Of the present Authority of the Council, and of its Place.
3. Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas.
[Assembled together unto the palace of the high priest.] Those ominous prodigies are very memorable, which are related by the Talmudists to have happened forty years before the destruction of the Temple.
"A tradition. Forty years before the Temple was destroyed, the western candle" (that is, the middlemost in the holy candlestick) "was put out. And the crimson tongue" (that was fastened to the horns of the scapegoat, or the doors of the Temple) "kept its redness. And the lot of the Lord" (for the goat that was to be offered up on the day of Expiation) "came out on the left hand. And the gates of the Temple, which were shut over night, were found open in the morning. Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai said, 'Therefore, O Temple, wherefore dost thou trouble us? we know thy fate; namely, that thou art to be destroyed: for it is said, Open, O Lebanon, thy gates, that the flame may consume thy cedars.'" "A tradition. Forty years before the Temple was destroyed, judgment in capital causes was taken away from Israel." "Forty years before the Temple was destroyed, the council removed and sat in the sheds."
With these two last traditions lies our present business. What the Jews said, John 18:31, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death, signifies the same thing with the tradition before us, "Judgments in capital causes are taken away from Israel." When were they first taken away? "Forty years before the destruction of the Temple," say the Talmudists: no doubt before the death of Christ; the words of the Jews imply so much. But how were they taken away? It is generally received by all that the Romans did so far divest the council of its authority, that it was not allowed by them to punish any with death; and this is gathered from those words of the Jews, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death."
But if this, indeed, be true, 1. What do then those words of our Saviour mean, they will deliver you up to the councils? 2. How did they put Stephen to death? 3. Why was Paul so much afraid to commit himself to the council, that he chose rather to appeal to Caesar?
The Talmudists excellently well clear the matter: "What signifieth that tradition (say they) of the removal of the council forty years before the ruin of the Temple? Rabh Isaac Bar Abdimi saith, 'It signifieth thus much, that they did not judge of fines.'" And a little after; "But R. Nachman Bar Isaac saith, 'Do not say that it did not judge of fines, but that it did not judge in capital causes.' And the reason was this, because they saw murderers so much increase that they could not judge them. They said therefore, 'It is fit that we should remove from place to place, that so we may avoid the guilt.'" That is, the number and boldness of thieves and murderers growing so great that, by reason thereof, the authority of the council grew weak, and neither could nor dared put them to death. "It is better (say they) for us to remove from hence, out of this chamber Gazith, where, by the quality of the place, we are obliged to judge them, than that, by sitting still here, and not judging them, we should render ourselves guilty." Hence it is that neither in the highest nor in the inferior councils any one was punished with death. ("For they did not judge of capital matters in the inferior councils in any city, but only when the great council sat in the chamber Gazith," saith the Gloss.) The authority of them was not taken away by the Romans, but rather relinquished by themselves. The slothfulness of the council destroyed its own authority. Hear it justly upbraided in this matter: "The council which puts but one to death in seven years is called Destruction. R. Lazar Ben Azariah said, 'Which puts one to death in seventy years.' R. Tarphon and R. Akiba said, 'If we had been in the council' (when it judged of capital matters), 'there had none ever been put to death by it.' R. Simeon Ben Gamaliel said, 'These men have increased the number of murderers in Israel.'" Most certainly true, O Simeon! for by this means the power of the council came to be weakened in capital matters, because they, either by mere slothfulness, or by a foolish tenderness, or, as indeed the truth was, by a most fond estimation of an Israelite as an Israelite, they so far neglected to punish bloodshed and murder, and other crimes, till wickedness grew so untractable that the authority of the council trembled for fear of it, and dared not kill the killers. In this sense their saying must be understood, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: their authority of judging not being taken from them by the Romans, but lost by themselves, and despised by their people.
Notwithstanding it was not so lost, but that sometimes they exercised it; namely, when they observed they might do it safely and without danger. "Dat veniam corvis," &c spares crows, but vexeth pigeons. Thieves, murderers, and wicked men armed with force, they dared not call into their judgment; they were afraid of so desperate a crew: but to judge, condemn, torture, and put to death poor men and Christians, from whom they feared no such danger, they dreaded it not, they did not avoid it. They had been ready enough at condemning our Saviour himself to death if they had not feared the people, and if Providence had not otherwise determined of his death.
We may also, by the way, add that also which follows after the place above cited, In the day of Simeon Ben Jochai, judgments of pecuniary matters were taken away from Israel. In the same tract this is said to have been in "the days of Simeon Ben Shetah," long before Christ was born: but this is an error of the transcribers.
But now, if the Jewish council lost their power of judging in pecuniary causes by the same means as they lost it in capital, it must needs be that deceits, oppressions, and mutual injuries were grown so common and daring that they were let alone, as being above all punishment. The Babylonian Gemarists allege another reason; but whether it be only in favour of their nation, this is no fit place to examine.
That we may yet further confirm our opinion, that the authority of that council in capital matters was not taken away by the Romans, we will produce two stories, as clear examples of the thing we assert: one is this; "R. Lazar son of R. Zadok said, 'When I was a little boy, sitting on my father's shoulders, I saw a priest's daughter that had played the harlot compassed round with fagots and burnt.'" The council no doubt judging and condemning her, and this after Judea had then groaned many years under the Roman yoke; for that same R. Lazar saw the destruction of the city.
The other you have in the same tract, where they are speaking of the manner of pumping out evidence against a heretic and seducer of the people: "They place (say they) two witnesses in ambush, in the inner part of the house, and him in the outward, with a candle burning by him that they may see and hear him. Thus they dealt with Ben Satda in Lydda. They placed two disciples of the wise in ambush for him, and they brought him before the council, and stoned him." The Jews openly profess that this was done to him in the days of R. Akiba, long after the destruction of the city; and yet then, as you see, the council still retained its authority in judging of capital causes. They might do it for all the Romans, if they dared do it to the criminals.
But so much thus far concerning its authority: let us now speak of its present seat. "The council removed from the chamber Gazith to the sheds, from the sheds into Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Jafne, from Jafne to Osha, from Osha to Shepharaama, from Shepharaama to Bethshaarim, from Bethshaarim to Tsippor, from Tsippor to Tiberias," &c. We conjecture that the great bench was driven from its seat, the chamber Gazith, half a year, or thereabout, before the death of Christ; but whether they sat then in the sheds [a place in the Court of the Gentiles] or in the city, when they debated about the death of Christ, does not clearly appear, since no authors make mention how long it sat either here or there. Those things that are mentioned in chapter 27:4-6, seem to argue that they sat in the Temple; these before us, that they sat in the city. Perhaps in both places; for it was not unusual with them to return thither, as occasion served, from whence they came; only to the chamber Gazith they never went back. Whence the Gloss upon the place lately cited, "They sat in Jafne in the days of Rabban Jochanan; in Osha, in the days of Rabban Gamaliel; for they returned from Osha to Jafne," &c. Thus the council, which was removed from Jerusalem to Jafne before the destruction of the city, returned thither at the feast, and sat as before. Hence Paul is brought before the council at Jerusalem when Jafne at that time was its proper seat. And hence Rabban Simeon, president of the council, was taken and killed in the siege of the city; and Rabban Jochanan his vice-president was very near it, both of them being drawn from Jafne to the city, with the rest of the bench, for observation of the Passover.
Whether the hall of the high priest were the ordinary receptacle for the council, or only in the present occasion, we do not here inquire. It is more material to inquire concerning the bench itself, and who sat president in judging. The president of the council at this time was Rabban Gamaliel, (Paul's master,) and the vice-president, Rabban Simeon his son, or Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai (which we do not dispute now). Whence therefore had the chief priest, here and in other places, the precedence and the chief voice in judging? For thus in Stephen's case the high priest is the chief of the inquisition, Acts 7:1; also in Paul's case, Acts 23:2, see also Acts 9:1. Had the priests a council and judgment seat of their own? or might they in the chief council, when the president was absent, hear causes of life and death? To this long question, and that enough perplexed, we reply these few things:
I. We confess, indeed, that the priests had a bench and council of their own, yet denying that there was a double council, one for ecclesiastical, the other for civil affairs, as some would have it.
We meet often with mention of the chamber of the counsellors, next the court...Concerning which thus the Babyl. Joma: "The tradition of R. Juda. What, was it the chamber of? Was it not the chamber of the counsellors? At first it was called the chamber of the counsellors: but when the high priesthood came to be bought with money, and changed yearly as the king's presidents are changed every year, from that time forward it was called the chamber of the presidents."
Hear the Glosser on this place: "The high priests were wicked, and did not fulfil their whole year; and he that succeeded the other changed this building and adorned it, that it might be called by his own name." Hear also the Gemara: "The first Temple stood four hundred and ten years, and there were not above eighteen priests under it. The second stood four hundred and twenty years, and there were more than three hundred under it. Take out forty years of Simeon the Just, eighty of Jochanan, ten of Ismael Ben Phabi, and eleven of Eleazar Ben Harsum, and there doth not remain one whole year to each of the rest."
Behold the chamber of the counsellors, properly so called, because the priests did meet and sit there not to judge, but to consult; and that only of things belonging to the Temple! Here they consulted, and took care that all persons and things belonging and necessary to the worship of God should be in readiness; that the buildings of the Temple and the courts should be kept in repair; and that the public Liturgy should be duly performed: but in the meantime they wanted all power of judging and punishing; they had not authority to fine, scourge, or put to death, yea, and in a word, to exercise any judgment; for by their own examination and authority they could not admit a candidate into the priesthood, but he was admitted by the authority of the council: "In the chamber Gazith sat the council of Israel, and held the examinations of priests: whosoever was not found fit was sent away in black clothes, and a black veil; whosoever was found fit was clothed in white, and had a white veil, and entered and ministered with his brethren the priests."
2. We meet also with mention of the council house of the priests. "The high priests made a decree, and did not permit an Israelite to carry the scapegoat into the wilderness." But in the Gloss, The council of the priests did not permit this. "The council of the priests exacted for the portion of a virgin four hundred zuzees, and the wise men did not hinder it."
First, This was that council of which we spoke before in the chamber of the counsellors. Secondly, That which was decreed by them concerning the carrying away of the scapegoat belonged merely to the service of the Temple, as being a caution about the right performance of the office in the day of atonement. Thirdly, and that about the portion of a virgin was nothing else but what any Israelite might do: and so the Gemarists confess; "If any noble family in Israel (say they) would do what the priests do, they may." The priests set a price upon their virgins, and decreed by common consent, that not less than such a portion should be required for them; which was lawful for all the Israelites to do for their virgins if they pleased.
3. There is an example brought of "Tobias a physician, who saw the new moon at Jerusalem, he and his son, and his servant whom he had freed. The priests admitted him and his son for witnesses, his servant they rejected: but when they came before the bench, they admitted him and his servant, and rejected his son." Observe, 1. That the council is here opposed to the priests. 2. That it belonged to the council to determine of the new moon, because on that depended the set times of the feasts: this is plain enough in the chapter cited. 3. That what the priests did was matter of examination only, not decree.
4. "The elders of the city (Deut 22:18) are the triumvirate bench": 'at the gate' (v 24) means the bench of the chief priest. The matter there in debate is about a married woman, who is found by her husband to have lost her virginity, and is therefore to be put to death: Deuteronomy 22:13, &c. In that passage, among other things, you may find these words, verse 18: "And the elders of that city shall lay hold of that man and scourge him." The Gemarists take occasion from thence to define what the phrase there and in other places means, "The elders of the city": and what is the meaning of the word gate, when it relates to the bench: "That (say they) signifies the triumvirate bench: this the bench or council of the high priest": that is, unless I be very much mistaken, every council of twenty-three; which is clear enough both from the place mentioned and from reason itself:
1. The words of the place quoted are these: "R. Bon Bar Chaija inquired before R. Zeira, What if the father [of the virgin] should produce witnesses which invalidate the testimony of the husband's witnesses? if the father's witnesses are proved false, he must be whipped, and pay a hundred selaim in the triumvirate court; but the witnesses are to be stoned by the bench of the twenty-three, &c. R. Zeira thought that this was a double judgment: but R. Jeremias, in the name of R. Abhu, that it was but a single one: but the tradition contradicts R. Abhu; for To the elders of the city, verse 5, is, To the triumvirate-bench, but at the gate, means the bench of the high priest." It is plain, that the bench of the high priest is put in opposition to the triumvirate bench; and, by consequence, that it is either the chief council, or the council of the twenty-three, or some other council of the priests, distinct from all these. But it cannot be this third, because the place cited in the Talmudists, and the place in the law cited by the Talmudists, plainly speak of such a council, which had power of judging in capital causes. But they that suppose the ecclesiastical council among the Jews to have been distinct from the civil, scarce suppose that that council sat on capital causes, or passed sentence of death; much less is it to be thought that that council sat only on life and death; which certainly ought to be supposed from the place quoted, if the council of the high priest did strictly signify such a council of priests. Let us illustrate the Talmudical words with a paraphrase: R. Zeira thought, that that cause of a husband accusing his wife for the loss of her virginity belonged to the judgment of two benches; namely, of the triumvirate, which inflicted whipping and pecuniary mulcts; and of the 'twenty-three,' which adjudged to death; but Rabbi Abhu thinks it is to be referred to the judgment of one bench only. But you are mistaken, good Rabbi Abhu; and the very phrase made use of in this case refutes you; for the expression which is brought in, "To the elders of the city," signifies the triumviral bench; and the phrase, "at the gate," signifies the bench of twenty-three; for the chief council never at in the gate.
2. Now the council of twenty-three is called by the Talmudists the bench, or the council of the chief priest, alluding to the words of the lawgiver, Deuteronomy 17:9, where the word priests denotes the inferior councils, and judge the chief council.
II. In the chief council, the president sat in the highest seat, (being at this time, when Christ was under examination, Rabban Gamaliel, as we said); but the high priest excelled him in dignity everywhere: for the president of the council was chosen not so much for his quality, as for his learning and skill in traditions. He was (a phrase very much used by the author of Juchasin, applied to presidents), that is, keeper, father, and deliver of traditions; and he was chosen to this office, who was fittest for these things. Memorable is the story of Hillel's coming to the presidentship, being preferred to the chair for this only thing, because he solved some doubts about the Passover, having learned it, as he saith himself, from Shemaiah and Abtalion. We will not think it much to transcribe the story: "The sons of Betira once forgot a tradition: for when the fourteenth day [on which the Passover was to be celebrated] fell out on the sabbath, they could not tell whether the Passover should take place of the sabbath or no. But they said, There is here a certain Babylonian, Hillel by name, who was brought up under Shemaiah and Abtalion; he can resolve us whether the Passover should take place of the sabbath or no. They sent therefore for him, and said to him, 'Have you ever heard in your life, [that is, have you received any tradition,] whether, when the fourteenth day falls on the sabbath, the Passover should take place of the sabbath or no?' He answered, 'Have we but one Passover that takes place of the sabbath yearly? or are there not many Passovers that put by the sabbath yearly? namely, the continual sacrifice.' He proved this by arguments a pari, from the equality of it, from the less to the greater, &c. But they did not admit of this from him, till he said, 'May it thus and thus happen to me, if I did not hear this of Shemaiah and Abtalion.' When they hear this they immediately submitted, and promoted him to the presidentship," &c.
It belonged to the president chiefly to sum up the votes of the elders, to determine of a tradition, to preserve it, and transmit it to posterity; and, these things excepted, you will scarce observe any thing peculiar to him in judging which was not common to all the rest. Nothing therefore hindered but that the high priest and the other priests (while he excelled in quality, and they in number) might promote acts in the council above the rest, and pursue them with the greatest vigour; but especially when the business before them was about the sum of religion, as it was here, and in the examples alleged of Paul and Stephen. It was lawful for them, to whose office it peculiarly belonged to take care of scared things, to show more officious diligence in matters where these were concerned than other men, that they might provide for their fame among men, and the good of their places. The council, indeed, might consist of Israelites only, without either Levites or priests, in case such could not be found fit: "Thus it is commanded that in the great council there should be Levites and priests; but if such are not to be found, and the council consists of other Israelites only, it is lawful." But such a scarcity of priests and Levites is only supposed, was never found; they were always a great part, if not the greatest, of the council. Rabban Jochanan Ben Zacchai, the priest, was either now vice-president of the council, or next to him. Priests were everywhere in such esteem with the people and with the council, and the dignity and veneration of the high priest was so great, that it is no wonder if you find him and them always the chief actors, and the principal part in that great assembly.
6. Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper.
[Now when Jesus was in Bethany, &c.] That this supper in Bethany was the same with that mentioned John 13, I dare venture to affirm; however that be taken by very many for the paschal supper. Let us examine the matter a little home:
I. This supper was before the Passover; so was that: that this was, none need doubt; no more may they of the other, if we consider these things:
1. It is said by John in express words, before the feast of the Passover, verse 1, Passover, indeed, not seldom signifies the lamb itself; sometimes the very time of eating the lamb; sometimes the sacrifice of the day following, as John 18:28. But the feast of the Passover, alway signifies the whole seven days' paschal feast, both in the language of the Scripture and of the Talmudists: a Jew would laugh at one that should interpret it otherways.
2. When Christ said to Judas going out, "What thou doest, do quickly," some thought he meant this, "Buy those things that we have need of against the feast," at the twenty-ninth verse. For what feast, I pray? for the paschal supper? That, according to the interpreters which we here oppose, was just past. For the remaining part of the feast of that solemnity? Alas, how unseasonable! Where were those things, I pray, then to be bought, if this were the very night on which they had just eaten the lamb? The night of a feast day was festival: where were there any such markets to be found then? It was an unusual thing indeed, and unheard of, to rise from the paschal supper to go to market: a market on a festival-night was unusual and unheard of. It would argue some negligence, and a little good husbandry, if those things that were necessary for the feast were not yet provided; but that they must be to run, now late at night, to buy those things they knew not where, they knew not how. It is certainly very harsh, and contrary to reason, to understand these things thus, when, from the first verse, the sense is very plain, before the feast of the Passover. The Passover was not yet come, but was near at hand: the disciples, therefore, thought that our Saviour had given order to Judas to provide all those things that were necessary to the paschal solemnity against it came.
3. Observe that also of Luke 22:3, &c.: "Satan entered into Judas, and he went his way, and communed with the chief priests," &c. And after, in the seventh verse, "Then came the day of unleavened bread." Hence I inquire, Is the method of Luke direct or no? If not, let there be some reason given of the transposition; if it be direct, then it is plain that the devil entered into Judas before the Passover: but he entered into him at that supper in John 13:27; therefore that supper was before the Passover. For,
4. Let them who take that supper in John 13 for the paschal supper, tell me how this is possible, that Judas after the paschal supper (at which they do not deny that he was present with the rest of the disciples) could make his agreement with the priests, and get his blades together ready to apprehend our Saviour, and assemble all the council, verse 57. The evangelists say that he made an agreement with the chief priests, Matthew 26:14, and with the captains, Luke 22:4, and "with all the council," Mark 14:10,11. But now, which way was it possible that he could bargain with all these in so small a space as there was between the going out of Judas from supper and the betraying of our Lord in the garden? What! were these all together at supper that night? This is a matter to be laughed at rather than credited. Did he visit all these from door to door? And this is as little to be thought, since he had scarce time to discourse with any one of them. Every one supped this night at home, the master of a family with his family. It would be ridiculous to suppose that these chief priests supped together, while, in the mean time, their families sat down at home without their head. It is required by the law that every master of a family should be with his family that night, instructing them, and performing sacred rites with and for them. These were, therefore, to be sought from house to house by Judas, if that were the first time of his treating with them about this matter: and let reason answer whether that little time he had were sufficient for this? We affirm, therefore, with the authority of the evangelists, that that supper, John 13, was before the Passover; at which, Satan entering into Judas, he bargained with the priests before the Passover, he appointed the time and place of his betraying our Saviour, and all things were by them made ready for this wicked deed before the Passover came. Observe the method and order of the story in the evangelists, Matthew 26:14-17; Mark 14:10-12: "Then went Judas to the priests, and said, 'What will ye give me,' &c. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him. Now, the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the disciples came," &c. When was it that Judas came to the priests to treat about betraying Christ? surely before the first day of unleavened bread. Luke also, whom we quoted before, proceeds in the very same method: "From that time (say they), he sought for an opportunity to betray him." If then first he went to and agreed with the priests when he rose up from the paschal supper, as many suppose, he did not then seek for an opportunity, but had found one. The manner of speaking used by the evangelists most plainly intimates some space of deliberation, not sudden execution.
5. Let those words of John be considered, chapter 14:31, Arise, let us go hence, and compared with the words, chapter 18:1, "When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron." Do not these speak of two plainly different departures? Did not Christ rise up and depart when he said, "Arise, let us go hence?" Those words are brought in by the evangelist without any end or design, if we are not to understand by them that Christ immediately changed his place: and certainly this change of place is different from that which followed the paschal supper, John 18:1.
6. In that thirteenth chapter of John there is not the least mention nor syllable of the paschal supper. There is, indeed, plain mention of a supper before the feast of the Passover, that is, before the festival day; but of a paschal supper there is not one syllable. I profess seriously, I cannot wonder enough how interpreters could apply that chapter to the paschal supper, when there is not only no mention at all in it of the paschal supper, but the evangelist hath also pronounced, in most express words, and than which nothing can be more plain, that that supper of which he speaks was not on the feast of the Passover, but before the feast.
7. If those things which we meet with, John 13, of the sop given to Judas, &c. were acted in the paschal supper, then how, I pray, was it possible for the disciples to mistake the meaning of those words, "What thou doest, do quickly?" In the paschal supper he said, "He that dips with me in the dish is he"; and the hand of Judas, as some think, was at that very moment in the dish. To Judas asking, "Is it I?" he plainly answered, "Thou hast said": and besides, he gave him a sop for a token, as they say who maintain that opinion: then with what reason, or with what ignorance, after so clear a discovery of the thing and person, could the disciples imagine that Christ said, "Buy quickly those things that are necessary, or give something to the poor?"
8. And to what poor, I pray? It was unseasonable, truly, late at night, to go to seek for poor people here and there, who were now dispersed all about in several families eating the passover: for the poorest Israelite was obliged to that duty as well as the richest. They who supposed that Christ commanded him to give something to the poor, could not but understand it of a thing that was presently to be done. For it had been ridiculous to conceive, that Christ sent him so hastily away form supper to give something to the poor tomorrow. But, if it be granted that the matter was transacted at Bethany, and that two days before the Passover, which we assert, then it is neither necessary you should suppose that supper to have been so late at night; nor were poor people, then and there, to be far sought for, since so great a multitude of men followed Christ everywhere.
II. This supper was at Bethany, two days before the Passover: the same we conclude of that supper, John 13, both as to the place and time; and that, partly, by the carrying on of the story to that time, partly, by observing the sequel of that supper. Six days before the Passover Christ sups at Bethany, John 12:1.
The next day (five days before the Passover) he came to Jerusalem riding on an ass, John 12:12: and in the evening he returned to Bethany, Matthew 21:17; Mark 11:11.
The day following (four days before the Passover) he went to Jerusalem, Mark 11:11,15, &c.; and at evening he returned the same way to Bethany, Mark 11:19.
The day after (three days before the Passover), he goes again to Jerusalem, Mark 11:27. In the evening, he went out to the mount of Olives, Matthew 24:1,3; Mark 13:1,3; Luke 21:37. Now where did he sup this night? at Bethany. For so Matthew and Mark, "After two days was the Passover," &c. "Now when Jesus was in Bethany." And from this time forward there is no account either of his supping or going to Jerusalem till the evening of the Passover.
From that supper both the evangelists begin their story of Judas' contriving to betray our Lord; Matthew 26:14; Mark 14:10: and very fitly; for at that supper the devil had entered into him, and hurried him forward to accomplish his villainy.
We therefore thus draw up the series of the history out of the holy writers: Before the feast of the Passover (John 13:1), namely, two days (Matt 26:2,6), as Jesus was supping in Bethany, a woman anoints his head: and some of the disciples murmur at it. Our Saviour himself becomes both her advocate and encomiast. Before supper was done Christ riseth from the table, and washeth his disciples' feet; and, sitting down again, acquaints them with the betrayer. John asking privately about him, he privately also gives him a token by a sop, and gives a sop to Judas. With this the devil entered into him, and now he grows ripe for his wickedness: "The devil had before put it into his heart to betray him," verse 2; now he is impatient till he hath done it. He riseth up immediately after he had the sop, and goes out. As he was going out, Jesus said to him, "What thou doest, do quickly": which some understood of buying necessaries for the feast, that was now two days off. It was natural and easy for them to suppose, that he, out of his diligence (having the purse, and the care of providing things that were necessary), was now gone to Jerusalem, though it were night, there being a great deal to be done, to get all things ready against the feast. He goes away; comes to Jerusalem; and the next day treats with the priests about betraying our Lord, and concludes a bargain with them. They were afraid for themselves, lest they should be either hindered by the people, or suffer some violence from them on the feast day. He frees them from this fear, provided they would let him have soldiers and company ready at the time appointed. Our Saviour lodges at Bethany that night, and spends the next day and the night after there too: and, being now ready to take his leave of his disciples, he teaches, instructs, and comforts them at large. Judas, having craftily laid the design of his treachery, and set his nets in readiness, returns, as is probable, to Bethany; and is supposed by the disciples, who were ignorant of the matter, to have performed his office exceeding diligently, in providing necessaries for the approaching feast. On the day itself of the Passover, Jesus removes from Bethany with his disciples: "Arise (saith he), let us go hence," John 14:31, and comes to Jerusalem.
7. There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
[Poured it upon his head, as he sat at meat.] Therefore, it was not the same supper with that in John 12:1; for then our Saviour's feet were anointed, now his head. I admire that any one should be able to confound these two stories. Oil, perfumed with spices, was very usual in feasts, especially sacred; and it was wont to be poured upon the head of some one present.
"The school of Shammai saith, He holds sweet oil in his right hand, and a cup of wine in his left. He says grace first over the oil, and then over the wine. The school of Hillel saith, Oil in his right hand, and wine in his left. He blesseth the sweet oil, and anoints the head of him that serves: but if the waiter be a disciple of the wise, he anoints the wall; for it is a shame for a disciple of the wise to smell of perfumes." Here the waiter anoints the head of him that sits down.
8. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
[To what purpose is this waste?] It was not without cause that it was called "precious ointment," verse 7, and "very costly," John 12:3: to shew that it was not of those common sorts of ointments used in feasts, which they thought it no waste to pour upon the waiter's head, or to daub upon the wall. But this ointment was of much more value, and thence arose the cavil.
9. For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
[And be given to the poor.] That it was Judas especially who cavilled at this, we have reason to believe from what is said of him in another supper, John 12:4. Compare this with those words, John 13:29. When Jesus said to Judas, "What thou doest, do quickly," some thought he had meant, "Give something to the poor." That supper, I presume, was the same with this: and see, how these things agree! When a complaint arose of that prodigal waste of the ointment here, and before in John 12, and that it seemed unfit to some that that should be spent so unadvisedly upon our Lord which might have been bestowed much better, and more fitly, upon the poor, how easily might the others think that Christ had spoken to him about giving somewhat to the poor, that he might show his care of the poor, notwithstanding what he had before said concerning them, and the waste of the ointment.
12. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
[She did it for my burial.] She had anointed his feet, John 12:3, out of love, duty, and honour to him; but this (which is added over and above to them) is upon account of his burial; and that not only in the interpretation of Christ, but in the design of the woman. She, and she first, believes that Christ should die; and, under that notion, she pours the ointment upon his head, as if she were now taking care of his body, and anointing it for burial: and it is as if Christ had said to those that took exceptions and complained, "You account her too officious and diligent for her doing this; and wasteful rather than prudent, in the immoderate profession of her friendship and respect; but a great and weighty reason moves her to it. She knows I shall die, and now takes care of my burial: what you approve of towards the dead, she hath done to one ready to die. Hence her fame shall be celebrated, in all ages, for this her faith, and this expression of it."
15. And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
[Thirty pieces of silver.] The price of a slave, Exodus 21:32. Maimon. "The price of a slave, whether great or little, he or she, is thirty selaim of pure silver: if the slave be worth a hundred pounds, or worth only one penny." Now a selaa, in his weight, weighed three hundred and eighty-four barleycorns.
17. Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?
[Where wilt thou that we prepare, &c.] For they might anywhere; since the houses at Jerusalem were not to be hired, as we have noted elsewhere, but during the time of the feast they were of common right.
19. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.
[Please see "The Temple: Its Ministry and Services" by Alfred Edersheim, "The Passover" for information on the workings of the Temple during this feast.]
[They made ready the Passover.] Peter and John were sent for this purpose, Luke 22:8: and perhaps they moved the question, where wilt thou, &c. They only knew that Judas was about another business, while the rest supposed he was preparing necessaries for the Passover.
This Peter and John were to do, after having spoken with the landlord, whom our Saviour pointed out to them by a sign, to prepare and fit the room.
I. A lamb was to be bought, approved, and fit for the Passover.
II. This lamb was to be brought by them into the court where the altar was.
"The Passover was to be killed only in the court where the other sacrifices were slain: and it was to be killed on the fourteenth day after noon, after the daily sacrifice, after the offering of the incense," &c. The manner of bringing the Passover into the court, and of killing it, you have in Pesachin, in these words: "The Passover is killed in three companies; according as it is said, [Exodus 12:6,] and all the assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it (the Passover); assembly, congregation, and Israel. The first company enters and fills the whole court: they lock the doors of the court: the trumpets sound: the priests stand in order, having golden and silver vials in their hands: one row silver, and the other gold; and they are not intermingled: the vials had no brims, lest the blood should stay upon them, and be congealed or thickened: an Israelite kills it, and a priest receives the blood, and gives it to him that stands next, and he to the next, who, taking the vial that was full, gives him an empty one. The priest who stands next to the altar sprinkles the blood at one sprinkling against the bottom of the altar: that company goes out, and the second comes in," &c. Let them tell me now, who suppose that Christ ate his Passover one day sooner than the Jews did theirs, how these things could be performed by him or his disciples in the Temple, since it was looked upon as a heinous offence among the people not to kill or eat the Passover in the due time. They commonly carried the lambs into the court upon their shoulders: this is called its carrying, in Pesachin: where the Gloss, "The carrying of it upon a man's shoulders, to bring it into the court, as into a public place."
III. It was to be presented in the court under the name of the Paschal lamb, and to be killed for the company mentioned. See what the Gemarists say of this thing in Pesachin: "If they kill it for such as are not to eat, or as are not numbered, for such as are not circumcised or unclean, it is profane: if for those that are to eat, and not to eat, numbered and not numbered, for circumcised and not circumcised, clean and unclean, it is right": that is, for those that are numbered, that atonement may be made for the not numbered; for the circumcised, that atonement may be made for the uncircumcised, &c. So the Gemarists and the Glosses.
IV. The blood being sprinkled at the foot of the altar, the lamb flayed, his belly cut up, the fat taken out and thrown into the fire upon the altar, the body is carried back to the place where they sup: the flesh is roasted, and the skin given to the landlord.
V. Other things were also provided. Bread according to God's appointment, wine, some usual meats, and the same called Charoseth: of which commentators speak everywhere.
20. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
[He sat down with the twelve.]
I. The schools of the Rabbins distinguish between sitting at the table, and lying at the table: "If they sit to eat, every one says grace for himself; if they lie, one says grace for all." But now "that lying," as the Gloss on the place saith, "was when they leaned on their left side upon couches, and ate and drank as they thus leaned." And the same Gloss in another place; "They used to eat lying along upon their left side, their feet being on the ground, every one on a single couch": Babyl. Berac. As also the Gemara; to lie on one's back is not called lying down; and to lie on one's right side is not called lying down.
II. The Israelites accounted such lying down in eating a very fit posture requisite in sacred feasts, and highly requisite and most necessary in the Paschal supper: "We do not use lying down but only to a morsel," &c. "And indeed to those that did eat leaning, leaning was necessary. But now our sitting is a kind of leaning along. They were used to lean along every one on his own couch, and to eat his meat on his own table: but we eat all together at one table."
Even the poorest Israelite must not eat till he lies down. The canon is speaking about the Paschal supper; on which thus the Babylonians: "It is said that the feast of unleavened bread requires leaning or lying down, but the bitter herbs not: concerning wine, it is said in the name of Rabh Nachman that it hath need of lying down: and it is said in the name of Rabh Nachman, that it hath not need of lying down: and yet these do not contradict one another; for that is said of the two first cups, this of the two last." They lie down on the left side, not on the right, "because they must necessarily use their right hand in eating." So the Gloss there.
III. They used and were fond of that custom of lying down, even to superstition, because it carried with it a token and signification of liberty: "R. Levi saith, It is the manner of slaves to eat standing: but now let them eat lying along, that it may be known that they are gone out of bondage to liberty. R. Simon in the name of R. Joshua Ben Levi, Let that which a man eats at the Passover, and does his duty, though it be but as big as an olive, let it be eaten lying along." "They eat the unleavened bread the first night lying down, because it is a commemoration of deliverance. The bitter herbs have no need of lying down, because they are in memory of bondage. Although it be the bread of affliction, yet it is to be eaten after the manner of liberty." See more there. "We are obliged to lie down when we eat, that we may eat after the manner of kings and nobles."
IV. "When there were two beds, the worthiest person lay uppermost; the second to him, next above him. But when there were three beds, the worthiest person lay in the middle, the second above him, the third below him." On which thus the Gloss: "When there were two, the principal person lay on the first couch, and the next to him lay above him, that is, on a couch placed at the pillow of the more worthy person. If there were three, the worthiest lay in the middle, the next above him, and the third below him; that is, at the coverlids of his feet. If the principal person desires to speak with the second, he must necessarily raise himself so as to sit upright; for as long as he sits bending he cannot speak to him; for the second sat behind the head of the first, and the face of the first was turned another away: and it would be better with the second [in respect of discourse] if he sat below him; for then he might hear his words, even as he lay along." This affords some light to that story, John 13:23,24; where Peter, as seems likely, lying behind our Saviour's head in the first place next after him, could not discourse with him, nor ask about the betrayer: therefore looking over Christ's head upon John, he gave him a sign to inquire. He sitting in the second place from Christ with his face towards him, asketh him,
22. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
[Lord, is it I?] The very occasion, namely, eating together and fellowship, partly renews the mention of the betrayer at the Paschal supper; as if he had said, "We are eating here friendly together, and yet there is one in this number who will betray me": partly, that the disciples might be more fully acquainted with the matter itself: for at the supper in John 13, he had privately discovered the person to John only; unless perhaps Peter understood it also, who knew of John's question to Christ, having at first put him upon it by his beckoning. The disciples ask, Is it I? partly through ignorance of the thing, partly out of a sincere and assured profession of the contrary.
24. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
[It had been good for him if he had not been born] It were better for him that he were not created. A very usual way of speaking in the Talmudists.
26. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
[Jesus took bread, &c.] Bread at supper, the cup after supper: "After supper he took the cup," saith Luke 22:20; and Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:25; but not so of the bread.
That we may more clearly perceive the history of this supper in the evangelists, it may not be amiss to transcribe the rubric of the paschal supper, with what brevity we can, out of the Talmudists; that we may compare the things here related with the custom of the nation.
I. The paschal supper began with a cup of wine: "They mingle the first cup for him. The school of Shammai saith, He gives thanks, first for the day, and then for the wine: but the school of Hillel saith, He first gives thanks for the wine, and then for the day." The Shammeans confirm their opinion, Because the day is the cause of their having wine: that is, as the Gloss explains it, that they have it before meat. "They first mingle a cup for every one, and [the master of the family] blesseth it; 'Blessed be he that created the fruit of the vine': and then he repeats the consecration of the day, [that is, he gives thanks in the plural number for all the company, saying, 'Let us give thanks,'] and drinks up the cup. And afterward he blesseth concerning the washing of hands, and washeth." Compare this cup with that, Luke 22:17.
II. Then the bitter herbs are set on: "They bring in a table ready covered, upon which there is sour sauce and other herbs." Let the Glossers give the interpretation: "They do not set the table till after the consecration of the day: and upon the table they set lettuce. After he hath blessed over the wine, they set herbs, and he eats lettuce dipped, but not in the sour sauce, for that is not yet brought: and this is not meant simply of lettuce, unless when there be other herbs." His meaning is this, before he comes to those bitter herbs which he eats after the unleavened bread, when he also gives thanks for the eating of the bitter herbs, "as it is written," Ye shall eat (it) with unleavened bread and bitter herbs: "First unleavened bread, and then bitter herbs. And this first dipping is used only for that reason, that children may observe and inquire; for it is unusual for men to eat herbs before meat."
III. "Afterward there is set on unleavened bread, and the sauce...and the lamb, and the flesh also of the Chagigah of the fourteenth day." Maimonides doth not take notice of any interposition between the setting on the bitter herbs, and the setting on the unleavened bread: but the Talmudic Misna notes it in these words; They set unleavened bread before him. Where the Gloss, "This is said, because they have moved the table from before him who performed the duty of the Passover: now that removal of the table was for this end, that the son might ask the father, and the father answered him, 'Let them bring the table again, that we may make the second dipping'; then the son would ask, 'Why do we dip twice?' Therefore they bring back the table with unleavened bread upon it, and bitter herbs," &c.
IV. He begins, and blesseth, "'Blessed be He that created the fruits of the earth': and he takes the herbs and dips them in the sauce Charoseth, and eats as much as an olive, he, and all that lie down with him; but less than the quantity of an olive he must not eat: then they remove the table from before the master of the family." Whether this removal of the table be the same with the former is not much worth our inquiry.
V. "Now they mingle the second cup for him: and the son asks the father; or if the son doth not ask him, he tells him himself, how much this night differs from all other nights. 'On other nights (saith he) we dip but once, but this night twice. On other nights we eat either leavened or unleavened bread; on this, only unleavened, &c. On other nights we eat either sitting or lying; on this, all lying.'"
VI. "The table is set before them again; and then he saith, 'This is the passover, which we therefore eat, because God passed over the houses of our fathers in Egypt.' Then he lifts up the bitter herbs in his hand and saith, 'We therefore eat these bitter herbs, because the Egyptians made the lives of our fathers bitter in Egypt.' He takes up the unleavened bread in his hand, and saith, 'We eat this unleavened bread, because our fathers had not time to sprinkle their meal to be leavened before God revealed himself and redeemed them. We ought therefore to praise, celebrate, honour, magnify, &c. him, who wrought all these wonderful things for our fathers and for us, and brought us out of bondage into liberty, out of sorrow into joy, out of darkness into great light; let us therefore say, Hallelujah: Praise the Lord, praise him, O ye servants of the Lord, &c. to, And the flint-stone into foundations of waters' [that is, from the beginning of Psalm 113 to the end of Psalm 114]. And he concludes, 'Blessed be thou, O Lord God, our King eternal, redeeming us, and redeeming our fathers out of Egypt, and bringing us to this night; that we may eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs': and then he drinks off the second cup."
VII. "Then washing his hands, and taking two loaves, he breaks one, and lays the broken upon the whole one, and blesseth it; 'Blessed be he who causeth bread to grow out of the earth': and putting some bread and bitter herbs together, he dips them in the sauce Charoseth,--and blessing, 'Blessed be thou, O Lord God, our eternal King, he who hath sanctified us by his precepts, and hath commanded us to eat,' he eats the unleavened bread and bitter herbs together; but if he eats the unleavened bread and bitter herbs by themselves, he gives thanks severally for each. And afterward, giving thanks after the same manner over the flesh of the Chagigah of the fourteenth day, he eats also of it, and in like manner giving thanks over the lamb, he eats of it."
VIII. "From thenceforward he lengthens out the supper, eating this or that as he hath a mind, and last of all he eats of the flesh of the passover, at least as much as an olive; but after this he tastes not at all of any food." Thus far Maimonides in the place quoted, as also the Talmudists in several places in the last chapter in the tract Pesachin.
And now was the time when Christ, taking bread, instituted the eucharist: but whether was it after the eating of those farewell morsels, as I may call them, of the lamb, or instead of them? It seems to be in their stead, because it is said by our evangelist and Mark, As they were eating, Jesus took bread. Now, without doubt, they speak according to the known and common custom of that supper, that they might be understood by their own people. But all Jews know well enough, that after the eating of those morsels of the lamb it cannot be said, As they were eating; for the eating was ended with those morsels. It seems therefore more likely that Christ, when they were now ready to take those morsels, changed the custom, and gave about morsels of bread in their stead, and instituted the sacrament. Some are of opinion, that it was the custom to taste the unleavened bread last of all, and to close up the supper with it; of which opinion, I confess, I also sometimes was. And it is so much the more easy to fall into this opinion, because there is such a thing mentioned in some of the rubrics about the passover; and with good reason, because they took up this custom after the destruction of the Temple.
[Blessed and brake it.] First he blessed, then he brake it. Thus it always used to be done, except in the paschal bread. One of the two loaves was first divided into two parts, or, perhaps, into more, before it was blessed. One of them is divided: they are the words of Maimonides, who also adds, "But why doth he not bless both the loaves after the same manner as in other feasts? Because this is called the bread of poverty. Now poor people deal in morsels, and here likewise are morsels."
Let not him that is to break the bread, break it before Amen be pronounced from the mouths of the answerers.
[This is my body.] These words, being applied to the Passover now newly eaten, will be more clear: "This now is my body, in that sense, in which the paschal lamb hath been my body hitherto." And in the twenty-eighth verse, "This is my blood of the new testament, in the same sense, as the blood of bulls and goats hath been my blood under the Old." Exodus 24, Hebrews 9.
27. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
[The cup.] Bread was to be here at this supper by divine institution: but how came the wine to be here? and how much? and of what sort?
I. "A tradition. It is necessary that a man should cheer up his wife and his children for the feast. But how doth he cheer them up? With wine." The same things are cited in the Babylonian Talmud: "The Rabbins deliver," say they, "that a man is obliged to cheer up his wife and his domestics in the feast; as it is said, 'And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast.' (Deut 16:14). But how are they cheered up? With wine. R. Judah saith, 'Men are cheered up with something agreeable to them; women, with that which is agreeable to them.' That which is agreeable to men to rejoice them is wine. But what is that which is agreeable to women to cheer them? Rabh Joseph saith, 'Dyed garments in Babylon, and linen garments in the land of Israel.'"
II. Four cups of wine were to be drunk up by every one: "All are obliged to four cups, men, women, and children: R. Judah saith, 'But what have children to do with wine?' But they give them wheat and nuts," &c.
The Jerusalem Talmudists give the reason of the number, in the place before quoted, at full. Some, according to the number of the four words made use of in the history of the redemption of Israel out of Egypt, And I will bring forth, and I will deliver, and I will redeem, and I will take: some, according to the number of the repetition of the word cup, in Genesis 40:11,13, which is four times; some, according to the number of the four monarchies; some, according to the number of the four cups of vengeance which God shall give to the nations to drink, Jeremiah 25:15, 51:7; Psalm 11:6, 75:8. And according to the number of the four cups which God shall give Israel to drink, Psalm 23:5, 16:5, 116:13. The cup of two salvations.
III. The measure of these cups is thus determined: "Rabbi Chaia saith, 'Four cups contain an Italian quart of wine.'" And more exactly in the same place: "How much is the measure of a cup? Two fingers square, and one finger and a half, and a third part of a finger deep." The same words you have in the Babylonian Talmud at the place before quoted, only with this difference, that instead of the third part of a finger, there is the fifth part of a finger.
IV. It is commanded, that he should perform this office with red wine. So the Babylonian, "It is necessary that it should taste, and look like wine." The Gloss, that it should be red.
V. If he drinks wine pure, and not mingled with water, he hath performed his duty; but commonly they mingled water with it: hence, when there is mention of wine in the rubric of the feasts, they always use the word they mingle him a cup. Concerning that mingling, both Talmudists dispute in the forecited chapter of the Passover: which see. "The Rabbins have a tradition. Over wine which hath not water mingled with it they do not say that blessing, 'Blessed be He that created the fruit of the vine'; but, 'Blessed be he that created the fruit of the tree.'" The Gloss, "Their wine was very strong, and not fit to be drunk without water," &c. The Gemarists a little after: "The wise agree with R. Eleazar, 'That one ought not to bless over the cup of blessing till water be mingled with it.'" The mingling of water with every cup was requisite for health, and the avoiding of drunkenness. We have before taken notice of a story of Rabban Gamaliel, who found and confessed some disorder of mind, and unfitness for serious business, by having drunk off an Italian quart of wine. These things being thus premised, concerning the paschal wine, we now return to observe this cup of our Saviour.
After those things which used to be performed in the paschal supper, as is before related, these are moreover added by Maimonides: "Then he washeth his hands, and blesseth the blessing of the meat" [that is, gives thanks after meat], "over the third cup of wine, and drinks it up." That cup was commonly called the cup of blessing; in the Talmudic dialect. The cup of blessing is when they give thanks after supper, saith the Gloss on Babyl. Berac. Where also in the text many thinkings are mentioned of this cup: "Ten things are spoken of the cup of blessing. Washing and cleansing": [that is, to wash the inside and outside, namely, that nothing should remain of the wine of the former cups]. "Let pure wine" be poured into the cup, and water mingled with it there. "Let it be full: the crowning"; that is, as the Gemara, "by the disciples." While he is doing this, let the disciples stand about him in a crown or ring. The veiling; that is, "as Rabh Papa, he veils himself and sits down; as R. Issai, he spreads a handkerchief on his head. He takes up the cup in both hands, but puts it into his right hand; he lifts it from the table, fixeth his eyes upon it, &c. Some say he imparts it (as a gift) to his family."
Which of these rites our Saviour made use of, we do not inquire; the cup certainly was the same with the "cup of blessing": namely, when, according to the custom, after having eaten the farewell morsel of the lamb, there was now an end of supper, and thanks were to be given over the third cup after meat, he takes that cup, and after having returned thanks, as is probable, for the meat, both according to the custom, and his office, he instituted this for a cup of eucharist or thanksgiving; The cup of blessing which we bless, 1 Corinthians 10:16. Hence it is that Luke and Paul say that he took the cup "after supper"; that is, that cup which closed up the supper.
It must not be passed by, that when he instituted the eucharistical cup, he said, "This is my blood of the new testament," as Matthew and Mark: nay, as Luke and Paul, "This cup is the new testament in my blood." Not only the seal of the covenant, but the sanction of the new covenant: the end of the Mosaical economy, and the confirming of a new one. The confirmation of the old covenant was by the blood of bulls and goats, Exodus 24, Hebrews 9, because blood was still to be shed: the confirmation of the new was by a cup of wine; because, under the new testament, there was no further shedding of blood. As it is here said of the cup, "This cup is the new testament in my blood," so it might be said of the cup of blood (Exo 24:8), "That cup was the old testament in the blood of Christ." There, all the articles of that covenant being read over, Moses sprinkled all the people with blood, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant which God hath made with you": and thus that old covenant or testimony was confirmed. In like manner, Christ having published all the articles of the new covenant, he takes the cup of wine, and gives them to drink, and saith, "This is the new testament in my blood": and thus the new covenant is established.
There was, besides, a fourth cup, of which our author speaks also; "Then he mingled a fourth cup, and over it he finished the Hallel; and adds, moreover, the blessing of the hymn, which is, 'Let all thy works praise thee, O Lord,' &c.; and saith, 'Blessed is He that created the fruit of the vine'; and afterward he tastes of nothing more that night," &c. 'Finisheth the Hallel'; that is, he begins there where he left off before, to wit, at the beginning of Psalm 115, and goes on to the end of Psalm 118.
Whether Christ made use of this cup also, we do not dispute; it is certain he used the hymn, as the evangelist tells us, when they had sung a hymn, at the thirtieth verse. We meet with the very same word in Midras Tillim.
And now looking back on this paschal supper, let me ask those who suppose the supper in John 13 to be the same with this, What part of this time they do allot to the washing of the disciples' feet? what part to Judas' going out? and what part to his discoursing with the priests, and getting ready his accomplices for their wicked exploit?
I. It seems strange, indeed, that Christ should put off the washing of the disciples' feet to the paschal supper, when, 1. That kind of action was not only unusual and unheard of at that supper, but in nowise necessary or fitting: for 2. How much more conveniently might that have been performed at a common supper before the Passover, as we suppose, when he was not straitened by the time, than at the paschal supper, when there were many things to be done which required despatch!
II. The office of the paschal supper did not admit of such interruption, nor was it lawful for others so to decline from the fixed rule as to introduce such a foreign matter: and why should Christ so swerve from it, when in other things he conformed himself to the custom of the nation, and when he had before a much more fit occasion for this action than when he was thus pressed and straitened by the time?
III. Judas sat at super with the rest, and was there when he did eat, Matthew 26:20,21; Mark 14:18: and, alas! how unusual was it for any to depart, in that manner, from that supper before it was done! It is enough doubted by the Jewish canons whether it were lawful; and how far any one, who had joined himself to this or that family, might leave it to go to another, and take one part of the supper here, and another part there: but for a person to leave the supper and go about another business, is a thing they never in the least dreamed of; they would not, they could not, suppose it. You see how light a matter Judas' going away to buy necessaries, as the disciples interpreted it, seemed to them, because he went away from a common supper: but if they had seen him thus dismissed, and sent away from the paschal supper, it would have seemed a monstrous and wonderful thing. What! to leave the paschal supper, now begun, to go to market! To go from a common supper at Bethany, to buy necessaries for the Passover, against the time of the Passover, this was nothing strange or unusual: but to go from the paschal supper, before it was done, to a market or fair, was more unusual and strange than that it should be so lightly passed over by the disciples.
We, therefore, do not at all doubt that Judas was present both at the Passover and the eucharist; which Luke affirms in direct words, 22:20,21: nor do we doubt much of his being present at the hymn, and that he went not away before all was done: but when they all rose up from the table, and prepared for their journey to mount Olivet (in order to lie at Bethany, as the disciples supposed), the villainous traitor stole away, and went to the company [cohortes], that he had appointed the priests two days before to make ready for him at such a time and place. Methinks I hear the words and consultations of this bloody wretch: "Tomorrow (saith he) will be the Passover, and I know my Master will come to it: I know he will not lie at Jerusalem, but will go back to Bethany, however late at night, where he is used to lie. Make ready, therefore, for me armed men, and let them come to a place appointed immediately after the paschal supper; and I will steal out privately to them while my Master makes himself ready for his journey; and I will conduct them to seize upon him in the gardens without the city, where, by reason of the solitariness of the place and the silence of the night, we shall be secure enough from the multitude. Do ye make haste to despatch your passovers, that you may meet together at the council after supper, to examine and judge him, when we shall bring him to you; while the silence of the night favours you also, and protects you from the multitude." Thus, all things are provided against the place and time appointed; and the thief, stealing away from the company of the disciples as they were going out towards the mount of Olives and hastening to his armed confederates without delay, brings them prepared along with him, and sets upon his Master now in the garden.
34. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
[Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.] The same also he had said, John 13:38, "The cock shall not crow till thou hast denied me thrice." Therefore some say, that that was the same supper with this of the Passover. Very right indeed, if [it] ought to be rendered, the cock shall not crow once, or the cock shall not crow at all. But it is not so; but it amounts to this sense, "Within the time of cockcrowing" thou shalt deny me thrice; for Peter had denied him but once before the first crowing of the cock, and thrice before the second, Mark 14:68,72. From hence, therefore, we may easily observe in what sense those words are to be understood, which were spoken to Peter two days before the Passover, John 13:38, "The cock shall not crow," &c.: not that the cock should not crow at all between that time and Peter's denying; but as if our Saviour had said, "Are you so secure of yourself, O Peter? Verily, I say unto you, the time shall be, and that shortly, when you shall deny me thrice within the time of cockcrowing." At cockcrowing, Mark 13:35. At the Paschal supper it is said, "This night, before the cock crow," &c. Matt 26:34; Mark 14:30; Luke 22:34. But there is nothing of this said in that supper, John 13.
Concerning the cockcrowing, thus the masters: "R. Shilla saith, Whosoever begins his journey before cockcrowing, his blood be upon his head. R. Josia saith, If before the second crowing: but some say, Before the third. But of what kind of cock is this spoken?" Of a middling cock; that is, as the Gloss explains it, "a cock that doth not crow too soon nor too late." The Misna on which this Gloss is hath these words; "Every day they remove the ashes from the altar about cockcrowing; but on the day of atonement at midnight," &c.
You may wonder that a dunghill cock should be found at Jerusalem, when it is forbid by the canons that any cocks should be kept there: "They do not keep cocks at Jerusalem, upon account of the holy things; nor do the priests keep them throughout all the land of Israel." The Gloss gives the reason; "Even Israelites are forbid to keep cocks at Jerusalem, because of the holy things: for Israelites have eaten there peace offerings and thank offerings: but now it is the custom of dunghill cocks to turn over dunghills, where perhaps they might find creeping things that might pollute those holy things that are to be eaten." By what means, and under what pretence, the canon was dispensed with, we do not dispute. It is certain there were cocks at Jerusalem, as well as at other places. And memorable is the story of a cock which was stoned by the sentence of the council for having killed a little child.
36. Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
[Gethsemane.] The place of the olive presses, at the foot of mount Olivet. In John, it is "a garden beyond Cedron." "They do not make gardens or paradises in Jerusalem, because of the stink. The Gloss, "Because of the stink that riseth from the weeds which are thrown out: besides, it is the custom to dung gardens; and thence comes a stink." Upon this account there were no gardens in the city, (some few gardens of roses excepted, which had been so from the days of the prophets,) but all were without the walls, especially at the foot of Olivet.
49. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.
[Kissed him.] It was not unusual for a master to kiss his disciple; but for a disciple to kiss his master was more rare. Whether therefore Judas did this under pretence of respect, or out of open contempt and derision, let it be inquired.
60. But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses.
[Many false witnesses came.] ...
65. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard this blasphemy.
[Then the high priest rent his clothes.] "When witnesses speak out the blasphemy which they heard, then all, hearing the blasphemy, are bound to rend their clothes." "They that judge a blasphemer, first ask the witnesses, and bid him speak out plainly what he hath heard; and when he speaks it, the judges standing on their feet rend their garments, and do not sew them up again," &c. See there the Babylonian Gemara discoursing at large why they stand upon their feet, why they rend their garments, and why they may not be sewed up again [Sanhedr. cap. 7. hal. 10].