163. THE INSCRIPTIONS ON THE CROSS.
Each of the four Gospels gives a different wording of these inscriptions
- Matt. 27: 37 : "This is Jesus, the
King of the Jews."
- Mark 15:26 : "The King of the Jews"
- Luke 23:28 : "This is the King of
- John 19:19 : "Jesus of Nazareth,
the King of the Jews."
Here again the difficulty is created by assuming that these similar
but differing records are identical, without noticing the exact
words which are written. It is universally assumed that there was
only one, and then follow the efforts to explain the alleged "discrepancies"
between the different versions of it.
If we note carefully what is actually said all will be clear.
- Mark 15:26 can be dismissed; for he does not say anything about
a "title" (Gr. titlos, John 19:19) being put on the cross or anywhere
else, which any one had seen. It is a question of the Lord's "accusation"
or "indictment", or the ground or cause of His condemnation as claiming
to be "the King of the Jews".
- John 19:19 speaks of a "title" written by Pilate,
before it left Pilate's presence; for no one suggests that Pilate
went to the scene of the execution and wrote anything there.
In Pilate's writing the three languages were in this order : (1)
Hebrew (2) Greek and (3) Latin (cp. IV. below). And it was read after
the cross had been set up.
This was one which gave rise to the argument between the Chief Priests
and Pilate (John 19:21, 22); and this argument took place before the parting
of the garments (vv 23, 24).
- The inscription in Matt. 27:37 was the result of that discussion;
for another "title" was brought and was "set up over his head", after
they had "parted His garments", and having sat down, they watched Him
there (vv. 35, 36).
As there could hardly have been two titles at the same time, the former
must have been then taken down and the other substituted.
We are not told how long the argument lasted or when it ceased, or what
was the final result of it.
- A further result is seen in Luke 23:38; for another was brought
much later, close upon "the sixth hour" (v. 44), when the darkness
fell. It was written with the languages in a different order :
(1) Greek (2) Latin, and (3) Hebrew (v. 38). (But see the texts.)
It was put up "over Him" (Gr. ep' auto,
v. 38), "after
the revilings of the People" (cp. vv. 35-37, with v.
38); whereas Matthew's (No. III) was set up before the revilings
(cp. Matt. 27:37 with v. 39).
The result is that : -
- Mark's was only His indictment.
- John's was the first written by Pilate
himself (or by his order), in (1) Hebrew, (2) Greek, and (3) Latin, and
was put on the cross before it left Pilate's presence.
- Matthew's was the second, substituted
for the first, in consequence of the arguments which took place, and was
set up "over His head" after the garments had been divided, and
before the revilings.
- Luke's was the third (and last),
put up "over Him", after the revilings (Luke 23:35), and was seen
just before the darkness of the "sixth hour" (v. 41). This
was written in three languages, but in a different order : (1) Greek,
(2) Latin, and (3) Hebrew (v. 38). Not in Hebrew, and Greek,
and Latin as in No. II in John 19:19.
Thus, such differences as these are marks of Divine accuracy; and instead
of being sources of difficulties, become, when rightly divided, the means
of their removal.
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