15.02.08 Mk. 14:46; Lk. 22:49; Jn. 18:10-11; Mt. 26:52-54; Lk. 22:51; (Mk. 14:47)
PETER CUTS OFF THE SERVANT’S EAR
Mk. 46 Then they took hold of Him and arrested Him.
Lk. 49 When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?”
Jn. 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. (The slave’s name was Malchus.)
Mt. 52 Then Jesus told him, “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot call on My Father, and He will provide Me at once with more than 12 legions of angels? 54 How, then, would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?”
Lk. 51 But Jesus responded, “No more of this!” And touching his ear, He healed him.
15.02.08.Q1 Was it Peter’s intention to cut off the servant’s head (Jn. 18:10)?
NO! The passage reads, “then Simon Peter … cut off his right ear.” Was this a sign of the rebellion that the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and the soldiers so greatly feared? Absolutely not! Had that been the case, the disciples would have been slaughtered immediately, along with Jesus. The Romans and Sadducees had absolutely no compassion for anyone who might stir a rebellion. The healing saved the life of Peter, who, at that moment, was obviously not a highly favored Jew in the eyes of the arresting soldiers.
Had Jesus ridden into Jerusalem on a horse, or if they sang nationalistic songs such as A Psalm of Solomon, with Song, the King, which had phrases like “destroy the unrighteous rulers” and “drive out the sinners,” then Jesus and all of His disciples would probably have been immediately killed. But for more than three years the Romans, Hellenistic Jews, Herodians, and the Jewish leaders had been carefully watching Him and the huge crowds that followed. He never hinted at a nationalistic word.
However, if it was not Peter’s intention to kill Malchus, what was his intention? Malchus was not an ordinary temple servant, but chief assistant of Caiaphas, the official position known as the segan hacohaneem. Since John was an acquaintance of the family of Caiaphas, he would have known the name of the servant. Malchus, most likely, did not lose his entire ear, but only a small portion, such as his ear lobe, because any injury would have had two results:
- It would have caused great shame for the temple administrator.
- More importantly, the injury would have disqualified him from any temple service (Lev. 21:18-21). No one with a physical handicap or imperfection was permitted to enter the most sacred area of the temple.
Peter was not the first to have vented his anger in this manner; he merely acted out a cultural custom. Josephus preserved a similar account that occurred during the early reign of Herod the Great, when Hyrcanus II desired to become the high priest against the wishes of one called Antigonus. So Antigonus “disqualified” his rival from service in the office of priesthood.
Antigonus himself also bit off Hyrcanus’s ears with his own teeth, as he fell down upon his knees to him so that he might never be able, upon any mutation of affairs, to take the high priesthood again; for the high priests that officiated were to be complete and without blemish.
Josephus, Wars 1.13.9 (270)
“Malchus.” Malchus was a personal servant of the high priest, Caiaphas. He name was derived from the Hebrew word melech, meaning king. The event is quite interesting, as the “servant king” was pierced and healed by the Servant King who died and then was pierced.
Ironically, just as Israel had rejected Jesus, they no longer desired to hear Him, they had their hearing, or “ears” cut off. As such Malchus, was a “king” of the high priest who was responsible for leading the charge to have Jesus crucified, was symbolic of national Israel. At times, even the smallest events in the life of Jesus, have incredible depth of meaning.
“All who take up a sword will perish by a sword.” This proverb is hardly a call to pacifism since Jesus told Peter to place the sword back into its sheath. He did not rebuke Peter or any other disciple for having one, nor did He tell them to get rid of their swords. Men commonly carried them for protection from bandits and wild animals because both were very common (see 05.02.04.D and 05.02.04.E). Short swords were essentially long knives used to prepare meals, cut firewood, and a variety of other household tasks. Concerning wild animals, the Oral Law stated that,
The wolf, the lion, the bear, the leopard, the panther, and the serpent rank as an attested danger.
Mishnah, Baba Kamma 1.4
Another interpretation of this event is that, since Peter and John had been sent to prepare the Passover sacrifice, they naturally would have had two ceremonial swords for cutting the Passover lamb. At this time, they still had these in their possession.
“12 legions of angels.” The number of soldiers in a Roman legion varied throughout history, but at this time, it consisted of approximately 6,000 men. This underscores the point that Jesus laid down His life, no one took it or killed Him without His permission.
“Would the Scriptures be fulfilled.” What Scriptures? And what was the prophecy? Twice Jesus made a reference to prophetic Scriptures being fulfilled (verses 54 and 56). Since there is no specific Scripture, the answer may lie in Zechariah 13:7, but in all probability Jesus made a reference to the overall tone of prophetic Scripture rather than a specific verse.
“And touching his ear, He healed him.” Jesus healed the ear of the servant of the high priest. In doing so, Jesus restored him to his position in the temple because anyone with a physical handicap was not permitted to enter the temple, much less serve there. There can be no question that this report reached Caiaphas, who would soon be the primary individual responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus.
. See Appendix 25 for a partial listing of false prophets, rebels and rebellions that impacted the world of Jesus.
. Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 25; Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 368.
. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 432.
. A partial list of other problematic passages is listed in Appendix 13.