Matthew 26:65

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy.

Matthew 26:65 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 26:65

Then the high priest rent his clothes
Both his outer and inner garments. This he did, to show his zeal for the honour and glory of God, his grief and concern at the profanation of his holy name by a false oath, and his abhorrence of, and indignation at the blasphemy he supposed Christ to be guilty of, in asserting himself to be the Son of God. Some have thought, that Caiaphas in this action, transgressed the law, in ( Leviticus 21:10 ) , where it is said, that "the high priest--shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes": and it is one of the Jews' negative precepts F9, that

``an high priest is prohibited, (Mlwel) , "ever" to rend his garments:''

and that therefore being transported with passion at the greatness of the supposed crime, could not forbear expressing his detestation of it in this manner, though it was forbidden him: but it does not appear to have been unlawful: as for the law in Leviticus, it only regards the rending of garments at funerals, or in mourning for the dead, as the context shows; and so Jonathan ben Uzziel paraphrases the text, "nor rent his clothes": (yqyna tevb) "in the time of mourning"; and so the Jewish F11 interpreters, in general, expound it; and besides, this prohibition, according to them, only regards the manner of rending: their rule is this F12;

``an high priest rends below, and a common person above:''

the sense of which, according to their commentators, is F13,

``that if anyone dies for whom an high priest is obliged to rend his garments, he must rend below, at the extreme part of his garment, near his feet; and as for what is written, nor rend his clothes; the meaning is, he shall not rend as other men do, above, over against the breast, near the shoulder, as the rest of the people.''

Moreover, a priest might not go into the sanctuary, nor perform any part of service with his clothes rent; the canon runs thus F14,

``the judgment, or the law of them that rend their garment, and of those that uncover the head, is one and the same, as it is said, ( Leviticus 10:6 ) , lo! if he is in service, and rends his garments, he is guilty of death by the hands of heaven, though his service is right, and not profaned.''

And indeed no man, whether a priest or an Israelite, might go into the temple with his clothes rent; and a priest might not rend his sacerdotal garments, on any account; yet such were not these that Caiaphas now had on; but in case of hearing blasphemy, everyone, be he what he would, was obliged to rend his garments F15:

``Whosoever hears the cursing of the name (of God) is obliged to rend, even at the cursing of the surnames he is obliged to rend; and he that hears it from an Israelite, both he that hears, and he that hears from the mouth of him that hears, he is obliged to rend; but he that hears from the mouth of a Gentile, is not obliged to rend; and Eliakim and Shebna would not have rent, but because Rabshakeh was an apostate.''

So when witnesses expressed the blasphemy of such they testified against, the judges were obliged to rise up and rend their garments; concerning which, take the following rule F16:

``a blasphemer is not guilty, unless he expresses the name (of God); says R. Joshua ben Korcha, all the day the witnesses are examined by the surnames; but when the cause is finished, they do not put to death because of the surnames, but they bring every man out, and ask the chief among them, and say to him, say expressly what thou hast heard, and he says it: then the judges stand upon their feet, (Nyerwqw) , "and rend their garments", and do not sow them up again; and then the second and the third say, I have heard the same as he.''

From all which it appears, that Caiaphas did what was the custom of the nation to do in such a case. The observation, that some learned men have made, that the high priest's rending his garments, was, though without his intention, an emblem and presage, of the rending of the priesthood from him, and his brethren, and the entire change of it; as the abolition of the whole ceremonial law, was signified by the rending of the vail of the temple in twain; and as the removing of the kingdom from Saul, was represented by Samuel's rending his mantle; and the revolt of the ten tribes to Jeroboam, by Abijah's rending his garment into twelve pieces, and giving ten to him; would have had a much better foundation to be built on, were these clothes that Caiaphas rent, his priestly ones: but such they were not; for both the high priest, and the other priests, only wore their sacerdotal garments in the temple; nor was it lawful for them to go out in them elsewhere; for so the Jews say F17;

``it is forbidden to go out into the province; city, or country, in the garments of the priesthood; but in the sanctuary, whether in the time of service, or not in the time of service, it was lawful.''

In the temple, there were chests on purpose for the garments of the priests F18; from whence they took them, and where they laid them up when they had performed their service: of these there were ninety six in number; for as there were twenty four courses, there were four chests for every course; in which the garments were put by themselves, the breeches by themselves, the girdles by themselves, the bonnets by themselves, and the coats by themselves; sealed up with an inscription on them, showing what was in them: and when the men that belonged to such a course, came to perform their service in turn, they opened these chests, and clothed themselves: and when they went out of their service, they put them up in them again, and sealed them; and as for

``the high priest, he left his golden garments, (wlv hkvlb) , "in his chamber", (an apartment in the temple, peculiar to him, and for this use,) in the night, and at whatsoever time he went out of the sanctuary F19''

Nor might he go abroad with them, unless (lwdg Krwul) , "in great necessity" F20; as Simeon the Just went out in priestly garments to meet Alexander the Great, to appease him, being warned of God so to do: hence the Apostle Paul knew not Ananias the high priest, ( Acts 23:5 ) , which he must have done, had he had on his priestly garments: for when the priests were not in the temple, and out of service, they wore no distinguishing habits, but were dressed as laics, and as the common people were F21. The reason of Caiaphas's rending his clothes, is expressed in, the next clause,

saying, he hath spoken blasphemy:
not only because Jesus asserted that he was the Messiah, but also the Son of God; hereby making himself equal with God, which is the sense in which the Jews always understood this phrase; and he appearing to them to be but a mere man, they charged it as blasphemy against God, to assume such a character and relation to himself:

what further need have we of witnesses?
of seeking after others, as they had done: or of further examining and taking the depositions of those, who were before them: he was for putting a stop to the process, and bringing the cause at once to an issue: and therefore addresses the court in the following manner;

behold now, ye have heard his blasphemy:
out of his own mouth, as ( Luke 22:71 ) , expresses it; and with their own ears, and at that very time; so that they had no need of recourse to things past, or examine witnesses about what they had heard from him formerly: and therefore he proposes, that they would attend to, and take notice of his present words; and which, as he suggests, were shocking and astonishing: for the word, "behold!" may not only be a note of attention, but of astonishment.


F9 Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. neg. 302.
F11 Jarchi, Aben Ezra in loc.
F12 Misn. Horayot, c. 3. sect. 5.
F13 Bartenora & Maimon. in ib.
F14 Maimon. Hilch. Biath Hamikdash, c. 1. sect. 14, 17.
F15 Maimon. Hilch. Obede Cochabim, c. 2. sect. 10. Vid. T. Hieros. Sanhedrin, fol. 25. 1.
F16 Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 7. sect. 5.
F17 T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 69. 1. & Tamid, fol. 27. 2.
F18 Misn. Tamid, c. 5. sect. 3.
F19 Maimon. Hilch. Cele Hamikdash, c. 8. sect. 8, 9, 10.
F20 Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pt. affirm. 173.
F21 Maimon. ib. c. 10. sect. 4. Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 15.

Matthew 26:65 In-Context

63 But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, "I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God."
64 Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven."
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy.
66 What is your verdict?" They answered, "He deserves death."
67 Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him,
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.