What does John 19:18 mean?
ESV: There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
NIV: There they crucified him, and with him two others--one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
NASB: There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.
CSB: There they crucified him and two others with him, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
NLT: There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them.
KJV: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
NKJV: where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.
Verse Commentary:
John's description of this event is concise, masking the brutality involved. Roman crucifixion was so shameful and barbaric that Roman citizens were exempt from it. Victims were usually stripped naked (John 19:23) and forced to carry at least the horizontal beam to the execution site (John 19:17). This site was frequently chosen for visibility, maximizing witnesses. The process, itself, was much more precise than what's often depicted in artwork and modern popular culture. When everything went as intended, a crucifixion victim would languish in indescribable agony for as long as several days. Eventual death came through exposure, suffocation, or blood loss. This horrific process inspired the English term for maximum pain: "excruciating," from a Latin reference to crucifixion.

Crucifixion victims could be nailed through the palms of the hands, but the more common location was just above the wrist, between the bones of the forearm. Wide-headed spikes, slightly thinner than a finger, and about length of the hand, would pierce a major nerve, resulting in constant agony. This would also avoid major blood vessels, prolonging the pain, and provide enough support for the weight of the body. Similar attention was given to the feet: attached through a major nerve, not a blood vessel, and allowing for weight to hang. Most victims were nailed with slightly bent legs and widespread arms. Mass crucifixions sometimes resulted in bored executioners using more bizarre positions.

Normal crucifixion posture left the victim's weight hanging by the two wrists, pulling the chest wide and making it hard to breathe outwards. To breathe properly, the victim had to pull against the wrist nails or push against the foot nails. Using the legs was much easier, but both were brutally painful. There they would hang, exposed to weather, wild animals, infection, thirst, and constant agony. Eventually, one or all those would cause death. Most commonly, the victim would tire of struggling to breathe, lose the ability to lift against the nails, and slowly suffocate. This could take several days, after which the body was often left to rot as a public spectacle.

Breaking the shins of a crucified victim would greatly accelerate the process. This would make it impossible for them to push with the legs, eliminating the ability to properly breathe, causing suffocation within several minutes. Jesus' death will come in a matter of hours, even without such measures. The scourging He suffered from Pilate's men (John 19:1) would have made Him weak, already suffering serious blood loss. By the time executioners tend to the other condemned men (Isaiah 53:2), Jesus will be dead (John 19:31–33).
Verse Context:
John 19:17–30 describes Jesus' unjust execution by crucifixion. The Roman governor, Pilate, ironically puts a sign on Jesus' cross proclaiming Him "King of the Jews." This angers Jewish religious leaders, but the governor refuses to take the sign down or change the wording. As Jesus calls out to John to care for His mother, Mary, soldiers gamble for what's left of His clothes. Jesus pronounces the completion of His atoning sacrifice and dies. Matthew 27:31–56, Mark 15:22–41, and Luke 23:32–49 cover this same series of events.
Chapter Summary:
Pilate recognizes Jesus' innocence, but fears the mob assembled by Jewish religious leaders. He attempts to satisfy them by having Jesus viciously whipped and mocked. This only results in more cries for Jesus' death. The governor then shifts to protect his own reputation, ordering Jesus to be crucified on a charge of being "King of the Jews." John is directly present as Jesus is executed. He notes the fulfillment of several prophecies as Jesus dies. Once He is confirmed to be dead, Jesus' body is taken by two friendly members of the ruling council. They hastily bury Him in the borrowed crypt of a rich man.
Chapter Context:
When Jesus was first brought to Pilate, His innocence was obvious (John 18:36–38). However, the mob refuses to be satisfied with anything less than crucifixion. Pilate gives in to these demands. John, who is present for the entire gory spectacle, notes several instances of fulfilled prophecy (Psalm 22:18; Psalm 69:21; Exodus 12:46; Zechariah 12:10). Jesus is then buried in the borrowed tomb of a rich man (Isaiah 53:9) to complete yet another Old Testament prediction. A guard will be posted to ensure no one steals the body (Matthew 27:62–68), which will only serve to confirm that Jesus' eventual resurrection was a true miracle (John 20:1–8).
Book Summary:
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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