Did the Roman soldiers divide up Jesus’ clothing in fulfillment of Psalms 22:19 (or Psalms 29:18)

Psalms 22:19 reads “They divide my clothes among them, and for my garment they cast lots” Who is being referred to here, is it Jesus? Did the Roman soldiers divide up Jesus’s clothing? Find out in this post.

Did the Roman soldiers divide up Jesus’ clothing in fulfillment of Psalms 22:19 (18 in some versions)?

Answer: Psalms 22:19 (18 in some versions) reads: “They divide my clothes among them, and for my garment they cast lots.” A misunderstanding by the author of the Gospel of John influenced the way he applied this verse to his version of the division-of-the-clothing incident (John 19:24; cf. Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34).

The author of John misinterpreted the Hebrew parallelism as referring to two separate acts. In biblical poetry, which is based on parallel structure, the repetition of an idea does not indicate its duplication in reality (cf. Zechariah 9:9). Seeking to harmonize this crucifixion story with the psalm, John states that the soldiers divided Jesus’ garments among themselves, but that they could not divide the inner garment, which was seamless, so they cast lots for it. “They said therefore to one another: ‘Let us not tear it, but let us decide by lot whose it will be‘” that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They divided my outer garment among themselves, and for my apparel they cast lots’” (John 19:24). Evidently, John created this legendary casting of lots to meet what he believed to be a messianic requirement of Psalm 22. In this way, the crucifixion tradition was rounded out to agree with what John thought was the prophetic message of this psalm.

But, what is the truth of the New Testament claims?

If Jesus was scourged as part of the crucifixion process and then his clothes were once again placed on his wounded bloody body (Matthew 27:26, 31; Mark 15:15, 20, John 19:1) why would the soldiers want to divide up these blood soaked garments? Indeed, if the scourging continued along the route to the crucifixion, Jesus’ clothing would be nothing but bloody rags of no value to the soldiers. For that matter, it is questionable if the soldiers would have placed a purple robe on the scourged body of Jesus. Purpled dyed material was extremely expensive and reserved for royalty. It is probably for this reason that the story arose that he was wrapped in a purple robe, the color symbolic of royalty. The truth is that there is no truth to the New Testament claims.

 

© Gerald Sigal