John 19:3 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

John 19:3, NIV: and went up to him again and again, saying, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' And they slapped him in the face.

John 19:3, ESV: They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

John 19:3, KJV: And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

John 19:3, NASB: and they repeatedly came up to Him and said, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' and slapped Him in the face again and again.

John 19:3, NLT: 'Hail! King of the Jews!' they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.

John 19:3, CSB: And they kept coming up to him and saying, "Hail, king of the Jews! " and were slapping his face.

What does John 19:3 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Soldiers are sarcastically abusing Jesus, making fun of the controversy which brought Him to the Roman governor. Although Jesus was condemned by Jewish leaders for claiming to be God (Matthew 26:64–66), they seek a legally-valid death sentence (John 18:29–38). So, they have accused Him of rebellion against Rome. Pilate has seen through this, and knows Jesus is innocent. His goal in having Jesus scourged and humiliated (John 19:1–2) is part of his effort to release Jesus, rather than giving in to mob bloodlust.

Scourging involved graphic injury: the flagrum was a multi-headed whip weighted with lead, rocks, or metal. What Jesus experiences afterwards at the hands of the Roman soldiers is meant to be degrading, instead. This shaming is meant to express dominance and make Jesus seem less of a threat. John's Greek phrasing here implies Jesus was hit with slaps or backhanded strikes. Throughout history, these are associated with insult. To mock a grown man and "slap them around" is an expression of contempt; it's meant to embarrass more than to hurt.