Matthew, Mark, and John record casting lots to divide Jesus' clothing. John adds the Old Testament quote from Psalm 22:18 and provides other details:

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (John 19:23-24)

John records the clothing was divided into four parts and there was one piece of clothing which the soldiers did not want to tear: a tunic seamless which had been woven together "from the top."

"From the top" calls attention to the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place which both Matthew (27:51) and Mark (15:38) record as being torn in two from the top. However, the tearing of the veil is a detail John chose to omit.

Is John intending a comparison of the tunic to the veil? If so what is the importance of the tunic remaining intact in contrast to the Temple veil which had to be torn apart?

  • 1
    In John, prior to casting lots, they wrote on the cross that he is the king of the Jews. They are ridiculing him. Not tearing his tunic and casting lots for it in front of him is another way of ridiculing him. It's woven "from top to bottom." A cloth that doesn't have seams is going to be harder to tear apart. The seams are the weak part of a garment. The temple veil is another story all together. Feb 20 '17 at 22:42

'The tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom'. That's what "sewn from the top" means. It's a special type of weaving - something akin to seamless knitting (on circular needles) except through weaving.

Weaving a seamless garment was a special skill, out of the ordinary and exceedingly rare - so quite valuable. This detail implies the garment was specially woven for Yehshua, perhaps even the product of a mother's hand, or possibly a close follower - like Mary Magdalene.

Notice the prophecy in Psalm 22:18 - They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. This prophesy contains two details:

  • They divide my clothes among them; and
  • {they} cast lots for my garment.

Why divide AND cast lots?

ANSWER: The detail contained in Matthew 27:3 provides the answer to the riddle of Psalm 22:18. The clothes that could be divided were divided, yet one was seamless sewn from the top and quite valuable so sought after. Lots were drawn for the tunic because of its value.


John gives a more detailed description of this aspect of the crucifixion than either Mark or Mathew:

And they crucify Him, and divide His garments among themselves, casting a lot for them to decide who should take what. (Mark 15:24 DLNT)

And having crucified Him, they divided His garments among themselves, casting a lot.
(Matthew 27:35 DLNT)

Then the soldiers, when they crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts— a part for each soldier— and the tunic. Now the tunic was seamless, woven from the top through the whole. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but let us cast-lots for it to decide whose it will be”— in order that the Scripture [in Ps 22:18] might be fulfilled, the one saying, “They divided My garments among themselves, and they cast a lot for My clothing”. So indeed, the soldiers did these things. (John 19:23-24 DLNT)

Writing after both Mark and Matthew, John completes the record of how the clothing of Jesus was divided. This account is purposeful to include three pieces of information:

  1. The Old Testament passage fulfilled
  2. The number of pieces of clothing (five)
  3. Identifying the piece of clothing which was not torn (a tunic - χιτὼν)

As noted by User34445 John makes the point that both aspects of Psalm 22:18 were fulfilled: the clothing was divided and lots were cast for the garments. In addition, there is a difference between the Masoretic Text (MT) and that John which cites:

Psalm 22:18:
They divide my clothes among themselves casting lots for my garments. (JPS Translation)
They divided My garments among themselves, and they cast a lot for My clothing. (DLNT)

The Hebrew is plural (lots). John states a single lot was cast. This difference shows John has the Septuagint version of Psalm 22 in mind:

John 19:23:
διεμερίσαντο τὰ ἱμάτιά μου ἑαυτοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν ἱματισμόν μου ἔβαλον κλῆρον (NA28)

Psalm 22:18:
διεμερίσαντο τὰ ἱμάτιά μου ἑαυτοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν ἱματισμόν μου ἔβαλον κλῆρον (LXX)

John's citation is verbatim.

The singular casting of a lot does not materially affect the fulfillment of the Psalm. It shows John is pointing the reader to the Greek text of the OT.

The article of clothing which was preserved in one piece is specifically a tunic [χιτών] which is found in some significant places. Two in particular:

  • This was the piece of clothing the LORD made for the first man and woman when they left the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:21).
    • Just as the first man received a tunic from the LORD God; one of the Roman soldiers received a tunic from the Lord Jesus.
  • The garment for the High Priest (Exodus 28:4).
    • Jesus is the true High Priest (e.g. Hebrews 10:21)

The emphasis on not tearing the garment invites a comparison to the clothing of the High Priest which is not supposed to be torn:

The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose nor tear his clothes. (Leviticus 21:10 ESV) 1

In particular, there is a connection to the High Priest is found on the Day of Atonement:

He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. (Leviticus 16:4 ESV)

καὶ χιτῶνα λινοῦν ἡγιασμένον ἐνδύσεται καὶ περισκελὲς λινοῦν ἔσται ἐπὶ τοῦ χρωτὸς αὐτοῦ καὶ ζώνῃ λινῇ ζώσεται καὶ κίδαριν λινῆν περιθήσεται ἱμάτια ἅγιά ἐστιν καὶ λούσεται ὕδατι πᾶν τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐνδύσεται αὐτά (LXX)

The tunic is removed and left in the Holy Place:

“Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and shall take off the linen garments that he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there. (Leviticus 16:23 ESV)

Therefore Mark and Matthew record the tearing of the Temple veil opening the entrance to the Most Holy Place and John presents Jesus as the High Priest, who is and makes the sacrifice and leaves His tunic outside the Most Holy Place.

1. The crown of thorns fulfills this requirement

  • Very interesting and useful comparison between the tearing of the Temple veil opening the entrance to the Most Holy Place and how Jesus' garments were not torn, just as the High Priestsgarments were not torn but left intact outside the Most Holy Place. I spotted this after asking a question on Christianity Stack about the Temple curtain being torn in two.
    – Lesley
    Apr 19 '19 at 15:19

What does it signify to tear Christ's robe into 4 pieces? Explainations given do not give the meaning ?

Its the question am asking

  • 1
    Welcome to the forum, and thank you for contributing. Please understand that you answered a question with another question. Instead, you should have started a new question of your own, or perhaps added a comment. To answer your question, I believe Jesus had five pieces of clothing for four soldiers. They divided four of the pieces among themselves and then cast lots for the fifth.
    – Steve11235
    Apr 15 '20 at 18:31

The clothing of Christ is symbolic of the Christian churches. The doctrine, ritual, liturgy etc. these are the outer coverings of God. They point us toward God. They are distinct from God in some ways yet are owned by Christ. The tunic represents the Holy apostolic church that will remain intact until the end of days. And the torn robe represents the various schisms and resulting denominations which all harbour various truths (yet not wholly intact). And so we can follow the path of truth toward the one true church of which to unite in worship of the risen Christ. We can subjectively and objectively find his tunic intact even today. The casting of lots means that it is God that chooses what truths he gives to what man. It is not man who chooses which truth he takes for himself. which points us back to the garden of eden where conversely it was man who chose the fruit of death. Christ crucified on the cross has become the tree of life.

The temple veil being torn apart from the top signifies an act of God ending the old covenant. Mainly because Christ is the sacrificial lamb that takes on all the sins of the world, so that sacrifices at the temple are no longer needed.

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    – Dottard
    Oct 11 '20 at 20:55

I believe that the tunic that was not torn represents the Apostolic gift (John 19:23-24). We have the 5 fold ministry, where the Apostolic gift embraces all the other 4 (Ephesians 4:11-13). The purple tunic represents the entire operation. We should embrace all the other gifts so that the Apostolic foundation can work effectively. (Ephessians 2:20)

  • 1
    Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here! I made a couple edits to your post for clarity, but they can be rolled back if you disagree. Would you be up for expanding slightly upon your argument? That would tend to help it attract more votes. Thanks for contributing, and please be sure to take the site tour (hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour). Mar 24 at 18:04

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