Yohanan Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 19
1. Pilate then took Yeshua and had him flogged.
2. The soldiers twisted thorn-branches into a crown and placed it on his head, put a purple robe on him,
3. and went up to him, saying over and over, “Hail, ‘king of the Jews’!” and hitting him in the face.
4. Pilate went outside once more and said to the crowd, “Look, I’m bringing him out to you to get you to understand that I find no case against him.”
5. So Yeshua came out, wearing the thorn-branch crown and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Look at the man!"
6. When the head cohanim and the Temple guards saw him they shouted, “Put him to death on the stake! Put him to death on the stake!” Pilate said to them, “You take him out yourselves and put him to death on the stake, because I don’t find any case against him.”
Put him to death on the stake! Usually rendered. "Crucify him!" See v. 15N. 

7. The Judeans answered him, “We have a law; according to that law, he ought to be put to death, because he made himself out to be the Son of God.”
We have a law, or: "We have a Torah" which specifies the death penalty for blasphemy (see 8:58N). 

8. On hearing this, Pilate became even more frightened.
Pilate became even more frightened, either because his efforts to avoid taking responsibility for Yeshua's death (18:38bN) were not succeeding, or because the Judeans' accusation (v. 7) made him think Yeshua might actually be (in some pagan sense) a "son of the gods." 

9. He went back into the headquarters and asked Yeshua, “Where are you from?” But Yeshua didn’t answer.
10. So Pilate said to him, “You refuse to speak to me? Don’t you understand that it is in my power either to set you free or to have you executed on the stake?”
11. Yeshua answered, “You would have no power over me if it hadn’t been given to you from above; this is why the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
The one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin. It was an unspeakably great sin for Pilate to fail to exercise his power to prevent Yeshua's execution. But it was a still greater sin for Judah from K'riot — for whom it would have been better had he never been born (Mt 26:24) — to deliver Yeshua, with full knowledge of who he was and of his innocence, to an unjust death penalty. 

12. On hearing this, Pilate tried to find a way to set him free; but the Judeans shouted, “If you set this man free, it means you’re not a ‘Friend of the Emperor’! Everyone who claims to be a king is opposing the Emperor!”
"Friend of the Emperor." This was a technical term sometimes used as a title of honor for provincial governors and here as a sign of loyalty. 

13. When Pilate heard what they were saying, he brought Yeshua outside and sat down on the judge’s seat in the place called The Pavement (in Aramaic, Gabta);
14. it was about noon on Preparation Day for Pesach. He said to the Judeans, “Here’s your king!”
Preparation Day. See v. 31N. 

15. They shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Put him to death on the stake!” Pilate said to them, “You want me to execute your king on a stake?” The head cohanim answered, “We have no king but the Emperor.”
Execute... on a stake like a common criminal. This gives the full sense of the Greek word usually translated "crucify." See Mt 10:38N. 

16. Then Pilate handed Yeshua over to them to have him put to death on the stake. So they took charge of Yeshua.
Handed him over to them, to the Roman soldiers (Mt 26:26-31, Mk 15:16-20), not to the Judeans. 

17. Carrying the stake himself he went out to the place called Skull (in Aramaic, Gulgolta).
Carrying the stake himself until Shim'on of Cyrene took it (Lk 23:26). Compare with Yeshua's suffering this extract from a midrash compiled in the 9th century C.E.:

"In the seven years prior to the coming of the son of David, they will bring iron beams and load them on his neck until his body doubles over and he cries and weeps. Then his voice will rise to the highest places of heaven, and he will say to God, 'Master of the Universe, how much can my strength endure? How much my spirit, my soul, my limbs? Am I not flesh and blood?' It was because of this suffering of the son of David that David wept, saying, 'My strength is dried up 1 i ke a potsherd' (Psalm 22:16( 15)). During this ordeal the Holy One, blessed be he, will say to the son of David, 'Efrayim, my true Messiah, you took this suffering on yourself long ago, during the six days of creation. And right now, your pain is like my pain [due to the destruction of the Temple].' At this the Messiah will reply, 'Now I am at peace. It is enough for a servant to be like his master.'"(Pesikta Rabbati 36:2)

Several other features of this passage echo the New Testament. The seven years is taken from Daniel in the Tanakh, but the New Testament refers it to Yeshua's second coming (Rv 12:14; compare Daniel 7:25, 9:24-27, 12:7). Psalm 22 is frequently cited in the New Testament, notably its initial words by Yeshua himself on the execution-stake (Mt 27:46&N). On the pre-existence of the Messiah see 1: la&N. On a servant's being like his master, see Yeshua's remarks to his talmidim at 13:14-17 above. 

18. There they nailed him to the stake along with two others, one on either side, with Yeshua in the middle.
19. Pilate also had a notice written and posted on the stake; it read, YESHUA FROM NATZERET THE KING OF THE JEWS
20. Many of the Judeans read this notice, because the place where Yeshua was put on the stake was close to the city; and it had been written in Hebrew, in Latin and in Greek.
21. The Judeans’ head cohanim therefore said to Pilate, “Don’t write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but ‘He said, “I am King of the Jews.”’”
22. Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
In Yochanan only. We see Pilate unwilling to bother himself over the point that offended the head cohanim, distinguishing between Yeshua's supposedly erroneous claim to kingship and the implication of Pilate's sign that Yeshua was in fact the king of the Jews (or: "of the Judeans"; see 1:19N, Mt 2:2N). Yochanan therefore reports the incident to show that God used Pilate's sign, intended by him to mock the people in general and only incidentally to mock Yeshua in particular, to announce an eternal truth to the whole community and. by implication (and by inclusion here), to the whole world. 

23. When the soldiers had nailed Yeshua to the stake, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier, with the under-robe left over. Now the under-robe was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom;
24. so they said to one another, “We shouldn’t tear it in pieces; let’s draw for it.” This happened in order to fulfill the words from the Tanakh, “They divided my clothes among themselves "and gambled for my robe" (Psalm 22:19(18)). This is why the soldiers did these things.
Ten books of the New Testament quote or allude to various portions of Psalm 22; it is one of the most important Messianic Psalms. 

25. Nearby Yeshua’s execution stake stood his mother, his mother’s sister Miryam the wife of K’lofah, and Miryam from Magdala.
26. When Yeshua saw his mother and the talmid whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Mother, this is your son.”
27. Then he said to the talmid, “This is your mother.” And from that time on, the talmid took her into his own home.
Yochanan alone reports this incident involving Yeshua and himself (the talmid whom he loved); it demonstrates Yeshua's filial love (see 2:4&N). 

28. After this, knowing that all things had accomplished their purpose, Yeshua, in order to fulfill the words of the Tanakh, said, “I’m thirsty.”
29. A jar full of cheap sour wine was there; so they soaked a sponge in the wine, coated it with oregano leaves and held it up to his mouth.
In response to Yeshua's "I'm thirsty," people offer him a sponge soaked in what Mattityahu calls "vinegar" (Mt 27:48) and Yochanan calls cheap sour wine (a little earlier he had been offered "bitter gall," which he had refused, Mt 27:34). They pass it up to him on what Mattityahu calls a "stick" and Yochanan a hyssop branch. Hyssop is a variety of oregano with a pungent cooling taste; it grows wild on the hill by my house, and its branches are 12-18 inches long. 

30. After Yeshua had taken the wine, he said, “It is accomplished!” And, letting his head droop, he delivered up his spirit.
Delivered up his spirit, or, putting euphemism aside, "died." 

31. It was Preparation Day, and the Judeans did not want the bodies to remain on the stake on Shabbat, since it was an especially important Shabbat. So they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies removed.
Preparation Day. The day before a Shabbat or festival when food is cooked and other preparations made, since no work is to be done on the holyday itself. This particular Preparation Day was also the first day of Pesach (see 18:28N).

But may one cook for Shabbat on a festival day? Yes; the halakhah requires an 'eruv tavshilin, which is a special agreement allowing cooking for Shabbat to be done on the festival day, provided it was commenced before the festival began. The Judeans did not want the bodies to remain on the stake after nightfall (when the Shabbat, or any next day, begins), because of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (seeGa3:13&N).

An especially important Shabbat, or, possibly: "Shabbat HaGadot" (the "Great Sabbath"): since the Greek text reads, "great was the day of that Shabbat." But what is today called Shabbat HaGadol is the Shabbat immediately preceding Passover week, not the one that falls during its seven days, as is the case here; and 1 am unaware that the terminology was different in Yeshua's day. Obviously the Shabbat of Pesach week, when millions of Jews were in Jerusalem on pilgrimage, would be an important one. The modern synagogue ritual for this Shabbat calls for reading Ezekiel 37:1-14, the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, as the haftarah (the concluding Scripture reading, from the Prophets); the passage links Pesach with Messianic times by speaking of a future redemption for Israel just as Passover itself celebrates a past one. 

32. The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been put on a stake beside Yeshua, then the legs of the other one;
33. but when they got to Yeshua and saw that he was already dead, they didn’t break his legs.
34. However, one of the soldiers stabbed his side with a spear, and at once blood and water flowed out.
Blood and water flowed out. Apart from whatever symbolism may suggest itself, such as of immersion or communion, ihe/j'sfuu, the simple sense of the text, is that Yeshua, who had been a living man, was now dead. According to medical opinion, the "blood and water" are signs that the final cause of death was massive heart failure. Thus refuted are teachings, already current among heretical groups when Yochanan wrote, that Yeshua had not been a flesh-and-blood human being (see I Yn 4:2&N). This false doctrine (docetism) is echoed by modern cults that speak of a "Christ-figure" who only faked being human.

At the same time this report disproves the "swoon theory," probably equally ancient, that Yeshua did not die but only lost consciousness and was later revived by his talmidim, who then invented the "resurrection myth." The most imaginative recent restatement of this ancient canard is Tlie Passover Plot, by the apostate Messianic Jew Hugh J. Schonfield (1901-1988). 

35. The man who saw it has testified about it, and his testimony is true. And he knows that he tells the truth, so you too can trust.
The man who saw it. Either Yochanan is writing of himself in the third person, or friends are affirming his honesty, as at 21:24. The purpose of reporting that Yeshua actually did die is the same as the purpose of the whole Gospel (20:31) — so that you too can trust. 

36. For these things happened in order to fulfill this passage of the Tanakh: "Not one of his bones will be broken" (Psalm 34:21(20); Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12)
Exodus 12:46 specifies that no bone of the Passover lamb is to be broken: Numbers 9:12 says the same thing. Yeshua is himself "the lamb of God" (1:29,36), our Passover lamb (1С 5:8&N). Psalm 34:21(20) says: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but Adonai delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken." 

37. And again, another passage says, "They will look at him whom they have pierced"' (Zechariah 12:10).
Yochanan quotes a most important Messianic prophecy, in which Adonai says,
"I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they will look upon me whom they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they will be in bitterness over him as one that is in bitterness for a firstborn." (Zechariah 12:10)

Adonai is the "me" who is pierced and the "him" who is mourned over, but Yochanan identifies the latter as Yeshua; thus, by implication, Yeshua is once again in some sense equated with Adonai (see 14:9&N).
The "they" of "they have pierced" is the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Some Jewish translations into English go back to Zechariah 12:9, where the Hebrew word "goyim" is used, and explicitly substitute "the nations" for "they" in v. 10. In my judgment this is an instance of an overdetermined translation in the service of defensive theologizing against Messianic Jewish and Christian recognition of this text as a prophecy of Yeshua. It is most natural to understand "they" as referring to the closest preceding plural noun ("the house of David and...the inhabitants of Yerushalayim") and unnatural to skip over it and go back to "the nations" for the referent. Moreover, at least one Talmudic source regards this passage of Zechariah as being Messianic in application (Sukkah 52a; for more see Ga 3:13N, also Rv 1:7&N).

Nevertheless, it may be that Yochanan understands this piercing as involving both Jews and Gentiles. It was done directly by the "nations" in the persons of Pilate and the Roman soldiers, yet it would not have happened without pressure from the Judeans (see Ac 2:22-23&N). If this understanding is correct, then both Jews and Gentiles pierced Yeshua, share responsibility for his death, and will regret what they did when they look upon him — whether spiritually now or literally when he returns.

Zechariah 12:10 also points to the future salvation of national Israel, which the New Testament confirms by Sha'ul's words, "...all Israel will be saved" (Ro 1 l:26a&N). 

38. After this, Yosef of Ramatayim, who was a talmid of Yeshua, but a secret one out of fear of the Judeans, asked Pilate if he could have Yeshua’s body. Pilate gave his consent, so Yosef came and took the body away.
39. Also Nakdimon, who at first had gone to see Yeshua by night, came with some seventy pounds of spices — a mixture of myrrh and aloes.
Yosef of Ramatayim (Mt 27:57, Mk 15:43, Lk 23:50) and Nakdimon (3:1,7:50) were two highly placed Messianic Jews, both members of the Sanhedrin (Lk 23:50-51, Yn 7:50-52); both secret believers. Yochanan does not disparage them for hiding their faith (see 9:22&N, Lk 12:8-9). But their period of secrecy was brief, for the act reported here made their beliefs known. While no one is required to make a public announcement of his convictions the moment he comes to faith, he should, after acijuiring some knowledge enabling him to defend his views (1 Ke 3:16), be willing to set fear aside and stand openly with Yeshua the Messiah. 

40. They took Yeshua’s body and wrapped it up in linen sheets with the spices, in keeping with Judean burial practice.
They took Yeshua's body and wrapped it in linen sheets. К continues to be Jewish burial practice to wrap the body in a shroud, but spices no longer are. Spices function against the rapid deterioration of the body in a hot climate and may serve an embalming function. 

41. In the vicinity of where he had been executed was a garden, and in the garden was a new tomb in which no one had ever been buried.
In the garden was a new tomb. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in ihe Old City of Jerusalem, was built on the site venerated as Yeshua's burial location at least since the early fourth century, when it was found by Helen, the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine, as she investigated local traditions. It was outside the "first" and "second" walls surrounding Jerusalem in Yeshua's day, but inside the "third" wall; it is inside the present-day wall built by sultan Suleiman I "the Great." who ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566.

Some identify Yeshua's burial location with a spot outside today's walls called the Garden Tomb. It was not advocated as a possible site until the nineteenth century, by the British Colonel Gordon; few archeologists are convinced. The place has been made into a garden and is open to tourists; it does have a tomb, perhaps from the first century and probably much like the one in which Yeshua was buried, which one can enter and see. Occasionally evidence is credibly marshalled for other locations. 

42. So, because it was Preparation Day for the Judeans, and because the tomb was close by, that is where they buried Yeshua.

next chapter...