The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

My Notes on John 18:33-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 26, 2011

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These were taken from a post on (18-28-19:16).

18:33  Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
18:34  Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”
18:35  Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?”
18:36  Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.”
18:37  Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”
18:38a  What is truth?

33-34.  Are you the King of the Jews?…Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?

The words “are you the king of the Jews” are often taken by translators as a straightforward question;  in fact they form a derisive statement masquerading as a question. The Greek text would more properly be translated thus: Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him (not “asked him”), “You (emphatic) are the King of the Jews!” Father John Paul Heil give the following meaning in his commentary BLOOD AND WATER: “You (of all people!) are the King of the Jews.” Father Heil goes on to note that the words have an ironic quality for the faithful reader, for on a deeper level they can be taken as true: “You (surely) are the King of the Jews.”

Do you say this of your own accord. Theophylactus: “He intimates here that Pilate was judging blindly and indiscreetly: If you say this thing of yourself, He says, bring forward proofs of My rebellion; if you have heard it from others, make regular inquiry into it.”

35. Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?”

Am I a Jew? Here we see Pilate’s bigotry and animosity towards the Jews, which would eventually lead to his deposition as Procurator.  His question is emphatic, demanding an answer of “no,” for the mere thought of the other response sickens him.

Pilate insists that what is taking place is a thoroughly Jewish matter, but the mere presence of Jesus at the interrogation makes that a lie; indeed, handed you over to me and what have you done witness against Pilate’s claim.

36. Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.

Recalls the action and subsequent rebuke of Peter in the garden.

Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture: “Jesus does not answer this (i.e., Pilate’s) question, except by clearly defining what his kingship is. It is not of terrestrial origin. If it were, his guards— the military force which in that hypothesis he would have had—would have striven against his arrest. Consequently his kingship is not ‘from hence’ (translated “this world”)— terrestrial—and therefore he is no Palestinian rival of the majesty of Roman Tiberius”

St John Chrysostom: “He means that He does not derive His kingdom from the same source that earthly kings do; but that He has his sovereignty from above; inasmuch as He is not mere man, but far greater and more glorious than man: If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews. Here He shows the weakness of an earthly kingdom, has its strength from its servants, whereas that higher kingdom is sufficient to itself, and wanting in nothing. And if His kingdom was thus the greater of the two, it follows that He was taken of His own will, and delivered up Himself.”

For a fuller treatment of the significance of our Lord’s words, consult The Passion Of Jesus In The Gospel Of John, by Father Donald Senior, pages 80-81.  The emphasis is not on space (heaven up there, earth down here), rather the differing realities of this world and the one “from above” are being described in spatial categories.

37. So you are a king…you say that I am a king.  Pilate’s accusation/question is parried by our Lord, who basically admits to being a king, just not in the sense posed by Pilate.

St Augustine: “He did not fear to confess Himself a King, but so replied as neither to deny that He was, nor yet to confess Himself a King in such sense as that His kingdom should be supposed to be of this w world. He says, you say, meaning, you being carnal say it carnally. He continues, To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that 1 should bear witness to the truth.”

Fathers Nolan and Brown: “In response to Pilate’s question…Jesus proceeds to explain that His is not that mighty temporal kingdom for which the Jews had hoped, and which the Romans might well fear; if it were, His followers would surely have striven that He should not be delivered to the Jews; but in truth it was not a temporal Kingdom.  My kingdom is not from hence; i.e., is not of this world, not a temporal kingdom.  In this world it was, and is; but of this world it is not (see 17:15-16).”

“For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”

St Augustine: “But when Christ bears witness to the truth, He bears witness to Himself; as He said above, I am the truth. But inasmuch as all men have not faith, He adds, Everyone that is of the truth hears My voice: hears, that is, with the inward ear; obeys My voice, believes Me. Every one that is of the truth, has reference to the grace by which He calls according to His purpose. For as regards the nature in which we are created, since the truth created all, all are of the truth. But it is not all to whom it is given the truth to obey the truth. For had He even said, Everyone one that hears My voice is of the truth, it still would be thought that such were of the truth, because they obeyed the truth But He does not say this, but Everyone that is of the truth hears My voice. A man then is not of the truth, because he hears His voice, but hears His voice because he is of the truth. This grace is conferred upon him by the truth.”

Father Lapide writes that Christ came to bear witness “To evangelical truth, which mainly consists in these things—(1.) In the true knowledge of God, namely, that He is One in Essence, and threefold in Person.

“For every being is true, that is a true and not an imaginary thing, and is true in itself. Wherefore God, who is Very Being (I am that I am) is also truth, and good itself. Because His essential Being is Truth and Goodness. Again, the Son who proceedeth from the Father, as His Word, is Truth Itself, not merely of existence but of mind. Whence S. Augustine says, when Jesus bears witness to the truth, He bears witness to Himself, for He Himself is truth.

“(2.) In the knowledge of the Incarnation; namely, to know that the Son was sent into the world in the flesh, that He might save the world, and that no one can be saved, except by faith in Him (see John xvii. 3).
(3.) In the knowledge of true blessedness: viz., that it consists not in wealth, honours, &c., but in the kingdom of heaven, i.e. in the vision and possession of God. For the sum of Christ’s preaching was, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat_3:2).

“Christ says that He was born to bear witness to the Truth. (1.) To keep Pilate from wondering that He owned Himself to be a King, for it was but speaking the truth. (2.) That Pilate might learn the innocence and candour of Jesus; for in this truth consists. (3.) To remind him of the justice with which he ought to decide His cause, and that he should not be so moved by the false charges and clamours of the Chief Priests, so as to condemn Him against truth and justice.

“Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice. Those, i.e., who are studious and desirous of the truth; who earnestly and with their whole heart seek the Truth, i.e., the true God and the true Messiah, true happiness and salvation. And who when they have found it embrace it before all things beside. They are opposed to those who are “of contention” (Rom. ii. 8), who, like the philosophers of that time, are ever striving to contend, dispute, and argue. To be, then, “of the truth” is the same as being “of God.” For the Son of God is the Son of the Truth; for God is truth, according to Joh_8:47, “He that is of God heareth God’s words. Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” Because, though ye are “of God” by creation, yet ye are not “of Him” by election, faith, and grace. “He commended,” says S. Augustine (in loc.) “that grace which calls according to His purpose.” For he that hath received his testimony (the testimony of the Baptist) “hath set to his seal that God is true” (Joh_3:33). And how true it is, is shown by the statements of enemies. For Josephus (Antiq. xiv. 8) writes, “At that time lived a wise man called Jesus, if indeed it is allowable to call Him a man, for He performed wonderful works, and taught those who willingly received the truth.” (Most scholars consider this an interpolation into Josephus)

“Christ tacitly answers Pilate’s objection, viz. “If Thou bearest witness to the truth, why do the Scribes and Pharisees, who profess the truth, hear Thee not—nay more, persecute Thee even to the death?” He answers, “Because they themselves are not of the truth, but of a lie. For they follow the false opinions of wealth, honours, &c., which the devil suggests to them.” See Joh_8:44.”

38a  what is truth?

Down through the ages this question by Pilate has received a multitude of interpretations; but surely Father Senior is correct when he notes that the question must be seen in relation to Jesus’ words about the truth in the previous verse.  He writes: “But following on Jesus’ words about the meaning of truth and the Gospel’s portrayal of Jesus himself as the Truth sent from God to illumine the world, Pilate’s words are self-condemning.  He joins ranks with the religious leaders; he cannot understand Jesus or his words because he is “not of God” (8:47).”

2 Responses to “My Notes on John 18:33-37”

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