- Christogenea Internet Radio
On the Gospel of John, Part 44: What is Truth?
Discussing the first portion of John chapter 18, we endeavored to illustrate the difference in the personality and deeds of Peter the apostle with the deeds and fate of Judas Iscariot. Although Judas was a devil, both his participation in the earthly ministry of Christ and the manner in which his own life came to an end had resulted in the fulfillment of certain prophecies in the Word of God concerning the passion of the Christ as it was prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures. In contrast, Peter, an apostle of Christ and a child of God, had tried rather persistently to exert his own will upon the transpiring events, and for that he had to be rebuked by Christ on several occasions. Now here in the garden Gethsemane, as Peter attacked an officer of the temple while being greatly outnumbered by the Roman soldiers, Christ had to rebuke him once again, and we see that Peter was saved and ultimately went on to complete his own ministry in the gospel in spite of himself and his stubborn personality.
The lesson in this comparison is that Yahweh God can use even a devil to accomplish His will, as He did with Judas. But when men attempt to interfere, as Peter had attempted, they shall fail to succeed and they shall be led by God to fulfill the destiny which He has assigned to them whether they like it or not. This is the meaning which Christ Himself had explained to Peter as it is recorded at the end of John’s gospel, in chapter 21 where He told him “18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.”
But there is a further lesson in this which we also attempted to illustrate, because what we can perceive from this lesson certainly does apply to other aspects of life and of history. Before Christians choose to willingly participate in the orchestrations of a corrupted government which is antithetical to Christ, they should first ask themselves, is it my will, or His Will? This is especially true since Christ Himself informed His disciples that they were not of this world, but that He had chosen them out of the world. This we read in John chapter 15: “19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” But being chosen out of this world does not mean death, or leaving the planet in some supposed rapture. Rather, as John wrote in his first epistle that “the whole world lieth in wickedness”, to be out of the world is to separate oneself from the evil in the world. So Christ had prayed, as it is recorded in John chapter 17: “15… not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” So rather than place our hopes in men and exert our energies on behalf of men, we should understand that Yahweh God will perform His Will and keep His promises in spite of men.
As we have explained, it is evident that in spite of himself, Peter ultimately fulfilled the Will of God as Christ had told him that he would be a witness to His gospel. Perhaps it was because of his stubbornness that Christ had even called him πέτρος, which means stone. And also in spite of himself, because he was a devil, Judas had also fulfilled the destiny to which God had assigned him. So how do men think that they can change anything by voting, if Yahweh God will effect His Will regardless of who may hold a particular office? As we have also already asserted, we are not going to vote ourselves salvation. The children of Israel sinned when they demanded an earthly king, and Christians still sin to this day every time they elect a ruler who is not Christ. Paul of Tarsus explained in Romans chapter 13 that earthly government is a punishment from God, that when we are disobedient He will use government to punish us, and every time we vote for a man as our ruler, regardless of who it is for, we consciously choose to prolong our own punishment. Of course, in the end we cannot prolong the end itself, as Yahweh has also already determined that. But that does not give us an excuse to agree with evil. So we should leave the world to love its own, as Christ had also said in the course of this same evening. We should abjure the realm, as it is worded by our friends in the League of the South.
In our last presentation of this chapter, we left off where Yahshua Christ is in the garden at Gethsemane after sharing His last Passover meal with His disciples, and He has already been accosted by Judas Iscariot, with the agents from the temple and the Roman soldiers who accompanied them to effect His arrest. Against overwhelming odds, Peter tried to stop them, but Christ responded to him and said “Put the sword into the sheath! The cup which the Father gave to Me, shall I not drink it?” On at least several occasions in their recent past, Christ had already told Peter and the other disciples what was going to happen, yet they had remained oblivious, even while it happened.
Now, continuing with John chapter 18 from that point:
12 Then the cohort and the commander and the deputies of the Judaeans seized Yahshua and they bound 13 and brought Him to Hannas first, for he was the father-in-law of Kaiaphas [C and D have “Kaiphas”] who was high priest for that year.
The word for commander, where the King James Version has captain, is χιλίαρχος, which is literally a commander of a thousand men. It is a technical term which was used to describe a Roman military tribune. By the use of this term and the accompanying word, σπεῖρα, to describe the soldiers which he led, we can be confident that this did indeed describe a company of Roman troops. This particular tribune was apparently stationed at Jerusalem, as we have already cited what Flavius Josephus had described in Book 2 of his Wars of the Judaeans, that the Romans assigned a cohort of soldiers to the temple at Jerusalem during the festivals in order to keep the peace.
The word πενθερός is father-in-law, and both Annas and Caiaphas are mentioned together in Luke chapter 3 and also in Acts chapters 4 and 5. In those chapters of Acts we learn that they compromised the sect of the Sadducees, ostensibly along with many of their own kindred, or race, who are described by Luke as being in league together with them in the cause against the apostles. Mark does not mention these priests by name, and Matthew only mentions Caiaphas, who, according to John, was the actual holder of the office. These men were also subjects of the histories of Josephus, who verifies the words of the apostles in relation to them. In the histories of Josephus it is explained that Annas was an earlier high priest, but he was removed from the office by the Romans. However Annas retained the title, for which Luke calls both men “high priests”. John only called Caiaphas “high priest that year”, and seems to have been writing sarcastically, because in the law the office of high priest was originally supposed to be held for life by one of the eligible descedants of Aaron through his son Eleazar.
This Annas had five sons who had held the office of high priest in addition to his son-in-law Caiaphas. In a footnote by William Whiston in Book 20 of his translation of Josephus’ Antiquities, we are informed that Annas himself held the office for twenty-three years, but this is debated in other sources, including the text of Josephus itself. According to Antiquities Book 18, upon the ascension of Tiberius Nero, which was in 14 AD, we read “He was now the third emperor; and he sent Valerius Gratus to be procurator of Judea, and to succeed Annius Rufus. 34 This man deprived Ananus [Annas in the New Testament] of the high priesthood, and appointed Ismael, the son of Phabi, to be high priest. He also deprived him in a little time, and ordained Eleazar, the son of Ananus, who had been high priest before, to be high priest: which office, when he had held for a year, Gratus deprived him of it, and gave the high priesthood to Simon, the son of Camithus; 35 and, when he had possessed that dignity no longer than a year, Joseph Caiaphas was made his successor. When Gratus had done those things, he went back to Rome, after he had tarried in Judea eleven years, when Pontius Pilate came as his successor.”
So according to that record and the wider account to which it belongs, Annas held the office of high priest for not quite 10 years, from 6 to 15 AD, and then three successors, one of which was his own son, held it for a total of about three years, until 18 AD when his son-in-law, Joseph Caiaphas, was appointed. Then Caiaphas, as he is called in the New Testament, evidently held it for 18 years, until 36 AD. At that time Lucius Vitellius, a Roman consul and future but short-lived emperor, was governor of Syria. In Judaea, there was an uprising and armed insurrection led by a Samaritan who claimed to be a reincarnation of Moses. Pontius Pilate put down the insurrection and executed its leaders. In response, Josephus writes in Book 18 of his Antiquities: “88 But when this tumult was appeased, the Samaritan senate sent an embassy to Vitellius, a man that had been consul, and who was now governor of Syria, and accused Pilate of the murder of those who were killed; for that they did not go to Tirathaba [a village where they had assembled] in order to revolt from the Romans, but to escape the violence of Pilate [who according to Josephus had not yet caused them any violence]. 89 So Vitellius sent Marcellus, a friend of his, to take care of the affairs of Judea, and ordered Pilate to go to Rome, to answer before the emperor to the accusations of the Jews. So Pilate, when he had tarried ten years in Judea [he had remained, or kept his appointment there for ten years], made haste to Rome, and this in obedience to the orders of Vitellius, which he dared not contradict; but before he could get to Rome, Tiberius was dead.” Pilate never had to face the charges, since the emperor died before he could hear them, which was the custom of the time. At the same time, Vitellius replaced the high priest Caiaphas with a son of Annas, Jonathan, who was also his own brother-in-law.
But because John wrote his gospel quite late, as many as 60 years after the Passion of the Christ, perhaps where he had called Caiaphas “high priest for that year” he was speaking sarcastically because both immediately before, and then after the end of the tenure of Caiaphas, the tenures of the priests were often quite short, and after he was removed from office at least 16 different men had held the office of high priest during the 34 or 35 years until the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. So Annas, or Ananus, as Josephus called him, along with his sons and his son-in-law Caiaphas occupied the office of high priest for nearly 40 of the 64 years from the death of the first Herod to the destruction of Jerusalem.
[When I did my Acts commentary for chapters 4 and 5, I was misled by Whiston’s footnote, and will soon have to revisit and revise my text.]
Here, the fact that the deputies of the temple and the Roman soldiers had first brought Christ to Annas shows the influence which the former high priest had retained during the tenure of his son-in-law Caiaphas. However the other three gospels do not record this event. Neither Mark nor Luke name the high priest to whom Christ was brought immediately following His arrest, but it is evident that their accounts describe only where Christ was brought before Kaiaphas. The same is found in the gospel of Matthew, where immediately following the rebuke of Peter for attacking Malchus, we read: “55 In that same hour [meaning ‘at that same time’] said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. 56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. 57 And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.”
Perhaps Matthew, not being an eyewitness, since he was evidently also one of the disciples who fled, was never informed that there was first a stop at the house of Annas, or perhaps he did not think it was significant enough to include in his account. John himself does not tell us here that all of the disciples had fled, but he did record the warning which Christ had given in relation to that, in John chapter 16: “32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” While Peter and John were certainly not given an exception when Christ spoke those words, they evidently did not flee far. But before proceeding with his account, John reminds his readers:
14 Now it was Kaiaphas who had advised the Judaeans that it is advantageous for one man to die on behalf of the people.
This is found in John chapter 11, in the aftermath of the raising of Lazarus at least a week before this evening, where John wrote: “49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, 50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. [Now John comments:] 51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” These words were spoken in response to the fear that Christ would lead a successful sedition followed by a Roman reciprocation, which was expressed earlier in that chapter and John recorded them as saying “47… What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” Evidently it is also for this reason that they sent such a large body of soldiers with which to seize Him, because of the multitude of those who did believe Him.
And here we shall begin to discuss “What is Truth?”, as Pontius Pilate also asks of Christ at the end of this chapter. In the account of the plot against Christ which John recorded in that passage in chapter 11 of his gospel, we read “47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.” The priests and Pharisees knew that the miracles were made, and they never denied them. They could not deny them in the face of so many witnesses, in spite of the fact that Christ had often challenged them to believe Him on account of the truth of the miracles. For this it was also attested, that no man had ever done such things before. Yet while they did not deny the miracles, they continued to deny Him. They could not accept Him or His words as truth simply because it was not expedient for them to do so, being afraid that they would lose their own power and authority.
So in effect, they were insisting on defining truth for themselves, and hoping that with their insistence, they could actually stamp out the truth in Christ. For as long as they prevailed, they could continue to assert that their own truth was truth. So what is perceived as truth becomes relative to the insistence of whoever happens to be in power. For that reason Paul described the high priests, in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, as Satan sitting in the temple of God and pretending to be God. Men make truth what they want it to be, and for that reason Paul said in Romans chapter 3, “3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? 4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar…” In other words, the truth of God is true in spite of the beliefs of men, and in spite of whether men ever even find it.
But the truth of God is also relative to the Will of God, just as the supposed truths which men believe are relative to their own will. So when Ehud the son of Gera brought a present to the King of Moab, as it is described in Judges chapter 3, he announced to him that he had a “secret errand” and a “message from God” for him, and the king believed him. But even if the king did not get what he had expected, Ehud was not really lying when he thrust a dagger into his belly and killed him. The Will of God was performed in spite of what the king had believed upon hearing the words of Ehud.
A similar situation exists here. It was the will of God that His “Messiah be cut off, but not for himself”, as it says in Daniel chapter 9, and to be “cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people”, as it says in Isaiah chapter 53. So even those of the ruling class in Judaea who did believe, were prevented from acting on and accepting their belief as truth in preference for the perceived truth of their own circumstances, as John wrote just a little later (in chapter 12) that “42 Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: 43 For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” But if they accepted the truth of God, then perhaps the Messiah would not have been cut off, and the Will of God would not have been effected. Therefore it is God who decides what is the truth which men should believe in any particular situation, so that His Will is fulfilled.
Now John describes how he and Peter were able to watch the proceedings at the house of Annas:
15 Now Simon Petros and another student had followed Yahshua, and that student was known by the high priest and he entered in with Yahshua into the court of the high priest,
The 3rd century papyrus P66 wants the phrase “and that student was known by the high priest”, although it does have the expression where it also appears in verse 16.
This other and unnamed student must have been John himself, the apostle and son of Zebedee and the author of this testimony, who was evidently so humble that in his gospel and epistles he did not even mention his own name. So in relation to this account he is the “other disciple” here and throughout John chapter 20. In John chapter 1, in the account of the first encounters of the apostles with Christ, he is the unnamed disciple of John the Baptist who, along with Andrew, had first exclaimed to Simon Peter that “we have found the Messiah”. Then, in John chapter 21, once again John neglects to call himself by name, where he refers to himself in verses 2, 7, 20 and 24. In that final chapter of this gospel, John was the “disciple whom Jesus loved” who also “leaned on his breast at supper ” and he was “the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things”, a phrase which by itself proves the veracity of these our assertions. In the Revelation, John did mention his own name three times in the opening chapter, and once in each of the final two chapters.
By writing high priest here John refers to Annas, since Kaiaphas was not present, something which becomes clear a few verses later in this chapter. So John also recognizes that Annas had retained the title, just as Luke had done. As for how Annas the high priest had known John, we are never informed. It may only be speculated that John had become familiar to the high priests as he was with Christ during many of the disputes which Christ had with them in the temple. John did record those disputes in great detail, and especially those which we have in chapters 8 and 10 of his gospel where we see lengthy exchanges that were not described by the other apostles. Being quite young at the time, perhaps John was familiar to them but had never aroused their suspicions because of his youth, so he himself escaped their wrath. John entered into the court of Annas, and he continues and says:
16 but Petros stood outside by the door. Then the other student, he known by the high priest, went out and spoke with the doorkeeper and he brought Petros in.
As for the phrase “he known”, the construction is a pronoun followed by an adjective. The translation is admittedly sometimes difficult to read in English, but it is as literal and adds as few words as possible. The papyrus P66, the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Washingtonensis (W) and the Majority Text insert a verb, “who was known”, but the papyrus P66 wants the phrase for “other”, an article and a noun, so it would be read “Then the student who was known…” The text follows the Codices Vaticanus (B) and Ephraemi Syri (C).
The doorkeeper did not necessarily know John, but perhaps she trusted him simply because he had already gotten inside. But rather, it may be perceived that the girl did know that John was a disciple of Christ, from the appearance of the word also in her question to Peter which follows, as it was apparently recorded by John and is consistent in all of the surviving manuscripts:
17 Therefore the doorkeeper, a servant girl, says to Petros: “Are you also one of the students of this Man?” He says: “I am not.”
The question the girl posed to Peter begins in Greek with the word μή, which, as we have frequently explained, was a negative particle that was often used as an interrogative when a negative answer was expected. In such cases, it is left untranslated. This is explained by both Joseph Thayer (μή, C) and Liddell & Scott (μή, III.) in their respective Greek-English lexicons.
Now it is evident that no matter how John had come to be known, and apparently trusted by the high priest, it worked out in a manner by which the words which Christ had spoken to Peter would be fulfilled, where it is recorded in John chapter 13 that He told him “38… Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.” This is the first of those denials, which Peter made in spite of the fact that the girl had said “also”, which may be interpreted to indicate that she already knew that John was one of His disciples. Yet, as John had recorded it, the girl asked Peter the question in a way which indicates that she expected him to make a denial.
18 Then the servants and the deputies, having made a charcoal fire because it was cold, stood and they warmed themselves. And Petros also [A and the MT want “also”; the text follows P66, א, B, C and W] was with them, standing and warming himself.
John does not tell us what happened to the soldiers, but perhaps they were released to return to their encampment. It is evident in the account of Luke where Paul was seized and arrested in Acts chapter 21 that there was a Roman encampment, which the King James Version calls a castle, that must have been within close proximity to the temple. Also, according to Flavius Josephus in Book 2 of Wars of the Judaeans (2:426), the house of the high priest was in the “upper city” and evidently that was in proximity to the temple.
By our method of interpreting the Hebrew calendar, the year begins late in the evening on the day of the Vernal Equinox on the first day of Spring, which for most of our years is March 20th, and therefore the 14th day of the year, the Passover, began in the late evening of the day we call April 2nd. So according to the AccuWeather website, the historic average low temperature for April 3rd in Jerusalem is 49 degrees Fahrenheit, but in 2020 it is forecast to be 45 degrees, while in 2019 the recorded low was 44 degrees. So it should be expected for men who are out in a courtyard late at night to be warming themselves by a fire. The historic and contemporary high temperatures for that day, which would occur in the afternoon, are near 70 degrees.
Here there is a seeming conflict with the other gospels, which have Peter denying Yahshua three times at the house of Caiaphas, although only Matthew mentions Caiaphas explicitly. John has the first denial taking place here at the house of Annas, and the others at the house of Caiaphas. But John also testified here that he himself was an eyewitness to these things, which is something else that the others do not mention. As Christ had prophesied, and as Matthew, Mark and John had all recorded, the other apostles were scattered when He was arrested, and therefore they could all not have all been eye-witnesses. So it certainly does seem that John’s endeavor was to correct the records of the other apostles by filling in any of the missing details which he thought were important enough to warrant mention.
19 Then the high priest questioned Yahshua concerning His students and concerning His teaching. 20 Yahshua replied to him: “I have spoken openly to Society. Always I have taught in the assembly hall and in the temple, where all [the MT has ‘always’; the text follows א, A, B, C and W] the Judaeans gather, and in secret I have said nothing.
Here Christ speaks to Annas, who was a Sadducee and who was apparently also an Edomite, but He only speaks to him in order to deny him an answer to his inquiry. So He continues with a question:
21 Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I have spoken to them. Behold, these, they know the things which I have said.”
According to the account in Luke, Christ could see Peter, and must have known that he and John were there. But rather than pointing out Peter or John, it seems instead that Christ was pointing to some of the priests who were sent as deputies at the time of His arrest, as He had debated with them frequently in the temple, He often shared meals with at least some of them, and would have known them quite well. So next we see their reaction:
22 Then upon His speaking these things one of the deputies standing by had given Yahshua a slap saying “Thusly should You reply to the high priest?”
In Acts chapter 23, in events which happened in 58 AD, upon his having been rebuked for speaking sharply to a man whom he did not know was the high priest, Paul of Tarsus cited Exodus 22:28 where it says “28 Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.” The word gods in that passage would better have been translated as judges. Ananias the son of Nedebeus was the sitting high priest of the time, although Paul was not aware of that. At the time, the occupant of the office of the high priest did change practically every other year. But this Annas was only a former high priest, so while he was not technically the holder of the office, he merited no special privilege under that law. Neither does the law punish a man for smiting another unjustly, except in instances where actual physical harm is done, as it is in Exodus chapter 21.
23 Yahshua replied [א and W have “Then Yahshua said”; the text follows A, B, C and the MT] to him: “If I have spoken badly, testify concerning the bad, but if well, why do you strike Me?”
No answer from the deputy is recorded, but neither did Annas, which according to the Greek texts is Hannas, Ἅννας, receive an answer to his own questions.
24 Therefore [א has “Then”; A and the MT want “therefore”; the text follows B, C and W] Hannas sent Him bound to Kaiaphas the high priest.
The gospel of John says nothing of what happened to Christ at the house of Kaiaphas, but perhaps that is only because John could not add to what the other gospels had already attested. In Matthew chapter 26 we read, from the Christogenea New Testament: “57 And those having seized Yahshua led Him off to Kaïaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 But Petros followed Him from afar, unto the court of the high priest, and entering inside sat with the deputies to see the outcome. 59 Then the high priests and the entire council sought false testimony against Yahshua, that they may kill Him, 60 yet they found not many false witnesses coming forth. But later two having come forth 61 said ‘He said this: I am able to destroy the temple of God and in three days I will build it!’ 62 And arising the high priest said to Him ‘Would You answer nothing for what they testify against You?’ 63 But Yahshua was silent. And the high priest said to Him ‘I adjure You by the living God that You would tell us whether You are the Anointed Son of God!’ 64 Yahshua says to him ‘You have spoken. But I say to you, from this time you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven!’ 65 Then the high priest tore his garments, saying: ‘He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, now you have heard the blasphemy! 66 What do you think?’ And those replying said: ‘He is liable for death!’ 67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him, and they had struck Him 68 saying ‘Prophecy to us, Christ, who is it who is hitting You?’” After this Matthew records the three denials of Peter as if they had all happened at the home of Caiaphas.
Of course, the words which Christ is recorded as having uttered here could only be considered blasphemy by a Bolshevik-style kangaroo court, such as those which have been held at Nuremberg or perhaps at Charlottesville.
The gospel of Mark closely parallels what was recorded in Matthew in relation to this event. However Luke is wanting much of it, saying only “54 Then seizing Him they took and led Him into the house of the high priest. And Petros followed at a distance….” Then, after recording the three denials of Peter and adding the note that Yahshua had actually looked at Peter upon his third denial, Luke says: “63 And the men encompassing Him mocked Him, flailing 64 and covering Him over were questioning Him saying ‘Prophesy, who is he striking You?’ 65 And they spoke many other blasphemies to Him.”
So here we have the beginning of the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah chapter 53, “4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Now, at the house of Caiaphas, John records nothing of what Christ suffered there, although we have a more complete record in Matthew. But John had only the other two denials of Peter:
25 Now Simon Petros was standing and warming himself. Then they said to him: “Are you one from among His students?” He denied it and said “I am not”. 26 One from among the servants of the high priest, a kinsman of he whose ear Petros had cut off, says “Had I not seen you in the garden with Him?” 27 Then again Petros denied it, and immediately a cock crowed.
John did not describe the reactions to this third denial, which we read most fully in Luke chapter 22: “61 Then turning the Prince looked at Petros, and Petros remembered the saying of the Prince as He had said to him, that ‘Before a cock crows today three times you shall deny Me.” 62 And going outside he wept bitterly.’”
From this point all four gospels record the taking of Christ to Pilate, but only John records the exchanges between Christ and Pilate in detail.
28 Then they brought Yahshua from Kaiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning, and they did not enter into the Praetorium, [the MT inserts “but”; the text follows א, A, B, C and W] that they would not be defiled but may eat the Passover.
The word πραιτώριον is basically a headquarters, the seat of Roman rule wherever it was. Here the word is transliterated, where in the King James Version it is “hall of judgment”. So in Rome itself, it was the palace of Nero, as Paul described it in his epistle to the Philippians. But in Caesareia, as it is described in Acts chapter 23, it was the headquarters of Herod Agrippa II, who at that later time had also maintained a palace in Jerusalem. Pontius Pilate, while officially headquartered in Caesareia, would also have retained a πραιτώριον in Jerusalem, where because of Roman custom, it is believed to have been the palace that the first Herod, the usurper and would-be murderer of the Christ as a child, had built for himself.
The Greek word πρωΐα is early morning here, where daybreak or sunrise would also be proper. In a footnote in George Rawlinson’s edition of The Histories of Herodotus, in Book 2 (2:173) he gives the divisions of the day according to Dio Chrysostomus, the Greek philosopher and historian who was born around 40 AD. He described πρωΐα as daybreak, and περὶ πλήθουσαν ἀγοράν as market time or forenoon, the third hour where the business day usually began, as the judges of the common courts typically sat in the markets. Pilate could not have been pleased about being called to judgment so early in the day.
This day “was the preparation of the passover… the Jews' preparation day ”, as John had described it in chapter 19 of his gospel, in relation to events which occurred later this same day. Evidently the Judaeans of the time believed that if they entered into the headquarters of the Roman procurator, that they would somehow be ceremonially unclean. That is not a commandment in the law, but of course Christ had chastised them for adding many commandments to the law.
Here there are differences in the account which John provides concerning the actions of Pilate and Pilate’s interaction with Yahshua, which differ with the more condensed accounts of the other gospels, which may be better left to our commentary on chapter 19 of John’s gospel. So we shall proceed without citing the other gospels. Now we can probably imagine the Judaeans standing outside the headquarters of Pilate and screaming over one another in their typically insolent manner:
29 Therefore Pilatos came outside [A and the MT have only “out”; the text follows א, B, C and W ] to them and declared [A and the MT have “said”; the text follows P66, א, B, C and W ]: “What charge do you bring against [א, B and 087 want ‘against’, where the remaining words would be read ‘for this man’; the text follows P66, A, C, W and the MT] this man?”
Now they reply rather arrogantly, evidently expecting him to believe whatever they tell him to believe:
30 They replied and said to him “If this man was not doing evil [ A and the MT have 'was not an evil-doer’; the text follows א, B, C and W], we would not have delivered Him to you!”
As we have also often explained in our other commentaries, if Judaea were under a king, the king would have a right to hear and decide capital cases involving its own citizens without any intervention from the Romans, as Herod the usurper had once done when he was king. But after the death of that first Herod and the subsequent banishment of his wicked son Archelaus, Judaea was reduced to a province, and only the Roman procurator or proconsul could hear and decide capital cases. Judaea was under a king once again from 41 to 44 AD, when the Roman emperor Claudius had appointed Herod Agrippa I as king, and during that time he executed James the son of Zebedee, and he evidently wanted to execute Peter also, who had escaped miraculously, before his own death as it is described in Acts chapter 12. [For a supporting reference, see Josephus’ Antiquities, Book 17, paragraphs 230-231.]
Later, Herod Agrippa II was made a king of parts of northern Judaea and Lebanon, and he was also given authority over the temple in Jerusalem, but unlike his father he was not made king of all Judaea, which remained in control of the appointed procurators or proconsuls. When Paul was arrested in 58 AD, he was kept in prison by the procurator Festus, and when he died, by Felix, until he was sent to Rome. Herod Agrippa II was entertained by hearing Paul’s case, but he had no judicial authority over him because Paul, being of Tarsus in Cilicia, was a Roman citizen and therefore had a right to appeal to Caesar to have his case heard, which he exercised. Yahshua Christ, however, being born in Judaea in the days of king Herod, was not a Roman citizen and had no such right to any appeal. An astute observer of Scripture may come to realize that all along the way, each of these varying circumstances also helped to effect the Will of God, and fulfill His Word.
So the Judaeans themselves had no authority to execute a capital offense, and as John continues this is also made apparent:
31 Therefore Pilatos said to them: “You [P66 has ‘Then you’] take Him and judge Him according to your law.” The [א, W and the MT have ‘Therefore the’; A and 087 ‘But the’; the text follows B and C] Judaeans said to him: “It is not lawful for us to slay anyone [literally ‘no one’]”, 32 that the word of Yahshua would be fulfilled which He spoke indicating by what sort of death He was going to die.
Knowing what had happened before he recorded it, John’s account anticipates the fact that Pilate will be compelled to execute their desires. If the Judaeans had the authority to execute Christ, the manner of death would have been by stoning. But the Romans executing punishment, by Roman law the manner of death was crucifixion. So as Paul later explained in Galatians, “13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” Then as Christ Himself had also professed, which we discussed at length in Part 9 of this commentary, The World of Salvation: “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
So according to these words, both the law in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 and the event in the wilderness described in Numbers chapter 21 indicated prophetically by what means of death the Messiah Himself would ultimately die on behalf of the people. A third and more explicit prophecy is found in Psalm 22:16: “16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.” The hands and feet would not be pierced by stoning, but by crucifixion. The same can be said if Psalm 34:20 is to be interpreted as a Messianic prophecy: “20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.”
Finally, the death by crucifixion also made possible the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy of Zechariah chapter 12 where it reads: “10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” So once again, all the details in the political situation of Judaea made possible the fulfillment of the Word of God with exacting precision.
So once again we must ask, why should Christians worry about who is in control, and strive laboring to put their own choice of men in control of a corrupt government, when all along it is Yahweh Himself who is in control, and even devils cannot help themselves but to fulfill His Will?
Now although the other three gospels record some of the things which were said here, John records the exchange between Pilate and Christ much more completely and as having happened in a quite different manner:
33 Therefore Pilatos entered again into the Praetorium and called to Yahshua and said to Him: “Are You the King of the Judaeans?”
The Judaeans would not enter into the Praetorium, portions of which were evidently open to the public, because they thought it would make them ceremonially unclean, whereby they would not be able to eat the Passover. So apparently Pilate and Christ are now alone, perhaps with some Roman guards, and out of range of the hearing of the Judaeans. John, being an interested party, may also have been present, and certainly seems to have followed them in so that he could record these words. So continuing with John:
34 Yahshua replied [א and the MT insert “to him”; the text follows A, B, C, W and 087]: “Do you say this by yourself or have others spoken to you concerning Me?”
Up to this point in the Gospels there is no record that Pilate was informed of this charge by the Judaeans, so Christ honestly inquires of him how he knew this, as He has been present the entire time and has not heard it since He was brought to him. Pilate does not answer directly, but his answer seems to be a sufficient admission in itself to indicate that his original question had some other inspiration:
35 Pilatos replied: “What [P66 has ‘Indeed’; א and W want ‘What’], am I a Judaean? Your nation and the high priests [א has ‘priest’] delivered You to me. What have You done?”
As John recorded it, the Judaeans only expected Pilate to accept their assertion that Christ was guilty of something significant enough to be considered a capital offense, since if it were not a capital offense they would not have brought Him to Pilate. But here Pilate admitted his ignorance of what that offense could be. Since Pilate was not a Judaean, it is evident that he did not entirely understand the nature of their beliefs, the consequences of any of the claims he may have heard about Christ, and apparently here he hoped that Yahshua would explain it for him. But now Yahshua replies on the basis that Pilate understood that his first question must have had some other source of inspiration, as He had said to him in return:
36 Yahshua replied: “My Kingdom is not from of this Society. If My Kingdom was of this Society, My deputies would have fought in order that I would not be delivered to the Judaeans. But now My Kingdom is not from here.”
The people who had followed Christ in Galilee wanted to make Him King long before His final journey to Jerusalem, where we read in John chapter 6: “15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.” Then, when He made His triumphal march into Jerusalem, which was only a week before this time, as we read in John chapter 12, they had again proclaimed for Him to be their King: “12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. 14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, 15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.” Yahshua did not pronounce Himself as king, but John made the citation “as it is written” because it was a fulfillment of that prophecy from Zechariah.
While these things had to be fulfilled, as they were also matters of prophecy, at His first advent the Messiah had to be cut off, so for that and many other reasons that can be found in the words of the prophets, at that time He could not become their King.
The Judaeans, not knowing these things, were afraid that there would be a sedition on account of Christ, and that as a result, one way or another, they themselves would be displaced from their own positions of authority. Declaring for oneself to be a king was an act of sedition against the rule of Rome. But while Christ essentially denied any claim to a kingdom within this κόσμος, or society, Pilate does not interpret that to mean the world, as the planet, as it is interpreted today, which becomes evident as the conversation proceeds. So Pilate was not yet entirely satisfied with Yahshua’s answer, and he asks the question again:
37 Therefore Pilatos said to Him: “Then are You King [or perhaps a king]?” Yahshua replied: “You say that I am a king. For this I had been born and for this I have come into Society: in order that I may testify to the truth. Each who is from of the truth hears My voice.”
“Each who is from of the truth” is evidently each whom Yahweh God created as opposed to bastards, as Paul of Tarsus had explained in Hebrews chapter 12 that one is either a son or a bastard.
Christ did not deny having a kingdom, although He said that it is not of this world. Now Christ did not deny being a king, but rather, His answer attributes to Pilate an acknowledgement that He is a king. He had done essentially the same thing in verse 34 where he asked in response to the question as to whether He was King of the Judaeans, “Do you say this by yourself or have others spoken to you concerning Me?” But in any event, because Yahshua would not make a direct admission even if Pilate did not fully understand his answers, he finds no fault in Him, meaning that he does not believe that Yahshua is actively attempting to lead a sedition. In order to find him guilty of a capital offense, he needs evidence of such an offense.
But Christ does tell Pilate of His actual purpose, at least in part, where He said: “for this I have come into Society: in order that I may testify to the truth. Each who is from of the truth hears My voice.” The purpose of the Gospel was to bring to the children of Israel the message of reconciliation with Yahweh their God, thereby fulfilling the truth of God. The gospel is the announcement of that message, and that is the signal truth which Christ had expressed throughout His ministry. But Pilate does not respond to inquire of the substance of the truth of which Christ had spoken. Rather he only responds concerning truth itself:
38 [P66 inserts “Therefore”] Pilatos says to Him: “What is truth?”
Little is known of Pontius Pilate from outside of the Gospels and the accounts in Josephus. Pilate is actually his given name, but the name of his gens, Pontius, reveals that he was a member of the Pontii clan, which was a famous family of Samnite origin, and his ancestors in the 4th century before Christ were military commanders and statesmen of the Samnites who were well-known as they were resisting subjugation by Rome. Another member of this family, Pontius Aquila, was one of the assassins of Julius Caesar. He was a Tribune of the Plebs, so at that time the family must have been of the class of the Plebeians and later admitted to the nobility, since Pilate was evidently of the equestrian order.
Pilate, being a Roman, would of course have been a pagan. Truth was dictated to him by Roman law, the pagan Roman priesthood and the emperor. This is evident in Acts chapter 16, where in reference to Paul and Silas we read: “20… These men, being Judaeans, do exceedingly trouble our city, 21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.” It is evident throughout Roman and early Christian literature that Roman citizens were obligated to make sacrifices and swear allegiance to Caesar, to celebrate Roman feast days and partake in many other activities prescribed by Roman religion. The priests were charged with making the calendar, designating the days of the feasts, the days when the markets were permitted to open or close, and the regulation of many other aspects of Roman life.
But with all that, the Romans did not necessarily believe the basis of their own religion. One of the most popular Roman statesmen of the first century before Christ, Marcus Cicero, had written a work titled On the Nature of the Gods where he not only questioned whether the gods had any concern in the affairs of men, but even whether they actually existed. For centuries before him, the Greek philosophers had struggled with these same contentions. Later, the imperial cult, which was the public worship of the emperor Augustus and his successors, even of those emperors who were still living, is much more prominent in the writings of Tacitus than the old gods and traditions of the Romans.
So as I asserted earlier, what is perceived as truth becomes relative to the insistence of whoever happens to be in power. That is how it was in Jerusalem, and that is how it was in Rome. Even if we do not realize it, that is also how it is in America and the other formerly Christian nations of the West today. But that is also what Christians are expected to separate themselves from, because we should know that God is true and His kingdom is not of this world, although He has promised that it shall ultimately be established upon this world.
So while all the truths of men shall fail, what is really truth is what is relative to the Word of God. As we also asserted, it is God who decides what is the truth which men should believe in any particular situation, so that His Will is fulfilled. An other example is that of Jacob, who at the insistence of his mother had deceived his father by claiming to be Esau, so that he could acquire the blessings rather than his brother, who was a fornicator. Isaac believed that Jacob was Esau and bestowed upon him the blessing, by which the truth of God was fulfilled in spite of Isaac’s acceptance of his race-mixing son.
For Judas, the truth was the lie in which he lived, and his own intrinsic character led him to act treacherously as he was living a lie, so that the Word could be fulfilled. For Peter, the truth was to understand the true meaning of the Word of God in relation to Christ, so that he would spread the gospel and fulfill the destiny which Yahweh God had designated for him, in spite of his own stubborn disposition.
It is possible that Pilate asked this question without caring for an answer, since being bound by oath to his allegiance to the emperor, the only truths which may have mattered to him were those that were dictated by the empire.
But even in spite of that Pilate could not know the truth, because it was not his place to know it. If Christ had told him the truth and if by chance he had believed Him to the point where he would risk his own worldly existence on its behalf, then the Word of God would not have been fulfilled, because Pilate may very likely have started crucifying Jews instead of Jesus. So for one reason or another, Christ could not answer his question, where he had asked “What is Truth?”
We shall leave our commentary here, where what remains of this chapter belongs with a discussion of the account as it continues in John chapter 19.