The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods







accounts given by persons returning from the feast, of the Galileans whom Pilate had slaughtered in the temple

(Luk 13:1-9)

Luke relates that at that time, as Jesus was exercising His ministry, there were present some who told Him of a massacre which Pilate had made of some Galileans, just whilst they were engaged with their sacrifices in the temple. He had mingled their blood with their sacrifices. To the Israelitish mind, there was something peculiarly horrible in this. The sacrificer who, just when he was himself presenting the atoning sacrifice, had to shed his own blood and life, might easily be regarded as a criminal peculiarly marked out by God. For in Israel real crime could not be expiated by sacrifice, it must be atoned for by death. And thus these narrators appear to have accused to Jesus, not Pilate, in spite of his deed of violence, but those Galileans; at least, the answer of Jesus shows that they were full, not of Pilate’s guilt, but the guilt of these Galilean people.

There is nothing further known of this mysterious occurrence. It is, however, known from history, that Pilate was much addicted to deeds of gross violence in his government.’1 As, however, the disaster is here related to the Lord with the view of representing these Galileans as great sinners, and as the Lord addresses to the narrators so solemn a reproof, we are led to the supposition that the whole communication of the tidings to Jesus was made with a malevolent design; nay, we might even go further, and suppose that the conduct of these Galileans in the temple had been in some way connected by these malevolent persons with the cause of Jesus.

When, in the summer of this year, the news reached Galilee that Pilate had just cut down some Galileans whilst offering their sacrifices, the intelligence seems to have been brought by travellers returning from a recent observance of some feast. Hence we may venture to conjecture that this occurrence took place at the feast of Pentecost in the current year.

But if about this time some sacrificing Galileans gave such offence in the temple that Pilate was induced to do this savage and summary execution upon them, it was no doubt through complaints made by the Jewish priesthood that he was induced to do so. For in all probability he only interfered to keep order in the temple at the request of the priesthood. But how was it possible for the Galileans to have fallen out so violently with the priesthood of the temple? Many causes might lead to this, but none would be more probable about this time than the discord which had arisen between the priesthood and the enthusiastic admirers of Jesus in Galilee. Galileans of this sort might here have had to listen to imprecations against their honoured Jesus from the side of the priests; they might have had to hear words of excommunication, to endure the rejection of their sacrifices; and all this, in their excited and passionate mood, would he calculated to mislead them to commit acts of vengeance or of self-assertion.2

We will not carry out this supposition further. So much is clear, that the Lord severely cuts short these informants, who appear to he relating to Him the case of these Galileans with the view of making them out to be especial offenders who had fallen under God’s judgment.3 ‘Think ye,’ said He, ‘that these Galileans were sinners above all other Galileans? I tell you, nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’ He means them to understand that the Galileans are even now almost ripe for judgment. But He feels Himself constrained to add the declaration, that the Judeans are in no better case. This fact also He illustrates by an example. About that time a tower had fallen down at Siloam4 (perhaps a tower of the city-wall, which also encompassed the district of Siloam), and had killed eighteen persons. He makes mention of this disaster by asking: ‘Suppose ye that these unfortunates were guilty above all men who dwell in Jerusalem?’ And then again He repeated the declaration: ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’ Upon this He related to them the parable of the unfruitful fig-tree, which we have already considered. Already, for three years, has the owner sought in vain for fruit from the fig-tree in the vineyard. Therefore he would fain cut it down. But the gardener intercedes for the tree. He prays the owner to let it stand one year more. During this year he will do all he can with it; and if after that it yields no fruit, he says, then cut it down. Some would wish us to infer from this parable a four years’ public ministry of Jesus.5 But from other expressions of Jesus, we include in the reckoning in this parable the ministry of the Baptist.6 Therefore it was now the third year that God was seeking in vain for fruit on His fig-tree, the people of Israel. And Jesus felt that in fact the time of His death was already come, and with it the time of Israel’s rejection, if He did not withdraw and intercede for the people. Through this intercession He gained for it yet another year of grace. This parable gives us a deep insight into the Lord’s heart.7



1) See Winer, the article Pilate; Joseph. Antiq. 18, 3, 1; De Bello Jud. 2, 9, 2.

2) According to Josephus, Vit, 17, the Galileans were very prone to insurrection ; and he says (Antig. 17, 9, 3; 10, 2) that frequent disturbances arose in Jerusalem during the time of the feasts. See De Wette in loc.

3) Cf, Olshausen in loc.

4) The district of the well of Siloam, ‘From the fountain of Siloam Josephus also (Bell. Jud. 6, 7, 2) seems to distinguish τὸ Σιλωάμ as a particular neighbourhood.’ Winer, Lex. ii. 538. From the passage respecting it in Josephus, it would even seem to follow that the lower town reached as far as the pool of Siloam, and even enclosed it as well, See above, Part V. sec. i. note 1.

5) Comp. Sepp. Das Leben Jesu Christi, i, 193.

6) Comp. p. 221.

7) [An ancient interpretation is given in Cramer’s Catena, which makes the three years refer to the three states of man, in Eden, under the law, and in the Christian era, But in the midst of this, one of those gems occurs which compensates for much allegorizing: ‘κόπρια δὲ λέγει τὰ δάκρυα, καὶ τούς στεναγμοὺς, καί τὰς χαμευνίας, καί τὰς ἀγρυπνίας, καὶ τῆξιν ψυχῆς καὶ σώματος, κ.τ.λ.’—ED.]