2. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the
nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.
[We found this fellow perverting the nation.] "A disciple corrupting his
food publicly, as did Jesus of Nazareth." 'To corrupt their food publicly,' is
a phrase amongst the Rabbins to denote a mingling of true doctrine with heresy, and the
true worship of God with idolatry. This was the accusation they framed against our Saviour
at this time, that he taught heterodox and destructive principles, such especially as
would tend to turn off and alienate the people from their obedience to the Romans. Aruch
recites this passage of the Talmud more cautiously; for instead of as Jesus of Nazareth
did, he hath it, as Jeroboam did.
7. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to
Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.
[He sent him to Herod.] Did Pilate do this as yielding to Herod a jurisdiction
in capital matters within the city of Jerusalem upon those that were Galileans? Probably
he did it, either in flattery to the tyrant, or else that he might throw off from himself
both the trouble and the odium that might arise upon the occasion of condemning Jesus,
whom he judged to be an innocent man, and whom in some measure he pitied, looking upon him
as a sort of a delirant person, one not very well in his wits: which opinion also
Herod seems to have conceived of him, by putting upon him that fool's coat wherewith he
clothed him: which I should willingly enough render white and shining, but that I
observe our evangelist, when he hath occasion to mention such a garment, calls it a white
and shining robe expressly. Chapter 9:29, his garment was white and glistering:
Acts 1:10, two men in white apparel.
30. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills,
[Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, &c.] So they do say,
Revelation 6:6: from whence, among other arguments, it may be reasonably supposed, that
that chapter treats of the plagues and afflictions that should forerun the destruction of
Jerusalem, and, indeed, the destruction and overthrow itself. Weigh the place accurately;
and perhaps thou wilt be of the same mind too. Nay, I may further add, that perhaps this
observation might not a little help (if my eyes fail me not) in discovering the method of
the author of the Book of the Revelation.
31. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
[If they do these things in a green tree, &c.] Consult John Baptist's
expression, Matthew 3:10; "Now also the axe is laid to the root of the tree,"
viz., then when the Jewish nation was subdued to the government of the Romans, who
were about to destroy it. And if they deal thus with me, a green and flourishing tree,
what will they do with the whole nation, a dry and sapless trunk?
34. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they
parted his raiment, and cast lots.
[They cast lots.] They cast lots for his seamless coat, John 19:23,24.
Moses is supposed to have ministered in such a garment: "In what kind of garment did
Moses attend the seven days of consecration? In a white vestment. Rabh Cahnah
saith, In a white vestment, wherein there was no seam." The Gloss is,
"The whole garment was made of one thread, and not as our clothes are, which have
their sleeves sewed to the body with a seam." But he gives a very senseless reason
why his coat was without a seam; viz., to avoid the suspicion lest Moses should at any
time hide any consecrated money within the seams of his coat.
36. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,
[They brought him vinegar.] Vinegar was the common drink of the Roman
soldiers; and hence those to whom the custody of crucified persons was committed had it
always ready by them. "He commanded that no soldier should drink wine in their
expedition, but that every one should content himself with vinegar."
"The provision this man (viz. Misitheus) made in the commonwealth was such,
that there never was any great frontier-city which had not vinegar, bread-corn, and
bacon, and barley, and chaff, laid up for a whole year," &c. "Thou shalt
give us as much hay, chaff, vinegar, herbs, and grass, as may suffice us."
Hence it may become less difficult to reconcile the evangelist amongst themselves,
speaking of wine given him mixed with myrrh, and of vinegar too;
viz., a twofold cup: one, before he was nailed to the cross, i.e. of wine mingled with myrrh;
the other, of vinegar, while he hung there: the first, given by the Jews according
to their custom; the second, by the soldiers, in abuse and mockery. But if you will grant
a third cup, then all difficulty vanisheth indeed. Let the first be wine mingled with
myrrh; the second, vinegar mingled with gall; the third, mere vinegar:
which the soldiers gave to malefactors if they had desired drink, being that which they
drank themselves. Hence the vessel filled with vinegar, was always in readiness,
that the soldiers might drink when they had a mind, and persons also upon the cross, if
they stood in need of it.
42. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
[Lord, remember me.] Christ is now upon the cross, as of old Joseph was in the
prison, between two malefactors. There one of them was delivered, the other hanged; here
one obtains salvation, the other perisheth. The faith of this thief is admirable; and kept
even pace with that of the apostles, if, in some circumstances, it did not go beyond it.
The apostles acknowledged 'Jesus to be the Messiah'; and so doth he: with this addition,
which I question whether they did so clearly own and know or no, viz., that Christ should
reign and have his kingdom after his death. He seems to have a sounder judgment concerning
Christ's kingdom than the apostles themselves, as may be gathered from their question,
It pleased God, in this last article of time, to glorify the riches of his grace in a
singular and extraordinary manner, both in the conversion of a sinner and the forgiveness
of his sins: I say in such an article of time which the world had never before seen, nor
ever was like to see again; viz., in the very instant wherein the Messiah was finishing
his redemption. It was not unknown to either of the thieves that Jesus was therefore
condemned to die because he had professed himself 'the Christ'; hence that of the
impenitent malefactor, "If thou art Christ, save thyself and us." And if the
penitent thief did for a while join with the other in his petulant reproaches (which seems
intimated to us Matthew 27:44), yet was his heart touched at length, and, perhaps, upon
his observation of that miraculous darkness which at that time had covered the world.
43. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shall thou be with me in
[Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.] I. Let us here first consider the
phrase in paradise: in common Jewish speech, in the garden of Eden. In what
sense we may collect from these following passages: "The Rabbins have a tradition.
There are four that went into paradise: namely, Ben Azzai, Ben Zumah, Acher, and R.
Akibah. R. Akibah saith unto them, 'When you come to the stones of pure marble, do not ye
say Waters, waters [i.e. Alas! these waters will hinder us from going forward]; for
it is written, He that telleth lies shall not dwell in my presence [now, it would be a lie
to call white marble water].'" "Ben Azzai looked with some curiosity about
him, and died: of him the Scripture speaks, 'Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the
death of his saints.' Ben Zumah looked with some curiosity about him, and he was
disturbed in his intellectuals: of him the Scripture speaketh, 'Hast thou found honey?
eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.'"
Aruch, reciting these words, saith, "It is called paradise, under the
signification of the garden of Eden, which is reserved for the just. This place is in
the heavens, where the souls of the just are gathered together." And the
Talmudical Gloss hath it much to the same sense: "These four, by God's procurement, went
up into the firmament."
While we are reading these passages, that story may easily occur to mind of St. Paul's
being "caught up into paradise," 2 Corinthians 12; and perhaps the legend
before us is but the ape of that story. In the story it is observable, that paradise
and the 'third heaven' are one and the same thing: in the legend paradise and the highest
heavens. For so the doctors comment upon the word in Psalm 68:5: "There are seven
classes or degrees of just persons, who see the face of God, sit in the house of God,
ascend up unto the hill of God, &c. And to every class or degree there is allotted
their proper dwellingplace in paradise. There are also seven abiding places in
hell. Those that dwell in paradise, they shine like the shining of the firmament,
like the sun, like the moon, like the firmament, like the stars, like lightning, like the
lilies, like burning lamps."
II. Our Saviour, therefore, telling the penitent thief, This day shalt thou be with
me in paradise, he speaks in the common dialect, and to the capacity of the thief;
viz., that he should be in heaven with Christ, and with all just persons that had left
this world. Nor, indeed, would I fetch the explication of that article of our creed, He
descended into hell, from any passage in the Scripture sooner than this here: adding
this, that we must of necessity have recourse to the Greek tongue for the signification of
the word, which they generally use to denote the state of the dead, as well the
blessed as the miserable. Those who expound that passage in 1 Peter 3:19, of his going
down from the cross into hell to preach to the spirits in prison there, do very little
regard the scope of the apostle, and are absolute strangers to his meaning in it. For,
1. In that he shuts up the generation before the flood in an infernal prison, he falls
in with the received opinion of that nation, which was, that that generation had no part
in the world to come; and that they were condemned to boiling waters in hell.
2. He compares the present generation of the Jews with that generation before the
flood; that Christ did of old preach even to that generation, and so he hath done to this;
that that generation perished through its disobedience, and so will this. He runs much
upon the same parallel in his second Epistle, chapter 3:6, &c. We must observe, that
the apostle makes his transition from the crucifixion and resurrection of our Saviour
directly to the generation before the flood, passing over all those generations that came
between, on purpose that he might make the comparison betwixt that and the age he lived
53. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that
was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.
[Wrapped it in linen.] "Mar Zutra saith, that out of the linen in which
they wrapped up books, when it grew old they made shrouds for the dead of the precept; for
this is to their disgrace." The Gloss adds, "That they do it of the linen
wherein they fold up the book of the Law." Him who had suffered death by the sentence
of the Sanhedrim, or magistrate, they were wont to call the dead of the precept,
because he was executed according to the precept: and such a one to them was our Jesus.
Now as to one that was condemned to death by the magistrate, they had an opinion that by
how much the more disgracefully they dealt with him, by so much the greater atonement was
made for him. Hence that expression, "They did not openly bewail him, that
that very setting him at nought" (no man lamenting him) "might redound to his
atonement." And from thence, perhaps, if the women at Jerusalem had bewailed any
other person as they bewailed our Saviour, that other person might have said, "Ye
daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, lest ye cut short my atonement": but Christ
speaks to them upon a far different account. And under this notion they wrapped one that
had been so executed, in some ragged, torn, old, dirty windingsheets; that this disgrace,
being thrown upon him, might augment his expiation. But this good Arimathean behaves
himself otherwise with Jesus, as having conceived quite another opinion concerning him.
54. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
[And the sabbath drew on.] The vulgar reads, the sabbath began to dawn:
not ill rendered. Beza reads, and the sabbath succeeded: not properly. One would
have thought it would have been more congruously said, it began to be dark towards the
sabbath: for the night before the sabbath was coming on: but,
I. The sabbatical candles that were lighted in honour of the sabbath were now set up.
"There are three things which it is necessary a man should warn those of his own
house of on the evening of the sabbath, when night is coming on: Have you paid your
tenths? Have you begun your Erubhick society? Light up your candle." "Men
and women are bound to light up a candle in their houses upon the sabbath day. If a man
hath not bread to eat, yet he must beg from door to door to get a little oil to set up his
light." These things being noted, the evangelist may not be improperly understood
thus, "The sabbath began to shine with the lights set up"; respect being had to
these sabbath candles. But I do not acquiesce here.
II. The evening of the sabbath was called amongst the Jews light. By the
light of the fourteenth day they make a search for leaven by the light of a candle. By the
light of the fourteenth day; that is, on the evening, or in the night that immediately
precedes that day. So Rambam upon the place, "the search for leaven is in the
night of the fourteenth day, although the eating of leavened bread is not forbidden
before the noon of the fourteenth day. But they instituted this because it is most
convenient searching in the night time by candlelight; and at that time also all persons
are at home."
"The woman that miscarries on the light [i.e. the evening] of the eighty-first
day, the Shammean school absolves her from any offering: but the school of Hillel doth
not." The Gloss hath it, on the light of the eighty-fist day, i.e. in the
night of the eighty-first day. The question disputed there is: "The woman that
had been brought to bed of a girl was bound to the purification of eighty days"; when
those days were at an end, then she was bound to offer, Leviticus 12:5,6. Now therefore
seeing the oblation was to be brought on the eighty-first day, the question is, What if
the woman should happen to miscarry within the very night that begins the eighty-first
day, must she the next day offer one or two sacrifices? one for the girl, and one for that
of which she hath miscarried? The Shammean school will have but one, but the school of
Hillel saith two.
Pesikta speaking concerning a vowed sacrifice, from Leviticus 7:17, hath this
passage: "Perhaps it may be eaten on the light [i.e. the evening] of the third day.
The text saith upon the third day; it is eaten until the third day. It is not
eaten on the light [i.e. the evening, or the night] of the third day": for
then the third day was actually begun. But now in this phrase they restrain the word
especially to the beginning of the night, though sometimes it is taken for the whole
night, as in that tradition newly quoted concerning the woman that miscarried: and so the
Gloss upon Pesachin. Maimonides discoursing about putting away the leaven which
ought to be on the light of the fourteenth day, i.e. on the night that begins the
fourteenth day, hath this passage; "By prescription of the scribes they search for,
and cast out their leaven in the night; namely, the beginning of that night that ushers
in the fourteenth day." Much to the same sense the Gemarist concerning the
light: "How comes twilight to be called light? From thence, because it is
written, In the twilight, in the evening, of the day," Proverbs 7:9. Rambam thinks it
so called by a rule of contraries; for so he in Pesachin: "The night is called
light, by the same rule that they call many other things by their contraries."
But the Gemarists upon the place affirm that the evening is not improperly called light,
and prove it from that expression, Psalm 148:3: Praise him all ye stars of light.
However unsuitably therefore it might sound in the ears of Greeks or Latins, when they
hear the evening or the beginning of the night expressed by the light of the sabbath,
yet with the Jews it was a way of expression very usual: and they could readily understand
the evangelist speaking in their own vulgar way, when he would tell us the night of the
sabbath drew on; but expresseth it by the light of the sabbath began to shine.
56. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day
according to the commandment.
[And rested the sabbath day.] If our Saviour was taken down from the cross about
sunset, as it was provided, Deuteronomy 21:23; Joshua 8:29, then had the women this
interim of time to buy their spices and despatch other business before the entry of the
I. Between the suns. So they called that space of time that was between the
setting of the sun and the appearance of any star.
II. Might they not have that space of time also that was between the first and second
star? We may judge something from this passage: "In the evening of the sabbath, if he
see one star and do any work, he is acquitted; but if he see two stars, let him bring his
III. Might they not have some farther allowance in the case of funerals? We may judge
from this passage: "they do all works necessary about the dead [on the sabbath
day]; they anoint him, they wash him, provided only that they do not stir a limb of
him," &c. It was not safe for those women to shew themselves too busy in
preparing for his interment; especially seeing Jesus died as a malefactor, and was odious
to the people: this might exasperate the people against them, and so much the more too, if
they should, in the least measure, violate the sabbath day. But further, besides the
honour they gave to the sabbath, it was not prudence in them to break it for a work which
they thought they might as well do when the sabbath was done and over.