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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN - Chapter 18 - Verse 31

Verse 31. Judge him, &c. The Jews had not directly informed him that they had judged him and pronounced him worthy of death. Pilate therefore tells them to inquire into the case; to ascertain the proof of his guilt, and to decide on what the law of Moses pronounced. It has been doubted whether this gave them the power of putting him to death, or whether it was not rather a direction to them to inquire into the case, and inflict on him, if they judged him guilty, the mild punishment which they were yet at liberty to inflict on criminals. Probably the former is intended. As they had already determined that in their view this case demanded the punishment of death, so in their answer to Pilate they implied that they had pronounced on it, and that he ought to die. They still, therefore, pressed it on his attention, and refused to obey his injunction to judge him.

It is not lawful, &c. The Jews were accustomed to put persons to death still in a popular tumult (Ac 7:59,60), but they had not the power to do it in any case in a regular way of justice. When they first laid the plan of arresting the Saviour, they did it to kill him (Mt 26:4); but whether they intended to do this secretly, or in a tumult, or by the concurrence of the Roman governor, is uncertain. The Jews themselves say that the power of inflicting capital punishment was taken away about forty years before the destruction of the temple; but still it is probable that in the time of Christ they had the power of determining on capital cases in instances that pertained to religion (Josephus, Antiq., b. xiv. ch. 10, 2; comp. Jewish Wars, b. vt. ch. 2, § 4). In this case, however, it is supposed that their sentence was to be confirmed by the Roman governor. But it is admitted on all hands that they had not this power in the case of seditions, tumults, or treason against the Roman government. If they had this power in the case of blasphemy and irreligion, they did not dare to exert it here, because they were afraid of tumult among the people (Mt 26:5); hence they sought to bring in the authority of Pilate. To do this, they endeavoured to make it appear that it was a case of sedition and treason, and one which therefore demanded the interference of the Roman governor. Hence it was on this charge that they arraigned him, Lu 23:2. Thus a tumult might be avoided, and the odium of putting him to death they expected would fall, not on themselves, but on Pilate.

{u} "It is not lawful" Ge 49:10; Eze 21:27

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