Mark 15 Bible Commentary

John Lightfoot’s Bible Commentary

(Read all of Mark 15)
1. And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.

[In the morning they held a consultation...and the whole council.] "At what time do the judges sit in judgment? The lesser Sanhedrim and the bench of three sit, after morning prayers are ended, until the end of the sixth hour. But the great Sanhedrim sits after the morning daily sacrifice to the afternoon daily sacrifice. And on sabbaths and feast days" [as this day was that is here spoken of], "it sat in Beth-midrash" (or the chapel), "in the Court of the Gentiles."

"The Sanhedrim of one-and-seventy elders, it is not necessary that they all sit in their place, which is in the Temple. But when it is necessary that all meet together, let all meet together (the whole council)."

"But in other times, he that hath business of his own, let him attend his own business, and then return. With this proviso, that nothing be wanting of the number of three-and-twenty upon the bench continually during the whole time of the session (the consultation). If any must go out, let him look round, whether his colleagues be three-and-twenty: if they be, let him go out: but if not, let him wait till another enter in."

6. Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.

[At that feast he released, &c.] The Syriac reads,...; and so the Arab, every feast: Beza, at each of the feasts, which pleases me not at all. For it is plainly said by Pilate himself, "that I should release unto you one at the Passover," John 18:39: and the releasing of a prisoner suits not so well to the other feasts as to the Passover; because the Passover carries with it the memory of the release of the people out of Egypt: but other feasts had other respects...according to the nature and quality of the feast, which was a monument of release...

7. And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.

[Barabbas.] Let us mention also with him a very famous rogue in the Talmudists, Ben Dinai, whose name also was Eleazar. Of whom they have this passage worthy of chronological observation; "From the time that murderers were multiplied, the beheading the red cow ceased; namely, from the time that Eleazar Ben Dinai came; who was also called Techinnah Ben Perishah: but again they called him, The son of a murderer." Of him mention is made elsewhere, where it is written Ben Donai. See also Ben Nezer, the king of the robbers.

21. And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.

[Coming out of the country, or field.] "They bring wood out of the field [on a feast-day], either bound together, or from some place fenced round or scattered." The Gloss there is; "They bring wood on a feast day out of the field, which is within the limits of the sabbath, if it be bound together on the eve of the feast-day, &c. A place watched and fenced in every way." And Rambam writes, "Rabbi Jose saith, If there be a door in such a fenced place, although it be distant from the city almost two thousand cubits, which are the limits of the sabbath, one may bring wood thence."

It may be conceived, that Simon the Cyrenean came out of the field thus loaded with wood; and you may conceive that he had given occasion to the soldiers or executioners, why they would lay the cross upon him, namely, because they saw that he was a strong bearer; and instead of one burden, they laid this other upon him to bear.

25. And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

[And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.] But John saith, 19:14, And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour; namely, when Pilate delivered him to be crucified. From the former clause, it was the preparation of the Passover, hath sprung that opinion, of which we have said something before concerning the transferring of the eating of the lamb this year to the fifteenth day. For they think by the preparation of the Passover is to be understood the preparation of the lamb, or for the eating of the lamb. For which interpretation they think that makes, which is said by the same John, 18:28, "They would not go into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover." And hence it is confidently concluded by them, that however Christ ate his lamb the day before, yet the Jews were to eat theirs this very day.

We will discourse first of the day, as it here occurs under the name of the preparation of the Passover; and then of the hour:--

I. Every Israelite was bound, within that seven day's solemnity, after the lamb was eaten, to these two things: 1. To appear before the Lord in the court, and that with a sacrifice. 2. To solemn joy and mirth, and that also with sacrifices. The former was called by the Jews Appearance. The latter Chagigah, the festival.

"All are bound to appear, except deaf-and-dumb, fools, young children," &c. And a little after; "The school of Shammai saith, Let the Appearance be with two silver pieces of money, and the Chagigah be with a 'meah' of silver. The school of Hillel saith, Let the Appearance be with a meah of silver, and the Chagigah with two pieces of silver." The Gloss writes thus; "All are bound to make their appearance from that precept, 'All thy males shall appear,' &c. Exodus 23:17: and it is necessary that they appear in the court in the feast. He that appears when he placeth himself in the court, let him bring a burnt offering, which is by no means to be of less price than two pieces of silver, that is, of two meahs of silver. They are bound also to the peace offerings of the Chagigah by that law, Ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD," Exodus 12:14. Rambam upon the place thus; "The Lord saith, 'Let them not appear before me empty,' Deuteronomy 16:16. That is, Let him bring an oblation of a burnt sacrifice in his hand when he goes up to the feast. And those burnt sacrifices are called burnt-sacrifices of appearance, and also appearance, without the addition of the word burnt sacrifice. And the Chagigah: From thence, because the Lord saith, 'Ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord,' it means this, That a man bring peace offerings, and these peace offerings are called Chagigah."

II. Of these two, namely, the appearance and the Chagigah, the Chagigah was the greater and more famous. For

First, certain persons were obliged to the Chagigah, who were not obliged to the appearance: "He that indeed is not deaf, but yet is dumb, is not obliged to appearance; but yet he is obliged to rejoice." It is true some of the Gemarists distinguish between Chagigah and rejoicing. But one Glosser upon the place alleged that which he saith of 'rejoicing,' obtains also of the 'Chagigah.' And another saith, "He is bound to rejoicing, namely, to rejoice in the feast; as it is written, 'And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast.' And they say elsewhere, that that rejoicing is over the peace-offerings, namely, in eating flesh."

Secondly, appearance was not tied so strictly to the first day, but the Chagigah was tied to it. "Burnt sacrifices by vow, and free will offerings are offered on the common days of the feast, they are not offered on a feast day: but the burnt sacrifices of appearance may be offered also on a feast day: and when they are offered, let them not be offered but out of common cattle: but the peace offerings of rejoicing also out of the tithes the 'Chagigah' of the first feast day of the Passover. The school of Shammai saith, Let it be of common cattle: the school of Hillel saith, Let it be of the tithes. What is it that it teaches of the Chagigah of the first feast day of the Passover? Rabh Ishai saith, the 'Chagigah' of the fifteenth day is so: the 'Chagigah' of the fourteenth, not." The Gloss is; "The burnt offerings of appearance were not offered the first day of the feast, although they were due to the feast, because compensation might be made by them the day following."

"The 'Chagigah' of the first feast day was without doubt due; although it had flesh enough otherways." For, as it is said a little before, "They offered peace offerings on that feast day because they had need of them for private food": and although there was food enough, yet the Chagigah was to be offered as the due of the day.

"The Chagigah of the fourteenth day was this, when any company was numerous, they joined the Chagigah also with the paschal lamb, that they might eat the passover, even till they were filled. But now the Chagigah of that first day was not but of common cattle: but the Chagigah of the fourteenth day might also be of the tithes."

It was a greater matter to offer of common cattle (or cholin) than of the tithes of the first-born, for they were owing to the Lord by right: but to offer the cholin was the part of further devotion and free will.

That therefore which John saith, that "the Jews would not go into the judgment hall lest they should be polluted, but that they might eat the passover," is to be understood of that Chagigah of the fifteenth day, not of the paschal lamb: for that also is called the passover, Deuteronomy 16:2; "Thou shalt sacrifice the passover to the Lord of thy flocks and of thy herds." Of thy flocks; this indeed, by virtue of that precept, Exodus 12:3: but what have we to do with herds? "'Of thy herds,' saith R. Solomon, for the Chagigah." And Aben Ezra saith, "'Of thy flocks,' according to the duty of the passover; 'of thy herds,' for the peace offerings," and produceth that, 2 Chronicles 30:24, 35:8. The Targum of Jonathan writes; "Ye shall kill the passover before the Lord your God, between the eves, and your sheep and oxen on the morrow, in that very day, in joy of the feast."

In one Glosser mention is made of the less passover; by which if he understands not the passover of the second month, which is very usually called by them the second passover, or the passover of the second month, instruct me what he means by it. However this matter is clear in Moses, that oxen, or the sacrifices offered after the lamb eaten, are called the 'passover,' as well as the lamb itself.

And no wonder, when the lamb was the very least part of the joy, and there were seven feast-days after he was eaten: and when the lamb was a thing rubbing up the remembrance of affliction, rather than denoting gladness and making merry. For the unleavened bread was marked out by the holy Scripture under that very notion, and so also the bitter herbs, which were things that belonged to the lamb. But how much of the solemnity of the feast is attributed to the Chagigah, and the other sacrifices after that, it would be too much to mention, since it occurs everywhere.

Hear the author of the Aruch concerning the Chagigah of Pentecost: "The word chag denotes dancing, and clapping hands for joy. In the Syriac language it is chigah: and from this root it is, because they eat, and drink, and dance [or make holiday]. And the sacrifice of the Chagigah, which they were bound to bring on a feast day, is that concerning which the Scripture saith, and thou shalt make chag, a solemnity of weeks to the Lord thy God, a free will offering of thy hand,'" &c. Deuteronomy 16:10.

And now tell me whence received that feast its denomination, that it should be called the feast of weeks? Not from the offering of the loaves of first fruits, but from the Chagigah, and the feasting on the Chagigah. The same is to be said of the feast of the Passover. So that John said nothing strange to the ears of the Jews, when he said, "They went not into the judgment hall lest they might be polluted, but that they might eat the passover"; pointing with his finger to the Chagigah, and not to the lamb, eaten indeed the day before.

The word passover might sound to the same sense in those words of his also, "It was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour." It was the preparation to the Chagigah, and not to the lamb. But I suspect something more may be understood; namely, that on that day both food was prepared, and the mind too for the mirth of the whole feast. So that the passover denotes the feast, not this or that particular appendage to the feast. The burnt sacrifices which were offered in the appearance, they all became God's, as the masters say truly; and he who offered them carried not back the least part of them with him. But the sacrifices of the Chagigah, whether they were oxen or sheep, the greatest part of them returned to them that offered them; and with them they and their friends made solemn and joyful feastings while they tarried at Jerusalem. So that the oblation of these on the first day of the feast was the preparation of the passover, and the preparation of Pentecost, and the preparation of the feast of Tabernacles: that is, the day and manner of preparing food for the following mirth of the feast. In the same sense was the preparation of the sabbath, namely, the preparation of food and things necessary to the sabbath. Of which we shall speak at verse 42.

Having thus despatched these things, let us now come to the hour itself. "It was the preparation of the passover (saith John), and about the sixth hour," when Pilate delivered Christ to be crucified. "And it was the third hour (saith Mark), and they crucified him."

It is disputed by the Gemarists, how far the evidences of two men may agree and consent, whereof one saith, 'This I saw done in that hour'; and the other saith, 'I saw it done another hour.' "One saith, the second hour; another, the third: their testimony consists together. One saith the third hour, another the fifth; their testimony is vain, as R. Meir saith. But saith R. Judah, their testimony consists together. But if one saith, the fifth hour, another, the seventh hour, their testimony is vain; because in the fifth hour the sun is in the east part of heaven; in the seventh, in the west part." They dispute largely concerning this matter in the place alleged, and concerning evidences differing in words; nevertheless, as to the thing itself, they conclude that both may be true, because witnesses may be deceived in the computation of hours: which to conclude concerning the evangelists, were impious and blasphemous. But there is one supposes the copiers were deceived in their transcription, and would have the computation of John corrected into and it was about the third hour: too boldly, and indeed without any reason, for it is neither credible nor possible indeed, that those things which went before our Saviour's crucifixion should be done (to use the words of the Talmudists) in the three first hours of the day. The harmony therefore of the evangelists is to be fetched elsewhere.

I. Let us repeat that out of Maimonides; "The great Sanhedrim sat from the morning daily sacrifice, until the afternoon daily sacrifice." But now when the morning daily sacrifice was at the third hour, the Sanhedrim sat not before that hour. Take heed, therefore, thou that wouldest have the words of John, "and it was about the sixth hour," to be changed into, "and it was about the third hour," lest thou becomest guilty of a great solecism. For Pilate could not deliver Christ to be crucified about the third hour, when the Sanhedrim sat not before the third hour, and Christ was not yet delivered to Pilate.

But you will say, the words of Mark do obscure these things much more. For if the Sanhedrim that delivered up Christ met not together before the third hour, one can no way say that they crucified him the third hour.

We do here propound two things for the explanation of this matter.

Let the first be taken from the day itself, and from the hour itself. That day was "the preparation of the passover," a day of high solemnity, and when it behoved the priests and the other fathers of the Sanhedrim to be present at the third hour in the Temple, and to offer their Chagigahs that were preparative to the whole seven days' festivity: but they employed themselves in another thing, namely this. You may observe that he saith not, "it was the third hour when"; but "it was the third hour, and they crucified him." That is, when the third hour now was, and was passed, yet they omitted not to prosecute his crucifixion, when indeed, according to the manner of the feast and the obligation of religion, they ought to have been employed otherwise. I indeed should rather sit down satisfied with this interpretation, than accuse the holy text as depraved, or to deprave it more with my amendment. But,

Secondly, there is another sense also not to be despised, if our judgment is any thing, which we fetch from a custom usual in the Sanhedrim, but from which they now swerved. They are treating concerning a guilty person condemned to hanging, with whom they deal in this process: they tarry until sunset approach, and then they finish his judgment and put him to death. Note that: 'They finish not his judgment until sunset draw near.' If you ask the reason, a more general one may be given which respected all persons condemned to die, and a more special one which respected him which was to be hanged.

I. There was that which is called by the Talmudists the affliction of judgment: by which phrase they understand not judgment that is not just, but when he that is condemned, after judgment passed, is not presently put to death. "If you finish his judgment on the sabbath [mark that], and put him to death on the first day of the week, you afflict his judgment." Where the Gloss is, "As long as his judgment is not finished, it is not the affliction of judgment, because he expects every hour to be absolved: but when judgment is ended, he expects death," &c. Therefore they delayed but little between the finishing of judgment and execution.

II. As to those that were to be hanged, "they delayed the finishing his judgment, and they hanged him not in the morning, lest they might grow slack about his burial, and might fall into forgetfulness," and might sin against the law, Deuteronomy 21:23; "but near sunset, that they might presently bury him." So the Gloss. They put him to death not sooner, for this reason; they finished not his judgment sooner for the reason above said.

And now let us resume the words of Mark, "And it was the third hour, and they crucified him." The Sanhedrim used not to finish the judgment of hanging until they were now ready to rise up and depart from the council and bench after the Mincha, the day now inclining towards sunset: but these men finished the judgment of Jesus, and hastened him to the cross, when they first came into the court at the third hour, at the time of the daily sacrifice, which was very unusual, and different from the custom.

34. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

[Eloi, Eloi.] In Matthew it is Eli, Eli, in the very same syllables of Psalm 22:1: Mark, according to the present dialect (namely, the Chaldee), useth at least according to the pronunciation of the word Eloi, Judges 5:5 in the LXX.

42. And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath.

[The preparation, that is, the day of the sabbath.] You will ask, whether any day going before the sabbath was called the preparation. Among the Hebrews, indeed, it is commonly said the eve of the sabbath. But be it granted; whence is it called the preparation? Either that they prepared themselves for the sabbath; or rather, that they prepared provisions to be eaten on the sabbath; and that by the law, "On the sixth day they shall prepare, &c. Whatsoever ye will bake, bake today; and whatsoever ye will seethe, seethe today," &c. Exodus 16:5,23. Hence preparation is a very usual word with them in this sense "a common day prepares for the sabbath, and a common day prepares for a feast day." "But those reasons do not hold good to forbid the preparation, while as yet there remains much of the day": preparation.

But you will say, If a feast day prepares not for the sabbath (which Maimonides saith), such an interpretation will not suit with the words which we are now handling, that it should be called the preparation, in respect of provisions prepared for the sabbath on that day. Let the masters themselves answer.

"On a feast day, which happens on the sabbath eve, let not a man in the beginning seethe food after the feast day for the sabbath day, but let him seethe for the feast day, and if any remain, let it be reserved for the sabbath. But (according to the letter, Let him make a boiling, but the sense is) Let him prepare food on the eve of the feast day, and let him depend upon it for the sabbath. The school of Shammai saith, a twofold food: that of Hillel saith, One food."

Maimonides speaks plainer: "On a feast day that falls in with a sabbath even, they do not bake nor seethe on the feast day what they eat on the sabbath." And this prohibition is from the words of the scribes: namely, That none seethe on a feast day for a common day; for this is arguing from the greater to the less: if a man seethe not for the sabbath day, much less for a common day. But if he provides food on the eve of the feast day, on which he may depend, then if he bake or seethe on the feast day for the sabbath, it is permitted: and that on which he depends is called the mixing of food. And why is it called mixing [a mingling together]? namely, as that mixing which they make concerning the courts or the vestries on the sabbath eve is for acknowledgment, that is, that they should not think that it is lawful to carry any thing from place to place on the sabbath; so this food is for acknowledgment and remembrance, that they should not think or imagine that it is lawful to bake any thing on a feast day which is not eaten that day: therefore this food is called the mixing of food.

Of the mixing of courts, we speak 1 Corinthians 10:16. The sum of the matter is this, many families dwelt by one common court. Now therefore when it was not lawful to carry out any thing on the sabbath from a place which was of one right and condition, to a place which was of another; therefore it was not lawful for any one of those families to carry out any thing out of his house into the court joining to his door, and on the contrary; all partook of the communion and mixture of the right, and that by eating together of that food which was brought together by them all; and then it was lawful. So in this case whereof we are now treating. Since it was not lawful by the canons of the scribes to prepare any food on a feast day for the sabbath that followed on the morrow, and since of necessity something was to be prepared for the sabbath, they mollified the rigour of the canon thus; that first some food should be prepared on the feast day, which was a mixture as it were of right, and depending upon this thus prepared, they might prepare any thing for the morrow sabbath.

Of the mixture of foods, mention occurs in the Talmudists infinite times; and these things which have been spoken concerning them afford not a little light to the clause which we are now handling, and to others where the word preparation occurs; and make those things plainer which we have said concerning the preparation of the Passover; namely, that it denoteth not either the preparation of the Paschal lamb, nor the preparation of the people to eat the lamb; but the preparation of meats to be eaten in the Passover week. Nor in this place, if it be applied to the sabbath, doth it denote any other thing than the preparation of food for the sabbath now approaching. So that that day wherein Christ was crucified was a double preparation in the double sense alleged: namely, the whole day, but especially from the third hour, was the preparation of the Passover, or of the whole week following; and the evening of the day was the preparation of the sabbath following on the morrow.

Of that sabbath John saith, which we cannot let pass, that the day of that sabbath was a great day, chapter 19:31. For it was the day of the people's appearance in the Temple; it was the day of the offering of the sheaf of firstfruits: and I ask, whether before that day Christ's persecutors had offered their Chagigahs?

43. Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

[An honourable counsellor.] The Vulgar reads, a noble officer: Erasmus, an honourable senator: Beza, an honourable senator. The Talmud may serve here instead of a lexicon.

"Was it the chamber of the chief men? Was it not the chamber of the counsellors? First it was called, the chamber of the counsellors: but when the high priesthood was bought with money, and yearly changed, as the chief counsellors of the king are yearly changed, thence it was called the chamber of chief men." The Gloss is, counsellors, denotes princes. True, indeed, and hence noble men and common persons are contradistinguished. But why should one not understand those princes and nobles in the proper sense of the word counsellors? For who sees not that the word is Greek? and so the Aruch; it is a Greek word.

Which fixeth our eyes faster upon the words of the Gloss at the Gemara in the place alleged; "From the beginning, in the days of Simeon the Just, who lived a greater while, they called it the chamber of the counsellors." What? did the Greek language so flourish at Jerusalem in the times of Simeon the Just, that a chamber in the Temple should be called by a Greek name? If that Simeon be he who met Alexander the Great, which the Talmudists suppose, then some reason appears for it; but if not, inquire further. However, that was the chamber of the high priest, as appears often in the Talmudists; not that he always lived there, nor that once in the year he resorted thither; but because it was that place where he sat with the council of the priests, and consulted concerning the public service and affairs of the Temple. Hence in the Jerusalem writers mention is made of Simeon the counsellor. And in this sense is that to be taken, if I mistake not, which occurs once and again in the Babylonian Talmudists, concerning the sons of the high priests, deciding several things; and the house of judgment of the priests.

Hence we think Joseph of Arimathea was called with good reason a counsellor, because he was a priest, and one of that sacerdotal bench. It was called the chamber, (saith the Aruch) of counsellors.