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Christ, and of John, I prefer the ordinary translation.
“ Went in boldly.”] There was no necessity to use this boldness with respect to Pilate, who, in his judgment seat, had not conducted himself with hostility to Jesus, but it required some courage to act in direct opposition to the high priest, and the whole sanhedrim, and to solicit the privilege of giving an honourable burial to him, whom they had just crucified as an impostor. There is some trifling attention due to this reading. The common one stands thus, “ Came and went in boldly.” Some manuscripts have it, “ Joseph having come, he dared and went in;" some few Joseph came and having dared, went in.” But both appear to have suffered from transcribers.
44. “ Marvelled if he were already dead.”] A crucified man dies not quickly-he generally remains alive to the third day. This we are not acquainted with, because this horrible mode of punishment is not in use amongst us, but in the mind of a Roman governor, it was a natural reflection. I find several learned men have been desirous of giving another illustration to this passage, and think it surprising Pilate should have had any doubt upon the
subject. There are some passages, I allow, but they are few in number, in which the word " if” is not introduced in a doubting manner. But I see no reason why the text should be thus tortured, for if Pilate was only a moderately reasonable man, he may have well doubted the existence of the fact, as the Jew was unknown to him, and he, who could have begged for the body of Jesus, must have been a warm disciple. Would, for instance, any prudent magistrate deliver to the friend of the crucified person, the body for interment, which, according to experience, ought to have lived at least until the ensuing morning, without making more accurate inquiries into the truth of his death? I know that it has been said, that Pilate did not inquire of the Centurion, whether he was really dead, but whether he had long been dead, assuming the fact of his death, as either known to him, or probable. Putting out of all question; the Complutensian, the Cambridge, and another manuscript, quoted by Erasmus, all of which use the word “ already," and the belief that Pilate might have in the truth and earnestness of Joseph, I will only remark, that Pilate asks whether he had been any time dead? For if he had been but a short time dead, he might
conceive it was only a fainting fit, and not actual death. I am aware this is but a trifle, but the minutiæ, into which learned men descend, force me into it. There is, however, a difficulty which, I find, generally overlooked. How could Pilate, who, according to John xix. 31, 37, had ordered the bones of the crucified persons to be broken, preparatory to giving them the fatal blow, be astonished that Jesus was dead, doubt the fact, and call upon the Centurion to report the real case to him? The doubt would certainly be inexplicable if we read the evangelists, as we read the minute transactions of a diary, and if we concluded from John xix. 38, writing " after this," that Joseph bad obtained access to Pilate, subsequent to the order being given for the breaking of the bones. But it is not thus that we read histories, compiled by others, and indeed no historian would venture such an accuracy of detail. It would be more in character, with astronomical precision. In a general view, the case would appear to stand thus; Jesus dies between three and four in the afternoon; Joseph immediately goes to Pilate, and requests the dead body; Pilate doubts the fact of his being dead, and orders the Centurion to be called. The Jews soon afterwards appear
and beg that the crucified persons may be killed, and their bodies taken down before sunset. Pilate orders this, and before the body of Jesus is actually taken down, the soldiers come and execute these orders. Joseph of Arimathea, and the Jews who came to make the request, as above, may not have had more than a quarter of an hour's difference between them. But supposing you reverse the case, and that the application of the Jews preceded that of Joseph, it would then stand thus; Pilate would be astonished at the death of Jesus, as hearing it from Joseph, when the order for the bones being broken could not have been carried into execution; he suspects Joseph of an intention of taking away Jesus, previous to his being dead, and orders the Centurion to be called.
Whether he had been uny while dead.”] In order to be certain it was actual death, and not merely a fainting fit, produced by extreme pain. Instead of this, the Cambridge manuscript reads, " whether he was already dead ?" Erasmus speaks as if the same reading existed in other manuscripts, but with which we are unacquainted. Were these, however, Greek or Latin manuscripts? In a Latin translation, previous to Jerome, I have found something of
- We may
the kind as in that of Corvey. Those of Branchino are here defective. But I consider the reading to be wrong.
45. “He gave the body to Jesus.”] Wetstein has here a remark which, as applied to Pilate, I think unjust, and unreasonable. here observe,” says he, “the morals of Pilate, which were distinguished for their avarice.” There can be no doubt that Pilate was avaricious, but I cannot see how the circumstance of his giving the body to Joseph, that is, for nothing, and without ransom can be quoted against him for avarice. Supposing the word “ gave” not to bear so literal an interpretation, but that Pilate had received some remuneration for it, still it is not mentioned by any evangelist, and, therefore, no commentator has a right to infer it. I would rather take the opportunity of repeating, what Premontval has so judiciously remarked, that Pilate in no part of his history, which is come down to us, appears to such advantage, as in his connection with the sufferings of Jesus. He condemned Jesus from fear, but the disciples, who relate it, do so with much impartiality and mildness, so that he appears better in this unjust transaction, than in those parts which are handed down to us by Josephus,