elders: See study note on Mt 16:21.
Pilate, the governor: The Roman governor (prefect) of Judea appointed by Emperor Tiberius in 26 C.E. His rule lasted about ten years. Pilate is mentioned by non-Biblical writers, including Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote that Pilate ordered the execution of Christ during the reign of Tiberius. A Latin inscription with the words “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea” was found in the ancient Roman theater in Caesarea, Israel.
felt remorse: While the Greek word me·ta·meʹlo·mai used here can have positive connotations (rendered “feel regret” or “regret” at Mt 21:29, 32; 2Co 7:8), there is no indication that Judas was truly repentant. When referring to repentance before God, the Bible uses a different term, me·ta·no·eʹo (rendered “repent” at Mt 3:2; 4:17; Lu 15:7; Ac 3:19), which signifies a strong change in thinking, attitude, or purpose. Judas’ actions of returning to the very men he had conspired with and then committing suicide show that his thinking remained distorted, not changed for the better.
innocent: Some ancient manuscripts read “righteous.”
temple: The Greek word na·osʹ used here can refer to the entire complex, including its courtyards, and not only to the inner sanctuary of the temple itself.
hanged himself: Luke’s account of Judas’ death, recorded at Ac 1:18, reports that Judas fell and his body burst open. Matthew seems to deal with how he committed suicide, while Luke describes the result. Combining the two accounts, it appears that Judas hanged himself over a cliff, but at some point the rope or tree limb broke so that he plunged down and burst open on the rocks below. The topography around Jerusalem allows for such a conclusion.
sacred treasury: This term may refer to the portion of the temple called “the treasury” at Joh 8:20, apparently located in the area called the Court of the Women, where there were 13 treasury chests. (See App. B11.) It is believed that the temple also contained a major treasury where the money from the treasury chests was brought.
price of blood: Or “blood money,” that is, money received for shedding blood.
they used the money: Matthew alone specifies that the chief priests used the 30 silver pieces to purchase a piece of property. Ac 1:18, 19 attributes the purchase to Judas, but this is evidently because the chief priests purchased the field with the money Judas provided.
potter’s field: Since the fourth century C.E., this field has been identified with a location on the S slope of the Hinnom Valley, just before it joins the Kidron Valley. This seems to have been an area where potters pursued their craft. As shown at Mt 27:8 and Ac 1:19, the field came to be known as “Field of Blood,” or Akeldama.
strangers: That is, Jews visiting from other lands or Gentiles.
to this very day: This expression indicates a lapse of some time between the events considered and the time of writing. Matthew’s Gospel was probably written about 41 C.E.
what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: The quotation following these words appears to be drawn principally from Zec 11:12, 13 but is paraphrased by Matthew, who under inspiration applied it to the circumstances fulfilling it. In Matthew’s time, Jeremiah was placed first among the prophetic books, and his name may have applied to the whole collection of these books, including Zechariah.
Jehovah: In this quote from the Hebrew Scriptures (see study note on Mt 27:9), the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text.
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.
You yourself say it: This reply is evidently an affirmation of the truth of Pilate’s statement. (Compare study notes on Mt 26:25, 64.) Though Jesus confesses to Pilate that he really is a king, it is in a sense that differs from what Pilate imagines, since Jesus’ Kingdom is “no part of this world” and thus no threat to Rome.
custom . . . to release a prisoner: This incident is mentioned by all four Gospel writers. (Mr 15:6-15; Lu 23:16-25; Joh 18:39, 40) There is no basis or precedent for this custom in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, 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.
judgment seat: Usually a raised outdoor platform from which seated officials could address crowds and announce their judicial decisions.
a dream: Evidently of divine origin. Matthew is the only Gospel writer to include this incident in the inspired account.
Let his blood come upon us and upon our children: That is, “We and our descendants take responsibility for his death.”
whipped: The Romans flogged victims using a terrible instrument known in Latin as a flagellum, from which the Greek verb used here (phra·gel·loʹo, “to whip”) is derived. This instrument consisted of a handle into which several cords or knotted leather thongs were fixed. Sometimes the thongs were weighted with jagged pieces of bone or metal to make the blows more painful. Such floggings caused deep contusions, tore the flesh to ribbons, and could even lead to death.
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.
scarlet cloak: The type of cloak or robe worn by kings, magistrates, or military officers. Mr 15:17 and Joh 19:2 say that it was a purple garment, but in ancient times, “purple” was used to describe any color that had a mixture of red and blue. Also, angle, light reflection, and background could have influenced the observer’s perception of the exact color. This variation in describing the color shows that the Gospel writers did not simply copy one another’s accounts.
crown . . . reed: Along with the scarlet cloak (mentioned at Mt 27:28), Jesus was given mock attributes of royalty
kneeling before him: Kneeling, normally a gesture of respect toward a superior, was another way that the soldiers mocked Jesus.
Greetings: Or “Hail.” Lit., “Be rejoicing.” They hailed him as they would have hailed Caesar, evidently to ridicule the claim that he was a king.
Cyrene: A city located near the North African coast, SSW of the island of Crete.
compelled into service: See study note on Mt 5:41.
Golgotha: From a Hebrew word meaning “skull.” (See Joh 19:17; compare Jg 9:53, where the Hebrew word gul·goʹleth is rendered “skull.”) In Jesus’ day, the site was outside the city walls of Jerusalem. However, the location remains uncertain. (See App. B12.) The Bible record does not state that Golgotha was on a hill, though it does mention that some observed the execution from a distance.
gall: The Greek word kho·leʹ here refers to a bitter liquid made from plants or a bitter substance in general. Showing that this event was a fulfillment of prophecy, Matthew quotes Ps 69:21, where the Septuagint uses this Greek word to render the Hebrew word for “poison.” Apparently, women of Jerusalem had prepared the mixture of wine and gall to dull the pain of those being executed, and the Romans did not object to its use. The parallel account at Mr 15:23 says that the wine was “drugged with myrrh,” so the drink evidently contained both myrrh and bitter gall.
he refused to drink it: Jesus evidently wanted to have full possession of all his faculties during this test of his faith.
they distributed his outer garments: The account at Joh 19:23, 24 adds complementary details not mentioned by Matthew, Mark, and Luke: Roman soldiers evidently cast lots over both the outer garment and the inner one; the soldiers divided the outer garments “into four parts, one for each soldier”; they did not want to divide the inner garment, so they cast lots over it; and the casting of lots for the Messiah’s apparel fulfilled Ps 22:18. It was evidently customary for the executioners to keep their victims’ clothes, so criminals were stripped of their clothing and possessions before being executed, making the ordeal all the more humiliating.
by casting lots: See Glossary, “Lots.”
robbers: Or “bandits.” The Greek word lei·stesʹ may include robbing by using violence and at times could refer to revolutionaries. The same word is used of Barabbas (Joh 18:40), who according to Lu 23:19 was in prison for “sedition” and “murder.” The parallel account at Lu 23:32, 33, 39 describes the men as “criminals” from a Greek word (ka·kourʹgos), which literally means “one who engages in doing bad or evil.”
shaking their heads: Generally accompanied by words, this gesture expressed derision, contempt, or mockery. The passersby inadvertently fulfilled the prophecy recorded at Ps 22:7.
the sixth hour: That is, about 12:00 noon.
the ninth hour: That is, about 3:00 p.m.
Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?: Though some consider these words to be Aramaic, they were likely contemporary Hebrew, somewhat influenced by Aramaic. The Greek transliteration of these words recorded by Matthew and Mark does not allow for a positive identification of the original language.
My God, my God: In calling out to his heavenly Father, acknowledging him as his God, Jesus fulfilled Ps 22:1. Jesus’ cry of agony may have brought to his listeners’ minds the many things prophesied about him in the rest of Ps 22
Elijah: From the Hebrew name meaning “My God Is Jehovah.”
sour wine: Or “wine vinegar.” Likely referring to a thin, tart, or sour wine known in Latin as acetum (vinegar) or as posca when diluted with water. This was a cheap drink that poor people, including Roman soldiers, commonly drank to quench their thirst. The Greek word oʹxos is also used at Ps 69:21 in the Septuagint, where it was prophesied that Messiah would be given “vinegar” to drink.
to save him: Some ancient manuscripts add: “Another man took a spear and pierced his side, and blood and water came out.” Other important manuscripts do not contain those words. A similar statement is found at Joh 19:34, but according to Joh 19:33, Jesus was already dead when this occurred. Most authorities, including the editors of the Nestle-Aland and United Bible Society Greek texts, believe that the words of John’s account were later added to Matthew’s account by copyists. Even Westcott and Hort, who included these words in their Greek text in double brackets, stated that the sentence “must lie under a strong presumption of having been introduced by scribes.” Considering that there are different manuscript readings for Matthew’s account and that there is no uncertainty regarding the reading in John’s Gospel, the account at Joh 19:33, 34 evidently presents the events in correct order, namely, that Jesus was already dead when the Roman soldier pierced him with the spear. Therefore, these words are omitted in this translation at Mt 27:49.
yielded up his spirit: Or “expired; ceased to breathe.” The term “spirit” (Greek, pneuʹma) may here be understood to refer to “breath” or “life force,” which is supported by the use of the Greek verb ek·pneʹo (lit., “to breathe out”) in the parallel account at Mr 15:37 (where it is rendered “expired” or, as in the footnote, “breathed his last”). Some suggest that the use of the Greek term rendered “yielded up” means that Jesus voluntarily stopped struggling to stay alive, since all things had been accomplished. (Joh 19:30) He willingly “poured out his life even to death.”
look!: The Greek word i·douʹ, here rendered “look!,” is often used to focus attention on what follows, encouraging the reader to visualize the scene or to take note of a detail in a narrative. It is also used to add emphasis or to introduce something new or surprising. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term occurs most frequently in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and in the book of Revelation. A corresponding expression is often used in the Hebrew Scriptures.
curtain: This beautifully ornamented drape separated the Most Holy from the Holy in the temple. Jewish tradition indicates that this heavy curtain was some 18 m (60 ft) long, 9 m (30 ft) wide, and 7.4 cm (2.9 in.) thick. By tearing the curtain in two, Jehovah not only manifests his wrath against his Son’s killers but also signifies that entry into heaven itself is now possible.
sanctuary: The Greek word na·osʹ here refers to the central edifice with its Holy and Most Holy compartments.
tombs: Or “memorial tombs.”
were raised up: The Greek verb e·geiʹro, meaning “to raise up,” can refer to a resurrection, but it is often used in other contexts. For example, it can mean to “lift out” of a pit or to “get up” from the ground. (Mt 12:11; 17:7; Lu 1:69) Matthew does not say that “the holy ones” are “raised up.” He says that their “bodies” are. Evidently, the earthquake was so powerful that the tombs were broken open and corpses were thrown out of them.
people coming out: Or “they who came out.” The Greek verb indicates a plural masculine subject referring to people, not to the bodies (neuter in Greek) mentioned in verse 52. This evidently refers to passersby, who saw the dead bodies exposed by the earthquake (vs. 51) and who entered the city and reported what they had seen.
after his being raised up: That is, Jesus’ resurrection. The information within parentheses refers to events taking place at a later time.
holy city: That is, Jerusalem.
army officer: Or “centurion,” that is, one in command of about 100 soldiers in the Roman army. This high-ranking officer may have been at Jesus’ trial before Pilate and may have heard the Jews say that Jesus claimed to be God’s Son.
Mary Magdalene: Her distinguishing name Magdalene (meaning “Of, or Belonging to, Magdala”) likely stems from the town of Magdala on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee about halfway between Capernaum and Tiberias. It has been suggested that Magdala was Mary’s hometown or place of residence.
James: Also called “James the Less.”
Joses: Some ancient manuscripts read “Joseph” instead of “Joses.” In the parallel account at Mr 15:40, most ancient manuscripts read “Joses.”
Joseph: The individuality of the Gospel writers is evident in the varying details they provide about Joseph. Tax collector Matthew notes that he is rich; Mark, writing for the Romans, says that he was “a reputable member of the Council” who was waiting for God’s Kingdom; Luke, the sympathetic physician, says that he “was a good and righteous man” who did not vote in support of the Council’s action against Jesus; John alone reports that he was “a secret [disciple] because of his fear of the Jews.”
tomb: Or “memorial tomb.” A vault, or chamber, cut into the soft limestone rock, rather than a natural cave. Such tombs often contained benchlike shelves or niches where bodies could be laid.
a big stone: Apparently a circular stone, since this verse says that it was rolled into place and Mr 16:4 says that it “had been rolled away” when Jesus was resurrected. It might have weighed a ton or more.
next day: That is, Nisan 15. The day after Nisan 14 was always observed as a Sabbath, or holy day of rest, no matter what day of the week it fell on. Additionally, in 33 C.E., Nisan 15 fell on the regular weekly Sabbath, making the day a “great,” or double, Sabbath.
Preparation: A name applied to the day preceding the weekly Sabbath. During this day, the Jews got ready for the Sabbath by preparing extra meals and finishing any work that could not wait until after the Sabbath. In this case, the day of Preparation fell on Nisan 14.
three days: This expression can mean parts of three days. This is evident from the request that the tomb “be made secure until the third day,” and not until the fourth.
Then this last deception will be worse than the first: Evidently meaning that this supposed “deception,” namely, Jesus’ resurrection, would be worse than the first one, his assertion that he was the Messiah. Jesus’ adversaries apparently knew that if Jesus were to be resurrected, his claim to be the Messiah would be proved true.
a guard: Pilate evidently provided a group of Roman soldiers. (Mt 28:4, 11) Had the guards been members of the Jewish temple police, the Jews would not have had to consult Pilate. Likewise, the priests promised to set matters right with the governor if he heard of the disappearance of Jesus’ body.
In 1961, archaeologists working in the ancient Roman theater in Caesarea, Israel, found that a reused stone slab clearly bore Pilate’s name in Latin (replica shown here). His name also appears a number of times in other contemporary historical records.
The Jews usually buried their dead in caves or vaults cut into the rock. These tombs were customarily located outside the cities, an exception being the tombs of the kings. Jewish tombs that have been found are notable for their simplicity. This was evidently because the Jews’ worship allowed no veneration of the dead and did not foster any ideas of a conscious existence in a spirit world after death.