the Kidron Valley: Or “the winter torrent of Kidron.” The Kidron Valley, mentioned only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, separates Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. It runs from N to S along the eastern side of the city. The Kidron Valley was usually waterless, even in winter, except in the case of an especially heavy rain. The Greek word kheiʹmar·ros, here rendered “valley,” literally means “a winter torrent,” that is, a stream of water that flows abundantly because of the heavy rains during the winter season. This Greek word is used more than 80 times in the Septuagint to render the Hebrew word naʹchal, the corresponding expression for “valley,” used when the Kidron Valley is mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. (2Sa 15:23; 1Ki 2:37) These Hebrew and Greek words for “valley” can both refer to a torrent or a stream. (De 10:7; Job 6:15; Isa 66:12; Eze 47:5) More frequently, however, these words refer to the valley cut by a winter torrent and through which a stream runs during the winter rains. (Nu 34:5; Jos 13:9; 17:9; 1Sa 17:40; 1Ki 15:13; 2Ch 33:14; Ne 2:15; Ca 6:11) Both words are often rendered “wadi.”—See Glossary, “Wadi.”
the detachment of soldiers: The Greek term speiʹra used here indicates that Roman soldiers are referred to. Of the four Gospel writers, John is the only one to mention that Roman soldiers were present when Jesus was arrested.—Joh 18:12.
struck the slave of the high priest: This incident is recorded by all four Gospel writers, and their accounts are complementary. (Mt 26:51; Mr 14:47; Lu 22:50) Only Luke, “the beloved physician” (Col 4:14), mentions that Jesus “touched the ear and healed him.” (Lu 22:51) John is the only Gospel writer to mention that Simon Peter wielded the sword and that Malchus was the name of the slave whose ear was cut off. John was evidently the disciple “known to the high priest” as well as to his household (Joh 18:15, 16), so it is natural that his Gospel would mention the injured man by name. John’s familiarity with the high priest’s household is further shown at Joh 18:26, where John explains that the slave who accused Peter of being a disciple of Jesus was “a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off.”
drink the cup: In the Bible, “cup” is often used figuratively of God’s will, or the “assigned portion,” for a person. To “drink the cup” here means to submit to God’s will. In this case, the “cup” involved not only Jesus’ suffering and death under the false charge of blasphemy but also his being resurrected to immortal life in heaven.
let this cup pass away: In the Bible, “cup” is often used figuratively of God’s will, or the “assigned portion,” for a person. (See study note on Mt 20:22.) Jesus no doubt felt great concern over the reproach that his death as one charged with blasphemy and sedition could bring on God, moving him to pray that this “cup” pass away from him.
drink the cup: In the Bible, “cup” is often used figuratively of God’s will, or “assigned portion,” for a person. To “drink the cup” here means to submit to God’s will. In Jesus’ case, “the cup” involved suffering and death under the false charge of blasphemy, as well as his resurrection to immortal life in heaven.—See study notes on Mt 20:22; 26:39.
the Jews: As used in the Gospel of John, this term conveys different meanings, depending on the context. In addition to referring to Jewish or Judean people in general or to those living in or near Jerusalem, the term may also refer more specifically to Jews who zealously adhered to human traditions connected with the Mosaic Law, which were often contrary to the spirit of that Law. (Mt 15:3-6) Foremost among these “Jews” were the Jewish authorities or religious leaders who were hostile to Jesus. In this passage and in some of the other occurrences of this term in John chapter 7, the context indicates that the Jewish authorities or religious leaders are referred to.—Joh 7:13, 15, 35a.
military commander: The Greek term khi·liʹar·khos (chiliarch) literally means “ruler of a thousand,” that is, soldiers. It refers to a Roman military commander called a tribune. There were six tribunes in each Roman legion. The legion, however, was not divided into six different commands; rather, each tribune commanded the whole legion for one sixth of the time. Such a military commander had great authority, including the power to nominate and assign centurions. The Greek word could also refer to high-ranking military officers in general. A Roman military commander accompanied the soldiers who arrested Jesus.
the Jews: Apparently referring to the Jewish authorities or religious leaders.—See study note on Joh 7:1.
chief priest Annas and . . . Caiaphas: When pinpointing the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist, Luke refers to the days when the Jewish priesthood was being dominated by two powerful men. Annas was appointed high priest about 6 or 7 C.E. by Quirinius, the Roman governor of Syria, and served until about 15 C.E. Even after Annas was deposed by the Romans and no longer held the official title of high priest, he evidently continued to exercise great power and influence as high priest emeritus and the predominant voice of the Jewish hierarchy. Five of his sons held the office of high priest, and his son-in-law Caiaphas served as high priest from about 18 C.E. to about 36 C.E. So although Caiaphas served as high priest in 29 C.E., Annas could rightly be designated a “chief priest” because of his dominant position.—Joh 18:13, 24; Ac 4:6.
They led him first to Annas: Only John states specifically that Jesus was led to Annas, who had been appointed high priest about 6 or 7 C.E. by Quirinius, the Roman governor of Syria. Annas served until about 15 C.E. Even after he was deposed by the Romans and no longer held the official title of high priest, Annas seems to have continued to exercise great power and influence as high priest emeritus and the predominant voice of the Jewish hierarchy. Five of his sons held the office of high priest, and his son-in-law Caiaphas served as high priest from about 18 C.E. to about 36 C.E., which included that year, that is, 33 C.E., the memorable year in which Jesus was executed.—See study note on Lu 3:2.
the one whom Jesus loved: That is, the one whom Jesus especially loved. This is the first of five occurrences mentioning a certain disciple “whom Jesus [or “he”] loved” or “for whom Jesus had affection.” (Joh 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) It is generally believed that this disciple is the apostle John, the son of Zebedee and the brother of James. (Mt 4:21; Mr 1:19; Lu 5:10) One reason for this identification is that the apostle John is not referred to by name in this Gospel, except for the mention of “the sons of Zebedee” at Joh 21:2. Another indication is found at Joh 21:20-24, where the expression “the disciple whom Jesus loved” is used with reference to the writer of this Gospel. Also, Jesus said of that apostle: “If it is my will for him to remain until I come, of what concern is that to you?” This suggests that the one referred to would long survive Peter and the other apostles, a description that fits the apostle John.—See study notes on Joh Title and Joh 1:6; 21:20.
the disciple whom he loved: That is, the one whom Jesus especially loved. This is the second of five occurrences mentioning a certain disciple “whom he [or, “Jesus”] loved” or “for whom Jesus had affection.” (Joh 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20) It is generally believed that the disciple referred to is the apostle John.—See study note on Joh 13:23.
the disciple whom Jesus loved: That is, the one whom Jesus especially loved. This is the fourth of five occurrences mentioning a certain disciple “whom Jesus [or “he”] loved” or “for whom Jesus had affection.” (Joh 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) It is generally believed that this disciple was the apostle John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James.—Mt 4:21; Mr 1:19; Lu 5:10; Joh 21:2; the reasons for this identification are given in the study notes on Joh 13:23; 21:20.
the disciple whom Jesus loved: That is, the one whom Jesus especially loved. This is the last of five occurrences mentioning a certain disciple “whom Jesus [or “he”] loved” or “for whom Jesus had affection.” (Joh 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) It is generally believed that this disciple was the apostle John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James. (Mt 4:21; Mr 1:19; Lu 5:10; Joh 21:2) As the context of Joh 21:20-24 shows, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was also “the disciple who . . . wrote these things,” that is, the writer of the Gospel of John.—See study notes on Joh Title; 1:6; 13:23.
another disciple: Apparently referring to the apostle John. This would fit John’s characteristic style of not referring to himself by name in his Gospel. (See study notes on Joh 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20.) Furthermore, John and Peter are linked in the postresurrection account at Joh 20:2-8. The Bible does not explain how John, a disciple from Galilee, might have become known to the high priest, but his familiarity with the household of the high priest enabled John to get past the doorkeeper into the courtyard and also to gain entrance for Peter.—Joh 18:16.
charcoal: A black, brittle, porous form of carbon, usually the residue of partially burned wood. In ancient times, charcoal was made by covering a pile of wood with earth and burning it slowly for several days with only enough air to burn off the gases. This left behind a relatively pure form of carbon. It was a time-consuming process requiring careful supervision, but charcoal was a favored fuel when intense, sustained heat without smoke was desired. Charcoal in an open fire or in a brazier was used for warmth. (Isa 47:14; Jer 36:22) Its even heat and the absence of flames and smoke made it ideal for cooking.—Joh 21:9.
to Caiaphas the high priest: See App. B12 for the possible location of Caiaphas’ house.
governor’s residence: The Greek term prai·toʹri·on (derived from the Latin praetorium) designates the official residence of the Roman governors. In Jerusalem, the residence was probably the palace built by Herod the Great, situated in the NW corner of the upper city, that is, of the southern part of Jerusalem. (See App. B12 for the location.) Pilate stayed in Jerusalem only on certain occasions, such as festivals, since there was a potential for unrest. His usual residence was in Caesarea.
governor’s residence: See study note on Mt 27:27.
early in the morning: That is, the morning of Nisan 14, the day of Jesus’ trial and death. The Passover began the evening before, and as shown in the other Gospel accounts, Jesus and the apostles had eaten the Passover meal the preceding night. (Mt 26:18-20; Mr 14:14-17; Lu 22:15) Therefore, in this verse, the reference to eating the Passover must refer to the meal on Nisan 15, the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. In Jesus’ time, the Passover (Nisan 14) and the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15-21) that followed were sometimes referred to collectively as “Passover.”—Lu 22:1.
Are you the King of the Jews?: No king in the Roman Empire could rule without Caesar’s consent. So Pilate apparently concentrated his interrogation on the issue of Jesus’ kingship.
Are you the King of the Jews?: See study note on Mt 27:11.
You yourself said it: A Jewish idiom here used to affirm the truth of a statement made by a questioner. Jesus was, in effect, saying: “You have said so, and what you say is true.” Jesus’ reply evidently pointed out that Judas’ own words were an admission of responsibility for Jesus’ betrayal. At some point after this, Judas must have left the room before Jesus instituted the observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal, as shown by a comparison with the account at Joh 13:21-30. Here in Matthew’s account, Judas is next mentioned at Mt 26:47, together with the crowd in the garden of Gethsemane.
You yourself said it: Jesus did not sidestep Caiaphas’ question, since he recognized the high priest’s authority to put him under oath to state the facts. (Mt 26:63) This expression was apparently a Jewish idiom affirming that a statement was true. This is supported by Mark’s parallel account, which renders Jesus’ reply “I am.”—Mr 14:62; see study notes on Mt 26:25; 27:11.
You yourself are saying that I am a king: With this reply, Jesus confirms that he is a king. (Mt 27:11; compare study notes on Mt 26:25, 64.) But Jesus’ kingship differs from what Pilate imagines, since Jesus’ Kingdom is “no part of this world” and thus no threat to Rome.—Joh 18:33-36.
bear witness to: As used in the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek words rendered “to bear witness” (mar·ty·reʹo) and “witness” (mar·ty·riʹa; marʹtys) are broad in meaning. Both terms are used in the basic sense of testifying to facts from firsthand or personal knowledge, but they may also include the idea of “declaring; confirming; speaking well of.” Not only did Jesus testify to and proclaim truths of which he was convinced but he also lived in such a way that he upheld the truth of his Father’s prophetic word and promises. (2Co 1:20) God’s purpose in connection with the Kingdom and its Messianic Ruler had been foretold in detail. Jesus’ entire earthly life course, culminating in his sacrificial death, fulfilled all prophecies about him, including the shadows, or patterns, contained in the Law covenant. (Col 2:16, 17; Heb 10:1) So by word and deed, it may be said that Jesus ‘bore witness to the truth.’
the truth: Jesus was referring, not to truth in general, but to the truth regarding God’s purposes. A key element of God’s purpose is that Jesus, the “son of David,” serves as High Priest and as Ruler of God’s Kingdom. (Mt 1:1) Jesus explained that a primary reason for his coming into the world of mankind, his life on earth, and his ministry was to declare the truth about that Kingdom. The angels declared a similar message prior to and at the time of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem of Judea, the city where David was born.—Lu 1:32, 33; 2:10-14.
What is truth?: Pilate’s question apparently refers to truth in general, not specifically to “the truth” that Jesus had just spoken about. (Joh 18:37) Had this been a sincere question, Jesus would no doubt have answered it. But Pilate likely asks the question rhetorically in skeptical or cynical disbelief, as if to say, “Truth? What is that? There is no such thing!” In fact, Pilate does not even wait for an answer but leaves and goes outside to the Jews.
you have a custom that I should release a man: This custom to release a prisoner is also mentioned at Mt 27:15 and Mr 15:6. It was apparently of Jewish origin because Pilate said to the Jews: “You have a custom.” Although there is no basis or precedent for this custom in the Hebrew Scriptures, it seems that by Jesus’ day, the Jews had developed this tradition. The practice would not have seemed strange to the Romans, since there is evidence that they released prisoners to please the crowds.
The Kidron Valley (Nahal Qidron) separates Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and generally runs from N to S along the eastern side of the city. The valley starts some distance to the N of Jerusalem’s walls. At first, it is broad and shallow, but then it begins to narrow and deepen. Opposite the southern end of the former temple area, it is approximately 30 m (100 ft) deep and 120 m (390 ft) wide, though it was evidently deeper in Jesus’ day. The valley continues running through the Judean wilderness to the Dead Sea. It was this valley that Jesus traversed on his way to the garden of Gethsemane after he instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal on Nisan 14, 33 C.E.—Joh 18:1.
1. Kidron Valley
2. Temple Mount
3. Mount of Olives (portion shown is covered in tombs)
Shown here are the front and back of the Papyrus Rylands 457 (P52) fragment, a very early copy of a portion of John’s Gospel. Housed at the John Rylands University Library in Manchester, England, it was acquired in Egypt in 1920. It preserves a portion of Joh 18:31-33 on one side and a portion of Joh 18:37, 38 on the other. The presence of writing on both sides of the papyrus is clear evidence that it was part of a codex. The fragment measures 9 by 6 cm (3.5 by 2.4 in.). Many scholars consider it to be the oldest extant Greek manuscript of the Christian Greek Scriptures, dating it to sometime in the first half of the second century C.E. The Gospel of John was written about 98 C.E., so this copy was likely made just a few decades later. The text of this fragment agrees very closely with later more complete Greek manuscripts that form the basis for modern translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures.