Matthew 26

Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 26

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Matthew 26
Papyrus 37 - recto.jpg
Gospel of Matthew 26:19-37 on the recto side of Papyrus 37, from c. AD. 260.
BookGospel of Matthew
Christian Bible partNew Testament
Order in the Christian part1

Matthew 26 is the 26th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, part of the New Testament. This chapter covers the beginning of the passion narrative, which continues to chapter 28, containing the narratives of the Jewish leaders' plot to kill Jesus, Judas Iscariot's agreement to betray Jesus to Caiphas, the Last Supper with the Twelve apostles and institution of the Eucharist,[1] the agony in the garden of Gethsemane and the subsequent vindication of Jesus' predictions, that one of the twelve will betray him, and that he will be disowned by Peter.[2]


The original text was written in Koine Greek. This chapter is divided into 75 verses, more than any other chapter in this gospel. Protestant theologian Heinrich Meyer identifies 32 verses in which there are critical variations between different early manuscripts and critical editions.[3]

Textual witnesses

Matthew 26:7-8, 10, 14-15 on Papyrus 64, also known as Magdalen papyrus, from c. AD 50-70.
Matthew 26:29-35 on Papyrus 53, from 3rd century.

Some early manuscripts containing the text of this chapter are:

Old Testament references


The New King James Version (NKJV) organises the material in this chapter as follows:

Prologue to the passion narrative (26:1–5)

Verses 1-5 recount the conspiracy against Jesus.[5]

Verse 1

Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, that He said to His disciples,[6]

William Robertson Nicoll states that this verse links with the previous chapters at the same time as serving as an introduction to the passion history commencing here. It may form part of the tradition of Jesus' passion which developed as a recollection of Jesus' life before other parts of the gospel tradition: "Of the three strata of evangelic tradition relating respectively to what Jesus taught, what He did, and what He suffered, the last-named probably came first in origin."[7] Meyer, reflecting the opinion of theologian Johannes Wichelhaus, notes "the fact that our Lord’s functions as a teacher were now ended".[3]

The words πάντας τ. λόγους τούτους, all these sayings, would most naturally be taken as referring to the contents of chapters 24 and 25, although "a backward glance at the whole of Christ’s teaching is conceivable. Yet in case of such a comprehensive retrospect why refer only to words? Why not to both dicta et facta (words and deeds)?"[7]

Verse 2

"You know that the Passover takes place after two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified."[8]
  • "After two days": The Jewish feast of the Passover began on the 15th of the month of Nisan. Matthew begins his narrative of the betrayal and death of Jesus two days before the Passover, i.e. on the 13th of Nisan. This may allude to the traditions related to the binding of Isaac that Genesis 22:4 places the sacrifice of Isaac on the third day, and during Passover (in Jubilees 17:15; 18:3).[1] A further parallel between Jesus and Isaac is indicated in Romans 8:32, whereas Matthew 26:36 could allude to Genesis 22:2–5.[1]

The Anointing at Bethany (26:6–13)

In the home of Simon the Leper, 'another befriended outcast', a woman performed an 'extravagant act' which clearly points to Jesus' messianic status as 'the anointed one'.[1] In verse 8, the disciples, collectively, raise concerns about the extravagance shown, whereas in John 12:4 this concern is only expressed by Judas Iscariot. Meyer argues that Matthew's account is "certainly not contradictory [to] that of John, but only less precise".[3]

Judas agrees to betray Jesus (26:14–16)

Judas making a bargain with the priests, depicted by Duccio, early 14th century.

In contrast to the extravagant act of the woman who anoints Jesus, Judas Iscariot (cf. Matthew 10:4) plans a treacherous act. Theologian Dale Allison observes a clear distinction between the selfless costly gift given by the woman and the selfish thought of Judas for his own gain, albeit "for a relatively paltry sum".[1] Here, Judas becomes an example of Jesus' followers who think of what they can get out of him, rather than how they can serve him.[9]

Jesus celebrates Passover with His disciples (26:17–35)

As a law-observant Jew, Jesus celebrates his last Passover within Jerusalem, when he institutes the Lord's supper, to connect his sacrificial redemptive act with the 'blood of the covenant' in Exodus 24:8 and Jeremiah 31:31 and the suffering servant of Isaiah.[1]

Agony in the Gethsemane (26:36-46)

Matthew 26:38-52 on the verso side of Papyrus 37, from ~ AD 260

Jesus seems to recoil from the impending crucifixion, but he fixes his course to the will of God and 'this overrides whatever feelings he has about death'.[10] The submission to the divine will: "Thy will be done" (verse 42; also in verse 39), alludes to the Lord's Prayer, as do the address "my Father" (verse 39) and the words "that you may not come into the time of trial" (KJV: "enter not into temptation"; verse 41).[10] The garden of Gethsemane is located on the Mount of Olives, where king David once prayed for deliverance from a betrayer (2 Samuel 15:30–31), and a suitable site for his descendant, Jesus, to utter an analogous prayer.[11]

Betrayal and arrest in Gethsemane (26:47–56)

Matthew 26:52-69 on Codex Ephraemi (~ AD 450) in Tischendorf's facsimile edition (1843).

The story of Jesus' arrest involves many people, pulling together 'several strands from previous sections', with Jewish leader plotting to take Jesus 'by stealth and avoid a riot (verse 4; cf. verse 16), Judas' betrayal as Jesus has foretold (verse 21, 25 and 45), the crowd of 'chief priests and the elders of the people (verses 3-5, 14-16) as well as Jesus' predictions of his sufferings.[12]

Jesus faces the Sanhedrin (26:57–68)

The trial shows that Jesus is not a 'victim of tragic, impersonal circumstances' nor a 'casualty of the ordinary machinery of justice', but a target of attack by wicked people.[10] His enemies 'speak falsehoods (verse 59–60), accuse him of blasphemy (verse 65), condemn him to death (verse 66), viciously hit and mock him (verses 67–68)'.[10] In contrast, Jesus' identity becomes clear as the Messiah and Son of God, who builds the temple (cf. 2 Samuel 7:14), sits at God's right hand (Psalm 110:1) and 'the suffering servant of Isaiah 50:6 whose face is spat upon'.[13]

Verse 66

"What do you think?"
They answered and said, "He is deserving of death".[14]

In the King James Version, the answer reads "He is guilty of death",[15] guilt referring to the punishment due rather than the crime as in usual English usage.[16]

Peter denies Jesus, and weeps bitterly (26:69–75)

In the early part of this chapter, Judas defects, then the disciples flee when Jesus was arrested, and now Peter, despite his promise (verse 35), denies that he knows Jesus, forming a 'climax of the disciples' failure'.[17] This passage supplies an ironical balance, when Jesus' prophetic powers are mocked, while the literal fulfillment of his detailed prediction about Peter is precisely taking place.[17] Another balance is in the trial, as Jesus and Peter both faces three sets of accusers—Jesus faces false witnesses in verse 60, the two witnesses in verses 61-62, Caiaphas verses 63-66, while Peter, not far away, also faces three different persons confronting him about Jesus.[17] The gospel of Matthew does not idealize any disciples, but instead, 'presents them as completely human', just as the bible of the community at that time (Old Testament) does not hide Noah, Moses, David nor Solomon from the records of their sins.[17]

Allison comments that "God can use ordinary people for his extraordinary purposes and, when they fall into sin, he can grant them forgiveness."[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Allison 2007, p. 879.
  2. ^ Allison 2007, pp. 880-882.
  3. ^ a b c Meyer, H. A. W., Meyer's NT Commentary on Matthew 26, accessed 16 October 2019
  4. ^ Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms: with Introduction and Notes. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Book IV and V: Psalms XC-CL. Cambridge: At the University Press. p. 838. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  5. ^ Jerusalem Bible (1966), sub-heading at Matthew 26:1-5
  6. ^ Matthew 26:1: NKJV
  7. ^ a b Nicoll, W. R., Expositor's Greek Testament: Matthew 26, accessed 22 March 2021
  8. ^ Matthew 26:2 HCSB
  9. ^ Keener 1999, p. 620.
  10. ^ a b c d Allison 2007, p. 880.
  11. ^ Keener 1999, p. 634.
  12. ^ Allison 2007, pp. 880-881.
  13. ^ Allison 2007, p. 881.
  14. ^ Matthew 26:66:NKJV
  15. ^ Matthew 26:66:KJV
  16. ^ Plumptre, E. H., Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers: Matthew 26, accessed 24 March 2021
  17. ^ a b c d e Allison 2007, p. 882.


External links

Preceded by
Matthew 25
Chapters of the New Testament
Gospel of Matthew
Succeeded by
Matthew 27
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