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Matthew 27 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Matthew 27 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:

2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.

3 Then Judas, which had betrayeth him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.

5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

(27:5) "He ... went and hanged himself."
Matthew says that Judas committed suicide by hanging, but Acts (1:18) says that Judas died by falling down and "all his bowels gushed out."
How did Judas die?
Judas hanged himself, but in order to hang yourself you need to step down from something. So he probably tied a rope to a tree above a gorge. The rope broke either immediately or after a short while and he fell down.

6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.

7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.

(27:6-7) "The chief priests took the silver pieces ... and bought with them the potter's field."
Who bought the Potter's field?
What did Judas do with the silver?
The potter's field was bought by the priests as this verse clearly says. See Acts 1:18.

8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.

(27:8) "Unto this day"
The phrase "unto this day" shows that the gospel of Matthew was written long after the events it describes.
Is is thought that Matthew wrote his account less than forty years after these events and quite probably within twenty five to thirty years after this event. So “until this day” is about twenty five years. Is that long enough for the author of the SAB?

9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;

(27:9) "Spoken by Jeremy the prophet"
This is not a quote from Jeremiah, but a misquote of Zechariah (11:12-13).
The first observation is that Matthew does not say: “which was written by Jeremy the prophet.” God who knows all things would know if Jeremy had spoken this, and let Matthew write this down.
But I believe that Matthew here actually makes a quotation, as he so often quotes Scripture. So yes, this quotation is found in Zechariah (Zech. 11:12-13). This isn't a literal quotation as that wasn't necessary in ancient times. Quotation was done from memory, not by copy and paste from an online Bible.
f the quotation is from Zecheriah, how come Matthew attributes it to Jeremy? Two answers could be given. First, Zecheriah says (Zech. 7:7): “Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets?” Zecheriah, doing what he asks others to do, might have quoted words from Jeremiah, and by inspiration Matthew is able to cite Jeremy as the first who spoke these words.
The second answer why Matthew attributes this quotation to Jeremiah, is because the books of the prophets used to start with Jeremiah and Zechariah was one of the prophets. The Jews divide the Old Testament into three parts: Moses, the prophets and the psalms. The prophets started with Jeremiah (according to the Talmud, but no longer in Hebrew Bibles currently in use), so Matthew says here in a Hebrew way that this was spoken of by one of the prophets.

10 And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.

11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.

12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.

(27:12-14) "He answered him to never a word."
Was Jesus silent during his trial?
The author of the SAB claims here that Matthew writes that Jesus did not utter a word. Matthew doesn't claim such a thing of course. What Matthew says here is that Jesus did not attempt to defend himself when he was accused. At that time, when the accusations were brought forth, he was silent. John Gill explains why:

the things laid to his charge being notoriously false, and known to be so by all the people; and the evidence with which they were supported being so slender, the judge could never receive it; he therefore judged it unnecessary, and not worth a while to return an answer to them: besides, he knew they were bent upon his death, and that, should he set aside these charges, as he easily could, they would invent new ones, and so increase their sin, and their condemnation: but the chief reason of all, of his silence, was, he had the sins of his people to answer for, and the time of his dying for them was now come, and for which he was ready; and therefore would say nothing to remove these false charges, and retard his death.

13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?

14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.

(27:12-14) "He answered him to never a word."
Was Jesus silent during his trial?
Again, when Pilate is asking him about the accusations, Jesus is silent. But when the subject matter is changed to Jesus kingdom, Jesus speaks freely, see John 18:33.

15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.

16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.

17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?

18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.

19 When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.

20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.

22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.

23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.

24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

(27:25) "His blood be on us, and on our children."
This verse blames the Jews for the death of Jesus and has been used to justify their persecution for twenty centuries.
This verse just quotes the Jews. Quoting someone is blaming them? As it is now quite fashionable to claim that the Jewish state was a mistake, there are arguably a lot of people that are at least indifferent to spilling the blood of Jews. But this verse will gives those people no justification at all. As Zechariah writes (Zech. 2:8):

For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.


26 Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.

(27:27-28) "Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus ... and they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe."
"Who put the robe on Jesus?
The author of the SAB asks who put on the robe. This happened at two different occassions as is clearly told us by the evangelists. So the answer is both Herod's soldiers and Pilate's soldiers.
When Jesus was send to Herod, Luke 23:7, Herod's soldiers mocked him by putting on a robe. Luke calls this a gorgeous robe, but in some translations such as the Vulgate it is called a white robe. But after that Herod send him back to Pilate, because Jesus answered Herod not a thing, Luke 23:9. The Roman soldiers, perhaps after seeing what Herod's soldiers had done, took it quite a bit further as is described in this and the next verses.

28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.

(27:28) "A scarlet robe"
What color was Jesus' robe?
The word scarlet has two meanings. It can mean a color, and is described as strong to vivid red or reddish orange. The second meaning, and the one intended here in my opinion, describes a kind of weaving where the yarn was twisted. So Matthew describes here of what material the robe was made, while Mark and John describe its color.
But even if interpreted as a color shows that people didn't distinguish between the colors scarlet and purple.

29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.

(27:32) "They found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross."
Who carried Jesus' cross?
Initially Jesus carried his cross himself, as was customary. But as he had been brutally scourged (verse 26), the soldiers were afraid he wouldn't make it to Golgotha alive. They probably saw him stumble. That's when they forced Simon to bear Jesus' cross the last part of the journey.

33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,

34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

(27:34) "They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall."
What did the soldiers give Jesus to drink?
Except Mark all evangelists mention that Jesus got vinegar, and some give additional details. But the issue here is: who are the they? The ‘they‘ in this verse are the soldiers, while Mark might be talking about Jesus' friends, see Mark 15:23.

35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.

36 And sitting down they watched him there;

37 And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

(27:37) "This is Jesus the King of the Jews."
None of the gospels agree on the wording of the sign placed over Jesus' head.
What did the sign say?
As Luke informs us (Luke 23:38), the inscription was written in three languages. Perhaps there were some minor differences in each inscription. Christian Answers explores this inscription issue in great detail.

38 Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.

39 And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,

40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,

42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

(27:44) "The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth."
Did both thieves revile Jesus?
Yes, initially both thieves reviled Jesus as well. But one of them came to his senses seeing the things that were happening. John Gill writes that this verse can be read as “one of the thieves”, because this is a common way of expressing things in Hebrew:

One or other of them, not both; an Hebrew way of speaking, as Drusius observed: so it is said of Jonah (Jonah 1:5) that he was "gone down into the sides of the ship"; not into both sides, but into one or other of them: so here the thieves, one or other of them, not naming which, railed at Jesus, for it was but one of them

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.

(27:45, 51-53) When Jesus was crucified, there was three hours of complete darkness "over all the land." And when he died, there was a great earthquake with many corpses walking the streets of Jerusalem. It is strange that there is no record of any of these extraordinary events outside of the gospels.
The author of the SAB informs us that “It is strange that there is no record of any of these extraordinary events outside of the gospels.” That is not true, this event has been recorded by heathen historians at that time. For example Phlegon, a Greek historian, mentions it in his Olympiads (written in 138 AD). Both Philo and Origen quote him. Origen's quote taken from Contra Celsum:

That heathen author, in treating of the fourth year of the two hundred second Olympiad, which is supposed to be the year in which our Lord was crucified, tells us “That the greatest eclipse of the sun which was ever known to happened then; for the day was so turned into night that the stars in the heavens were seen.”

Eusebius also mentions Phlegon. Tertullian in his Apologeticus appeals unto the Roman archives for the truth of it.
Thallus, a Samaritarian historian, attempted to explain away this darkness as a natural occurrence. He is quoted by Julius Africanus, writing in 220 AD:

This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Savior fails on the day before the passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun.

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

(27:46) "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
What were the last words of Jesus?
Is Jesus God?
The author of the SAB also asks what the last words of Jesus were. It is clear that the last words recorded by the various evangelists are not necessarily the last words spoken by Jesus. For example from verse 50 (verse 50) it can be seen that Jesus said something more than the last words recorded in this verse. Only Luke and John indicate that they record words Jesus said just before he died. If either Luke or John provide the absolute last words, I do not know, but the traditional order is “It is finished” followed by “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
The author of the SAB also asks if Jesus is God: the reasoning, as far as I can follow, is very spurious. Somehow by saying “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Jesus says: why has my divinity left me? That is a very strange interpretation of these words. Instead of complaining that his divinity had left him, it seems rather more plausible that Jesus says: “My Father, why hast thou forsaken me?” No one in his right mind talks to himself as “thou.” Jesus is clearly addressing another person here. That he calls his Father his God for two reasons: as a man, as a creature, which he was as well, the creator was his God. But secondly, because his Father had left him, he did no longer dare to call him Father, such was his sense of abandonment. John Gill has more.

47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.

48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.

49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

(27:52-53) "The graves were opened."
When Jesus died, there was an earthquake, "the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints" arose. But they stayed in their graves until Jesus rose from the dead, when they began to walk around, appearing to many in Jerusalem.
Is death final?
This verse makes it abundantly clear that death is not final.

53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

(27:54) "Truly this was the Son of God."
What did the centurion call Jesus?
The logic of the author of the SAB is wanting here. In order to show a contradiction he must prove that the centurion uttered just one sentence. And in that case, all gospel writers would have to quote the same thing. So the author of the SAB has to prove that the centurion couldn't have said for example: “Certainly, this was a righteous man. Truly, this man was the Son of God.”

55 And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:

(27:55) "Many women were there beholding afar off."
From where did the women watch?
The evangelists do not give indication at what time the women were where. At some point in time they were afar off. Was that during the whole execution? At the beginning or at the end? Did they not move nearer to the cross at all?
The conclusion of the author of the SAB would only be correct under the following circumstances:
  1. According to some gospel writers the women were afar off.
  2. According to the same gospel writers the women did not move at all.
  3. Another gospel writer says the women were next to the cross at some point.
No such thing is proved, and no such thing is written by the gospel writers.

56 Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.

57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:

(27:57-60) "A rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph ... laid it in his own new tomb."
Who buried Jesus?

58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.

59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,

60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.

62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,

63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.

66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.