Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Christ is led to Pilate, and accused by the Jews, Luk 23:1, Luk 23:2. Pilate examines, and pronounces him innocent, Luk 23:3, Luk 23:4. The Jews virulently accuse him, Luk 23:5. Pilate, understanding that he was of Galilee, sends him to Herod, by whom he is examined, Luk 23:6-9. The chief priests and scribes vehemently accuse him, and Herod and his soldiers mock him, Luk 23:10, Luk 23:11. Pilate and Herod become friends, Luk 23:12. Pilate, before the chief priests, rulers, and people, pronounces Christ to be innocent, and offers to release him, Luk 23:13-20. The Jews clamor for his condemnation, and Pilate gives him up to their will, Luk 23:21-25. Simon bears his cross, Luk 23:26. The people bewail him, and he foretells the destruction of the Jewish state, Luk 23:27-31. He and two malefactors are brought to Calvary, and are crucified, Luk 23:32, Luk 23:33. He prays for his crucifiers, Luk 23:34. He is derided, mocked, and insulted by the rulers, and by the soldiers, Luk 23:35-37. The superscription on the cross, Luk 23:38. The conduct of the two malefactors, to one of whom he promises paradise, Luk 23:39-43. The great darkness, Luk 23:44, Luk 23:45. He gives up the ghost, Luk 23:46. The centurion and many others are greatly affected at his death, Luk 23:47-49. Joseph of Arimathea begs the body, and puts it in his own new tomb, Luk 23:50-53. The women prepare spices and ointments to embalm him, Luk 23:54-56.
The whole multitude - It seems most probable that the chief priests, elders, scribes, and captains of the temple, together with their servants, dependents, and other persons hired for the purpose, made up the multitude mentioned here. The common people were generally favourers of Christ; and for this reason the Jewish rulers caused him to be apprehended in the night, and in the absence of the people, Luk 22:6, and it was now but just the break of day, Luk 22:66.
Perverting the nation - The Greek word διαστρεφοντα, signifies stirring up to disaffection and rebellion. Many MSS. and versions add ἡμων, Our nation. They intimated that he not only preached corrupt doctrine, but that he endeavored to make them disaffected towards the Roman government, for which they now pretended to feel a strong affection!
Several copies of the Itala add, Destroying our law and prophets. Et solventem legem nostram et prophetas.
Forbidding to give tribute to Caesar - These were the falsest slanders that could be invented. The whole of our Lord's conduct disproved them. And his decision in the case of the question about the lawfulness of paying tribute to Caesar, Mat 22:21, was so fully known that we find Pilate paid not the least attention to such evidently malicious and unfounded accusations. Neither Christ nor any of his followers, from that day until now, ever forbade the paying tribute to Caesar; that is, constitutional taxes to a lawful prince.
I find no fault in this man - According to Joh 18:36, Joh 18:38, Pilate did not say this till after our Lord had declared to him that his kingdom was not of this world; and probably not till after he had found, on examining witnesses, (Luk 23:14), that all their evidence amounted to no proof, of his having set up himself for a temporal king. See Bishop Pearce.
Saying, He stirreth up the people, etc. - In the Codex Colbertinus, a copy of the ancient Itala or Antehieronymian version, this verse stands thus: He stirreth up the people, beginning from Galilee, and teaching through all Judea unto this place; our wives and our children he hath rendered averse from us, and he is not baptized as we are. As the Jews found that their charge of sedition was deemed frivolous by Pilate, they changed it, and brought a charge equally false and groundless against his doctrine.
Herod's jurisdiction - The city of Nazareth, in which Christ had continued till he was thirty years of age, and that of Capernaum, in which he principally resided the last years of his life, were both in Lower Galilee, of which Herod Antipas was tetrarch. Pilate was probably glad of this opportunity to pay a little respect to Herod, whom it is likely he had irritated, and with whom he now wished to be friends. See Luk 23:12.
The chief priests - vehemently accused him - Corrupt priests and teachers are generally the most implacable enemies of Christ and his truth. Evil passions betray those who are slaves to them. An affected moderation would have rendered these accusers less suspected, their accusations more probable, and the envy less visible than this vehemence: but envy seldom or never consults prudence: and God permits this to be so for the honor of truth and innocence. Quesnel.
A gorgeous robe - Εσθητα λαμπραν. It probably means a white robe, for it was the custom of the Jewish nobility to wear such. Hence, in Rev 3:4, it is said of the saints, They shall walk with me in White (garments), because they are Worthy. In such a robe, Herod, by way of mockery, caused our Lord to be clothed; but, the nobility among the Romans wearing purple for the most part, Pilate's soldiers, who were Romans, put on Jesus a purple robe, Mar 15:17; Joh 19:2; both of them following the custom of their own country, when, by way of mocking our Lord as a king, they clothed him in robes of state. See Bishop Pearce.
Pilate and Herod were made friends - I do not find any account of the cause of the enmity which subsisted between Herod and Pilate given by ancient authors; and the conjectures of the moderns on the subject should be considered as mere guesses. It is generally supposed that this enmity arose from what is related Luke 13, of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate hath mingled with that of their sacrifices. These were Herod's subjects, and Pilate seems to have fallen on them at the time they were offering sacrifices to God at the temple. Wicked men cannot love one another: this belongs to the disciples of Christ. But when Christ, his truth, or his followers are to be persecuted, for this purpose the wicked unite their counsels and their influence. The Moabites and Ammonites, who were enemies among themselves, united against poor Israel, and, as Rabbi Tanchum says, may be likened to two contending dogs, who, when the wolf comes, join together to destroy him; each knowing that, if he do not, the wolf will kill both in succession: whereas, by their union, they may now kill or baffle him. There is a proverb among the rabbins, that, when the cat and weasel marry together, misery becomes increased.
No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him - That is, to see whether he could find that Christ had ever attempted to raise any disaffection or sedition among the Galileans, among whom he had spent the principal part of his life; and yet Herod has not been able to find out any evil in his conduct. Your own accusations I have fully weighed, and find them to the last degree frivolous.
Instead of ανεπεμψα γαρ ὑμας προς αυτον, for I sent you to him, BHKLM, and many other MSS., with some versions, read ανεπεμψεν γαρ αυτον προς ἡμας, for he hath sent him to us. As if he had said, "Herod hath sent him back to us, which is a sure proof that he hath found no blame in him."
Nothing worthy of death is done unto him - Or rather, nothing worthy of death is committed by him, Πεπραγμενον αυτῳ, not, done unto him. This phrase is of the same sense with ουδεν πεπραχεν αυτος, he hath done nothing, and is frequent in the purest Attic writers. See many examples in Kypke.
For of necessity he must release one - That is, he was under the necessity of releasing one at this feast. The custom, however it originated, had now been so completely established that Pilate was obliged to attend to it. See on Mat 27:15 (note).
Away with this man - That is, Put him to death - αιρε τουτον, literally, Take this one away, i.e. to punishment - to death.
I have found no cause of death in him - I find no crime worthy of death in him. There is nothing proved against him that can at all justify me in putting him to death, So here our blessed Lord was in the most formal manner justified by his judge. Now as this decision was publicly known, and perhaps registered, it is evident that Christ died as an innocent person, and not as a malefactor. On the fullest conviction of his innocence, his judge pronounced him guiltless, after having patiently heard every thing that the inventive malice of these wicked men could allege against him; and, when he wished to dismiss him, a violent mob took and murdered him.
Simon, a Cyrenian - See on Mat 27:32 (note).
Bewailed and lamented him - Εκοπτοντο, Beat their breasts. See on Mat 11:17 (note).
Weep not for me - Many pious persons have been greatly distressed in their minds, because they could not weep on reading or hearing of the sufferings of Christ. For the relief of all such, let it be for ever known that no human spirit can possibly take any part in the passion of the Messiah. His sufferings were such as only God manifested in the flesh could bear; and, as they were all of an expiatory nature, no man can taste of or share in them. Besides, the sufferings of Christ are not a subject of sorrow to any man; but, on the contrary, of eternal rejoicing to the whole of a lost world. Some have even prayed to participate in the sufferings of Christ. The legend of St. Francis and his stigmata is well known. - He is fabled to have received the marks in his hands, feet, and side.
Relative to this point, there are many unwarrantable expressions used by religious people in their prayers and hymns. To give only one instance, how often do we hear these or similar words said or sung: -
"Give me to feel thy agonies!
One drop of thy sad cup afford!"
Reader! one drop of this cup would bear down thy soul to endless ruin; and these agonies would annihilate the universe. He suffered alone: for of the people there was none with him; because his sufferings were to make an atonement for the sins of the world: and in the work of redemption he had no helper.
Mountains, fall on us - As this refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, and as the same expressions are used, Rev 6:16, Dr. Lightfoot conjectures that the whole of that chapter may relate to the same event.
If they do these things in a green tree - This seems to be a proverbial expression, the sense of which is: If they spare not a tree which, by the beauty of its foliage, abundance and excellence of its fruits, deserves to be preserved, then the tree which is dry and withered will surely be cut down. If an innocent man be put to death in the very face of justice, in opposition to all its dictates and decisions, by a people who profess to be governed and directed by Divine laws, what desolation, injustice, and oppression may not be expected, when anarchy and confusion sit in the place where judgment and justice formerly presided? Our Lord alludes prophetically to those tribulations which fell upon the Jewish people about forty years after. See the notes on Matthew 24:1-51 (note).
Two other malefactors - Ἑτεροι δυο κακουργοι, should certainly be translated two others, malefactors, as in the Bibles published by the King's printer, Edinburgh. As it now stands in the text, it seems to intimate that our blessed Lord was also a malefactor.
The place - called Calvary - See on Mat 27:33 (note).
They crucified him - See the nature of this punishment explained Mat 27:35 (note).
They know not what they do - If ignorance do not excuse a crime, it at least diminishes the atrocity of it. However, these persons well knew that they were crucifying an innocent man; but they did not know that, by this act of theirs, they were bringing down on themselves and on their country the heaviest judgments of God. In the prayer, Father, forgive them! that word of prophecy was fulfilled, He made intercession for the transgressors, Isa 53:12.
Derided him - Treated him with the utmost contempt, εξεμυκτηριζον, in the most infamous manner. See the meaning of this word explained, Luk 16:14 (note).
Offering him vinegar - See on Mat 27:34 (note). Vinegar or small sour wine, was a common drink of the Roman soldiers; and it is supposed that wherever they were on duty they had a vessel of this liquor standing by. It appears that at least two cups were given to our Lord; one before he was nailed to the cross, viz. of wine mingled with myrrh, and another of vinegar, while he hung on the cross. Some think there were three cups: One of wine mixed with myrrh; the Second, of vinegar mingled with gall; and the Third, of simple vinegar. Allow these three cups, and the different expressions in all the evangelists will be included. See Lightfoot.
A superscription - See Mat 27:37.
In letters of Greek, and Latin and Hebrew - The inscription was written in all these languages, which were the most common, that all might see the reason why he was put to death. The inscription was written in Greek, on account of the Hellenistic Jews, who were then at Jerusalem because of the passover; it was written in Latin, that being the language of the government under which he was crucified; and it was written in Hebrew, that being the language of the place in which this deed of darkness was committed. But, by the good providence of God, the inscription itself exculpated him, and proved the Jews to be rebels against, and murderers of, their king. See the note on Mat 27:37. It is not to be wondered at that they wished Pilate to alter this inscription, Joh 19:21, as it was a record of their infamy.
One of the malefactors which were hanged - It is likely that the two robbers were not nailed to their crosses, but only tied to them by cords, and thus they are represented in ancient paintings. If not nailed, they could not have suffered much, and therefore they were found still alive when the soldiers came to give the coup de grace, which put a speedy end to their lives. Joh 19:31-33.
Dost not thou fear God - The sufferings of this person had been sanctified to him, so that his heart was open to receive help from the hand of the Lord: he is a genuine penitent, and gives the fullest proof he can give of it, viz. the acknowledgment of the justice of his sentence. He had sinned, and he acknowledges his sin; his heart believes unto righteousness, and with his tongue he makes confession unto salvation. While he condemns himself he bears testimony that Jesus was innocent. Bishop Pearce supposes that these were not robbers in the common sense of the word, but Jews who took up arms on the principle that the Romans were not to be submitted to, and that their levies of tribute money were oppressive; and therefore they made no scruple to rob all the Romans they met with. These Jews Josephus calls λῃσται, robbers, the same term used by the evangelists. This opinion gains some strength from the penitent thief's confession: We receive the reward of our deeds - we rose up against the government, and committed depredations in the country; but this man hath done nothing amiss - ατοπον, out of place, disorderly, - nothing calculated to raise sedition or insurrection; nor inconsistent with his declarations of peace and good will towards all men, nor with the nature of that spiritual kingdom which he came to establish among men; though he is now crucified under the pretense of disaffection to the Roman government.
Lord, remember me, etc. - It is worthy of remark, that this man appears to have been the first who believed in the intercession of Christ.
To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise - Marcion and the Manichees are reported to have left this verse out of their copies of this evangelist. This saying of our Lord is justly considered as a strong proof of the immateriality of the soul; and it is no wonder that those who have embraced the contrary opinion should endeavor to explain away this meaning. In order to do this, a comma is placed after σημερον, to-day, and then our Lord is supposed to have meant, "Thou shalt be with me after the resurrection I tell thee this, To-Day." I am sorry to find men of great learning and abilities attempting to support this most feeble and worthless criticism. Such support a good cause cannot need; and, in my opinion, even a bad cause must be discredited by it.
In paradise. The garden of Eden, mentioned Gen 2:8, is also called, from the Septuagint, the garden of Paradise. The word עדן Eden, signifies pleasure and delight. Several places were thus called; see Gen 4:16; Kg2 19:12; Isa 37:12; Eze 27:23; and Amo 1:5; and such places probably had this name from their fertility, pleasant situation, etc., etc. In this light the Septuagint have viewed Gen 2:8. as they render the passage thus: εφυτευσεν ὁ Θεος παραδεισον εν Εδεμ, God planted a paradise in Eden. Hence the word has been transplanted into the New Testament; and is used to signify a place of exquisite pleasure and delight. From this the ancient heathens borrowed their ideas of the gardens of the Hesperides, where the trees bore golden fruit; and the gardens of Adonis, a word which is evidently derived from the Hebrew עדן Eden: and hence the origin of sacred groves, gardens, and other enclosures dedicated to purposes of devotion, some comparatively innocent, others impure. The word paradise is not Greek, but is of Asiatic origin. In Arabic and Persian it signifies a garden, a vineyard, and also the place of the blessed. In the Kushuf ul Loghat, a very celebrated Persian dictionary, the Jenet al Ferdoos, Garden of Paradise, is said to have been "created by God out of light, and that the prophets and wise men ascend thither."
Paradise was, in the beginning, the habitation of man in his state of innocence, in which he enjoyed that presence of his Maker which constituted his supreme happiness. Our Lord's words intimate that this penitent should be immediately taken to the abode of the spirits of the just, where he should enjoy the presence and approbation of the Most High. In the Institutes of Menu, chap. Oeconomics, Inst. 243, are the following words: "A man habitually pious, whose offenses have been expiated, is instantly conveyed, after death, to the higher world, with a radiant form, and a body of ethereal substance." The state of the blessed is certainly what our Lord here means: in what the locality of that state consists we know not. The Jews share a multitude of fables on the subject.
Darkness over all the earth - See the note on Mat 27:45. The darkness began at the sixth hour, about our twelve o'clock at noon, and lasted till the ninth hour, which answered to our three o'clock in the afternoon.
The sun was darkened - See an examination of the accounts of Phlegon, Thallus, and Dionysius, on Mat 27:45 (note).
The veil - was rent - See Mat 27:51.
Into thy hands I commend my spirit - Or, I will commit my spirit - I deposit my soul in thy hands. Another proof of the immateriality of the soul, and of its separate existence when the body is dead.
And all the people - All were deeply affected except the priests, and those whom they had employed to serve their base purposes. The darkness, earthquake, etc., had brought terror and consternation into every heart. How dreadful is the state of those who, in consequence of their long opposition to the grace and truth of God, are at last given up to a reprobate mind!
Joseph of Arimathea - See the notes on Mat 27:57-60 (note), and those especially on Mar 15:43 (note).
And the Sabbath drew on - Or, The Sabbath was lighting up, επεφωσκε, i.e. with the candles which the Jews light just before six in the evening, when the Sabbath commences. The same word is used for the dawning of the day, Mat 28:1. Wakefield. The Jews always lighted up candles on the Sabbath; and it was a solemn precept that, "if a man had not bread to eat, he must beg from door to door to get a little oil to set up his Sabbath light." The night of the Sabbath drew on, which the Jews were accustomed to call the light. See Lightfoot.
The women also, which came - These were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, Luk 24:10. To these three, Mark, in Mar 16:1, adds, Salome; but some think that this was only a surname of one of these Marys.
Prepared spices and ointments - This was in order to embalm him; which sufficiently proves that they had no hope of his resurrection the third day.
And rested the Sabbath day - For though the Jewish canons allowed all works, necessary for the dead, to be done, even on the Sabbath, such as washing and anointing, provided they moved not a limb of the dead person, yet, as the Jews had put Christ to death under the pretense of his being a malefactor, it would not have been either prudent or safe to appear too forward in the present business; and therefore they rested on the Sabbath.
Certain copies of the Itala have some remarkable additions in these concluding verses. The conclusion of the 48th verse, in one of them, is read thus: Beating their breasts and their foreheads, and saying, Wo to us because of what is done this day, on account of our sins; for the desolation of Jerusalem is at hand. To Luk 23:52, another adds: And when Pilate heard that he was dead, he glorified God and gave the body to Joseph. On the circumstances of the crucifixion, see the observations at the end of Matthew 27 (note), and consider how heinous sin must be in the sight of God, when it required such a sacrifice!