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2002 11 11
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Chapter 27


1 2 When it was morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.


They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.


Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver 3 to the chief priests and elders,


saying, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." They said, "What is that to us? Look to it yourself."


4 Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself.


The chief priests gathered up the money, but said, "It is not lawful to deposit this in the temple treasury, for it is the price of blood."


After consultation, they used it to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners.


That is why that field even today is called the Field of Blood.


Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet, 5 "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of a man with a price on his head, a price set by some of the Israelites,


and they paid it out for the potter's field just as the Lord had commanded me."


Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" 6 Jesus said, "You say so."


And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, 7 he made no answer.


Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?"


But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed.


8 Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished.


9 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called (Jesus) Barabbas.


So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, "Which one do you want me to release to you, (Jesus) Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?"


10 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over.


11 While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him."


The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.


The governor said to them in reply, "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" They answered, "Barabbas!"


12 Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?" They all said, "Let him be crucified!"


But he said, "Why? What evil has he done?" They only shouted the louder, "Let him be crucified!"


13 When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood. Look to it yourselves."


And the whole people said in reply, "His blood be upon us and upon our children."


Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, 14 he handed him over to be crucified.


Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium 15 and gathered the whole cohort around him.


They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak 16 about him.


Weaving a crown out of thorns, 17 they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!"


They spat upon him 18 and took the reed and kept striking him on the head.


And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him.


19 As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.


And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of the Skull),


they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall. 20 But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.


After they had crucified him, they divided his garments 21 by casting lots;


then they sat down and kept watch over him there.


And they placed over his head the written charge 22 against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.


Two revolutionaries 23 were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left.


24 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads


and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, (and) come down from the cross!"


Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,


"He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! 25 Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.


26 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, 'I am the Son of God.'"


The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way.


27 From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.


And about three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" 28 which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"


29 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, "This one is calling for Elijah."


Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink.


But the rest said, "Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him."


30 But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.


And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. 31 The earth quaked, rocks were split,


tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.


And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.


32 The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, "Truly, this was the Son of God!"


There were many women there, looking on from a distance, 33 who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.


Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.


34 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus.


He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over.


Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it (in) clean linen


and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed.


But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.


35 The next day, the one following the day of preparation, 36 the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate


and said, "Sir, we remember that this impostor while still alive said, 'After three days I will be raised up.'


Give orders, then, that the grave be secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people, 'He has been raised from the dead.' This last imposture would be worse than the first." 37


Pilate said to them, "The guard is yours; 38 go secure it as best you can."


So they went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard.



1 [1-31] Cf Mark 15:1-20. Matthew's account of the Roman trial before Pilate is introduced by a consultation of the Sanhedrin after which Jesus is handed over to . . . the governor ( Matthew 27:1-2). Matthew follows his Marcan source closely but adds some material that is peculiar to him, the death of Judas ( Matthew 27:3-10), possibly the name Jesus as the name of Barabbas also ( Matthew 27:16-17), the intervention of Pilate's wife ( Matthew 27:19), Pilate's washing his hands in token of his disclaiming responsibility for Jesus' death ( Matthew 27:24), and the assuming of that responsibility by the whole people ( Matthew 27:25).

2 [1] There is scholarly disagreement about the meaning of the Sanhedrin's taking counsel (symboulion elabon; cf Matthew 12:14; 22:15; 27:7; 28:12); see the note on Mark 15:1. Some understand it as a discussion about the strategy for putting their death sentence against Jesus into effect since they lacked the right to do so themselves. Others see it as the occasion for their passing that sentence, holding that Matthew, unlike Mark ( Mark 14:64), does not consider that it had been passed in the night session ( Matthew 26:66). Even in the latter interpretation, their handing him over to Pilate is best explained on the hypothesis that they did not have competence to put their sentence into effect, as is stated in John 18:31.

3 [3] The thirty pieces of silver: see Matthew 26:15.

4 [5-8] For another tradition about the death of Judas, cf Acts 1:18-19. The two traditions agree only in the purchase of a field with the money paid to Judas for his betrayal of Jesus and the name given to the field, the Field of Blood. In Acts Judas himself buys the field and its name comes from his own blood shed in his fatal accident on it. The potter's field: this designation of the field is based on the fulfillment citation in Matthew 27:10.

5 [9-10] Cf Matthew 26:15. Matthew's attributing this text to Jeremiah is puzzling, for there is no such text in that book, and the thirty pieces of silver thrown by Judas "into the temple" ( Matthew 27:5) recall rather Zechariah 11:12-13. It is usually said that the attribution of the text to Jeremiah is due to Matthew's combining the Zechariah text with texts from Jeremiah that speak of a potter ( Jeremiah 18:2-3), the buying of a field ( Jeremiah 32:6-9), or the breaking of a potter's flask at Topheth in the valley of Ben-hinnom with the prediction that it will become a burial place ( Jeremiah 19:1-13).

6 [11] King of the Jews: this title is used of Jesus only by pagans. The Matthean instances are, besides this verse, Matthew 2:2; 27:29, 37. Matthew equates it with "Messiah"; cf Matthew 2:2, 4 and Matthew 27:17, 22 where he has changed "the king of the Jews" of his Marcan source ( Mark 15:9, 12) to "(Jesus) called Messiah." The normal political connotation of both titles would be of concern to the Roman governor. You say so: see the note on Matthew 26:25. An unqualified affirmative response is not made because Jesus' kingship is not what Pilate would understand it to be.

7 [12-14] Cf Matthew 26:62-63. As in the trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus' silence may be meant to recall Isaiah 53:7. Greatly amazed: possibly an allusion to Isaiah 52:14-15.

8 [15-26] The choice that Pilate offers the crowd between Barabbas and Jesus is said to be in accordance with a custom of releasing at the Passover feast one prisoner chosen by the crowd ( Matthew 27:15). This custom is mentioned also in Mark 15:6 and John 18:39 but not in Luke; see the note on Luke 23:17. Outside of the gospels there is no direct attestation of it, and scholars are divided in their judgment of the historical reliability of the claim that there was such a practice.

9 [16-17] [Jesus] Barabbas: it is possible that the double name is the original reading; Jesus was a common Jewish name; see the note on Matthew 1:21. This reading is found in only a few textual witnesses, although its absence in the majority can be explained as an omission of Jesus made for reverential reasons. That name is bracketed because of its uncertain textual attestation. The Aramaic name Barabbas means "son of the father"; the irony of the choice offered between him and Jesus, the true son of the Father, would be evident to those addressees of Matthew who knew that.

10 [18] Cf Mark 14:10. This is an example of the tendency, found in varying degree in all the gospels, to present Pilate in a relatively favorable light and emphasize the hostility of the Jewish authorities and eventually of the people.

11 [19] Jesus' innocence is declared by a Gentile woman. In a dream: in Matthew's infancy narrative, dreams are the means of divine communication; cf Matthew 1:20; 2:12, 13, 19, 22.

12 [22] Let him be crucified: incited by the chief priests and elders ( Matthew 27:20), the crowds demand that Jesus be executed by crucifixion, a peculiarly horrible form of Roman capital punishment. The Marcan parallel, "Crucify him" ( Mark 15:3), addressed to Pilate, is changed by Matthew to the passive, probably to emphasize the responsibility of the crowds.

13 [24-25] Peculiar to Matthew. Took water . . . blood: cf Deut 21:1-8, the handwashing prescribed in the case of a murder when the killer is unknown. The elders of the city nearest to where the corpse is found must wash their hands, declaring, "Our hands did not shed this blood." Look to it yourselves: cf Matthew 27:4. The whole people: Matthew sees in those who speak these words the entire people (Greek laos) of Israel. His blood . . . and upon our children: cf Jeremiah 26:15. The responsibility for Jesus' death is accepted by the nation that was God's special possession ( Exodus 19:5), his own people (Hosea 2:23), and they thereby lose that high privilege; see Matthew 21:43 and the note on that verse. The controversy between Matthew's church and Pharisaic Judaism about which was the true people of God is reflected here. As the Second Vatican Council has pointed out, guilt for Jesus' death is not attributable to all the Jews of his time or to any Jews of later times.

14 [26] He had Jesus scourged: the usual preliminary to crucifixion.

15 [27] The praetorium: the residence of the Roman governor. His usual place of residence was at Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast, but he went to Jerusalem during the great feasts, when the influx of pilgrims posed the danger of a nationalistic riot. It is disputed whether the praetorium in Jerusalem was the old palace of Herod in the west of the city or the fortress of Antonia northwest of the temple area. The whole cohort: normally six hundred soldiers.

16 [28] Scarlet military cloak: so Matthew as against the royal purple of Mark 15:17 and John 19:2.

17 [29] Crown out of thorns: probably of long thorns that stood upright so that it resembled the "radiant" crown, a diadem with spikes worn by Hellenistic kings. The soldiers' purpose was mockery, not torture. A reed: peculiar to Matthew; a mock scepter.

18 [30] Spat upon him: cf Matthew 26:67 where there also is a possible allusion to Isaiah 50:6.

19 [32] See the note on Mark 15:21. Cyrenian named Simon: Cyrenaica was a Roman province on the north coast of Africa and Cyrene was its capital city. The city had a large population of Greek-speaking Jews. Simon may have been living in Palestine or have come there for the Passover as a pilgrim. Pressed into service: see the note on Matthew 5:41.

20 [34] Wine . . . mixed with gall: cf Mark 15:23 where the drink is "wine drugged with myrrh," a narcotic. Matthew's text is probably an inexact allusion to Psalm 69:22. That psalm belongs to the class called the individual lament, in which a persecuted just man prays for deliverance in the midst of great suffering and also expresses confidence that his prayer will be heard. That theme of the suffering Just One is frequently applied to the sufferings of Jesus in the passion narratives.

21 [35] The clothing of an executed criminal went to his executioner(s), but the description of that procedure in the case of Jesus, found in all the gospels, is plainly inspired by Psalm 22:18. However, that psalm verse is quoted only in John 19:24.

22 [37] The offense of a person condemned to death by crucifixion was written on a tablet that was displayed on his cross. The charge against Jesus was that he had claimed to be the King of the Jews (cf Matthew 27:11), i.e., the Messiah (cf Matthew 27:17, 22).

23 [38] Revolutionaries: see the note on John 18:40 where the same Greek word as that found here is used for Barabbas.

24 [39-40] Reviled him . . . heads: cf Psalm 22:8. You who would destroy . . . three days; cf Matthew 26:61. If you are the Son of God: the same words as those of the devil in the temptation of Jesus; cf Matthew 4:3, 6.

25 [42] King of Israel: in their mocking of Jesus the members of the Sanhedrin call themselves and their people not "the Jews" but Israel.

26 [43] Peculiar to Matthew. He trusted in God . . . wants him: cf Psalm 22:9. He said . . . of God: probably an allusion to Wisdom 2:12-20 where the theme of the suffering Just One appears.

27 [45] Cf Amos 8:9 where on the day of the Lord "the sun will set at midday."

28 [46] Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?: Jesus cries out in the words of Psalm 22:2, a psalm of lament that is the Old Testament passage most frequently drawn upon in this narrative. In Mark the verse is cited entirely in Aramaic, which Matthew partially retains but changes the invocation of God to the Hebrew Eli, possibly because that is more easily related to the statement of the following verse about Jesus' calling for Elijah.

29 [47] Elijah: see the note on Matthew 3:4. This prophet, taken up into heaven ( 2 Kings 2:11), was believed to come to the help of those in distress, but the evidences of that belief are all later than the gospels.

30 [50] Gave up his spirit: cf the Marcan parallel ( Mark 15:37), "breathed his last." Matthew's alteration expresses both Jesus' control over his destiny and his obedient giving up of his life to God.

31 [51-53] Veil of the sanctuary . . . bottom: cf Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45. Luke puts this event immediately before the death of Jesus. There were two veils in the Mosaic tabernacle on the model of which the temple was constructed, the outer one before the entrance of the Holy Place and the inner one before the Holy of Holies (see Exodus 26:31-36). Only the high priest could pass through the latter and that only on the Day of Atonement (see Lev 16:1-18). Probably the torn veil of the gospels is the inner one. The meaning of the scene may be that now, because of Jesus' death, all people have access to the presence of God, or that the temple, its holiest part standing exposed, is now profaned and will soon be destroyed. The earth quaked . . . appeared to many: peculiar to Matthew. The earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, and especially the resurrection of the dead saints indicate the coming of the final age. In the Old Testament the coming of God is frequently portrayed with the imagery of an earthquake (see Psalm 68:9; 77:19), and Jesus speaks of the earthquakes that will accompany the "labor pains" that signify the beginning of the dissolution of the old world ( Matthew 24:7-8). For the expectation of the resurrection of the dead at the coming of the new and final age, see Daniel 12:1-3. Matthew knows that the end of the old age has not yet come ( Matthew 28:20), but the new age has broken in with the death (and resurrection; cf the earthquake in Matthew 28:2) of Jesus; see the note on Matthew 16:28. After his resurrection: this qualification seems to be due to Matthew's wish to assert the primacy of Jesus' resurrection even though he has placed the resurrection of the dead saints immediately after Jesus' death.

32 [54] Cf Mark 15:39. The Christian confession of faith is made by Gentiles, not only the centurion, as in Mark, but the other soldiers who were keeping watch over Jesus (cf Matthew 27:36).

33 [55-56] Looking on from a distance: cf Psalm 38:12. Mary Magdalene . . . Joseph: these two women are mentioned again in Matthew 27:61 and Matthew 28:1 and are important as witnesses of the reality of the empty tomb. A James and Joseph are referred to in Matthew 13:55 as brothers of Jesus.

34 [57-61] Cf Mark 15:42-47. Matthew drops Mark's designation of Joseph of Arimathea as "a distinguished member of the council" (the Sanhedrin), and makes him a rich man and a disciple of Jesus. The former may be an allusion to Isaiah 53:9 (the Hebrew reading of that text is disputed and the one followed in the NAB OT has nothing about the rich, but they are mentioned in the LXX version). That the tomb was the new tomb of a rich man and that it was seen by the women are indications of an apologetic intent of Matthew; there could be no question about the identity of Jesus' burial place. The other Mary: the mother of James and Joseph (56).

35 [62-66] Peculiar to Matthew. The story prepares for Matthew 28:11-15 and the Jewish charge that the tomb was empty because the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus ( Matthew 28:13, 15).

36 [62] The next day . . . preparation: the sabbath. According to the synoptic chronology, in that year the day of preparation (for the sabbath) was the Passover; cf Mark 15:42. The Pharisees: the principal opponents of Jesus during his ministry and, in Matthew's time, of the Christian church, join with the chief priests to guarantee against a possible attempt of Jesus' disciples to steal his body.

37 [64] This last imposture . . . the first: the claim that Jesus has been raised from the dead is clearly the last imposture; the first may be either his claim that he would be raised up (63) or his claim that he was the one with whose ministry the kingdom of God had come (see Matthew 12:28).

38 [65] The guard is yours: literally, "have a guard" or "you have a guard." Either the imperative or the indicative could mean that Pilate granted the petitioners some Roman soldiers as guards, which is the sense of the present translation. However, if the verb is taken as an indicative it could also mean that Pilate told them to use their own Jewish guards.

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