Matthew 27


In the morning, Christ is bound and delivered to Pontius

Pilate, 1, 2.

Judas, seeing his Master condemned, repents, acknowledges his

transgression to the chief priests, attests Christ's innocence,

throws down the money, and goes and hangs himself, 3-5.

They buy the potter's field with the money, 6-10.

Christ, questioned by Pilate, refuses to answer, 11-14.

Pilate, while inquiring of the Jews whether they would have

Jesus or Barabbas released, receives a message from his wife to

have nothing to do in this wicked business, 15-19.

The multitude, influenced by the chief priests and elders,

desire Barabbas to be released, and Jesus to be crucified,


Pilate attests his innocence, and the people make themselves

and their posterity responsible for his blood, 24, 25.

Barabbas is released, and Christ is scourged, 26.

The soldiers strip him, clothe him with a scarlet robe, crown

him with thorns, mock, and variously insult him, 27-31.

Simon compelled to bear his cross, 32.

They bring him to Golgotha, give him vinegar mingled with gall

to drink, crucify him, and cast lots for his raiment, 33-36.

His accusation, 37.

Two thieves are crucified with him, 38.

He is mocked and insulted while hanging on the cross, 39-44.

The awful darkness, 45.

Jesus calls upon God, is offered vinegar to drink, expires,


Prodigies that accompanied and followed his death, 51-53.

He is acknowledged by the centurion, 54.

Several women behold the crucifixion, 55, 56.

Joseph of Arimathea begs the body of Pilate, and deposites it

in his own new tomb, 57-60.

The women watch the sepulchre, 61.

The Jews consult with Pilate how they may prevent the

resurrection of Christ, 62-64.

He grants them a guard for the sepulchre, and they seal the

stone that stopped the mouth of the tomb where he was laid,

65, 66.


Verse 1. When the morning was come] As soon as it was

light-took counsel against Jesus. They had begun this counsel the

preceding evening, see Mt 26:59. But as it was contrary to all

forms of law to proceed against a person's life by night, they

seem to have separated for a few hours, and then, at the break of

day, came together again, pretending to conduct the business

according to the forms of law.

To put him to death] They had already determined his death, and

pronounced the sentence of death on him; Mt 26:66. And now they

assemble under the pretence of reconsidering the evidence, and

deliberating on it, to give the greater appearance of justice to

their conduct. They wished to make it appear that "they had taken

ample time to consider of it, and, from the fullest conviction, by

the most satisfactory and conclusive evidence, they had now

delivered him into the hands of the Romans, to meet that death to

which they had adjudged him."

Verse 2. They-delivered him to Pontius Pilate] The Sanhedrin

had the power of life and death in their own hands in every thing

that concerned religion; but as they had not evidence to put

Christ to death because of false doctrine, they wished to give

countenance to their conduct by bringing in the civil power, and

therefore they delivered him up to Pilate as one who aspired to

regal dignities, and whom he must put to death, if he professed to

be Caesar's friend. Pontius Pilate governed Judea ten years under

the Emperor Tiberius; but, having exercised great cruelties

against the Samaritans, they complained of him to the emperor, in

consequence of which he was deposed, and sent in exile to Vienna,

in Dauphiny, where he killed himself two years after.

Verse 3. Judas-when he saw that he was condemned, repented]

There is much of the wisdom and goodness of God to be seen in this

part of Judas's conduct. Had our Lord been condemned to death on

the evidence of one of his own disciples, it would have furnished

infidels with a strong argument against Christ and the Christian

religion. "One of his own disciples, knowing the whole imposture,

declared it to the Jewish rulers, in consequence of which he was

put to death as an impostor and deceiver." But the traitor, being

stung with remorse, came and acknowledged his crime, and solemnly

declared the innocence of his Master, threw back the money which

they gave him to induce him to do this villainous act; and, to

establish the evidence which he now gave against them and himself,

in behalf of the innocence of Christ, hanged himself, or died

through excessive grief and contrition. Thus the character of

Christ was rescued from all reproach; infidelity deprived of the

power to cry "imposture!" and the Jewish rulers overwhelmed with

eternal infamy. If it should ever be said, "One who knew him best

delivered him up as an impostor,"-to this it may be immediately

answered, "The same person, struck with remorse, came and declared

his own guilt, and Christ's innocence; accused and convicted the

Jewish rulers, in the open council, of having hired him to do this

iniquitous action, threw them back the bribe they had given him,

and then hanged himself through distress and despair, concluding

his iniquity in this business was too great to be forgiven." Let

him who chooses, after this plenary evidence to the innocence of

Christ, continue the objection, and cry out imposture! take heed

that he go not and do LIKEWISE. Caiaphas, Pilate, and Judas have

done so already, and I have known several, who have called Christ

an impostor, who have cut their own throats, shot, drowned, or

hanged themselves. God is a jealous God, and highly resents every

thing that is done and said against that eternal truth that came

to man through Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, there is

one class of Deists, viz. those who are vicious in their lives,

and virulent in their opposition to Christianity, who generally

bring themselves to an untimely end.

Verse 4. Innocent blood.] αιμααθωον, a Hebraism, for an

innocent man. But instead of αθωον, innocent, two ancient MSS.,

Syriac, Vulgate, Sahidic, Armenian, and all the Itala; Origen,

Cyprian, Lucifer, Ambrose, Leo, read δικαιον, righteous, or


What is that to us?] What is it?-A great deal. You should

immediately go and reverse the sentence you have pronounced, and

liberate the innocent person. But this would have been justice,

and that would have been a stranger at their tribunal.

Verse 5. In the temple] ναος signifies, properly, the temple

itself, into which none but the priests were permitted to enter;

therefore εντωναω must signify, near the temple, by the temple

door, where the boxes stood to receive the free-will offerings of

the people, for the support and repairs of the sacred edifice.

See this amply proved by Kypke.

Hanged himself] Or was strangled-απηγξατο. Some eminent

critics believe that he was only suffocated by excessive grief,

and thus they think the account here given will agree with that in

Ac 1:18.

Mr. Wakefield supports this meaning of the word with great

learning and ingenuity. I have my doubts-the old method of

reconciling the two accounts appears to me quite plausible-he went

and strangled himself, and the rope breaking, he fell down, and by

the violence of the fall his body was bursted, and his bowels

gushed out. I have thought proper, on a matter of such

difficulty, to use the word strangled, as possessing a middle

meaning between choking or suffocation by excessive grief, and

hanging, as an act of suicide. See Clarke on Mt 10:4. Dr.

Lightfoot is of opinion that the devil caught him up into the air,

strangled him, and threw him down on the ground with violence, so

that his body was burst, and his guts shed out! This was an

ancient tradition.

Verse 6. The treasury] κορβαναν-the place whither the people

brought their free-will offerings for the service of the temple,

so called from the Hebrew korban, AN OFFERING, from

karab, he drew nigh, because the person who brought the gift came

nigh to that place where God manifested his glory between the

cherubim, over the mercy-seat in the most holy place. It is from

this idea that the phrase to draw nigh to God is taken, which is

so frequently used in the sacred writings.

Because it is the price of blood.] "What hypocrites, as one

justly exclaims, to adjudge an innocent man to death, and break

the eternal laws of justice and mercy without scruple, and to be,

at the same time, so very nice in their attention to a ceremonial

direction of the law of Moses! Thus it is that the devil often

deludes many, even among the priests, by a false and superstitious

tenderness or conscience in things indifferent, while calumny,

envy, oppression of the innocent, and a conformity to the world,

give them no manner of trouble or disturbance." See Quesnel.

Verse 7. To bury strangers in.] τοιςξενοις, the strangers,

probably meaning, as some learned men conjecture, the Jewish

strangers who might have come to Jerusalem, either to worship, or

on some other business, and died there during their stay. See

here, the very money for which the blessed Jesus was sold becomes

subservient to the purpose of mercy and kindness! The bodies of

strangers have a place of rest in the field purchased by the price

at which his life was valued, and the souls of strangers and

foreigners have a place of rest and refuge in his blood which was

shed as a ransom price for the salvation of the whole world.

Verse 8. The field of blood] In vain do the wicked attempt to

conceal themselves; God makes them instrumental in discovering

their own wickedness. Judas, by returning the money, and the

priests, by laying it out, raise to themselves an eternal

monument-the one of his treachery, the others of their

perfidiousness, and both of the innocence of Jesus Christ. As,

long as the Jewish polity continued, it might be said, "This is

the field that was bought from the potter with the money which

Judas got from the high priests for betraying his Master; which

he, in deep compunction of spirit, brought back to them, and they

bought this ground for a burial-place for strangers: for as it was

the price of the blood of an innocent man, they did not think

proper to let it rest in the treasury of the temple where the

traitor had thrown it, who afterwards, in despair, went and hanged

himself." What a standing proof must this have been of the

innocence of Christ, and of their perfidy!

Verse 9. Jeremy the prophet] The words quoted here are not

found in the Prophet Jeremiah, but in Zec 11:13. But St. Jerome

says that a Hebrew of the sect of the Nazarenes showed him this

prophecy in a Hebrew apocryphal copy of Jeremiah; but probably

they were inserted there only to countenance the quotation here.

One of Colbert's, a MS. of the eleventh century, has ζαξαριου,

Zechariah; so has the later Syriac in the margin, and a copy of

the Arabic quoted by Bengel. In a very elegant and correct MS. of

the Vulgate, in my possession, written in the fourteenth century,

Zachariam is in the margin, and Jeremiam in the text, but the

former is written by a later hand. Jeremiah is wanting in two

MSS., the Syriac, later Persic, two of the Itala, and in some

other Latin copies. It is very likely that the original reading

was διατοιπροφητου, and the name of no prophet mentioned. This

is the more likely, as Matthew often omits the name of the prophet

in his quotations. See Mt 1:22; 2:5, 15; 13:35; 21:4. Bengel

approves of the omission.

It was an ancient custom among the Jews, says Dr. Lightfoot, to

divide the Old Testament into three parts: the first beginning

with the law was called THE LAW; the second beginning with the

Psalms was called THE PSALMS; the third beginning with the prophet

in question was called JEREMIAH: thus, then, the writings of

Zechariah and the other prophets being included in that division

that began with Jeremiah, all quotations from it would go under

the name of this prophet. If this be admitted, it solves the

difficulty at once. Dr. Lightfoot quotes Baba Bathra, and Rabbi

David Kimchi's preface to the prophet Jeremiah, as his

authorities; and insists that the word Jeremiah is perfectly

correct as standing at the head of that division from which the

evangelist quoted, and which gave its denomination to all the

rest. But Jeremiah is the reading in several MSS. of the Coptic.

It is in one of the Coptic Dictionaries in the British Museum, and

in a Coptic MS. of Jeremiah, in the library of St. Germain. So I

am informed by the Rev. Henry Tattam, Rector of St Cuthbert's,


Verse 11. Before the governor] My old MS. English Bible

translates ηγημων Meyr cheef justyse, Presedent.

Art thou the Xing of the Jews?] The Jews had undoubtedly

delivered him to Pilate as one who was rising up against the

imperial authority, and assuming the regal office.

See on Mt 27:2.

Verse 12. He answered nothing.] An answer to such accusations

was not necessary: they sufficiently confuted themselves.

Verse 14. Marvelled greatly.] Silence under calumny manifests

the utmost magnanimity. The chief priests did not admire this

because it confounded them; but Pilate, who had no interest to

serve by it, was deeply affected. This very silence was

predicted. Isa 53:7.

Verse 15. The governor was wont to release] Whence this custom

originated among the Jews is not known,-probably it was introduced

by the Romans themselves, or by Pilate, merely to oblige the Jews,

by showing them this public token of respect; but if it originated

with him, he must have had the authority of Augustus; for the

Roman laws never gave such discretionary power to any governor.

Verse 16. A notable prisoner-Barabbas.] This person had, a

short time before, raised an insurrection in Jerusalem, in which

it appears, from Mr 15:7, some lives were lost. In some MSS.,

and in the Armenian and Syriac Hieros., this man has the surname

of Jesus. Professor Birch has discovered this reading in a

Vatican MS., written in 949, and numbered 354, in which is a

marginal note which has been attributed to Anastasius, bishop of

Antioch, and to Chrysostom, which asserts that in the most ancient

MSS. the passage was as follows:-τιναθελετεαποτωνδυωαπολυσω

υμινιντονβαραββανηιντονλεγομενονξν: Which of the two

DO ye wish me to release unto you, Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is

called Christ? As Jesus, or Joshua, was a very common name among

the Jews, and as the name of the father was often joined to that

of the son, as Simon Barjonah, Simon, son of Jonah; so it is

probable it was the case here, Jesus Barabba, Jesus, son of Abba,

or Abbiah. If this name were originally written as above, which I

am inclined to believe, the general omission of JESUS in the MSS.

may be accounted for from the over zealous scrupulosity of

Christian copyists, who were unwilling that a murderer should, in

the same verse, be honoured with the name of the Redeemer of the

world. See Birch in New Test.

Verse 18. For envy] διαφθονον, through malice. Then it was

his business, as an upright judge, to have dispersed this mob, and

immediately released Jesus.

Seeing malice is capable of putting even Christ himself to

death, how careful should we be not to let the least spark of it

harbour in our breast. Let it be remembered that malice as often

originates from envy as it does from anger.

Verse 19. I have suffered many things-in a dream] There is no

doubt that God had appeared unto this woman, testifying the

innocence of Christ, and showing the evils which should pursue

Pilate if this innocent blood should be shed by his authority.

See Mt 27:2.

Verse 20. Ask Barabbas] Who had raised an insurrection and

committed murder-and to destroy Jesus, whose voice was never heard

in their streets, and who had, during the space of three years and

a half, gone about unweariedly, from village to village,

instructing the ignorant, healing the diseased, and raising the


Verse 21. They said, Barabbas.] What a fickle crowd! A little

before they all hailed him as the Son of David, and acknowledged

him as a gift from God; now they prefer a murderer to him! But

this it appears they did at the instigation of the chief priests.

We see here how dangerous wicked priests are in the Church of

Christ; when pastors are corrupt, they are capable of inducing

their flock to prefer Barabbas to Jesus, the world to God,

and the pleasures of sense to the salvation of their souls. The

invidious epithet which a certain statesman gave to the people at

large was, in its utmost latitude, applicable to these Jews,-they


Verse 22. What shall I do then with Jesus?] Showing, hereby,

that it was his wish to release him.

Verse 23. What evil hath he done?] Pilate plainly saw that

there was nothing laid to his charge for which, consistently with

the Roman laws, he could condemn him.

But they cried out the more] What strange fury and injustice!

They could not answer Pilate's question, What evil hath he done?

He had done none, and they knew he had done none; but they are

determined on his death.

Verse 24. Pilate-took water, and washed his hands] Thus

signifying his innocence. It was a custom among the Hebrews,

Greeks, and Latins, to wash the hands in token of innocence, and

to show that they were pure from any imputed guilt. In case of an

undiscovered murder, the elders of that city which was nearest to

the place where the dead body was found, were required by the law,

De 21:1-10,

to wash their hands over the victim which was offered to expiate

the crime, and thus make public protestation of their own

innocence. David says, I will wash my hands in innocence, so

shall I compass thine altar, Ps 26:6. As Pilate knew Christ was

innocent, he should have prevented his death: he had the armed

force at his command, and should have dispersed this infamous mob.

Had he been charged with countenancing a seditious person, he

could have easily cleared himself, had the matter been brought

before the emperor. He, therefore, was inexcusable.

Verse 25. His blood be on us and on our children.] If this man

be innocent, and we put him to death as a guilty person, may the

punishment due to such a crime be visited upon us, and upon our

children after us! What a dreadful imprecation! and how literally

fulfilled! The notes on chap. 24, will show how they fell victims

to their own imprecation, being visited with a series of

calamities unexampled in the history of the world. They were

visited with the same kind of punishment; for the Romans crucified

them in such numbers when Jerusalem was taken, that there was

found a deficiency of crosses for the condemned, and of places for

the crosses. Their children or descendants have had the same

curse entailed upon them, and continue to this day a proof of the

innocence of Christ, the truth of his religion, and of the justice

of God.

Verse 26. Scourged Jesus] This is allowed to have been a very

severe punishment of itself among the Romans, the flesh being

generally cut by the whips used for this purpose: so the poet:-

----Horribili SECTERE flagello.

"To be cut by the horrible whip."-HOR. Sat. I. 3. 119. And

sometimes it seems, they were whipped to death. See the same

poet, Sat. I. 2. 41.


AD MORTEM caesus.----

See also HORAT. Epod. od. iv. v. 11.

It has been thought that Pilate might have spared this

additional cruelty of whipping; but it appears that it was a

common custom to scourge those criminals which were to be

crucified, (see Josephus De Bello, lib. ii. c. 25,) and lenity in

Christ's case is not to be allowed; he must take all the misery in

full tale.

Delivered him to be crucified.] Tacitos, the Roman historian,

mentions the death of Christ in very remarkable terms:-

Nero-quaesitissimis poenis is affecit, quos-vulgus CHRISTIANOS

appellabat. Auctor nominis ejus CHRISTUS, qui Tiberio

imperitante, per Procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus

erat.-" Nero put those who commonly went by the name of Christians

to the most exquisite tortures. The author of this name was

CHRIST, who was capitally punished in the reign of TIBERIUS, by


Verse 27. The common hall] Or, praetorium. Called so from the

praetor, a principal magistrate among the Romans, whose business

it was to administer justice in the absence of the consul. This

place night be termed in English the court house, or common hall.

Verse 28. Stripped him] Took off his mantle, or upper garment.

A scarlet robe] Or, according to Mark and John, a purple robe,

such as emperors and kings wore.

Verse 29. A crown of thorns] στεφανονεξακανθων. It does not

appear that this crown was intended to be an instrument of

punishment or torture to his head, but rather to render him

ridiculous; for which cause also they put a reed in his hand, by

way of sceptre, and bowed their knees, pretending to do him

homage. The crown was not probably of thorns, in our sense of the

word: there are eminently learned men who think that the crown was

formed of the herb acanthus; and Bishop Pearce and Michaelis are

of this opinion. Mark, Mr 15:17, and John, Joh 19:5, term it,

στεφανονακανθινον, which may very well be translated an

acanthine crown or wreath, formed out of the branches of the herb

acanthus, or bear's foot. This, however, is a prickly plant,

though nothing like thorns, in the common meaning of that word.

Many Christians have gone astray in magnifying the sufferings of

Christ from this circumstance; and painters, the worst of all

commentators, frequently represent Christ with a crown of long

thorns, which one standing by is striking into his head with a

stick. These representations engender ideas both false and


There is a passage produced from Philo by Dr. Lardner, which

casts much light on these indignities offered to our blessed


"Caligula, the successor of Tiberius, gave Agrippa the tetrarchy

of his uncle Philip, with the right of wearing a diadem or crown.

When he came to Alexandria, on his way to his tetrarchate, the

inhabitants of that place, filled with envy at the thoughts of a

Jew having the title of king, showed their indignation in the

following way. They brought one Carabus (a sort of an idiot) into

the theatre; and, having placed him on a lofty seat, that he might

be seen by all, they put a diadem upon his head, made of the herb

byblos, (the ancient papyrus, or paper flag;) his body they

covered with a mat or carpet, instead of a royal cloak. One

seeing a piece of reed, παπυρου (the stem, probably, of the

aforesaid herb) lying on the ground, picked it up, and put it in

his hand in place of a sceptre. Having thus given him a mock

royal dress, several young fellows, with poles on their shoulders,

came and stood on each side of him as his guards. Then there came

people, some to pay their homage to him, some to ask justice, and

some to consult him on affairs of state and the crowd that stood

round about made a confused noise, crying, Mario, that being, as

they say, the Syriac word for LORD; thereby showing that they

intended to ridicule Agrippa, who was a Syrian." See PHILO,

Flace. p. 970, and Dr. Lardner, Works, vol. i. p. 159.

There is the most remarkable coincidence between this account

and that given by the evangelists; and the conjecture concerning

the acanthus will probably find no inconsiderable support from the

bylos and papyrus of Philo. This plant, Pliny says, grows to ten

cubits long in the stem and the flowers were used ad deos

coronandos, for CROWNING THE GODS. See Hist. Nat. lib. xiii. c.


The reflections of pious Quesnel on these insults offered to our

blessed Lord merit serious attention.

Let the crown of thorns make those Christians blush who throw

away so much time, pains, and money, in beautifying and adorning a

sinful head. Let the world do what it will to render the royalty

and mysteries of Christ contemptible, it is my glory to serve a

King thus debased; my salvation, to adore that which the world

despises; and my redemption, to go unto God through the merits of

him who was crowned with thorns."

Verse 30. And they spit upon him] "Let us pay our adoration,"

says the same pious writer, "and humble ourselves in silence at

the sight of a spectacle which faith alone renders credible, and

which our senses would hardly endure. Jesus Christ, in this

condition, preaches to the kings of the earth this truth-that

their sceptres are but reeds, with which themselves shall be

smitten, bruised, and crushed at his tribunal, if they do not use

them here to the advancement of his kingdom."

Verse 32. A man of Cyrene-him they compelled to bear his

cross.] In John, Joh 19:16, 17, we are told Christ himself bore

the cross, and this, it is likely, he did for a part of the way;

but, being exhausted with the scourging and other cruel usage

which he had received, he was found incapable of bearing it alone;

therefore they obliged Simon, not, I think, to bear it entirely,

but to assist Christ, by bearing a part of it. It was a constant

practice among the Romans, to oblige criminal to bear their cross

to the place of execution: insomuch that Plutarch makes use of it

as an illustration of the misery of vice. "Every kind of

wickedness produces its own particular torment, just as every

malefactor, when he is brought forth to execution, carries his own

cross." See Lardner's Credib. vol. i. p. 160.

Verse 33. A place called Golgotha] From the Hebrew or

, golgoleth, a skull, probably so called from the many

skulls of these who had suffered crucifixion and other capital

punishments scattered up and down in the place. It is the same as

Calvary, Calvaria, i.e. calvi capitis area, the place of bare

skulls. Some think the place was thus called, because it was in

the form of a human skull. It is likely that it was the place of

public execution, similar to the Gemoniae Scalae at Rome.

Verse 34. They gave him vinegar-mingled with gall] Perhaps

χολη, commonly translated gall, signifies no more than bitters

of any kind. It was a common custom to administer a stupefying

potion compounded of sour wine, which is the same as vinegar, from

the French vinaigre, frankincense, and myrrh, to condemned

persons, to help to alleviate their sufferings, or so disturb

their intellect that they might not be sensible of them. The

rabbins say that they put a grain of frankincense into a cup of

strong wine; and they ground this on Pr 31:6:

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, i.e. who is

condemned to death. Some person, out of kindness, appears to have

administered this to our blessed Lord; but he, as in all other

cases, determining to endure the fulness of pain, refused to take

what was thus offered to him, choosing to tread the winepress

alone. Instead of οξος, vinegar, several excellent MSS. and

versions have οινον, wine; but as sour wine is said to have been

a general drink of the common people and Roman soldiers, it being

the same as vinegar, it is of little consequence which reading is

here adopted. This custom of giving stupefying potions to

condemned malefactors is alluded to in Pr 31:6:

Give strong drink, shekar, inebriating drink, to him who is

ready to PERISH, and wine to him who is BITTER of soul-because he

is just going to suffer the punishment of death. And thus the

rabbins, as we have seen above, understand it. See Lightfoot and


Michaelis offers an ingenious exposition of this place:

"Immediately after Christ was fastened to the cross, they gave

him, according to Mt 27:34,

vinegar mingled with gall; but, according to Mark, they offered

him wine mingled with myrrh. That St. Mark's account is the

right one is probable from this circumstance, that Christ refused

to drink what was offered him, as appears from both evangelists.

Wine mixed with myrrh was given to malefactors at the place of

execution, to intoxicate them, and make them less sensible to

pain. Christ, therefore, with great propriety, refused the aid of

such remedies. But if vinegar was offered him, which was taken

merely to assuage thirst, there could be no reason for his

rejecting it. Besides, he tasted it before he rejected it; and

therefore he must have found it different from that which, if

offered to him, he was ready to receive. To solve this

difficulty, we must suppose that the words used in the Hebrew

Gospel of St. Matthew were such as agreed with the account given

by St. Mark, and at the same time were capable of the construction

which was put on them by St. Matthew's Greek translator. Suppose

St. Matthew wrote (chaleea bemireera) which signifies,

sweet wine with bitters, or sweet wine and myrrh, as we find it in

Mark; and Matthew's translator overlooked the yod in

(chaleea) he took it for (chala) which signifies vinegar;

and bitter, he translated by χολη, as it is often used in the

Septuagint. Nay, St. Matthew may have written , and have still

meant to express sweet wine; if so, the difference only consisted

in the points; for the same word which, when pronounced chale,

signifies sweet, denotes vinegar, as soon as it is pronounced


With this conjecture Dr. Marsh (Michaelis's translator) is not

satisfied; and therefore finds a Chaldee word for οινος wine,

which may easily be mistaken for one that denotes οξος vinegar;

and likewise a Chaldee word, which signifies σμυρνα, (myrrh,)

which may be easily mistaken for one that denotes χολη, (gall.)

"Now," says he, " (chamar) or (chamera) really

denotes οινος (wine,) and (chamets) or

(charnetsa) really denotes οξος (vinegar.) Again,

(mura) really signifies σμυρνα (myrrh,) and (murera)

really signifies χολη (gall.) If, then, we suppose that the

original Chaldee text was (chamera heleet bemura)

wine mingled with myrrh, which is not at all improbable, as it is

the reading of the Syriac version, at Mr 15:23, it might easily

have been mistaken for (chametsa haleet bemurera)

vinegar mingled with gall." This is a more ingenious conjecture

than that of Michaelis. See Marsh's notes to Michaelis, vol. iii.,

part 2d. p. 127-28. But as that kind of sour wine, which was used

by the Roman soldiers and common people, appears to have been

termed οινος, and vin aigre is sour wine, it is not difficult to

reconcile the two accounts, in what is most material to the facts

here recorded.

Verse 35. And they crucified him] Crucifixion properly means

the act of nailing or tying to a cross. The cross was made of two

beams, either crossing at the top at right angles, like a T, or in

the middle of their length, like an X. There was, besides, a

piece on the centre of the transverse beam, to which the

accusation or statement of the crime of the culprit was attached,

and a piece of wood which projected from the middle, on which the

person sat, as on a sort of saddle; and by which the whole body

was supported. Tertullian mentions this particularly: Nobis, says

he, tota crux imputatur, cum antenna scilicet sua, et cum illo

SEDILIS excessu. Advers. Nationes, lib. ii. Justin Martyr, in

his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, gives precisely the same

description of the cross; and it is worthy of observation that

both he and Tertullian flourished before the punishment of the

cross had been abolished. The cross on which our Lord suffered

was of the former kind; being thus represented in all old

monuments, coins, and crosses. St. Jerome compares it to a bird

flying, a man swimming, or praying with his arms extended. The

punishment of the cross was inflicted among the ancient Hindoos

from time immemorial for various species of theft; see Halhead's

Code of Gentoo Laws, p. 248, and was common among the Syrians,

Egyptians, Persians, Africans, Greeks, and Romans: it is also

still in use among the Chinese, who do not nail, but tie the

criminal to it. It was probably the Romans who introduced it

among the Jews. Before they became subject to the Romans, they

used hanging or gibbeting, but not the cross. This punishment

was the most dreadful of all others, both for the shame and pain

of it: and so scandalous, that it was inflicted as the last mark

of detestation upon the vilest of people. It was the punishment

of robbers and murderers, provided they were slaves; but if they

were free, it was thought too infamous a punishment for such, let

their crimes be what they might.

The body of the criminal was fastened to the upright beam, by

nailing or tying the feet to it, and on the transverse piece by

nailing, and sometimes tying the hands to it. As the hands and

feet are the grand instruments of motion, they are provided with a

greater quantity of nerves; and the nerves in those places,

especially the hands, are peculiarly sensible. Now, as the nerves

are the instruments of all sensation or feeling, wounds in the

parts where they abound must be peculiarly painful; especially

when inflicted with such rude instruments as large nails, forced

through the places by the violence of a hammer; thus tearing

asunder the nervous fibrillae, delicate tendons, and small bones

of those parts. This punishment will appear dreadful enough, when

it is considered that the person was permitted to hang (the whole

weight of his body being borne up by his nailed hands and the

projecting piece which passed between the thighs) till he perished

through agony and lack of food. Some, we are informed, have lived

three whole days in this state. It is true that, in some cases,

there was a kind of mercy shown to the sufferer, which will appear

sufficiently horrid, when it is known that it consisted in

breaking the bones of their legs and thighs to pieces with a large

hammer, in order to put them the sooner out of pain! Such a coup

de grace as this could only spring from those tender mercies of

the wicked which God represents as cruelty itself. Some were

permitted to hang on the cross till eaten up by birds of prey,

which often began to tear them before life was extinct. Horace

alludes to this punishment, and from what he says, it seems to

have been inflicted on slaves, &c., not on trifling occasions, but

for the most horrible crimes.

Si quis eum servum, patinam qui tollere jussus

Semesos pisces tepidumque ligurrierit jus,

In CRUCE suffigat. HOR. Satyr. l. i. s. 3. v. 80.

If a poor slave who takes away your plate,

Lick the warm sauce, or half cold fragments eat,

Yet should you crucify the wretch!----FRANCIS.

Non hominem occidi: non pasces in CRUCE corvos.

"I have not committed murder: Then thou shalt not be nailed to

the cross, to feed the ravens." HOR. Epist. l. i. s. 16. v. 48.

The anguish occasioned by crucifixion was so intense, that

crucio, (a cruce,) among the Romans, was the common word by which

they expressed suffering and torment in general.

And parted his garments, casting lots] These were the Roman

soldiers, who had crucified him: and it appears from this

circumstance, that in those ancient times the spoils of the

criminal were claimed by the executioners, as they are to the

present day. It appears that they divided a part, and cast lots

for the rest: viz. for his seamless coat, Joh 19:23, 24.

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet,

saying, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture

did they cast lots.] The whole of this quotation should be

omitted, as making no part originally of the genuine text of this

evangelist. It is omitted by almost every MS. of worth and

importance, by almost all the versions, and the most reputable of

the primitive fathers, who have written or commented on the place.

The words are plainly an interpolation, borrowed from Joh 19:24,

in which place they will be properly noticed.

Verse 36. They watched him] To prevent his disciples or

relatives from taking away the body or affording any relief to the


Verse 37. His accusation] It was a common custom to affix a

label to the cross, giving a statement of the crime for which the

person suffered. This is still the case in China, when a person

is crucified. Sometimes a person was employed to carry this

before the criminal, while going to the place of punishment.

It is with much propriety that Matthew calls this αιτια,

accusation; for it was false that ever Christ pretended to be KING

OF THE JEWS, in the sense the inscription held forth: he was

accused of this, but there was no proof of the accusation; however

it was affixed to the cross. From Joh 19:21, we find that the

Jews wished this to be a little altered: Write, said they, that HE

said, l am king of the Jews; thus endeavouring, by the addition of

a vile lie, to countenance their own conduct in putting him to

death. But this Pilate refused to do. Both Luke, Lu 23:38, and

John, Joh 19:20, say that this accusation was written in Greek,

Latin, and Hebrew. In those three languages, we may conceive the

label to stand thus, according to the account given by St. John;

the Hebrew being the mixed dialect then spoken.

In Hehrew-εβραιστι:

In Greek-ελληνιστα:



In Latin-ρωμαιστι:


It is only necessary to observe, that all the letters, both of

the Greek and Roman alphabets, were those now called square or

uncial, similar to these above.

Verse 38. Two thieves] λησται, robbers, or cutthroats: men

who had committed robbery and murder; for it does not appear that

persons were crucified for robbery only. Thus was our Lord

numbered (his name enrolled, placed as it were in the death

warrant) with transgressors, according to the prophetic

declaration, Isa 53:12; and the Jews placed him between these

two, perhaps to intimate that he was the worst felon of the three.

Verse 39. Wagging their heads] In token of contempt.

Verse 40. Thou that destroyest] Who didst pretend that thou

couldst have destroyed the temple, and built it up again in three

days. This malicious torturing of our Lord's words has been

noticed before. Cruelty is obliged to take refuge in lies, in

order to vindicate its infamous proceedings.

If thou be the Son of God] Or rather, υιοςτουθεου A son of

God, i.e. a peculiar favourite of the Most-High; not ουιοςτου

θεου, THE Son of God. "It is not to be conceived," says a learned

man, "that every passenger who was going to the city had a

competent knowledge of Christ's supernatural conception by the

Holy Spirit, or an adequate comprehension of his character as the

Messiah, and (κατεξοχην) THE SON OF GOD. There is not a single

passiage where Jesus is designed to be pointed out as the MESSIAH,

THE SON OF GOD, where the article is omitted: nor, on the other

hand, is this designation ever specified without the article,

thus, 'ουιοςτουθεου. See Mt 16:16; 26:63; 28:19."

Verse 41. Chief priests-scribes and elders] To these, several

ancient MSS. and versions add, καιφαρισαιων, and Pharisees. But

though the authority for this reading is respectable, yet it does

not appear that the Pharisees joined in with the others in the

condemnation of our Lord. Probably his discourses and parables,

related in some of the preceding chapters, which were spoken

directly to them, had so far convinced them that they would at

least have no hand in putting him to death. All the infamy of

this seems to fall upon the PRIESTS, scribes, and elders.

Verse 42. He saved others; himself he cannot save.] Or, Cannot

he save himself? Several MSS. read this with the mark of

interrogation as above; and this makes the sarcasm still more


A high priest who designs to destroy the temple of God: a

Saviour who saves not himself; and the Son of God crucified:

these are the contradictions which give offence to Jews and

libertines. But a high priest who dispels the types and shadows,

only that he may disclose the substance of religion, and become

the minister of a heavenly sanctuary; a Saviour who dies only

to be the victim of salvation; and the Son of God who confines his

power within the bounds of the cross to establish the

righteousness of faith: this is what a Christian adores; this is

the foundation of his hope, and the fountain of his present

comfort and final blessedness. See Quesnel.

We will believe him.] Instead of αυτω, him, many excellent

MSS. have επαυτω, IN him: this is a reading which Griesbach and

other eminent critics have adopted.

Verse 43. If he will have him] Or, if he delight in him-ει

θελειαυτον. The verbs θελω and εθελω, are used by the

Septuagint in more than forty places for the Hebrew chaphets,

which signifies, earnestly to desire, or delight in. Now as

this is a quotation from Ps 22:8,

He trusted in the Lord, that he would deliver him; let him deliver

him, ( ki chaphets bo,) for he HATH DELIGHTED IN

HIM:-οτιθελειαυτον, Sept. This will sufficiently vindicate

the above translation; as the evangelist quotes the words from

that version, with the simple change of ει, if, for οτι,


Verse 44. The thieves also-cast the same in his teeth.] That

is, one of the robbers; for one, we find, was a penitent,

Lu 23:39, 40. See this form of expression accounted for, on

Mt 26:8.

Verse 45. There was darkness over all the land] I am of

opinion that πασαντηνγην does not mean all the world, but only

the land of Judea. So the word is used Mt 24:30; Lu 4:25, and

in other places. Several eminent critics are of this opinion:

Beza defends this meaning of the word, and translates the Greek,

super universam REGIONEM over the whole COUNTRY. Besides, it is

evident that the evangelists speak of things that happened in

Judea, the place of their residence. It is plain enough there was

a darkness in Jerusalem, and over all Judea; and probably over all

the people among whom Christ had for more than three years

preached the everlasting Gospel; and that this darkness was

supernatural is evident from this, that it happened during the

passover, which was celebrated only at the full moon, a time in

which it was impossible for the sun to be eclipsed. But many

suppose the darkness was over the whole world, and think there is

sufficient evidence of this in ancient authors. PHLEGON and

THALLUS, who flourished in the beginning of the second century,

are supposed to speak of this. The former says: "In the fourth

year of the 202nd Olympiad, there was an extraordinary eclipse of

the sun: at the sixth hour, the day was turned into dark night, so

that the stars in heaven were seen; and there was an earthquake in

Bithynia, which overthrew many houses in the city of Nice." This

is the substance of what Phlegon is reputed to have said on this

subject:-but 1. All the authors who quote him differ, and often

very materially, in what they say was found in him. 2. Phlegon

says nothing of Judea: what he says is, that in such an Olympiad,

(some say the 102nd, others the 202nd,) there was an eclipse in

Bithynia, and an earthquake at Nice. 3. Phlegon does not say that

the earthquake happened at the time of the eclipse. 4. Phlegon

does not intimate that this darkness was extraordinary, or that

the eclipse happened at the full of the moon, or that it lasted

three hours. These circumstances could not have been omitted by

him, if he had known them. 5. Phlegon speaks merely of an

ordinary, though perhaps total, eclipse of the sun, and cannot

mean the darkness mentioned by the evangelists. 6. Phlegon speaks

of an eclipse that happened in some year of the 102nd, or 202nd

Olympiad; and therefore little stress can be laid on what he says

as applying to this event.

The quotation from THALLUS, made by AFRICANUS, found in the

Chronicle of SYNCELLUS, of the eighth century, is allowed by

eminent critics to be of little importance. This speaks "of a

darkness over all the world, and an earthquake which threw down

many houses in Judea and in other parts of the earth." It may be

necessary to observe, that THALLUS is quoted by several of the

ancient ecclesiastical writers for other matters, but never for

this; and that the time in which he lived is so very uncertain,

that Dr. Lardner supposes there is room to think he lived rather

before than after Christ.

DIONYSIUS the Areopagite is supposed to have mentioned this

event in the most decided manner: for being at Heliopolis in

Egypt, with his friend Apollophanes, when our Saviour suffered,

they there saw a wonderful eclipse of the sun, whereupon Dionysius

said to his friend, "Either God himself suffers, or sympathizes

with the sufferer." It is enough to say of this man, that all the

writings attributed to him are known to be spurious, and are

proved to be forgeries of the fifth or sixth century. Whoever

desires to see more on this subject, may consult Dr. Lardner,

(vol. vii. p. 371, ed. 1788,) a man whose name should never be

mentioned but with respect, notwithstanding the peculiarities of

his religious creed; who has done more in the service of Divine

revelation than most divines in Christendom; and who has raised a

monument to the perpetuity of the Christian religion, which all

the infidels in creation shall never be able to pull down or


This miraculous darkness should have caused the enemies of

Christ to understand that he was the light of the world, and that

because they did not walk in it it was now taken away from them.

Verse 46. My God! My God! why hast thou forsaken me!] These

words are quoted by our Lord from Ps 22:1; they are of very great

importance, and should be carefully considered.

Some suppose "that the divinity had now departed from Christ,

and that his human nature was left unsupported to bear the

punishment due to men for their sins." But this is by no means to

be admitted, as it would deprive his sacrifice of its infinite

merit, and consequently leave the sin of the world without an

atonement. Take deity away from any redeeming act of Christ, and

redemption is ruined. Others imagine that our Lord spoke these

words to the Jews only, to prove to them that he was the Messiah.

"The Jews," say they, "believed this psalm to speak of the

Messiah: they quoted the eighth verse of it against Christ-He

trusted in God that he would deliver him; let him deliver him,

seeing he delighted in him. (See Mt 27:43.) To which our Lord

immediately answers, My God! my God! &c, thus showing that he was

the person of whom the psalmist prophesied." I have doubts

concerning the propriety of this interpretation.

It has been asked, What language is it that our Lord spoke?

Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. Some say it is Hebrew-others Syriac.

I say, as the evangelists quote it, it is neither. St. Matthew

comes nearest the Hebrew, Eli, Eli, lamah

azabthani, in the words, ηλιηλιλαμασαβαχτανι, Eli, Eli, lama


And St. Mark comes nearest the Syriac, Mr 15:34, [Syriac]

Alohi, Alohi, l'mono shebachtheni, in the words ελωιελωιλαμμα

σαβαχθανι, Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabachthani. It is worthy of note,

that a Hebrew MS. of the twelfth century, instead of

azabthani, forsaken me, reads shechachthani, FORGOTTEN

me. This word makes a very good sense, and comes nearer to the

sabachthani of the evangelists. It may be observed also, that the

words, Why hast thou FORGOTTEN me? are often used by David and

others, in times of oppression and distress. See Ps 42:9.

Some have taken occasion from these words to depreciate the

character of our blessed Lord. "They are unworthy," say they, "of

a man who suffers, conscious of his innocence, and argue

imbecility, impatience, and despair." This is by no means fairly

deducible from the passage. However, some think that the words,

as they stand in the Hebrew and Syriac, are capable of a

translation which destroys all objections, and obviates every

difficulty. The particle lamah, may be translated, to what-to

whom-to what kind or sort-to what purpose or profit: Ge 25:32;

Ge 32:29; 33:15; Job 9:29; Jer 6:20; 20:18; Am 5:18;

and the verb azab signifies to leave-to deposit-to commit to

the care of.

See Ge 39:6; Job 39:11; Ps 10:14, and Jer 49:11.

The words, taken in this way, might be thus translated: My God! my

God! to what sort of persons hast thou left me? The words thus

understood are rather to be referred to the wicked Jews than to

our Lord, and are an exclamation indicative of the obstinate

wickedness of his crucifiers, who steeled their hearts against

every operation of the Spirit and power of God. See Ling. Brit.

Reform. by B. Martin, p. 36.

Through the whole of the Sacred Writings, God is represented as

doing those things which, in the course of his providence, he only

permits to be done; therefore, the words, to whom hast thou left

or given me up, are only a form of expression for, "How

astonishing is the wickedness of those persons into whose hands I

am fallen!" If this interpretation be admitted, it will free this

celebrated passage from much embarrassment, and make it speak a

sense consistent with itself, and with the dignity of the Son of


The words of St. Mark, Mr 15:34, agree pretty nearly with this

translation of the Hebrew: ειςτιμεεγκατιλεπες; To what [sort

of persons, understood] hast thou left me? A literal translation

of the passage in the Syriac Testament gives a similar sense: Ad

quid dereliquisti me? "To what hast thou abandoned me?" And an

ancient copy of the old Itala version, a Latin translation before

the time of St. Jerome, renders the words thus: Quare me in

opprobrium dedisti? "Why hast thou abandoned me to reproach?"

It may he objected, that this can never agree with the ινατι,

why, of Matthew. To this it is answered, that ινατι must have

here the same meaning as ειςτι-as the translation of lama;

and that, if the meaning be at all different, we must follow that

evangelist who expresses most literally the meaning of the

original: and let it be observed, that the Septuagint often

translate by ινατι instead of ειςτι, which evidently proves

that it often had the same meaning. Of this criticism I say,

Valet quod valet, Let it pass for no more than it is worth: the

subject is difficult. But whatever may be thought of the above

mode of interpretation, one thing is certain, viz. That the words

could not be used by our Lord in the sense in which they are

generally understood. This is sufficiently evident; for he well

knew why he was come unto that hour; nor could he be forsaken

of God, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. The

Deity, however, might restrain so much of its consolatory support

as to leave the human nature fully sensible of all its sufferings,

so that the consolations might not take off any part of the keen

edge of his passion; and this was necessary to make his sufferings

meritorious. And it is probable that this is all that is intended

by our Lord's quotation from the twenty-second Psalm. Taken in

this view, the words convey an unexceptionable sense, even in the

common translation.

Verse 47. This man calleth for Elias.] Probably these were

Hellenistic Jews, who did not fully understand the meaning of our

Lord's words. Elijah was daily expected to appear as the

forerunner of the Messiah, whose arrival, under the character of a

mighty prince, was generally supposed to be at hand throughout the

east. See Mal 4:5; Mt 2:2-4; 17:10-12.

Verse 48. Took a sponge] This being the most convenient way to

reach a liquid to his mouth; tied it on a reed, that they might be

able to reach his lips with it. This reed, as we learn from St.

John, was a stalk of hyssop, which, in that country, must have

grown to a considerable magnitude. This appears also to have been

done in mercy, to alleviate his sufferings. See Mt 27:34.

Verse 49. After this verse, BCL and five others add, Another,

taking a spear, pierced his side, and there came out blood and

water. Several of the fathers add the same words here: they

appear, however, to be an interpolation from Joh 19:34.

Verse 50. Yielded up the ghost.] αφηκετοπνευμα, He dismissed

the spirit. He himself willingly gave up that life which it was

impossible for man to take away. It is not said that he hung on

the cross till he died through pain and agony; nor is it said that

his bones were broken, the sooner to put him out of pain, and to

hasten his death; but that himself dismissed the soul, that he

might thus become, not a forced sacrifice, but a free-will

offering for sin.

Now, as our English word ghost, from the Anglo-Saxon

[Anglo-Saxon] gast, an inmate, inhabitant, guest, (a casual

visitant,) also a spirit, is now restricted among us to the latter

meaning, always signifying the immortal spirit or soul of man, the

guest of the body and as giving up the spirit, ghost, or soul, is

an act not proper to man, though commending it to God, in our last

moments, is both an act of faith and piety; and as giving up the

ghost, i.e. dismissing his spirit from his body, is attributed to

Jesus Christ, to whom alone it is proper; I therefore object

against its use in every other case.

Every man, since the fall, has not only been liable to death,

but has deserved it; as all have forfeited their lives because of

sin. Jesus Christ, as born immaculate, and having never sinned,

had not forfeited his life, and therefore may be considered as

naturally and properly immortal. No man, says he, taketh it, my

life, from me, but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it

down, and I have power to take it again; therefore doth the Father

love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again,

Joh 10:17, 18. Hence we rightly translate Mt 27:50, αφηκετο

πνευμα, he gave up the ghost; i.e. he dismissed his spirit, that

he might die for the sin of the world. The Evangelist St. John

(Joh 19:30) makes use of an expression to the same import,

which we translate in the same way: παρεδωκετοπνευμα, he

delivered up his spirit. We translate Mr 15:37, and Lu 23:46,

he gave up the ghost, but not correctly, because the word in both

these places is very different-εξεπνευσε, he breathed his last, or

expired; though in the latter place, Lu 23:46, there is an

equivalent expression-O Father, into thy hands, παρατιθεμαιτο

πνευμαμου, I commit my spirit; i.e. I place my soul in thy hand:

proving that the act was his own; that no man could take his life

away from him; that he did not die by the perfidy of his disciple,

or the malice of the Jews, but by his own free act. Thus HE LAID

DOWN his life for the sheep. Of Ananias and Sapphira, Ac 5:5,10,

and of Herod, Ac 12:23,

our translation says, they gave up the ghost; but the word in both

places is εξεψυξε, which simply means to breathe out, to expire,

or die: but in no case, either by the Septuagint in the Old, or

any of the sacred writers in the New Testament, is αφηκετοπνευμα,

or παρεδωκετοπνευμα, he dismissed his spirit, or delivered up

his spirit, spoken of any person but Christ. Abraham, Isaac,

Ishmael, Jacob, &c., breathed their last; Ananias, Sapphira, and

Herod, expired; but none, Jesus Christ excepted, gave up the

ghost, dismissed, or delivered up his own spirit, and was,

consequently, free among the dead. Of the patriarchs, &c., the

Septuagint use the word εκλειπων, failing; or κατεπαυσεν, he

ceased, or rested.

Verse 51. The veil of the temple was rent] That is, the veil

which separated the holy place, where the priests ministered, from

the holy of holies, into which the high priest only entered, and

that once a year, to make a general expiation for the sins of the

people. This rending of the veil was emblematical, and pointed

out that the separation between Jews and Gentiles was now

abolished, and that the privilege of the high priest was now

communicated to all mankind: ALL might henceforth have access to

the throne of grace, through the one great atonement and mediator,

the Lord Jesus. See this beautifully illustrated in Heb 10:19-22.

Verse 52. And the graves were opened] By the earthquake; and

many bodies of saints which slept, i.e. were dead, sleep being a

common expression for death in the Scriptures.

Verse 53. And came out of the graves after his resurrection]

Not BEFORE, as some have thought, for Christ was himself the FIRST

FRUITS of them who slept, 1Co 15:20.

The graves were opened at his death, by the earthquake, and the

bodies came out at his resurrection.

And appeared unto many.] Thus establishing the truth of our

Lord's resurrection in particular, and of the resurrection of the

body in general, by many witnesses. Quesnel's reflections on

these passages may be very useful. "1. The veil being rent shows

that his death is to put an end to the figurative worship, and to

establish the true religion. 2. The earthquake, that this

dispensation of the Gospel is to make known through the earth the

judgments of God against sin and sinners. 3. The rocks being rent

declare that the sacrifice of Christ is to make way for the grace

of repentance. 4. The graves being opened, that it is to destroy

the death of sin, and confer the life grace on sinners. 5. The

rising of the bodies of the saints shows that this death of Christ

is to merit, and his Gospel publish, the eternal happiness of body

and soul for all that believe in his name."

It is difficult to account for the transaction mentioned

Mt 27:52, 53. Some have thought that these two verses have been

introduced into the text of Matthew from the gospel of the

Nazarenes; others think that the simple meaning is this:-by the

earthquake several bodies that had been buried were thrown up and

exposed to view, and continued above ground till after Christ's

resurrection, and were seen by many persons in the city. Why the

graves should be opened on Friday, and the bodies not be raised to

life till the following Sunday, is difficult to be conceived. The

place is extremely obscure.

Verse 54. The centurion] The Roman officer who superintended

the execution, called centurio, from centum, a hundred, because he

had the command of one hundred men.

Truly this was the Son of God.] An innocent, holy, and Divine

person; and God thus shows his disapprobation of this bloody

tragedy. It is not likely that this centurion had any knowledge

of the expectation of the Jews relative to the Messiah, and did

not use the words in this sense. A son of God, as the Romans used

the term, would signify no more than a very eminent or Divine

person; a hero.

Verse 55. Many women] To their everlasting honour, these women

evidenced more courage, and affectionate attachment to their Lord

and Master, than the disciples did, who had promised to die with

him rather than forsake him.

Beholding afar off] At a distance-απομακροθεν. Though this

expression may be understood to refer, rather to the distance from

which they came, (viz. from Galilee,) than the distance they stood

from the cross; yet, as all malefactors were crucified naked,

perhaps this may account for the distance at which these modest

women stood.

Verse 56. Mary Magdalene] She probably had her name from

Magdala, a village or district in Lower Galilee. See Mt 15:39.

Some think she was called Magdalene from magdala, which

signifies a plaiter of hair. See Lightfoot.

Mary the mother of James] She was mother of him called James

the lesser, or junior, who was son of Alpheus or Cleopas-see

Mt 10:3; Mr 15:40; Joh 19:25; and she was sister to the holy

virgin. Thus it appears that there were four remarkable Marys

mentioned in the Gospels. 1. MARY the Virgin, wife of JOSEPH. 2.

MARY SALOME, her sister, wife of Cleopas, Joh 19:25. 3. MARY

MAGDALENE, or MARY of Magdala; and, 4. MARY, the sister of Martha

and Lazarus, Joh 11:1. Though Baronius asserts, and Lightfoot is

of the same opinion, that Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the sister of

Martha and Lazarus, was one and the same person. It is difficult

to ascertain and distinguish these women where their names occur

in the Gospels, so many being called by the name of Mary.

Joses] Several MSS. and versions read Joseph.

Verse 57. When the even] This must have been about three

o'clock, or a little after; for our Lord having expired about

three o'clock, Mt 27:46, and the Jewish passover beginning about

four, it was necessary that Joseph, who would not fail to eat the

passover at the usual time, should have obtained and buried the

body of Christ some time before four o'clock. But such was the

general consternation, occasioned by the prodigies that took place

on this most awful occasion, that we may safely conjecture that

nothing was done in order, and perhaps the passover itself was not

eaten at the usual hour, if at all, that day. See at the end of

the preceding chapter.

A rich man] He was a counsellor of the great Sanhedrin,

Lu 23:50; and, from the accounts given of him by the evangelists

we learn that he was a man of the greatest respectability. He now

acted a more honourable part than all the disciples of our Lord.

He was of Arimathea, or Rama, in the tribe of Benjamin, Mt 2:18,

but lived ordinarily in Jerusalem, as being a member of the great


Verse 58. Begged the body] That he might bury it honourably

otherwise, by the Jewish customs, he would have either been

burned, or buried in the common place appointed for executed


Verse 59. Wrapped it in a clean linen cloth] The Jews, as well

as the Egyptians, added spices to keep the body from putrefaction,

and the linen was wrapped about every part to keep the aromatics

in contact with the flesh. From Joh 19:39, 40, we learn that a

mixture of myrrh and aloes of one hundred pounds' weight had been

applied to the body of Jesus when he was buried. And that a

second embalmment was intended, we learn from Lu 23:56; 24:1, as

the hurry to get the body interred before the Sabbath did not

permit them to complete, the embalming in the first instance. See

an account of the mode of embalming among the Egyptians, in the

note on Ge 50:2, 26.

Verse 60. Laid it in his own new tomb] To all human appearance

the body of Christ must have had the same burial-place with those

of the two robbers, as he was numbered with the transgressors, and

suffered with them; for then he was a sacrifice, bearing the sin

of the world in his own body on the tree; but now the sacrifice is

offered, the atonement made and accepted, he is no longer to be

enrolled with the transgressors, and, according to a prophecy

delivered nearly seven hundred years before that time, he is to

have the burying-place of a rich man. See Isa 53:9, 10. Had our

Lord been buried in the common burial-ground of the malefactors,

his resurrection could not have been so distinctly remarked, as

the chief priests would never have thought of sealing the stone

there, or setting a watch; but now that the body is got into the

hands of a friend, they judge it necessary to make use of these

precautions, in order, as they said, to prevent imposture; and

from this very circumstance the resurrection of Christ had its

fullest evidence, and was put beyond the power of successful

contradiction. What a number of objections would not human

prudence have made to Joseph's conduct, had he consulted it on

this occasion! It would have represented to him that, "this was

to expose himself, to bring himself into trouble, to render

himself suspected, to put himself out of all capacity of doing

good, to ruin himself irrecoverably; and now it could do no good

to his teacher-he is now dead, and needs no longer any office of

kindness from men." There is, sometimes in our whole life, but

one opportunity in which God designs signally to employ us; and,

through our general backwardness to every good work, we are for

reserving ourselves to other opportunities, in which God neither

requires nor will accept our services.

Rolled a great stone to the door] Some are of opinion that this

tomb was cut down into the rock, perpendicularly from the surface;

and that the great stone spoken of here covered over the entrance

to it. The stone, no doubt, was intended to secure the place as

much as possible.

Verse 61. Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary] The mother of

James and Joses, Mt 27:56. The mother of our Lord had probably,

by this time, been taken home to the house of John.

See Joh 19:26, 27.

Sitting over against the sepulchre.] These holy women, filled

with that love to their Lord which death cannot destroy, cleaved

to him in life, and in death were not divided. They came to the

grave to see the end, and overwhelmed with sorrow and anguish, sat

down to mourn.

Verse 62. The next day] This was the seventh, or Saturday,

and might be what we should term the evening of the sixth, or

Friday, because the Jews always ended their day when the sun set,

and then began the next.

That followed the day of the preparation] That is, of the

Sabbath. The victuals, &c., which were to be used on the Sabbath

by the Jews, were always prepared the preceding evening before the

sun set. It is of this preparation that the evangelist speaks

here; and it is the same which is mentioned by Mark, Mr 15:42; by

Luke, Lu 23:54; and by John, Joh 19:31. But there was another

preparation which happened in the same day: viz. The preparation

of the passover; this began about twelve o'clock, and continued

till four, the time in which they ate the paschal lamb.

See Joh 19:14.

Verse 63. Sir, we remember, &c.] While these wicked men are

fulfilling their own vicious counsels, they are subserving the

great cause of Christianity. Every thing depended on the

resurrection of Christ; if it did not appear that he rose from the

dead, then the whole system was false, and no atonement was made.

It was necessary therefore that the chief priests, &c., should

make use of every precaution to prevent an imposture, that the

resurrection of Christ might have the fullest evidence to support

it. See Clarke on Mt 27:60.

The word κυριε is here very properly translated sir, which, in

many other places, is as improperly translated Lord. When a Roman

is the speaker, or the person addressed, κυριε should always be

translated sir; when strangers address our Lord, the word is a

title of civil respect, and should, in general, be translated in

the same way.

After three days I will rise again.] This they probably took

from his saying, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will

build it up. If so, they destroyed, by their own words, the false

accusation they brought against him to put him to death; then they

perverted the meaning, now they declare it. Thus the wise are

taken in their own craftiness. Neither the devil nor his servants

ever speak truth, but when they expect to accomplish some bad

purpose by it.

Verse 64. Lest his disciples come by night] νυκτος, by night,

is wanting in ten of the uncial MSS., and in several others, and

in most of the versions. Erasmus, Aldus, Bengel, and Boghard,

with Griesbach, leave it out of the text.

Verse 65. Ye have a watch] The Jews had a corps of Roman

troops, consisting of several companies, as a guard for the

temple, Ac 4:1. These companies mounted guard by turns, see

Lu 22:4. Some of these companies, which were not then on duty,

Pilate gave them leave to employ to watch the tomb.

Verse 66. Made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and

setting a watch.] Or rather, made the tomb secure by the guard,

and by sealing the stone. I follow Kypke, in construing μετατης

κουστωδιας, with ησφαλισαντο. The guard was to take care that

the disciples should not steal him away; and the seal, which was

probably the seal of the governor, was to prevent the guards from

being corrupted so as to permit the theft. So every thing was

done which human policy and prudence could, to prevent a

resurrection, which these very precautions had the most direct

tendency to authenticate and establish. How wonderful are the

wisdom and goodness of God!-and how true is it, that there is

neither might nor counsel against him!

1. The death of Christ was ordered, so as to be witnessed by

thousands; and if his resurrection take place, it must be

demonstrated; and it cannot take place without being

incontestable, such are the precautions used here to prevent all


2. The more the circumstances of the death of Christ are

examined, the more astonishing the whole will appear. The death

is uncommon-the person uncommon-and the object uncommon; and the

whole is grand, majestic, and awful. Nature itself is thrown into

unusual action, and by means and causes wholly supernatural. In

every part, the finger of God most evidently appears.

3. How glorious does Christ appear in his death! Were it not for

his thirst, his exclamation on the cross, and the piercing of his

side, we should have found it difficult to believe that such a

person could ever have entered the empire of death; but the

divinity and the manhood equally appear, and thus the certainty of

the atonement is indubitably established.

4. But who can reflect on the state of the poor disciples, during

the whole of the time in which our blessed Lord lay under the

empire of death, without sharing their sorrows! When he expired

on the cross their expectation was cut off; and when his body was

laid in the grave their hopes were buried; and nothing but the

resurrection of Christ from the dead could have given a

resurrection to their hopes. It is true they had heard him say

that he would rise again the third day; but in this it is evident

their faith was very imperfect; and the uncertainty, perplexity,

anxiety, and distress which they in consequence must have

suffered, can neither be described nor imagined. Though we know

the glorious result, yet who can help sympathizing with the pious

father, the virgin mother, and the disconsolate disciples!

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