Study Notes—Chapter 18
the Kidron Valley: Or “the winter torrent of Kidron.” The Kidron Valley, mentioned only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, separates Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. It runs from N to S along the eastern side of the city. The Kidron Valley was usually waterless, even in winter, except in the case of an especially heavy rain. The Greek word kheiʹmar·ros, here rendered “valley,” literally means “a winter torrent,” that is, a stream of water that flows abundantly because of the heavy rains during the winter season. This Greek word is used more than 80 times in the Septuagint to render the Hebrew word naʹchal, the corresponding expression for “valley,” used when the Kidron Valley is mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. (2Sa 15:23; 1Ki 2:37) These Hebrew and Greek words for “valley” can both refer to a torrent or a stream. (De 10:7; Job 6:15; Isa 66:12; Eze 47:5) More frequently, however, these words refer to the valley cut by a winter torrent and through which a stream runs during the winter rains. (Nu 34:5; Jos 13:9; 17:9; 1Sa 17:40; 1Ki 15:13; 2Ch 33:14; Ne 2:15; Ca 6:11) Both words are often rendered “wadi.”—See Glossary, “Wadi.”
the detachment of soldiers: The Greek term speiʹra used here indicates that Roman soldiers are referred to. Of the four Gospel writers, John is the only one to mention that Roman soldiers were present when Jesus was arrested.—Joh 18:12.
struck the slave of the high priest: This incident is recorded by all four Gospel writers, and their accounts are complementary. (Mt 26:51; Mr 14:47; Lu 22:50) Only Luke, “the beloved physician” (Col 4:14), mentions that Jesus “touched the ear and healed him.” (Lu 22:51) John is the only Gospel writer to mention that Simon Peter wielded the sword and that Malchus was the name of the slave whose ear was cut off. John was evidently the disciple “known to the high priest” as well as to his household (Joh 18:15, 16), so it is natural that his Gospel would mention the injured man by name. John’s familiarity with the high priest’s household is further shown at Joh 18:26, where John explains that the slave who accused Peter of being a disciple of Jesus was “a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off.”
drink the cup: In the Bible, “cup” is often used figuratively of God’s will, or “assigned portion,” for a person. (Ps 11:6; 16:5; 23:5) To “drink the cup” here means to submit to God’s will. In Jesus’ case, “the cup” involved suffering and death under the false charge of blasphemy, as well as his resurrection to immortal life in heaven.—See study notes on Mt 20:22; 26:39.
military commander: The Greek term khi·liʹar·khos (chiliarch) literally means “ruler of a thousand,” that is, soldiers. It refers to a Roman military commander called a tribune. There were six tribunes in each Roman legion. The legion, however, was not divided into six different commands; rather, each tribune commanded the whole legion for one sixth of the time. Such a military commander had great authority, including the power to nominate and assign centurions. The Greek word could also refer to high-ranking military officers in general. A Roman military commander accompanied the soldiers who arrested Jesus.
the Jews: Apparently referring to the Jewish authorities or religious leaders.—See study note on Joh 7:1.
They led him first to Annas: Only John states specifically that Jesus was led to Annas, who had been appointed high priest about 6 or 7 C.E. by Quirinius, the Roman governor of Syria. Annas served until about 15 C.E. Even after he was deposed by the Romans and no longer held the official title of high priest, Annas seems to have continued to exercise great power and influence as high priest emeritus and the predominant voice of the Jewish hierarchy. Five of his sons held the office of high priest, and his son-in-law Caiaphas served as high priest from about 18 C.E. to about 36 C.E., which included that year, that is, 33 C.E., the memorable year in which Jesus was executed.—See study note on Lu 3:2.
another disciple: Apparently referring to the apostle John. This would fit John’s characteristic style of not referring to himself by name in his Gospel. (See study notes on Joh 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20.) Furthermore, John and Peter are linked in the postresurrection account at Joh 20:2-8. The Bible does not explain how John, a disciple from Galilee, might have become known to the high priest, but his familiarity with the household of the high priest enabled John to get past the doorkeeper into the courtyard and also to gain entrance for Peter.—Joh 18:16.
charcoal: A black, brittle, porous form of carbon, usually the residue of partially burned wood. In ancient times, charcoal was made by covering a pile of wood with earth and burning it slowly for several days with only enough air to burn off the gases. This left behind a relatively pure form of carbon. It was a time-consuming process requiring careful supervision, but charcoal was a favored fuel when intense, sustained heat without smoke was desired. Charcoal in an open fire or in a brazier was used for warmth. (Isa 47:14; Jer 36:22) Its even heat and the absence of flames and smoke made it ideal for cooking.—Joh 21:9.
the chief priest: That is, Annas.—See study notes on Joh 18:13; Ac 4:6.
to Caiaphas the high priest: See App. B12 for the possible location of Caiaphas’ house.
a rooster crowed: See study note on Mr 14:72.
governor’s residence: See study note on Mt 27:27.
early in the morning: That is, the morning of Nisan 14, the day of Jesus’ trial and death. The Passover began the evening before, and as shown in the other Gospel accounts, Jesus and the apostles had eaten the Passover meal the preceding night. (Mt 26:18-20; Mr 14:14-17; Lu 22:15) Therefore, in this verse, the reference to eating the Passover must refer to the meal on Nisan 15, the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. In Jesus’ time, the Passover (Nisan 14) and the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15-21) that followed were sometimes referred to collectively as “Passover.”—Lu 22:1.
Are you the King of the Jews?: See study note on Mt 27:11.
My Kingdom is no part of this world: Jesus did not give a direct answer to Pilate’s question, “What did you do?” (Joh 18:35) Instead, he kept the focus on Pilate’s first question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Joh 18:33) In his short reply, Jesus three times mentioned the Kingdom in which he was to be installed as King. By saying that his Kingdom is “no part of this world,” Jesus made clear that the Kingdom is not from a human source. This harmonizes with earlier statements referring to “the Kingdom of the heavens” or “the Kingdom of God.” (Mt 3:2; Mr 1:15) Jesus had also said that his followers were “no part of the world,” that is, the unrighteous human society alienated from God and his servants. (Joh 17:14, 16) By his words to Peter earlier that evening, Jesus showed that his followers were not to fight to defend him as supporters of a human king would have done.—Mt 26:51, 52; Joh 18:11.
You yourself are saying that I am a king: With this reply, Jesus confirms that he is a king. (Mt 27:11; compare study notes on Mt 26:25, 64.) But Jesus’ kingship differs from what Pilate imagines, since Jesus’ Kingdom is “no part of this world” and thus no threat to Rome.—Joh 18:33-36.
bear witness to: As used in the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek words rendered “to bear witness” (mar·ty·reʹo) and “witness” (mar·ty·riʹa; marʹtys) are broad in meaning. These related terms are used in the basic sense of testifying to facts from firsthand or personal knowledge, but they may also include the idea of “declaring; confirming; speaking well of.” Not only did Jesus testify to and proclaim truths of which he was convinced but he also lived in such a way that he upheld the truth of his Father’s prophetic word and promises. (2Co 1:20) God’s purpose in connection with the Kingdom and its Messianic Ruler had been foretold in detail. Jesus’ entire earthly life course, culminating in his sacrificial death, fulfilled all prophecies about him, including the shadows, or patterns, contained in the Law covenant. (Col 2:16, 17; Heb 10:1) So by word and deed, it may be said that Jesus ‘bore witness to the truth.’
the truth: Jesus was referring, not to truth in general, but to the truth regarding God’s purposes. A key element of God’s purpose is that Jesus, the “son of David,” serves as High Priest and as Ruler of God’s Kingdom. (Mt 1:1) Jesus explained that a primary reason for his coming into the world of mankind, his life on earth, and his ministry was to declare the truth about that Kingdom. The angels declared a similar message prior to and at the time of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem of Judea, the city where David was born.—Lu 1:32, 33; 2:10-14.
What is truth?: Pilate’s question apparently refers to truth in general, not specifically to “the truth” that Jesus had just spoken about. (Joh 18:37) Had this been a sincere question, Jesus would no doubt have answered it. But Pilate likely asks the question rhetorically in skeptical or cynical disbelief, as if to say, “Truth? What is that? There is no such thing!” In fact, Pilate does not even wait for an answer but leaves and goes outside to the Jews.
you have a custom that I should release a man: This custom to release a prisoner is also mentioned at Mt 27:15 and Mr 15:6. It was apparently of Jewish origin because Pilate said to the Jews: “You have a custom.” Although there is no basis or precedent for this custom in the Hebrew Scriptures, it seems that by Jesus’ day, the Jews had developed this tradition. The practice would not have seemed strange to the Romans, since there is evidence that they released prisoners to please the crowds.