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John 19:18-37

Context
19:18 There they 1  crucified 2  him along with two others, 3  one on each side, with Jesus in the middle. 19:19 Pilate also had a notice 4  written and fastened to the cross, 5  which read: 6  “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.” 19:20 Thus many of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem 7  read this notice, 8  because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the notice was written in Aramaic, 9  Latin, and Greek. 19:21 Then the chief priests of the Jews 10  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.”

19:23 Now when the soldiers crucified 11  Jesus, they took his clothes and made four shares, one for each soldier, 12  and the tunic 13  remained. (Now the tunic 14  was seamless, woven from top to bottom as a single piece.) 15  19:24 So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice 16  to see who will get it.” 17  This took place 18  to fulfill the scripture that says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.” 19  So the soldiers did these things.

19:25 Now standing beside Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 20  19:26 So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, 21  look, here is your son!” 19:27 He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!” From that very time 22  the disciple took her into his own home.

Jesus’ Death

19:28 After this Jesus, realizing that by this time 23  everything was completed, 24  said (in order to fulfill the scripture), 25  “I am thirsty!” 26  19:29 A jar full of sour wine 27  was there, so they put a sponge soaked in sour wine on a branch of hyssop 28  and lifted it 29  to his mouth. 19:30 When 30  he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed!” 31  Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 32 

19:31 Then, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not stay on the crosses on the Sabbath 33  (for that Sabbath was an especially important one), 34  the Jewish leaders 35  asked Pilate to have the victims’ legs 36  broken 37  and the bodies taken down. 38  19:32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men who had been crucified 39  with Jesus, 40  first the one and then the other. 41  19:33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced 42  his side with a spear, and blood and water 43  flowed out immediately. 19:35 And the person who saw it 44  has testified (and his testimony is true, and he 45  knows that he is telling the truth), 46  so that you also may believe. 19:36 For these things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled, “Not a bone of his will be broken.” 47  19:37 And again another scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.” 48 

1 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.

2 sn See the note on Crucify in 19:6.

3 tn Grk “and with him two others.”

4 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.

5 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.

6 tn Grk “Now it was written.”

7 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.

8 tn Or “this inscription.”

9 tn Grk “in Hebrew.”

10 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.”

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

12 sn Four shares, one for each soldier. The Gospel of John 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.

13 tn Or “shirt” (a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin). The name for this garment (χιτών, citwn) presents some difficulty in translation. Most modern readers would not understand what a ‘tunic’ was any more than they would be familiar with a ‘chiton.’ On the other hand, attempts to find a modern equivalent are also a problem: “Shirt” conveys the idea of a much shorter garment that covers only the upper body, and “undergarment” (given the styles of modern underwear) is more misleading still. “Tunic” was therefore employed, but with a note to explain its nature.

14 tn Or “shirt” (a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin). See the note on the same word earlier in this verse.

15 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.

16 tn Grk “but choose by lot” (probably by using marked pebbles or broken pieces of pottery). A modern equivalent, “throw dice,” was chosen here because of its association with gambling.

17 tn Grk “to see whose it will be.”

18 tn The words “This took place” are not in the Greek text but are implied.

19 tn Grk “cast lots.” See the note on “throw dice” earlier in the verse.

sn A quotation from Ps 22:18.

20 sn Several women are mentioned, but it is not easy to determine how many. It is not clear whether his mother’s sister and Mary the wife of Clopas 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 author 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.

21 sn The term Woman is Jesus’ normal, polite way of addressing women (Matt 15:28, Luke 13:12; John 4:21; 8:10; 19:26; 20:15; see BDAG 208-9 s.v. γυνή 1). But it is unusual for a son to address his mother with this term. The custom in both Hebrew (or Aramaic) and Greek would be for a son to use a qualifying adjective or title. Is there significance in Jesus’ use here? Jesus probably used the term here to help establish Mary and the beloved disciple in a new “mother-son” relationship. Someone would soon need to provide for Mary since Jesus, her oldest son, would no longer be alive. By using this term Jesus distanced himself from Mary so the beloved disciple could take his place as her earthly son (cf. John 2:4). See D. A. Carson, John, 617-18, for discussion about symbolic interpretations of this relationship between Mary and the beloved disciple.

22 tn Grk “from that very hour.”

23 tn Or “that already.”

24 tn Or “finished,” “accomplished”; Grk “fulfilled.”

25 sn A reference to Ps 69:21 or Ps 22:15.

26 sn In order to fulfill (τελειωθῇ [teleiwqh], a wordplay on the previous statement that everything was completed [τετέλεσται, tetelestai]) the scripture, he said, “I am thirsty.” 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.” Ps 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, Matt 27:46, and Mark 15:34).

27 sn The cheap sour 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.

28 sn Hyssop was a small aromatic bush; exact identification of the plant is uncertain. The hyssop used to lift the wet sponge may have been a form of reed (κάλαμος, kalamo", “reed,” 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).

29 tn Or “and brought it.”

30 tn Grk “Then when.” Here οὖν (oun) has not been translated for stylistic reasons.

31 tn Or “It is accomplished,” “It is finished,” or “It is ended.” See tn on John 13:1.

32 tn Or “he bowed his head and died”; Grk “he bowed his head and gave over the spirit.”

33 sn 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 p.m. This was based on the law of Deut 21:22-23 and Josh 8:29 that specified 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 1st century to cover the bodies of those who had been crucified (J. W. 4.5.2 [4.317]). Philo of Alexandria also mentions that on occasion, especially at festivals, the bodies were taken down and given to relatives to bury (Flaccus 10 [83]). The normal Roman practice would have been to leave the bodies on the crosses, to serve as a warning to other would-be offenders.

34 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.

35 tn Or “the Jewish authorities”; Grk “the Jews.” Here the phrase refers to the Jewish leaders. See also the note on the phrase “Jewish leaders” in v. 7.

36 tn Grk “asked Pilate that the legs of them might be broken.” The referent of “them” (the three individuals who were crucified, collectively referred to as “the victims”) has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

37 sn To have the legs…broken. Breaking the legs of a crucified person was a way of speeding up his death, since the victim could no longer use his legs to push upward in order to be able to draw a breath. This breaking of the legs was called in Latin crurifragium, and was done with a heavy mallet.

38 tn Grk “asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and they might be taken down.” Here because of the numerous ambiguous third person references it is necessary to clarify that it was the crucified men whose legs were to be broken and whose corpses were to be removed from the crosses.

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

40 tn Grk “with him”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

41 tn Grk “broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him.”

42 sn If it was obvious to the soldiers that the victim was already dead it is difficult to see why one of them would try to inflict a wound. The Greek verb pierced (νύσσω, nussw) can indicate anything from a slight prod to a mortal wound. Probably one of the soldiers gave an exploratory stab to see if the body would jerk. If not, he was really dead. This thrust was hard enough to penetrate the side, since the author states that blood and water flowed out immediately.

43 sn How is the reference to the blood and water that flowed out from Jesus’ side to be understood? This is probably to be connected 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 the testimony comes from one of the disciples (19:35). The connection between the Spirit and the living water with Jesus’ statement of thirst just before he died in the preceding context has already been noted (see 19:28). For the author, the water which flowed out of Jesus’ side was a symbolic reference to the Holy Spirit who could now be given because Jesus was now glorified (cf. 7:39); Jesus had 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. 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; 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.

44 tn The word “it” is not in the Greek text but is implied. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context.

45 tn Grk “and that one.”

46 sn A parenthetical note by the author.

47 sn A quotation from Exod 12:46, Num 9:12, and Ps 34:20. A number of different OT passages lie behind this quotation: 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.

48 sn A quotation from 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 v. 10. A few verses later in 13:1 Yahweh (typically rendered as “Lord” in the OT) 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 author saw 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 on the one whom they have pierced” as he hung on the cross, the author may also have in mind the parousia (second coming) here. The context in Zech 12-14 is certainly the second coming, so that these who crucified Jesus will look upon him in another sense when he returns in judgment.



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