason the phrase has been translated “the chief priests of the Jews” (which preserves in the translation the connection with “King of the Jews”) rather than “the Jewish chief priests.”



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