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Unlike the synoptics, John notes the name of the man whose ear was cut off during Jesus' arrest.

John 18:10 - Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Is this just one of those details that gets added to a story over time as it grows? Or is there some significance/irony that John intends his readers to see?

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Perhaps he knew him, which may say something about who the author is. :) – H3br3wHamm3r81 Jun 1 '13 at 17:08
Later in the same chapter we read that the relative of Malchus had been an eyewitness of Peter's act of violence (John 18:24-26), and therefore was credible to accuse him as a bona-fide disciple of Jesus. – Joseph Jun 1 '13 at 17:51

2 Answers 2

Jesus says in John 18:36,

My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.

But there's a problem with that statement. Peter has been fighting. And he attacked Malchus, a man who's name means king or kingdom.

Only John of the four gospel writers makes the connection between the one who drew the sword and Peter. In Mark, as well Matthew and Luke, cutting off the ear is symbolic of a lack of hearing and understanding (Mark 7:35, 8:18). In John it certainly has this connotation as John proceeds to interweave Jesus' bold confession with Peter's three denials.

Peter's attack is a symbolic depiction of Peter's fundamental misunderstanding of Jesus' kingship and kingdom.

This interpretation does not rule out Malchus from being a real historic human being that John knew. It only explains why he would have added this detail for his audience.

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Also note John 18:24-26, as Joseph pointed out above. – Dan Jun 2 '13 at 6:13
@GoneQuiet It's a Hebrew/Aramaic name, not Greek. And very common in first century Israel. I think the meaning and its context is evidence that John knew at least a little Hebrew/Aramaic and that at least some in his audience did as well. – Matthew Miller Jun 2 '13 at 6:35
@DanO'Day I'm not sure what I'm missing. I think supplying the name of the servant and telling us that the man's relative witnessed Peter hack off the man's ear are very different issues. The later gives context to the relative identifying Peter while the former is apparently historical trivia apart from the meaning of Machus' name. – Matthew Miller Jun 2 '13 at 6:43
@GoneQuiet This might help. – Matthew Miller Jun 3 '13 at 6:01

Notice that John mentions that it is the right ear, and that the slave's name was Malchus. Very specific. But why would he be so specific and yet not mention the healing of Malchus' ear ? I believe John did this entirely on purpose. Consider: if John mentions the identity and exact ear of Malchus,but goes on to report this miracle, would it carry the same weight as if people who knew Malchus, or even the high priest, saw Malchus and asked about his ear ? Malchus would be in a position to tell any inquiring that his ear indeed had been cut but was healed. John's method puts the burden of testimony on more politically credible people,as John knew that his own words would be doubted in the light of Jesus' arrest.

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