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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Mark 15

 

 

Verses 21-47

The Crucifixion and Burial of Jesus - Mark 15:21-47 records the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Crucifixion of Jesus — Mark 15:21-32

2. The Death of Jesus — Mark 15:33-41

3. The Burial of Jesus — Mark 15:42-47

Mark 15:21-32 — The Crucifixion of Jesus ( Matthew 27:32-44, Luke 23:26-43, John 19:17-27) - In Mark 15:21-32 we have the story of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are no ancient records that tell us exactly how many Jews were crucified by Rome. It may have been thousands, or tens of thousands. But it was the most horrible form of punishment that Rome gave to its enemies.

Crucifixion in the Ancient World- References to impalement and crucifixion in ancient history are too numerous to mention them all. These most cruel forms of punishment were used for perhaps a thousand years, from the sixth century B.C. by the Persians until fourth century A.D. when Constantine abolished its practice throughout the Roman Empire. Perhaps the earliest references to crucifixion and impalement as a form of capital punishments are recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), who says the Persians practiced it against their enemies and other condemned of crimes. Although the Persians may have not have been the first to use this cruel form of punishment, they certainly appear to be the first to use it extensively. Herodotus makes numerous references to the Persian practice of impalement and crucifixion, with most gruesome event taking place when King Darius of Persian subdued the Babylonians a second time in 519 B.C. by crucifying three thousand chief men among them on one occasion (3159). 134]

134] "Crucifixion," in Encyclopdia Britannica [on-line]; accessed December 21, 2011; available at http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/144583/crucifixion; Internet.

"…and with that he took the Magians who interpreted dreams and had persuaded him to let Cyrus go free, and impaled [ ἀνασκολοπίζω] them." (Herodotus 1128) 135]

135] Herodotus I, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, c 1920, 1975), 167.

"Having killed him (in some way not worth the telling) Oroetes then crucified [ ἀνασταυρόω] him." (Herodotus 3125) 136]

136] Herodotus II, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, c 1928), 155.

"When the Egyptian chirurgeons who had till now attended on the king were about to be impaled [ ἀνασκολοπίζω] for being less skilful than a Greek, Democedes begged their lives of the king and saved them." (Herodotus 3132) 137]

137] Herodotus II, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, c 1928), 163.

"For he had raped the virgin daughter of Zopyrus son of Megabyzus; and when on this charge he was to be impaled [ ἀνασκολοπίζω] by King Xerxes…But Xerxes did not believe that Sataspes spoke truth, and as the task appointed Mas unfulfilled he impaled [ ἀνασκολοπίζω] him, punishing him on the charge first brought against him." (Herodotus 443) 138]

138] Herodotus II, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, c 1928), 241-243.

"Artaphrenes, viceroy of Sardis and Harpagus who had taken Histiaeus, impaled [ ἀνασκολοπίζω] his body on the spot, and sent his head embalmed to king Darius at Susa." (Herodotus 630) 139]

139] Herodotus III, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, c 1938), 175-177.

"Their captain was the viceroy from Cyme in Aeolia, Sandoces son of Thamasius; he had once before this, being then one of the king"s Judges , been taken and crucified [ ἀνασταυρόω] by Darius because he had given unjust judgment for a bribe." (Herodotus 7194) 140]

140] Herodotus III, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, c 1938), 511.

"Thus was Babylon the second time taken. Having mastered the Babylonians, Darius destroyed their walls and reft away all their gates, neither of which things Cvrus had done at the first taking of Babylon; moreover he impaled [ ἀνασκολοπίζω] about three thousand men that were chief among them." (Herodotus 3159) 141]

141] Herodotus II, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, c 1928), 193-195.

The Greek historian Thucydides (460-396 B.C.) records the use of impalement during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) by the Persians, which suggests the introduction of this form of punishment to the Greek by the Persians.

"…for the Persians were unable to capture him, both on account of the extent of the marsh and because the marsh people are the best fighters among the Egyptians. Inaros, however, the king of the Libyans, who had been the originator of the whole movement in Egypt, was taken by treachery and impaled." (Thucydides 1110) 142]

142] Thucydides, vol 1, trans. Charles Forster Smith, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, c 1956), 185.

The Greek general Alexander the Great adopted crucifixion as a form of punishment against his enemies in his conquests. The Roman historian Curtius Rufus (flourished A.D 41-54) says Alexander the Great crucified two thousand citizens of Tyre along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea after having conquered them.

"Then a sorrowful spectacle to the victors caused by the wrath of the king, two thousand suffering (his) madness which were killed, fixed to a cross [crux] along the enormous distance of the seashore. He spared the ambassadors of the Carthaginians…" (author's translation) (Quintus Curtius Rufus, Life and Exploits of Alexander the Great 4418) 143]

143] Quintus Curtius Rufus, Life and Exploits of Alexander the Great, trans. William Henry Crosby (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1969), 45.

The Romans adopted crucifixion into their judicial system. The Roman statesman Cicero (106-43 B.C.) describes crucifixion as the worst form of capital punishment that should be reserved for all but Roman citizens, and he condemns those Roman officials who performed it upon their own citizens.

"The Roman people will give credit to those Roman knights who, when they were produced as witnesses before you originally, said that a Roman citizen, one who was offering honourable men as his bail, was crucified by him in their sight." (Cicero, Against Verrem 15) 144]

144] C. D. Yonge, The Works of Philo Judaeus, the Contemporary of Josephus, vol 1 (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854), 137.

"The punishments of Roman citizens are driving him mad, some of whom he has delivered to the executioner, others he has put to death in prison, others he has crucified while demanding their rights as freemen and as Roman citizens." (Cicero, Against Verrem 213) 145]

145] C. D. Yonge, The Works of Philo Judaeus, the Contemporary of Josephus, vol 1 (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854), 154.

"I will produce, also, citizens of Cosa, his fellow-citizens and relations, who shall teach you, though it is too late, and who shall also teach the Judges , (for it is not too late for them to know them,) that that Publius Gavius whom you crucified was a Roman citizen, and a citizen of the municipality of Cosa, not a spy of runaway slaves." (Cicero, Against Verrem 2563) 146]

146] C. D. Yonge, The Works of Philo Judaeus, the Contemporary of Josephus, vol 1 (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854), 535.

"Then you might remit some part of the extreme punishment. Did he not know him? Then, if you thought fit, you might establish this law for all people, that whoever was not known to you, and could not produce a rich man to vouch for him, even though he were a Roman citizen, was still to be crucified." (Cicero, Against Verrem 2565) 147]

147] C. D. Yonge, The Works of Philo Judaeus, the Contemporary of Josephus, vol 1 (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854), 537.

The Romans appear to have taken crucifixion to its fullest extent of torment. The Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnasus (60-7 B.C.) tells us that the Romans combined scourging and various forms of torture as a prerequisite to crucifixion.

"And straightway all those whom the informers declared to have been concerned in the conspiracy were either seized in their houses or brought in from the country, and after being scourged and tortured they were all crucified." (Dionysius of Halicarnasus, Roman Antiquities 5513) 148]

148] Dionysius of Halicarnasus, The Roman Antiquities of Dionysius of Halicarnasus, vol 3, trans. Earnest Cary, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, c 1940), 153.

"When the plot was revealed, the ringleaders were arrested and after being scourged were led away to be crucified." (Dionysius of Halicarnasus, Roman Antiquities 1267) 149]

149] Dionysius of Halicarnasus, The Roman Antiquities of Dionysius of Halicarnasus, vol 7, trans. Earnest Cary, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, c 1950), 221.

The Roman philosopher Seneca (4 B.C. to A.D 65) tells us that the Romans experimented with a variety of methods for crucifying men in an effort to inflict maximum suffering.

"I see before me crosses not all alike, but differently made by different peoples: some hang a man head downwards, some force a stick upwards through his groin, some stretch out his arms on a forked gibbet." (Dialogues 6, To Marcia, On Consolations) 150]

150] Aubrey Stewart, L. Anneaus Seneca: Minor Dialogues (London: George Bell and Sons, 1889), 192.

The Roman historian Appian (A. D 95-165) tells us that the Roman general Crassus crucified six thousand men in 71 B.C. after crushing a slave rebellion led by Spartacus. He stretched these crosses along the main road leading to Rome so that everyone may see and fear the Romans. 151]

151] William Bodham Donne, "Spartacus," in Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol 3, ed. William Smith (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1849), 892.

"They divided themselves in four parts, and continued to fight until they all perished except 6000, who were captured and crucified along the whole road from Capua to Rome." (The Civil Wars 1120) 152]

152] Appian's Roman History, vol 3, trans. Horace White, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1964), 223-225.

The Assyrian satirist Lucian (A.D 125-180) reflects the Roman's passion for the most extreme forms of punishment in his work The Fisherman.

"But how are we to punish him, to be sure? Let us invent a complex death for him, such as to satisfy us all; in fact he deserves to die seven times over for each of us. PHILOSOPHER I suggest he be crucified. ANOTHER Yes, by Heaven; but flogged beforehand. ANOTHER Let him have his eyes put out long beforehand.. ANOTHER Let him have that tongue of his cut off, even longer beforehand." (Lucian, The Fisherman 2) 153]

153] Lucian, vol 3, trans. A. M. Harmon, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1960), 5.

The Jewish historian Josephus (A.D 37-100) makes many references to the Roman practice of crucifixion against the Jewish people. His description of the thousands of crucifixions that the Romans performed upon the Jews during the siege of Jerusalem is perhaps the most horrific of his many references.

"…after they had fought, they thought it too late to make any supplications for mercy; so they were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city. This miserable procedure made Titus greatly to pity them, while they caught every day five hundred Jews; nay, some days they caught more…So the soldiers out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies." (Josephus, Wars 5111)

"Whereupon Eleazar besought them not to disregard him, now he was going to suffer a most miserable death, and exhorted them to save themselves, by yielding to the Roman power and good fortune, since all other people were now conquered by them." (Josephus, Wars 764)

The Roman philosopher Seneca (4 B.C. to A.D 65) gives one of the most vivid descriptions of what a person suffers during a crucifixion in ancient literature:

"But what sort of life is a lingering death? Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain dying limb by limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all? Can any man by found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly tumors on chest and shoulders, and drawing the breath of life amid long drawn-out agony? I think he would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the cross!" (Epistle 10114). 154]

154] Seneca, vol 4, Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales, vol 3, trans. Richard M. Gumere, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1971), 167.

The Roman jurist Julius Paulus (2nd to 3rd c. A.D.) considered crucifixion as the most extreme of all punishments.

"Every one should abstain not only from divination but also from the books teaching that science. If slaves consult a soothsayer with reference to the life of their master, they shall be subjected to extreme punishment, that is to say, to crucifixion; and if those who are consulted give any answer, they shall either be sentenced to the mines, or deported to an island." (The Civil Law 5214) 155]

155] S. P. Scott, The Civil Law (Cincinnati, Ohio: The Central Trust Company 1932) [on-line]; accessed 17 January 2011; available at http://webu 2.upmf-grenoble.fr/Haiti/Cours/Ak/Anglica/Paul 5_Scott.htm#21; Internet.

The legal reforms of Constantine led to the abolishment of crucifixion and replaced it more humane forms of capital punishment (Eusebius, Life of Constantine 426) (PG 20, cols 1173-1178). 156]

156] Albert de Broglie, "The First Christian Emperors," (130-190). in The Christian Remembrancer (vol 50 July-Decemeber) (London: J. and C. Mozley, 1860), 169; Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol 3 (New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1891), 108.

Mark 15:21Comments- There is only one other mention of a person named "Rufus" in the Scriptures, where Paul greets him as a citizen of Rome in his epistle to the church at Rome. Since Mark wrote his Gospel while in Rome, some scholars suggest that this occasioned Mark to mention this person's name in his Gospel.

Romans 16:13, "Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine."

Mark 15:24Comments - The ancient practice of casting lots was not restricted to the Jewish culture under the Mosaic Law. The books Joel ,, Obadiah ,, Jonah , and Nahum provide us with references in the Old Testament Scriptures to the custom of casting of lots by someone other than the people of Israel, being practiced among the Babylonians ( Obadiah 1:11), the Ninevites ( Nahum 3:10), and among the sailors ( Jonah 1:7), which Adam Clarke suggests to be Phoenicians based on Ezekiel 27:12. 157]

157] Adam Clarke, The Book of the Prophet Jonah , in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Jonah 1:3.

Joel 3:3, "And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink."

Obadiah 1:11, "In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them."

Nahum 3:10, "Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity: her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets: and they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound in chains."

Jonah 1:7, "And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah."

Ezekiel 27:12, "Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs."

The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus Christ cast lots at the foot of the Cross ( Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:24). The Roman statesman Cicero (106-43 B.C.) makes numerous references to the widespread practice of casting lots among the ancient cultures in his work de divination. 158] The Jewish historian Josephus (A.D 37-100) mentions the practice of casting lots among the Roman soldiers who had encompassed the city of Jerusalem under Titus. 159] The Roman historian Suetonius (A.D 70-130) mentions this ancient practice among Roman leaders by appointing men to tasks by casting lots, as well as casting lots as a form of divination. 160]

158] For example, Cicero writes, "But what nation is there, or what state, which is not influenced by the omens derived from the entrails of victims, or by the predictions of those who interpret prodigies, or strange lights, or of augurs, or astrologers, or by those who expound lots (for these are about what come under the head of art); or, again, by the prophecies derived from dreams, or soothsayers (for these two are considered natural kinds of divination)?" (de divination 16) Cicero also writes, "What, now, is a lot? Much the same as the game of mora, or dice, l and other games of chance, in which luck and fortune are all in all, and reason and skill avail nothing. These games are full of trick and deceit, invented for the object of gain, superstition, or error." (de divination 241) See Cicero, The Treatises of M. T. Cicero on the Nature of the Gods; on Divination; on Fate; on the Republic; on the Laws; and on Standing for the Consulship, trans. C. D. Yonge (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853), 146-147, 235.

159] Josephus writes, "They also cast lots among themselves who should be upon the watch in the nighttime, and who should go all night long round the spaces that were interposed between the garrisons." (Wars 5122)

160] For example, Suetonius writes, "When later, on his way to Illyricum, he [Tiberius] visited the oracle of Geryon near Patavium, and drew a lot which advised him to seek an answer to his inquiries by throwing golden dice into the fount of Aponus, it came to pass that the dice which he threw showed the highest possible number and even to-day those very dice may be seen under the water." (Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Tiberius) Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, trans. Joseph Gavorse (New York: Modern Library, 1931), 130-131.

Mark 15:25Comments - For three hours, from 9:00 a.m. until noon, the people mocked Jesus as He hung on the Cross ( Mark 15:29-32). We read of no mocking after darkness fell upon the earth from noon until His death at 3:00 p.m, perhaps because the people began to perceive the hand of Almighty God in this event.

Mark 15:26Comments- It was a custom for a victim to have his crimes posted on a plaque above him during his crucifixion. We read in Mark 15:26 how Jesus had just such a superscription place above Him in order to identify Him with His crime.

Mark 15:33-41 — The Death of Jesus ( Matthew 27:45-56, Luke 23:44-49, John 19:28-30) - In Mark 15:33-41 we have the account of the death of Jesus Christ.

Mark 15:33 And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

Mark 15:33Comments- For three hours, from 9:00 a.m. until noon, the people mocked Jesus as He hung on the Cross ( Mark 15:29-32). As darkness fell upon the earth from noon until His death at 3:00 p.m, the people ceased mocking as they began to perceive the hand of Almighty God in this event. For this reason, Joseph Prince suggests that Jesus Christ suffered at the hands of man for His first three hours upon the Cross, and He suffered under the hand of God for the final three hours. 161]

161] Joseph Prince, Destined to Reign, on Lighthouse Television (Kampala, Uganda), television program, 9 May 2012.

Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which Isaiah , being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Mark 15:34 — "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani" - Comments- These words are found in Psalm 22:1. However, they are not spoken as the Hebrew original, but rather in the Aramaic version. Thus, this verse is evidence that Jesus spoke the Aramaic language during His earthly ministry.

Psalm 22:1, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?"

Mark 15:34 — "My God, my God" - Comments- Jesus did not say, "My Father," as God had now become His Judge.

Mark 15:34Comments - After three hours of darkness, the Son of God spoke, crying out from the Cross with the same power that created the heavens and the earth. His words penetrated the darkness and brought it to an end, restoring light upon the world.

Jesus did not say, "My Father," as God had now become His Judge on the Cross. Thus, He says, "My God, My God." Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus referred to God as His Father. This is the first time that Jesus calls His Father "God." It was at this time that God forsook His Son for a moment as Jesus felt the weight of the sins of mankind upon Him. Thus, Jesus testifies to the world by this statement that He was being judged for the sins of mankind as God forsook Him. Note these insightful words from Frances J. Roberts regarding this verse.

"I (Jesus) suffered in all ways as ye suffer, but ye shall never suffer as I suffered; for I experienced one awful moment of separation from the Father; but I have promised that I will never forsake thee, and I will never leave thee." 162]

162] Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved (Ojai, California: King's Farspan, Inc, 1973), 170.

Finally, as Jesus was giving up His spirit, He again addresses His Father, saying, "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." ( Luke 23:46)

Mark 15:35 And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias.

Mark 15:35Comments- The Hebrew phrase ( ילא) "My God," and the name ( הילא) "Elijah," meaning "YHWH is God," are very close in pronunciation and sound. Thus, the bystanders could have easily heard the word "Elijah" by mistake.

Mark 15:42-47 — The Burial of Jesus ( Matthew 27:57-61, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42) - In Mark 15:42-47 we have the account of the burial of Jesus Christ.

 


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Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Mark 15:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/mark-15.html. 2013.

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