Page images

A. M.4037, f it was his business to look to it, not theirs; so that being tortured with the agonies

[ocr errors]

of guilt, and finding no relief any where,

he went and hanged himself ||; but in his

vu." A.Ş., death there was something so particular, that it made all the inhabitants of Jerusalem

[ocr errors]

take notice of it.

The money however, which he threw among the council, the priests thought not proper to put in the treasury, because it was the price of blood #2, and

therefore they purchased with it a spot of ground, then called the Potter's Field #5, (but

afterwards the (a) Field of Blood,) for a place of interment for strangers +4.
When the members of the Sanhedrim came to the governor's palace, they refused to

go into the (b) judgment-hall, to for fear of contracting some pollution, and therefore Pilate went out to them ; and as he understood that they had already passed sentence From Matth. upon him, he demanded the grounds of their accusation against him ; But, being un-...'...". willing that any enquiry should be made into the particulars of their proceedings, they 15 to the end, answered in general, that f “if he were not a criminal, they would not have brought otos him to him.” Imagining, therefore, that the prosecution was about some matters rela-John xii. 19 to ting to their religion, the governor desired they would take him, and judge him accord-"***

tain in its stay, sudden in its departure, horrid in the remembrance, and a ruin, a certain and miserable ruin in the event. Taylor's Life of Christ, sect. iii. + As if the crime of the traitor was nothing to those who put him upon the treason; or the condemnation of an innocent person, declared to be such even by the wretch who had betrayed him, was only a matter of sport with them. Calmet's Commentary. | Though the original word may perhaps mean no more than his falling into a violent suffocating fit of sadness and despair, which might stop all his natural passages, and so, for want of vent, make him burst asunder, and his guts break out at his navel; yet to me the most natural and obvious signification of the word is preferable. The only difficulty is, how to reconcile his hanging of himself with what is elsewhere recorded of him, viz. that “falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out,” Acts i. 18. But to this purpose the conjectures of several have been various. Some think, that he hanged himself on a tree, but that, the branch yielding and bending to the ground, he was not, at that time, strangled, but afterwards fell into a dropsy, of which he burst and died. Others imagine, that he threw himself from some place higher than that on which he intended to hang himself, and that by the force of the swing when he cast himself off, the rope broke, so that he fell to the ground and burst. Others suppose, that as he might hang himself in some private place, he probably there continued until his belly swelled, (as it commonly happens to such as die in that manner), and in a short time his bowels burst out: and for this they have the authority of some copies, which instead of room; youtres, falling down headlong, have awoxtocatesvos, thus hanging, he burst asunder and all his bowels gushed out. But in what: ever manner this came to pass, I cannot see why, in this extraordinary instance, we may not admit of a more than ordinary Providence, to make the death of this traitor more remarkable. Le Scene's Essay, part ii. c. vii. Calmet's Commentary, Hammond's and Whitbu’s Annotations. +” #. was a custom among the Jews, which was afterwards imitated by the first Christians, that it should not be lawful for executioners to offer any thing, or for any alms to be reccived from them; and so by analogy, any money with which a life was bought was not to be put into the treasury. Hammond's Annotations. +* The valley of Jehoshaphat runs cross the mouth of another valley, called the valley of Hinnom, lying

at the bottom of mount Sion. On the west side of this valley is the place called the Potter's Field, where not improbably the people of that trade were used to dry their pots before they baked them. It was afterwards called the Field of Blood, for the reason that the evangelist assigns; but at present, from that veneration which it has obtained amongst Christians, it is named Campo Sancto, or the Holy Field. It is a small plat of ground not above thirty yards long, and about half as much broad; and one moiety of it is taken up by a square fabric about twelve yards high, built for a charnal-house, and covered over with a vault, in which are some openings to let down the bodies that are to be buried there. The earth must certainly be impregnated with a very corrosive salt, if what some tell us be true, viz. that it can dissolve a body in the space of four and twenty hours. Those, however, who have looked down through these openings tell us, that they could see many bodies under several degrees of decay, from whence they conjectured, that this grave does not make such quick dispatch with the corpses committed to it as is commonly reported. The Armenians have the command of this burying-place, for which they pay to the Turks the rent of a sequin a-day : and a little below the Campo Sancto is shewn an intricate cave, or a sepulchre consisting of several rooms, one within another, in which the apostles are said to have hid themselves when they forsook their Master and fled. Wells's Geography of the New Testament, part 1. (a) Acts i. 19. t". The strangers here meant may be either men of other nations with whom the Jews would have no com

merce, even when they were dead, and therefore pro

vided a separate burying-place for them; or they might be Jews, who coming from far to Jerusalem to sacrifice, died there before their return home, and so the priests provided a burying place for them. Hammond's Annotations.

(b) John xviii. 28.

+ Because in the governor's palace there was a guard of Roman soldiers, and a great company of servants, and, as they were heathens, they thought, that by touching any of them they should be defiled, and consequently made incapable of eating the passover, of which no unclean person was to partake. By the passover, however, here in St John, ch. xviii. 28. we are not to understand the paschal lamb, which the rest of the Jews, as well as our Saviour, had eaten the night before, but the Chagigah, or peace-offering, i.e. the sheep and oxen that were offered all the

ing to their own law; but to this they replied, to “that it was not permitted them to

put any man to death.”

By these reserved answers, Pilate, perceiving that their intention was to make him the instrument of their malice against an innocent man, refused to intermeddle in the

affair, unless they would exhibit some articles of accusation against him.

seven days of the feast, and are expressly called the passover, Luke xxii. 1. Thus the Jewish doctors remark upon Deut xvi. 2. “Thou shalt sacrifice the passover to the Lord, of the flock, and of the herd,” that the flock signifies the lambs, which were eaten on the 14th, and the herd, the offerings of the Chagigah, which were consumed on the 15th day of the month Nisan. The Jewish rulers therefore would not go into the judgment hall, that they might not be unfit to eat the passover, i. e. those paschal offerings of the herd, which were holy things, and of which none might eat in their defilement. Whitby's Annotations and Appendix to St Mark. Vid. Calmet's Commentary upon this passage of St John, where he opposes this opinion with reasons that seem to have some weight in them. + By this answer they seem willing to make Pilate, not so much a judge of the cause, as an executor of their sentence : But there cannot possibly be an higher act of injustice, than to desire, that a judge should suppose the accused person guilty of the crime without any farther examination. It is no strange and extraordinary thing to see innocent persons oppressed by arbitrary proceedings without any legal process; but for a man to be brought before a judge, in order to be delivered up directly to execution, without any proof of his crime, or any examination concerning it, is a new way of oppression, first invented and contrived against the Saviour of the world. Calmet's Commentary. +* Whether the Jews had at this time the power of life and death is a point much controverted among the learned. The answer which the Jewish rulers here give to Pilate, and the general opinion of their rabbins, who suppose that their rulers lost that power about forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, seem to incline to the negative; but those who take the other side of the question argue thus, That the Jews, when reduced to a Roman province, had still the privilege granted them, “to use the sacred institutions and customs that were derived to them from their fathers” Joseph. Antiq lib. xiv. c. 17.; that it was granted to Hyrcanus, the high priest, if any controversy should arise concerning their discipline, that the judgment of it should be referred to him; that, pursuant to this grant, we find the high priest and his council stoning Stephen, not by the rage of zealots, as some conceive, but according to the law, which requires that the blasphemer should be stoned, Levit.

Vol. III.


xxiv. 16.; that Saul, armed with the power of the

high priest and elders, persecuted the Jewish Chris

tians unto death, and led them bound to Jerusalem to

be punished, Acts xxii. 4, 5.; that the Jews would

have judged Paul after their own law, Acts xxiv. 6.

and have put him to death, Acts xxiii. 27. had not

Lysias, the chief captain, rescued him from their hands, which they say he did by violence, i.e. by an invasion of their rights, but he affirms he did it, because he understood that Paul was a Roman: And from hence they conclude, that they still retained the

power of judging, and condemning those to death, who were Jews by nature and descent, and by their laws deserved to die, though, as to some persons, and in some cases, they had not that power. Thus, when Annas, or Ananas, the high priest, killed James, the brother of our Lord, and stoned many other Christians as transgressors of the law, the wisest part of the nation (says Josephus) disliked his proceedings, because he should not have called a council concerning life and death, without licence from Albinus, the Roman president. From whence we may infer, that the power of inflicting capital punishments, even upon the Jews converted to the Christian faith, was then so far taken from them, that they could not regularly do it, without first obtaining leave from the Roman governor: And in the case of our Blessed Saviour, the Jews had debarred themselves from the power of putting him to death, after they had accused him bufore Pilate, not of crimes committed against their law, but of sedition, and aspiring at a kingdom, to the prejudice of Caesar and the Roman government, whereof it belonged to Pilate, and not to them, to judge and determine And therefore their saying to him, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death,” John xviii. 31. is looked upon, either as a kind of complaint of the encroachments which the Romans had made upon their civil constitution, or as a mere pretence, since Pilate gave them power enough, when he bade them “take him, and judge him according to their law;” and that the true reasons of their bringing him before the Roman tribunal were, that he might be condemned for sedition, which would be a means to secure them from the rage of the people, and that he might be crucified, which was a Roman death, and generally inflicted on those that were found tampering against the government. Calmet's Commentary, Whitby's and Beausobre's Annotations.

2 N

therefore that Pilate was a creature of the Roman court, and a slave to its greatness, they alleged against our Lord, That f he was guilty of seditious practices, of dissuaYo: o ding the payment of the tribute to Caesar, and of setting himself up for a king. Pilate ** = hearing the name of a king, thought himself concerned to examine that point; and therefore, returning to the judgment-hall, and seating himself upon the tribunal, he asked Jesus whether he was the king of the Jews? Which our Lord mever pretended to deny; but then he informed the governor, that f “his kingdom was not of this world,” and could therefore give no umbrage to the Romans; for that, had it been a worldly kingdom, his subjects and followers would have certainly fought for him, and saved him from the hands of the Jews. When Pilate heard that he disclaimed all right to secular kingdoms, he thought he had nothing to do to examine him about the nature of his spiritual empire; and therefore, withdrawing from the court into the vestibulum (where his accusers were impatiently expecting the ratification of their sentence, in order to execution), contrary to their hopes, he plainly told them, that he found “nothing worthy of death in him.” Upon this disappointment, the chief priests and elders grew exceedingly fierce and clamorous, representing our Lord as a turbulent mover of the people, and charging him with the spreading of seditious principles through all f* Galilee and Judea, even as far as Jerusalem. Pilate, hearing them name Galilee, and understanding that he was a Galilean, and, consequently, belonged to #3 Herod's jurisdiction; in order to get rid of the importunity of the Jews, and withal to free himself from this odious and puzzling affair, sent him immediately to Herod, who was then at Jerusalem upon the occasion of the feast. Herod was no less proud of the honour done him by Pilate, than glad of having this opportunity to gratify his curiosity. For, having heard much of our Sa"viour's fame, he expected to see some miracle or other done by him, but found himself sadly disappointed: For though the scribes and rulers pursued him with their accusations to Herod's palace, and Herod, in hearing the cause, asked him several questions, yet he would not vouchsafe so much as one answer; which made the tetrarch look upon him as an insignificant, despicable person ; and, accordingly, having committed him to the derision and insults of his guards, who used him with the utmost indignity, he sent him back again to Pilate, arrayed in a white robe f*; whether it was to make a

[ocr errors]

1 When our Lord's accusers came before Pilate, they said nothing of his pretended blasphemy, his destruction of the temple, or violation of the law of Moses, because they were questions that the governor, they knew, would not concern himself with ; and therefore they forged such accusations against him, as they thought might make him odious and suspected to the Roman government, and oblige Pilate to be severe against him. Calmet's Commentary.

+ Not of human original, but from heaven, and so meddled not with the affairs of this world; that it had none of the pomp and splendour of the world annexed to it; none to fight for it with carnal weapons, and exercised no dominion over mens bodies, but over their souls only; that its regiment was spiritual, and its judicatories the courts of conscience; its tribute a conformity to the great laws of faith, o and charity; and its only imposts, the duties of an holy spirit, and the expresses of a religious worship, a resigned will, and a consenting understanding, in which Pilate soon perceived that the interest of Caesar could not be invaded. Whitby's Annotations, and Taylor's Life of Christ, part iii. sect. 15.

+* Here they artfully make mention of Galilee, to

incite Pilate against him as a seditious person, and
to confirm their own suggestion that he was so; for
they give him to think, that as he was a Galilean he
might probably embrace the opinion of Judas Gaulo-
nites, who held it was not lawful to pay tribute to
Caesar; a notion which the inhabitants of Galilee had
generally imbibed, and upon that account were al-
ways prone to sedition and rebellion, for which some
of them, not long before, had been set upon and slain
by Pilate. Whitby's Annotations.
to Pilate's government did not extend to Galilee;
it included Judea only. Herod Antipas, the son of
Herod the Great, was at this time king or tetrarch of
Galilee : Jesus consequently was his subject; and
therefore, according to the Roman laws, it was Pi-
late's duty to send him to his proper sovereign, es-
pecially as he was accused of rebellion, and a design
to make himself a king. Calmet's Commentary, and
Grotius on Luke xxiii.
f* The original words mean properly a splendid
robe, and do not relate so much to the colour as the
richness of the habit. Calmet's Commentary.
[In this place the original word certainly means
either scarlet or purple. The word used by St John
o -

mock of him, or to indicate his innocence, or both, but so it was, that from that time from Matth. Herod and Pilate (t who before were at great variance) were, upon this occasion, per-...o.o. fectly reconciled. o

15, to the end, When our Lord was remanded back in this manner, Pilate addressed himself to the ... d priests and rulers of the people, telling them,-" That, though they had brought thisjoo". man before him as a seditious person, and a seducer of the people, yet, upon examina-" " ... tion, he could not find him guilty of any of the crimes that were laid to his charge; that this was not his own opinion only, but that Herod (who was a more competent judge of the affair, and to whom he had sent him, on purpose to take cognizance of it) had nowise signified that his crimes were capital; and therefore, instead of taking away. his life, he proposed some lesser punishment, if they thought fit, such as f* scourging him a little with whips, and so dismissing him :” but this lenity was so disagreeable to their enraged temper, that they peremptorily demanded execution, saying, “Crucify him, crucify him.” Pilate, still tender of shedding innocent blood, expostulated the matter with them, desiring to know what “evil he had done;” for, as for his part, he could find no fault in him, much less any crimes deserving of death; but this did but the more exasperate, and make them more clamorous for speedy execution. The governor had one expedient more, which he thought would not fail him. Every Passover to he was obliged by a certain custom to pardon one criminal whom the Jews should nominate, and therefore when the people came, and were urgent with him to grant them that usual favour, he proposed two persons to them, Barabbas, a notorious malefactor, who, in an insurrection with some other seditious persons, had committed murder, and Jesus, who was called Christ; never doubting but that the populace, who, he knew, were better inclined to our Lord than their rulers, would have preferred an innocent man before a thief and a murderer: But at the instigation of their priests, and others in authority, they required that the favour might be granted to Barabbas., Hereupon, when the governor desired to know what he was to do with the person whom they called Christ, they, one and all, cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him;” and as he still insisted on his innocence, and proposed some lighter punishment, (which was all, to be sure, that he could deserve) they began to redouble their clamours, and in the most tumultuous manner imaginable demanded that he might be crucified. The governor, in the mean time, received a message from his wife to, desiring him

can mean nothing else than purple; and as purple
was then the royal colour, and as the guards of He-
rod meant not to declare either the innocence or guilt
of Jesus, but merely to expose to derision his claim
to regal dignity, they certainly arrayed him in a royal
+ It is generally thought, that the cause of this
difference between them was the massacre that Pilate
made of some Galileans at Jerusalem, in the time of
the passover, Luke xiii. 1, which Herod resented as
an indignity put upon him, and an invasion of his au-
thority, who was at that time tetrarch of Galilee.
Beausobre's Annotations.
+* This chastisement (as Pilate calls it) was not in
order to his crucifixion, and therefore was not that
punishment which the Romans used to inflict upon
malefactors, as a preparative to their execution, for
Pilate intended it as a means to procure his release;
and therefore he seemed willing to consent to it as a
punishment which the Jews so commonly inflicted up-
on those who had acted perversely against their law
and their traditions, that he might exempt him from
that sentence which they were so urgent with him to


pronounce. But the result of this his compliance
was, that he neither saved our Lord, nor preserved
justice. Instead of one punishment, the innocent
was made to suffer two, being at last both scourged
and crucified. Whitby's Annotations, and Calmet's
Commentary. -

to As the feast of the passover was celebrated by
the Jews in memory of their deliverance from Egyp-
tian bondage, it was very agreeable to the nature of
that feast, and therefore customary at that time
(though practised on no other festivals) to make this
release. It is observed, however, that this practice
was no custom of the Jews, even when they had the
civil administration in their hands, but a piece of po-
pularity, or favour of the procurator, first brought in
by Pilate, and afterwards continued by some Chris-
tian emperors, who, by a general law, commanded
the judges, that, on the first day of the passover, all
Jewish prisoners, except such as were committed for
particular crimes, should be discharged. Whitby's
and Hammond's Annotations.

+* From the time of Tiberius, the governors of provinces were allowed to take their wives along with,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

by no means to condemn the innocent person that was then before him, because, upon his account, she had had that night many frightful and uneasy dreams, which made him

vulg. AEF. 33.the more earnest to release him, or at least to spare his life; and therefore, in hopes of

[ocr errors]

pacifying the people's rage, he ordered him to be scourged. The soldiers, who were to
do this, thinking it not enough to execute his orders, took him into the common hall,
where, stripping him of his own clothes, they put a loose purple coat about him for a
robe, a wreath of thorns upon his head for a crown, and a reed in his hand for a scep-
tre; and then, in derision, saluted him, and, bowing their knees, mocked him with the
sham profession of allegiance. After this they spit in his face, smote him on the cheek,
and (to make his crown of thorns pierce the deeper) struck him on the head with his
phantastic sceptre; and then leading him to a pillar, (where they tied him fast) they
scourged him with whips, and with such unrelenting cruelty, that his tender flesh was
torn in pieces, and the pavement crimsoned with his most precious blood.
In this piteous plight, with his head, face, and body imbrued in blood, and with all
his mock ornaments on, Pilate, in hopes of moving the people's compassion, ordered
him to be brought forth; and when he appeared, “See the man' (says he) this rueful
spectacle of suffering innocence " But so far were they from melting at the sight of
so deplorable an object, that they raised their cries still louder and louder for his
crucifixion; and when the governor still insisted on his innocence, (a) “We have a
law f, (said they) and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of
God.” -
These last words raised some terror in Pilate, and gave him more uneasiness: For
taking them in such a sense as an heathen might well put upon them, he began to ap-
prehend, that if he should proceed to sentence against him, he might destroy, not only
an innocent person, but possibly some hero or mighty demi-god, and so at once commit
an act of injustice and impiety both. He therefore, returning with Jesus to the judge-
ment-seat again, began to enquire into his original and pedigree: But as it was no
part of our Saviour's intention to escape death, he thought it not proper to say any
thing in his own justification; until his silence having given the governor some offence,
(insomuch that he put him in mind that his life or death, his release or crucifixion, de-
pended upon him), he then replied, that such power he could not have over him, “were
it not permitted him from above; and that therefore they who had delivered him up,
had the greater sin fo to answer for than he.
This reply made Pilate still the more desirous to release him, which when the Jews
perceived, they found out at last this expedient to work upon his fears, by telling him

them, which was a privilege not granted them before.
This wife of Pilate's, according to the general tradi-
tion, was named Claudia Proscula; and, in relation
to her dream, some are of opinion, that as she had
intelligence of our Lord's apprehension, and knew by
his character that he was a righteous person, her
imagination being struck with these ideas, did natu-
rally produce the dream we read of But as our Sa-
viour was apprehended about midnight, out of the
city, and without Pilate's privity, and detained in the
house of Annas until it was day, there was no pos-
sibility for her having any notice of it before she
went to sleep; and therefore we have the juster rea-
son to believe, that this dream was sent providentially
upon her, for the clearer manifestation of our Lord's
innocence. Calmet's Commentary.
(a) John xix. 7.
+ When the Jews perceived that Pilate looked up-
on the accusations which they brought against Jesus,

of his being a seditious person, and one who aimed at a kingdom, as idle suggestions, and what had no shadow of probability in them, they had recourse to another allegation, viz. his being a violater of the laws of their nation, and guilty of blasphemy, which (as they were allowed to be governed by their own law) they had a right to demand of their governor to see punished, and accordingly did it with arrogance enough. Calmet's Commentary.

+* Pilate indeed sinned heinously in abusing his power to the condemnation of the innocent : But Judas sinned more in delivering him up to the chief priests, and the chief priests in delivering him up to Pilate, than Pilate himself, whom they made a tool to serve their malice and revenge. They had better means of knowledge than he, and so sinned against more light, and consequently their guilt was greater, and their condemnation heavier than his. Beausobre's Annotations.

« PreviousContinue »