Re: The 600 soldiers in John's gospel?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Oct 31 1996 - 11:25:12 EST

At 12:45 PM -0600 10/31/96, Timothy T. Dickens wrote:
>Dear Friends at B-Greek,
> Today my question is from the Gospel of John 18:4-6. Don Dominic
>Crossan in a debate with Luke Johnson(See above URL) said the following
>regarding when Jesus was arrested.
> We call it the Agony in the Garden but there is no Garden
>in Mark and
>no Agony in John. In Mark it is Jesus who is prostrate on the
>(14:33-35), who asks if the cup of suffering could be avoided
>he is willing to accept it if necessary (14:35-37), and who watches
>his disciples abandon him and flee (14:50-52). In John it is
>the full
>600 soldiers of Jerusalem's
> auxiliary cohort who are prostrate on the ground (18:4-6),.
>. . .
>Crossan's statement is interesting becuase when I read it in the GNT,
>the word for 'cohort' denotoes a small band or amry even, but my
>question is how does Crossan know that the 'cohort' consists of 600? I
>did not find an entry in Liddel-Scott-Jones that mentions '600.'

LSJ s.v. SPEIRA first says, under the heading, "military sense," that this
is equivalent to the Latin MANIPULUS, but that it later is equivalent to
the Latin COHORS. The COHORS was one tenth of a legion, and as a legion at
full strength was 6,000 men, the cohort at full strength would be 600.
However, legions were often enough NOT at full strength, and that might be
true of the cohort also. It would seem, however, that whatever the exact
number, John's account assumes a sizable body of troops coming along with
the Jewish authorities and Judas.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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