Lectionary Readings: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42
Gospel Reading: John 18:1-19:42
NOTE: This reading has more than a dozen problematic verses. For the reader’s convenience, we are presenting them in two different versions:
1) First Version: The text of the whole reading (Jn. 18:1-19:42), with the current reading in [brackets] and the suggested modified reading highlighted in bold.
2) Second Version: Each problematic verse cited separately along with a suggested modified wording.
Most ministers find the first version the easiest to adapt to the lectionary’s Scripture reading in the worship service. They simply place the lectionary and the printed-out versions side-by-side. When it is time for the reading, they use the printed-out version for the portion that has problematic phrases, then return to the lectionary for the rest of the worship service.
This procedure may seem to be a lot of trouble, but the whole trail/passion narrative, in each of the four gospels, has been a serious problem for the Church throughout history. These narratives have contributed, more than almost any other passage, to the shameful anti-Judaism and antisemitism (accusations of Jews as “Christ-killers and even “deicides”) from which we Christians have only recently (and not yet completely) disengaged ourselves.
John 18:1-19:42 has a greater number of problematic, potentially anti-Judaic wordings than anywhere else in the New Testament. It’s worth some care, we think, to make sure that worshippers are not inundated with such wordings which can easily inspire anti-Semitism and which all too often have been used by Christians to defame the whole Jewish community and thereby to justify persecuting them. (For more on historical considerations, see the comments at the very end of this text.)
A note on formatting: In the “First Version” readings below, the suggested reading is in bold lettering. This is the one you will want to use. The current reading (the one that appears in the usual Lectionary reading) is in brackets, e.g., “ [the Jews].” This is the one you don’t want to use. It is left in the text below so you can see which wording is being modified or replaced. If it’s better to simply leave out a word or phrase, we’ve put it in [brackets] with a
THE WHOLE TEXT OF JOHN 18:1-19:42
Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley
to where there was a garden,
into which he and his disciples entered.
Judas his betrayer also knew the place,
because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.
So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards
from the religious authorities [chief priests and the Pharisees].
and went there with lanterns, torches and weapons.
Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him,
went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?”
They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.”
He said to them, “I AM.”
Judas his betrayer was also with them.
When he said to them, “I AM,”
they turned away and fell to the ground.
So again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?”
They said, “Jesus, the Nazorean.”
Jesus answered, “I told you that I AM.
So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”
This was to fulfill what had been said,
“I have not lost any of those you gave me.”
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it,
struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear.
The slave’s name was Malchus.
Jesus said to Peter,
“Put your sword into its scabbard.
Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”
So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the [
Jewish] guards seized Jesus,
bound him, and brought him to Annas first.
He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas,
who was the high priest that year.
it was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jewish leaders [the Jews]
that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus.
Now the other disciple was known to the high priest
and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus.
But Peter stood at the gate outside.
So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest,
went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in.
Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter,
“You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?”
He said, “I am not.”
Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire
that they had made, because it was cold,
and were warming themselves.
Peter was also standing there keeping warm.
The high priest questioned Jesus
about his disciples and about his doctrine.
Jesus answered him, “I have spoken publicly to the world.
I have always taught in a synagogue
or in the temple area where all of our people [the Jews] gather,
and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me?
Ask those who heard me what I said to them.
They know what I said.”
When he had said this,
one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said,
“Is this the way you answer the high priest?”
Jesus answered him,
“If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong;
but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”
Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm.
And they aid to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it and said, “I am not.”
One of the slaves of the high priest,
a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said,
“Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?”
Again Peter denied it.
And immediately the cock crowed.
Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium.
It was morning.
And they themselves did not enter the praetorium,
in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover.
So Pilate came out to them and said,
“What charge do you bring against this man?”
They answered and said to him,
“If he were not a criminal,
we would not have handed him over to you.
At this Pilate said to them,
“Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.”
The spokesman [Jews] answered him,
“We do not have the right to execute anyone,”
in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled
that he said indicating the kind of death he would die.
So Pilate went back into the praetorium
and summoned Jesus and said to him,
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
“Do you say this on your own, or have others told you about me?”
“I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
“My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the authorities [Jews].
But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
So Pilate said to him,
“Then you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth,
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
When He had said this,
he again went out to Jesus’ accusers [the Jews] and said to them,
“I find no guilt in him.
But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover.
Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
They cried out again, “Not this one but Barabbas!”
Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.
And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head,
and clothed him in a purple cloak,
and they came to him and said,
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
And they struck him repeatedly.
Once more Pilate went out and said to them,
“Look, I am bringing him out to you,
so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and a purple cloak.
And he said to them, “Behold, the man!”
When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out,
“Crucify him, crucify him!”
Pilate said to them,
“Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.”
The leaders [Jews] answered,
“We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die,
because he made himself the Son of God.”
Now when Pilate heard this statement,
he became even more afraid
and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus,
“Where are you from?”
Jesus did not answer him.
So Pilate said to him,
“Do you not speak to me?
Do you know I have the power to release you
and I have the power to crucify you?”
Jesus answered him,
“You would have no power over me
if it had not been given to you from above.
For this reason the one who handed me over to you
has the greater sin.”
Consequently, Pilate tried to release him,
but the crowd [Jews] cried out,
“If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar.
Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”
When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out
and seated him on the judge’s bench
in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
It was preparation day for the Passover, and it was about noon.
And he said to the crowd [Jews], “Behold your king!”
They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!”
Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?”
The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself,
he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull,
in Hebrew, Golgotha.
There they crucified him, and with him two others,
one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross.
It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.”
Now many of the onlookers [Jews] read this inscription
because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city;
and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.
So the chief priests said to Pilate,
“Do not write’The King of the Jews,’
but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.”
Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
When the soldiers crucified Jesus,
they took his clothes and divided them into four shares,
a share for each soldier.
They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless,
woven in one piece from the top down.
So they said to one another,
“Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,”
in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says:
They divided my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
This is what the soldiers did.
Standing by the cross with Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.”
Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.”
And from that hour, the disciple took her into his home.
After this, aware that everything was now finished,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I thirst.”
There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop
and put it to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,
“It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over his spirit.
Now since it was preparation day,
in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath,
for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one,
the Jewish authorities [Jews] asked Pilate that their legs be broken
and that they be taken down.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first
and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs,
but one soldier thrust a lance into his side,
and immediately blood and water flowed out.
An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true;
he knows that he is speaking the truth
so that you also may come to believe.
For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled:
Not a bone of it will be broken.
And again another passage says:
They will look upon him whom they have pierced.
After this, Joseph of Arimathea,
secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of Jesus’ opponents [the Jews],
asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus.
And Pilate permitted it.
So he came and took his body.
Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night,
also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes
weighing about one hundred pounds.
They took the body of Jesus
and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices,
according to the Jewish burial custom.
Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden,
and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried.
So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day;
for the tomb was close by.
VERSES CITED SEPARATELY
GOOD FRIDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION: YEARS ABC
Gospel Reading: Jn.18:1–19:42
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #1: GOSPEL READING: JOHN 18:3
Current reading: So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there. . .
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READING #1
So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the religious authorities and went there. . .
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #2: GOSPEL READING: JOHN 18:14
Current reading: It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews . . . .
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READINGS #2
It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jewish leaders . . . . [from The Holy Bible: Contemporary English Version (New York: American Bible Society, 1995)*]
It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jewish authorities . . .
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #3: GOSPEL READING: JOHN 18:20b
Current reading: . . . . temple area where all the Jews gather . . . .
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READING #3
. . . . temple area where all of our people gather . . . . [from The Holy Bible: Contemporary English Version (New York: American Bible Society, 1995)]
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #4: GOSPEL READING: JOHN 18:31b
Current reading: “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews answered him . . . .
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READINGS #4
“Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The spokesmen answered him . . . .
“Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” They answered him . . . .
[from The Holy Bible: Contemporary English Version]
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #5 GOSPEL READING: JOHN 18:36
Current reading: . . . . . fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is . . .
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READING #5
. . . . fighting to keep me from being handed over to the authorities. But as it is . . . .
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #6: GOSPEL READING: JOHN 18:38
Current reading: . . . . he again went out to the Jews and said to them. . . .
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READINGS #6
. . . . he again went out to Jesus’ accusers and said to them. . . .
. . . . he went back out and said to them . . . . [Contemporary English Version]
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #7: GOSPEL READING: JOHN 19:7
Current reading: The Jews answered, “We have a law . . . .”
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READINGS #7
The leaders answered, “We have a law . . . “
They answered, “We have a law . . . .”
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #8: GOSPEL READING: JOHN 19:12
Current reading: . . . . Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release him . . . .
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READING #8
. . . .Pilate tried to release him, but the authorities cried out, “If you release him . . . .
[Contemporary English Version]
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #9: GOSPEL READING: JOHN 19:14b
Current reading: And he said to the Jews, “Behold your king!”
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READING #9
And he said to the crowd, “Behold your king!” [From the Contemporary English Version]
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #10: GOSPEL READING: JOHN 19:20
Current reading: Now many of the Jews read this inscription . . . .
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READINGS #10
Now many of the onlookers read this inscription . . . .
Now many of the people read this inscription . . .
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #11: GOSPEL READING: JOHN 19:21
Current reading: So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate . . . .
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READING #11
So the chief priests said to Pilate . . . .
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #12: GOSPEL READING: JOHN 19:31b
Current reading: . . . . was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate . . . .
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READING #12
. . .was a solemn one, the Jewish authorities asked Pilate . . . .
PROBLEMATIC PASSAGE #13: GOSPEL READING: JOHN 19:38
Current reading: . . . . Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews . . . .
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE READING #13
. . . . Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of Jesus’ opponents . . . .
[The Holy Bible: Contemporary English Version]
*NOTE: The Holy Bible: Contemporary English Version (New York: American Bible Society, 1995) makes a concerted effort to use alternative wordings that do not carry an anti-Judaic tone. We have cited it above [in brackets] when we drew our “Suggested Alternative Wording” from it.
by David P. Efroymson
1) Crucifixion is a Roman form of execution. Ultimately, it was the Romans who put Jesus to death, whatever may have been the level of cooperation by some Jewish collaborators (the high priest, for example, having been appointed by the Romans at this time).
2) The Gospels were written a generation or more after the event of Jesus’ crucifixion. The extent to which anyone at the time of their writing actually knew, in any detail, what actually happened in Jesus’ arrest and trial is highly unlikely.
3) Further, the Gospels were written at a time when the Jesus movement was having some success among Gentiles, and far less success among Jews. But Jesus came “to the Jews,” as every recollection and every version of the story affirmed. Thus the question naturally arose, and some critics–Gentile/”pagan” and Jewish–of the new movement were motivated to ask: “Why have you (‘Christians’) not succeeded among the Jewish community. The Gospel response was largely to answer by accounting for the failure of the “mission to the Jews” by blaming Jewish “blindness” and intransigence, which allegedly characterized the Jewish response to Jesus throughout much of his ministry and especially at his death. This inevitably colored the Gospel narratives.
4) By the time the Gospels were taking shape, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. The followers of Jesus, in large part, saw this destruction just as Jeremiah and Ezekiel saw the earlier destruction of Jerusalem (in 587 BCE)–as punishment for Jewish sin. The followers of Jesus were quick to adduce the “sin” for which Jerusalem was now again destroyed: the “rejection” (as they saw it) of Jesus by the Jews. Thus the motivation of #3 above was reinforced.
N.B. None of this is intended to suggest that the whole thing was “made up.” Jesus was crucified by the Romans, and some Jewish Temple authorities were almost certainly involved (the most likely of these were collaborators with the Romans, who were the most likely to react negatively to Jesus’ “stirring up the people” (as per Luke23:5).