19 And Pilate wrote a title also, and he put it upon the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Chrysostom: As letters are inscribed on a trophy declaring the victory, so Pilate wrote a title on Christ’s cross.
Bede: Wherein was shewn that His kingdom was not, as they thought, destroyed, but rather strengthened.
Augustine: But was Christ the King of the Jews only? or of the Gentiles too? Of the Gentiles too, as we read in the Psalms, Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Sion [Ps 2:6]; after which it follows, Demand of Me, and I will give you the heathen for your inheritance [v. 8]. So this title expresses a great mystery, viz. that the wild olive-tree was made partaker of the fatness of the olive-tree, not the olive-tree made partaker of the bitterness of the wild olive-tree. Christ then is King of the Jews according to the circumcision not of the flesh, but of the heart; not in the letter, but in the spirit.
20 This title therefore many of the Jews did read: because the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin.
Chrysostom: It is probable that many Gentiles as well as Jews had come up to the feast. So the title was written in three languages, that all might read it.
Augustine: These three were the languages most known there: the Hebrew, on account of being used in the worship of the Jews: the Greek, in consequence of the spread of Greek philosophy: the Latin, from the Roman empire being established every where.
Theophylact: The title written in three languages signifies that our Lord was King of the whole world; practical, natural, and spiritual. The Latin denotes the practical, because the Roman empire; was the most powerful, and best managed one; the Greek the physical, the Greeks being the best physical philosophers; and, lastly, the Hebrew the theological, because the Jews had been made the depositories of religious knowledge.
21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate: Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am the King of the Jews. 22 Pilate answered: What I have written, I have written.
Chrysostom: As Pilate wrote it, it was a plain and single declaration that he was King, but the addition of, that he said, made it a charge against Him of petulance and vain glory.
Scripture from the Douay-Rheims Bible. Commentary from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Vol. IV (London: Rivington, 1845).