Matthew 27:27-30. Then the soldiers took Jesus The soldiers, having received orders to crucify Jesus, carried him into the common hall, or prætorium, in Pilate’s palace, after they had scourged him. Here they added the shame of disgrace to the bitterness of his punishment; for, sore as he was, by reason of the stripes they had laid on him, they dressed him as a fool in an old purple robe, (Mark, John,) in derision of his being called King of the Jews. Then they put a reed into his hand, instead of a sceptre; and having made a wreath of thorns, they put it on his head for a crown, forcing it down in such a rude manner that his temples were torn, and his face besmeared with blood. It is certain that they intended by this crown to expose our Lord’s pretended royalty to ridicule and contempt; but, had that been all, a crown of straws might have served as well. They undoubtedly meant to add cruelty to their scorn; which especially appeared in their striking him on the head, (Matthew 27:30.) when this crown was put on. If the best descriptions of the eastern thorns can be credited, they are much larger than any commonly known in these parts. Hasselquist, speaking of the naba, or nabka, of the Arabians, ( Trav., p. 288,) says, “In all probability this is the tree which afforded the crown of thorns put on the head of Christ: it grows very common in the East, and the plant is extremely fit for the purpose; for it has many small, and most sharp spines, which are well adapted to give great pain. The crown might be easily made of these soft, round, and pliant branches, and, what in my opinion seems to be the greatest proof of it, is, that the leaves much resemble those of ivy, as they are of a very deep green: perhaps the enemies of Christ would have a plant somewhat resembling that with which emperors and generals were used to be crowned, that there might be calumny even in the punishment.” Bishop Pearce, Michaelis, and a late learned writer, indeed, have remarked, that ακανθων may be the genitive plural either of ακανθα , thorn, or of ακανθος , the herb called bear’s-foot, a smooth plant, and without prickles. But in support of the common version let it be observed, 1st, That in both Mark and John it is called στεφανος ακανθινος , a thorny crown. This adjective, both in sacred and classical use, plainly denotes thorny; “that it ever means bear’s-foot,” says Dr. Campbell, “I have seen no evidence. Thus in the LXX., Isaiah 34:13, in the common editions, the phrase, ακανθινα ξυλα , is used for prickly shrubs. 2d, That the word ακανθα , thorn, both in the right case, and in the oblique cases, occurs in several places of the New Testament and of the LXX., is unquestionable. But that in either the word ακανθος is found, has not been pretended. Not one of the ancient, or of the Oriental versions, or indeed of any versions known to me, favours this hypothesis. The Italic and the Syriac, which are the oldest, both render the word thorns. Tertullian, the first of the Latin fathers, mentions the crown as being of thorns, and speaks in such a manner as clearly shows that he had never heard of any different opinion, or even a doubt raised upon the subject, which is very strong evidence for the common translation. Add to this, that an eminent Greek father, Clement of Alexandria, a contemporary of Tertullian, understood the word in the same manner. It is absurd, says he, (Pæd., 50:2, c. 8,) in us who hear that our Lord was crowned with thorns, ακανθαις , to insult the venerable sufferer by crowning ourselves with flowers. Several passages, equally apposite, might be given from the same chapter, but not one word that betrays a suspicion that the term might be, or a suggestion that it ever had been, otherwise interpreted. To this might be added all the ancient commentators, both Greek and Latin. There is therefore here the highest probability opposed to mere conjecture.” To the Son of God, in this condition, the rude soldiers bowed the knee, and said, Hail, king of the Jews Pretending respect, but really mocking him, and at the same time giving him severe blows, some with the reed, others with their hands. Those who smote him with the reed laid their blows upon the thorns, with which his head was crowned: thereby driving the prickles thereof afresh into his temples. Those who smote him with their hands, aimed at his cheeks or some part of his body. To see an innocent and virtuous man treated with such barbarity, one would suppose must have excited feelings of pity and sympathy in the minds of some, even of his unfeeling and hard- hearted enemies! Of this, however, if it took place, the evangelist’s are silent.
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