15.04 The Three Roman Trials

15.04 The Three Roman Trials

Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.04 The Three Roman Trials

Unit 15

The Passion Escalates


Chapter 04

The Three Roman Trials


15.04.00.A. JESUS BEFORE PILATE. Artwork by William Hole of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art, 1876. (2)

15.04.00.A. JESUS BEFORE PILATE. Artwork by William Hole of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art, 1876.  According to the customary Roman method, a private examination of Jesus by Pilate would have occurred either in Pilate’s library or in his business room (office). Later Pilate would present Jesus to the waiting Jews for another discussion. As much as the Roman governor tried, he could not find anything illegal or threatening about Jesus and, in fact, attempted to free Him. See John 18:33-38.

15.04.01 Introduction

Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.04.01 Introduction

15.04.01 Introduction

After the three Jewish trials, Jesus experienced three Roman trials.[1] These judicial, or quasi-judicial, proceedings occurred within a few short hours. The gross illegality of the Jewish trials stands in sharp contrast to the legal Roman trials, which repeatedly found Jesus innocent of all charges.[2] So why did the Romans crucify Him?  As will be explained, there was considerable turmoil and fighting within the Roman political system. The political dissension appears to have been the deciding factor as to why Pilate finally caved in to the desires of the Sadducees. Essentially, he feared for his own political future. However, to better understand the biblical narrative, it is important to quickly review who ruled which area.


  1. Herod Antipas, one of the heirs of Herod the Great, ruled the District of Galilee and Perea (a district east of the Jordan River.


  1. Caiaphas, the high priest ruled Jerusalem and to a lesser degree, the rest of Judea.


  1. Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect, had general oversight of these three areas which formed the Province or District of Judea (sometimes called Judaea):[3]


  1. Idumea


  1. Samaria


  1. Judea


Therefore, it is important to look briefly at the overall political situation of the Jewish enclave as it was related to the Roman Empire.  The expanding Parthian Empire to the east was a constant threat to Roman stability.  Even though Rome conquered Jerusalem in 63 B.C., by 40 B.C. the Parthians had taken temporary control of the Holy City.  But Herod the Great defeated both the Parthians and the Jewish freedom fighters and re-established Roman control in 37 B.C. Add to this political quandary the long history of Jewish rebellions, and there was sufficient reason for the temple leaders, as well as the Romans, to be concerned.  For this reason, the religious leaders and the Romans had established a delicately woven fabric of political collaboration to quickly resolve problems. The Jewish leaders convinced the Romans that the Miracle Worker from Nazareth needed to be executed.

Scholars debate upon are two possible locations concerning the location of the trials before Pilate.


  1. According to tradition, Pilate was stationed in the Antonio Fortress[4] that was located on the northwest side of the temple (see 15.04.04.A). This is the majority view and held herein.


  1. However, recently a few scholars have argued that Pilate was in Herod’s palace which was located on the western side of the city near today’s Jaffa Gate. This is a minority view, but is where Herod Antipas was for the second Roman trial of Jesus.


Both the Antonia Fortress and Herod’s palace had a suite where Pilate could comfortably reside. However, if Pilate was staying in the palace of the former Herod the Great, then when he decided to send Jesus to Herod Antipas, the Jews would have stayed and Herod would have come forth to consider their argument.


While the Antonio Fortress is the traditional site for the first and third trials of Jesus, that tradition alone is not sufficient “evidence” to assume it is the actual site.  Other traditional sites identified as the Mount of Transfiguration near Nazareth have long been discredited by scholars. Therefore, a closer examination is needed.


  1. Pilate generally lived in Judea’s capital city of Caesarea along the Mediterranean Sea, and came to Jerusalem only during festivals to insure peace. Therefore, he naturally would have stayed in the royal suite within the fortress where he had direct command of his troops.


  1. The Antonio Fortress was adjacent to the temple, and it was at the temple where tradition said anyone who wanted to be a messiah would announce his messiahship.


  1. When Jesus was before Pilate, He would have been before the “judgment seat.” That was almost always inside of a Praetorium. When the Apostle Paul appeared before Felix and Festus (Acts 23:31-25:12), it was before the “judgment seat.”


  1. Mathew said


Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into headquarters and gathered the whole company around Him.


Matthew 27:27


Some translations use the word “barracks” or “garrison” for “headquarters.” All these terms apply to a fortress.  By this time in Pilate’s career he had to maintain order or possibly lose his position. So it is highly doubtful that he would have sent a garrison of soldiers with Jesus to the western end of the city for a trial if all of the potential problems were expected to center around the temple area.


  1. When the Apostle Paul was speaking to the crowds near the temple, he was rescued from a Jewish mob by Roman soldiers and taken into the nearby “barracks,” (Acts 21:37). This would have been the same place where Jesus was tried by Pilate.


Therefore, it simply makes common sense that Pilate was in the Antonio Fortress, and it was there where Jesus stood before him. Therefore, in addition to the physical abuse Jesus endured during the Jewish and Roman trials, soldiers probably made him walk from the Antonio Fortress to Herod’s palace on the western side of the city by the Jaffa Gate, and back again.


As to Herod’s palace, it was constructed by his father Herod the Great and now most likely occupied occasionally by Herod Antipas when he was in the area.  Generally, Herod Antipas was either in Tiberias or in the Machaerus Fortress, east of the Dead Sea. The only reason he would have been in Jerusalem at Passover was to help maintain peace, even though the city was not part of his domain.


15.04.01.Q1 What were the Roman charges against Jesus?


In violation of Jewish law, the Sanhedrin conjured up sufficient false charges in an attempt to have Jesus convicted and executed.  In their haste, however, they realized that the charge of blasphemy was not sufficient grounds to execute anyone under Roman law.  So they restructured their charges to charge Him with treason – that is, tax evasion.  Furthermore, to be called “king of the Jews,” was a direct challenge to Roman authority.[5] Pilate could not avoid these charges. So Jesus was then taken from the religious court to the civil court.


When they arrived, Pilate was sitting in the judge’s seat; for Rome had given him supreme authority in the judicial system and enforcement of Roman law.  Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin came before him and charged Jesus with four counts of treason:


  1. They charged Him with sedition


  1. They said Jesus forbade the payment of taxes to Rome


  1. They said Jesus claimed to be king.


  1. Finally, there was an overarching rule known as lex de maiestate, meaning law of majesty, which forbade offending the emperor or empire.[6] Because it was interpreted in a broad manner, emperors such as Tiberius used it to remove or execute suspected enemies.


While the charge of treason could not be ignored, Pilate correctly realized that Jesus was the victim of a religious charade.  Pilate questioned Him carefully and realized that while claiming to be a king, He certainly was not a threat to Rome.  He could have released Jesus because not a single statute of Roman law was violated; however, eventually he yielded to the pressures of the Sanhedrin.[7]  The essential Roman laws that governed the trial were as follows:


  1. All proceedings had to be public and held during daylight hours.


  1. The trial started with the prosecuting witness presenting the charge that Jesus was guilty of treason. However, the problem the Sanhedrin had was that Judas was dead.


Shortly after sunrise on the morning of Passover, Jesus was taken before Pilate, possibly between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m.  Trials at this time did not have the formalities of modern Western judicial systems and, hence, decisions were rendered quickly.  Pilate was irritated that these pesty Jews were bothering him so early in the morning. Furthermore, he had to come out to meet them, because they refused to enter his royal court lest they would become defiled.  Therefore, the Jews had the following two strikes against them.


  1. Pilate was unhappy because they demanded his attention before the normal business day began and…


  1. The Jews asked him to step outside of his palace to address them.


Pilate and the Herodians knew all too well that Jesus did not have any political motivations. Both had a vast network of spies who scouted for any possible messianic revolutionaries.  Military commanders also made reports to their superiors which would have reached Pilate. All knew Jesus was innocent of the charges brought forth by the Sadducees.



15.04.01.Q2  Why might Pilate have been remotely concerned about the possibilities of Jesus being a revolutionary?


It is noteworthy to consider that the gospels provide only a small window of the events of the life of Jesus. For example, notice how often Jesus went to pray, and did so for lengthy periods of time, yet all the prayers recorded in Scripture are relatively short. Likewise in this matter. This question is hardly ever considered because Jesus had a well established reputation by this time. When the Sadducees drummed up all the charges they could, they probably included the following reasons as secondary evidence:


  1. One of His disciples was Simon, a former member of the Zealots.


  1. Jesus and all but one of His disciples were from the district of Galilee, an established center of Zealot activity.


  1. While Jesus taught peace, He also said there would be wars and rumors of wars. But He did not say when these would occur or His involvement in them.[8]


However, Jesus had been an incredibly popular figure for the previous three and a half years. The actions of a would-be revolutionary certainly did not fit His teaching or miracles. So while there were some concerns, they were muted by the well-established teachings and actions of Jesus and His disciples. Furthermore, the fact that at least one of the disciples (Peter) carried a small weapon may not have been a concern for Pilate.  Most men carried a small weapon for the same reasons men and boys carried pocket knives years ago in America.

[1]. For further study, see James C. McRuer, The Trial of Jesus. Toronto: Clarke Irwin Ltd. 1964.


[2]. See Appendix 21 for the seven proclamations of the innocence of Jesus.


[3]. Sanders. “Jesus in Historical Context.” 432.

[4]. Luke said in Acts 21:37 that the Apostle Paul was taken into the “barracks,” which was the Antonio Fortress. It was where Paul addressed the people in Acts 22:1-21.

[5]. Webb, “The Roman Examination and Crucifixion of Jesus.” 754.


[6]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 390.


[7]. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 473.

[8]. See Appendix 25 for a listing of rebels and false prophets who had messianic expectations and for a partial listing of revolts and social disturbances from 63 B.C. to A.D. 70.



Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.04.02 FIRST ROMAN TRIAL: JESUS TAKEN BEFORE PILATE

15.04.02 Mt. 27:2; Jn. 18:28-30; Lk. 23:1-2; Jn. 18:28-32; Fourth Ministry Passover, April 30, in the Praetorium.




Mt. 2 After tying Him up, they led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate, the governor.


Jn. 28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They did not enter the headquarters themselves; otherwise they would be defiled and unable to eat the Passover.

29 Then Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?”

30 They answered him, “If this man weren’t a criminal, we wouldn’t have handed Him over to you.”


Lk. 1 Then their whole assembly rose up and brought Him before Pilate. 2 They began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is the Messiah, a King.”

Jn. 31 So Pilate told them, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your law.”

It’s not legal for us to put anyone to death,” the Jews declared. 32 They said this so that Jesus’ words might be fulfilled signifying what kind of death He was going to die.


Throughout these two trials before Pilate, there were four identifiable procedural steps.


  1. Pilate had to know the accusation. The Jews said that if Jesus were not guilty, they would not have brought him. Caiaphas and his co-conspirators had assembled an angry mob that was so emotionally charged that they did not even realize their own sarcasm towards Pilate who could have had all of them crucified.


  1. Interrogation. Pilate asked the question, “Are you king of the Jews?” This was an interesting question, because the Jews had many self-proclaimed messiahs who desired to overthrow Roman tyranny.


  1. Defense. Since Jesus did not have an attorney to defend Him, Pilate spoke on His behalf to His accusers.


  1. The verdict. Pilate was one of the cruelest dictators of this era, yet he could find no fault in Jesus.


“Pilate, the governor.” The name “Pilate” or Pilatus was most fitting for the governor.  It comes from a Latin word that means armed with a javelin, a six-foot long throwing spear that had an iron point, a decisive weapon in combat.[1]   He was the sixth ruler of Judea, an appointment he received through the influence of his good friend Lucius Aelius Sejanus, who, like Pilate, was a friend of Caesar.[2] However, while Sejanus claimed to be a friend of Caesar, he was, in fact, an arch rival; a stealthy Judas.[3]


Traditional scholarship has said that Pilate, who was born in Spain, was authorized by Rome to be the official procurator cum potestate, meaning he had full rights in civil, criminal, and military jurisdictions. Some ancient writers, such as Josephus, referred to him as the procurator. However, in 1961 scholars discovered that this was an error, and that his proper title was “prefect.”[4] Therefore, it must be concluded that while titles were important, writers were somewhat loose with the proper use of them. Also, while Judea was in effect a part of a province of Syria, Pilate was personally responsible to the Emperor Tiberius, rather than to the Governor of Syria or the Roman Senate.  He was not only an extension of Rome, but also had ultimate Roman judicial authority, which included capital punishment (Latin: ius gladii)[5] for non-Roman citizens.[6]



15.04.02.A. THE PRAETORIAN GUARD. Two reliefs of the Praetorian Guard shown in Rome on whom the emperor relied for personal power and protection.  Jerusalem had a similar Praetorian Guard to protect Pilate and to crush any Jewish uprising.


Some scholars have concluded that Pilate was in Herod’s palace near the Jaffa Gate.  However, if these two men were at odds with each other, there is a slim possibility that they were under the same roof, especially when Pilate was needed by the temple. Therefore, it can be concluded that Pilate was in the Fortress and Herod in his palace, thereby requiring the Jews to march Jesus back and forth across the city in the early morning of Passover.


The Romans were primarily concerned about treason, potential riots, and rebellions which would obviously lead to the loss of tax revenue.  Therefore, when the Jews came before Pilate accusing Jesus of treason, he listened. The situation had now changed dramatically, primarily due to actions of Sejanus in Rome.[7] Furthermore, no longer was Jesus under Jewish law; He was now under Roman law (see 03.06.25 and 16.01.05).


The first Roman trial is believed to have taken place in the Praetorium Guard, located in the Fortress. It has been argued that the Guard was stationed only in Rome, and Paul was therefore, incorrect in his comments about them in Philippians 1:13 and 4:22.  However, recently scholars have discovered that the term “Caesar’s house,” as used by Paul had a much broader definition and included all those in government service. Hence, the word “Praetorium” can be applied to many locations outside of Rome, including Jerusalem. [8]



15.04.02.Q1. If capital punishment was illegal, how could the Jews have killed Stephen and James?


It has been argued that the Jews did, in fact, have the right to execute (Latin: ius gladii),[9] since they killed both Stephen and James.  First was the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60) and later, the stoning of James, the half-brother of Jesus in A.D. 62.  That account was recorded by Josephus.[10] However, these two deaths were caused by Sanhedrin-inspired riotous mobs and not by proper judicial procedure.  The priest who initiated the death of James was removed from office because he violated the law prohibiting capital punishment (Latin: ius gladii).[11] Amazingly, in later years, the documents of the Jerusalem Talmud recorded the following:


Forty years before the destruction of the temple they took from Israel the right to inflict capital punishment. 


Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 1 18a


This Talmudic report is amazingly incorrect because Israel’s right to inflict capital punishment was removed decades earlier by Herod the Great, who also restricted the Sanhedrin to the area of Judah. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the restriction against capital punishment by the Sanhedrin was revoked by the Romans. These riots also underscore the tensions that existed and gave cause for the Romans to be ready at a moment’s notice to subdue an uprising.


It is unfortunate that historians are rather harsh on the Romans. In spite of all their faults, the Romans did attempt to accommodate their Jewish subjects. For example, while the authority to execute criminals was removed from the Sanhedrin, Rome did permit Jewish guards to execute any Gentile who entered the most holy sanctuary of the temple, even if he was a Roman soldier. This was confirmed by Josephus when he recorded a statement made by General Titus to the Jews during the siege of Jerusalem.  Titus said:


Did we not permit you to put to death any who passed it, even if he be a Roman?


Josephus, Wars 6.2.4 (126a)


Two other examples of Roman accommodation are:


  1. When Soldiers marched across Israel, the icon of the Tenth Roman Legion was either not visible or the soldiers bypassed Israel.


  1. Roman symbols were not placed in the temple as not to offend the Jews.


“Governor’s headquarters.”  Some translators have used the phrase, “hall of judgment,” which is translated from the Latin word Praetorium, which originally meant the general’s tent.[12]  However, the word praetorium can also be translated as villa or palace, the latter literally translated from praetoria.  Luke used it as follows:

He said, “I will give you a hearing whenever your accusers get here too.” And he ordered that he be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.

Acts 23:35

The Roman writer Juvenal used the phrase in this manner:

To their crimes they are indebted for their gardens, palaces (praetoria), etc.

Juvenal, Satire 1:75

By the first century, in Roman provinces the Praetorium was the official residence of the Roman governor while the term praetorian guard was the imperial bodyguard as in Philippians 1:13.[13]

“They did not enter the headquarters themselves.” When the Sadducees and their henchmen were before Pilate, they were in his open-air courtyard and not in the palace headquarter. Such places often had numerous statues of Roman heroes and gods, or “graven images,” which violated Jewish sensitivities. But since these Jews were not in the building, they did not consider themselves to be ceremonially defiled.[14]

 “Otherwise they would be defiled and unable to eat the Passover.”   The Priests observed their Passover at 9:00 o’clock in the morning. The Feast of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were weeklong celebrations,[15] for which the participants had to keep themselves ritually pure.  Therefore, they could not enter the home or facility of a Gentile.


“What charge do you bring against this man?”  Pilate was known for being cruel, but also followed Roman law in every detail. He presented this question to the Jews, but they had a problem. Their so-called witness who should have brought the charge was Judas, but he was now dead. Since the Sadducees had no “witness,” they were forced to make up their own charges.


“Criminal.”  The Greek term kakopoios or kakon poion, would be better translated as evildoer, or malefactor (Gk. kakourgos 2557).[16]  Yet these do not fully convey the meaning because the Latin maleficus (malefactor) point toward making evil with the use of magic.[17] Several church fathers, including Tertullian, also interpreted the biblical passage to read magic.[18]  In essence, the exorcisms and healings Jesus performed became the accusations used by the scribes, elders, and Sadducees.  At no point were any of the people present to whom Jesus ministered. The irony is that while pagan religious practices used numerous forms of magic as part of their healing rituals, some forms of magic were illegal.  And it may be for that reason, that the Sadducees  then claimed that Jesus was subverting “our” nation.


Previously, Pilate asked, “What kakon has he committed?”[19] To this the chief priests responded by saying, “He was doing kakon.” Words of common conversation tend to take on a significant importance in a court setting. Some scholars believe that this phrase carried more legal weight than what modern readers realize.[20]


Among the Romans, Jesus had the reputation of performing magic. So when Suetonius, the Roman historian, wrote of Nero, he said that “Christians” were involved with superstitionis novae ac maleficae.[21]  That is, a superstitious people involved in magic.  This may be why the first century church fathers specifically said in the Didache that magic was prohibited.[22] The church father Origen said that Celsus[23] said that Jesus went to Egypt for training in the magical arts.  The conclusion is that Jesus performed many miracles and exorcisms that the Jewish leadership and pagans referred to as “magic.” For that reason, the early church was adamant on,


  1. Declaring that the miracles Jesus performed were of God and a fulfillment of prophecies.


  1. Prohibiting the practice of magic.


No one denied that Jesus did wonderful works, but the primary argument was the source of His power. Where one believes that source came from clearly reflects what one thinks of Jesus.


We found this man subverting our nation.”  Since the Jews knew they could not convince Pilate to execute Jesus on charges of magic or blasphemy,[24] they formulated political charges equal to treason against Him.  In the process, they claimed the Roman Empire as “our nation,” and thereby, they rejected the Promised Land God had given them.  This was the same tactic used by them against Paul where religious charges in Acts 21:27-23:10  were changed to political ones in 24:5-6, and he was then accused before the Roman governor.


Opposing payment of taxes.”  Could Jesus have been accused of encouraging the Jews not to pay taxes?  Pilate knew that the Jews hated taxes and, in fact, this was the primary cause for many revolts.  The very last thing any Jew would do was to accuse another of failing to pay Roman taxes.  Pilate was also aware that the tax collectors were the most hated Jews.  Rabbis even permitted people to lie to tax collectors.  Amazingly, now the Sadducees were standing before Pilate, supposedly fearful that Rome might not obtain “its fair share” of tax revenue. Pilate most certainly must have been amused at their concern.  In essence, Jesus was accused of a crime against the sovereignty of the Empire: treason – which was punishable by crucifixion – but Pilate could easily see through the ridiculous accusation. Other reasons would soon emerge (next section below).


Take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your law.”  Pilate did not want to become involved with Jesus. He saw Him as a harmless figure in a religious group that he did not understand. While Pilate knew that the Jews had no authority to crucify, he most certainly did not think they would go so far as to kill one of their own, especially if he was innocent.


It’s not legal for us to put anyone to death.”  For once the Sadducees told the truth.  Their right to inflict capital punishment was removed from their authority by Herod the Great, with the exception of a Gentile who entered the sacred temple area.   

[1]. Macartney, Great Interviews of Jesus. 103; Dixon and Southern, The Roman Calvary. 51, 128; Maier, The First Easter. 56-58; Nelesen, Yeshua; the Promise, the Land, the Messiah. (Video Tape 2); Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:277.

[2]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 418; Bruce, New Testament History. 32-33; See also John 19:12; 03.06.25; 15.04.02; 16.01.05.

[3]. See 03.06.25, 16.01.05; Maier, “Judas, Pilate.” 10-13.


[4]. Maier, In the Fullness of Time. 346. A prefect was one who governed and, therefore, is sometimes referred to as a “governor.”


[5]. Barclay, “John.” 2:233.


[6]. Wilson, The False Trials. 84.

[7]. Webb, “The Roman Examination and Crucifixion of Jesus.” 721-24.


[8]. Tenney, ed., “Praetorium.” 13:1654.

[9]. Barclay, “John.” 2:233.


[10]. Josephus, Antiquities 20.9.1.

[11]. Barclay, “John.” 2:233.


[12]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:272-73.


[13]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:273.


[14]. Nelesen, Yeshua; the Promise, the Land, the Messiah. (Video Tape 2).


[15]. See Appendix 5.


[16]. Green, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament; Vine, “Malefactor.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:388.


[17]. Welch, “Miracles, Maleficium, and Maiestas in the Trial of Jesus.” 375.


[18]. Tertullian, Scorpiace  12;  Welch, “Miracles, Maleficium, and Maiestas in the Trial of Jesus.” 378.


[19]. Mt. 27:23; Mk. 15:14; Lk. 23:22.


[20]. Malina, “Jesus as Astral Prophet.” 93-98.


[21]. Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum 6.16.


[22]. Didache 2.2; 3.4 and 5.1.


[23]. Celsus was a second century Greek philosopher and fierce opponent of Christianity.


[24]. Welch, “Miracles, Maleficium, and Maiestas in the Trial of Jesus.” 375-79.



Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.04.03 PILATE QUESTIONS JESUS

15.04.03 Jn. 18:33-38; Mt. 27:11-14 (See also Mk. 15:2-5; Lk. 23:3-4) First Roman Trial




Jn. 33 Then Pilate went back into the headquarters, summoned Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

34 Jesus answered, “Are you asking this on your own, or have others told you about Me?”

35 “I’m not a Jew, am I?” Pilate replied. “Your own nation and the chief priests handed You over to me. What have You done?”

36 “My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here.”

37 “You are a king then?” Pilate asked.

“You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”

38 What is truth?” said Pilate.

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no grounds for charging Him.

Mt. 11 Now Jesus stood before the governor. “Are You the King of the Jews?” the governor asked Him.

Jesus answered, “You have said it.” 12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He didn’t answer.

13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Don’t You hear how much they are testifying against You?” 14 But He didn’t answer him on even one charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.


“Are you the King of the Jews?” Again, Jesus was sarcastically asked to incriminate Himself.  He did not respond to Pilate in self-defense, but in a manner that would permit Pilate to act and judge as his office demanded. The Jews had been witness to many teachings and miracles of Jesus.  They heard Him preach on forgiveness, love, and all aspects of living a godly life. But Pilate did not have that privilege. Therefore, Jesus capsulated His ministry and messianic mission:


“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here.”

 John 18:36


Evidence to support this statement occurred when one of His disciples pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of Caiaphas’ servant.  Jesus rebuked the disciple and healed the servant.  To Pilate, Jesus was simply a man of wild illusions, one who desired to have a kingdom – possibly somewhere among the stars, since it was not to be in this world.  He considered Jesus a harmless lunatic who, by some mystical power, was able to heal the sick.  The Romans had a well-established reputation for a quick execution of any self-proclaimed messiah who dreamed of leading the Jews to independence.  Jesus, however, was different and after several questions, Pilate could find no reason for His execution.


“What is truth?”  This has been the eternal question throughout millennia. Greek philosophers, modern humanists, atheists, and others have debated this question. Scholars have asked whether this was an honest question or sarcasm. Regardless, from the moment Pilate asked this question, it was he who was on trial. He saw Jesus as an idealist who was harmless to the empire and, hence, certainly not worthy of death.  He knew Jesus was innocent but would he make a judgment that reflected truth? Knowing truth and acting upon it should have been one and the same. It wasn’t. Pilate was facing truth, but rendered a wrongful decision.


It is an interesting irony of history that Jesus was before Pilate, where He was questioned about being the King of the Jews, when some three and a half decades earlier the magi came to this same city to ask where the king of the Jews was born.  Now Jesus was on trial for being the king and only Pilate could officiate over this matter.  This is the first Roman declaration of innocence.  He then sent Jesus to Herod Antipas for trial, because he did not have the courage to release Jesus.


But He didn’t answer him.”  This was not only a fulfillment of prophecy and a position of humility, but also a condemnation of Pilate. The silence of Jesus speaks volumes to the fact that it was not Jesus, but Pilate who was on trial. In centuries past, the first king of Israel, Saul, had parted ways from God.  In response Saul said, “God has turned away from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or dreams” (1 Sam. 28:15).  As the Holy One was silent before King Saul, Jesus was silent before His accusers.


Pilate normally lived in Caesarea Maritima along the Mediterranean coast.  But during the days of Passover, he was in Jerusalem with extra soldiers in the event that some radical would announce he was the Messiah. Scholars now debate whether he resided in Herod’s palace by the Jaffa Gate or in the luxury suite in the palace of the Antonia Fortress.




15.04.03.A. JOHN RYLANDS FRAGMENT.  A papyrus fragment, commonly known as Papyrus 52, containing John 18:31-33 and 18:37-38 is believed to have been written between the middle and end of the first century.  It is located in the John Ryland Library in Manchester, England. It is the oldest known manuscript New Testament fragment.


The Ryland’s Fragment is incredible evidence that the gospel of John is not a second or third century creation, as some critics claim but of the early second century.  Its significance, as well as others,[1] is positive proof that the gospels were written at an early date; proof that the gospels were transcribed accurately for two thousand years to the translations available today. Some scholars have concluded that the earliest edition of Matthew existed somewhere between A.D. 30 and 60, indicating it was written within a few decades of the death of Jesus, but before the destruction of the temple.[2]


Others believe this fragment to be dated between A.D. 70 and 125, which is still quite early.  This is significant in that it provides overwhelming support that many stories of miracles were, in fact, historical events and not myths added to the text by later editors, as some critics claim (without support for their opinions).  With so many early copies of this gospel circulating in the ancient Middle East, it would have been impossible to create legends and myths concerning Jesus that would have been accepted by the Church.


It is important to summarize the charges the Sanhedrin brought against Jesus when before Pilate.  Any one of these was worthy of crucifixion.


  1. Jesus was a criminal who used magical powers


  1. Jesus attempted to subvert the nation


  1. He forbade the payment of taxes to Rome


  1. He claimed He was king, a position superior to Pilate.


In summary, Pilate was by no means the ideal administrator of the Roman Empire.  He is remembered for his cruelty, yet he could see through the accusations of the Jewish leaders, and considered Jesus to be innocent. But he did not have the inner strength to stand in opposition to the Jews and administer fair justice.

[1]. For other listings of ancient papyri pertaining to the New Testament, see The Biblical Expositor. 8-12 and Packer, Tenney, and White, eds., The Bible Almanac. 65-84.


[2]. Theide and D’Ancona, Eyewitness to Jesus. 163.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.04.04 PILATE SENDS JESUS TO HEROD

15.04.04  Lk. 23:5-7




5 But they kept insisting, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where He started even to here.”

6 When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man was a Galilean. 7 Finding that He was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem during those days.



15.04.04.A. A MODEL OF THE ANTONIA FORTRESS (Behind the Temple)

15.04.04.A. A MODEL OF THE ANTONIA FORTRESS (Behind the Temple).  This model shows the proximity of the fortress (in background) to the temple, and is where scholars believe Jesus was tried before Pilate. The fortress had a palace-type luxury suite for Pilate, barracks for the Praetorian Guard, a prison, and even a place where the high priest kept his priceless priestly robes. The Sanhedrin held its judicial proceedings in the Chamber of Hewn Stone within the temple, under the watchful eyes of the Roman guards. Photographed at the Holy Land Hotel by the author.

15.04.04.B. THE ROBES OF THE HIGH PRIEST (2)                 15.04.04.B. THE ROBES OF THE HIGH PRIEST (2)



















15.04.04.B. THE ROBES OF THE HIGH PRIEST.  LEFT: A mannequin of the high priest dressed in one of his priestly robes as he may have appeared during temple service. Photo courtesy of the Bible History Exhibits and Stephen Meyers. RIGHT: A model displays a recreated priestly robe as he may have appeared in daily life. Photo by the author near the Southern Temple Steps.


While performing temple duties, the high priest wore a linen garment and turban, but was in bare feet. His official dress was worn only in the temple, and kept under guard in the Antonia Fortress in the years 6-41 when not in service.[1]

[1]. Geikie, The Life and Words of Christ. 1:91.



Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.04.05 JESUS BEFORE HEROD ANTIPAS

15.04.05  Lk. 23:8-12, The palace of Herod; Second Roman Trial




8 Herod was very glad to see Jesus; for a long time he had wanted to see Him because he had heard about Him and was hoping to see some miracle performed by Him. 9 So he kept asking Him questions, but Jesus did not answer him. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing Him. 11 Then Herod, with his soldiers, treated Him with contempt, mocked Him, dressed Him in a brilliant robe, and sent Him back to Pilate. 12 That very day Herod and Pilate became friends. Previously, they had been hostile toward each other.


There was no legal reason for Pilate to send Jesus to Herod Antipas, since Pilate was in the superior government position.[1] He simply did not want to take responsibility for a decision.  However, this may have been an attempt to appease Herod, because Pilate was responsible for the Galilean massacre in Jerusalem (Lk. 13:1).  Technically, the massacre was an infringement upon Herod’s domain, even though the incident occurred in Jerusalem.[2] Nonetheless, Pilate most certainly was delighted to send Jesus to Herod Antipas, governor of the province of Galilee.  This northern area was a traditional problem, for it was the home of the Zealots.  Herod was always quick to remove any insurrectionist that appeared and, in Pilate’s thinking, he was well equipped to handle Jesus and any other Jewish problem.


The reputation of Jesus had spread into every corner of the ancient Middle East.  Herod Antipas had at one time listened carefully to John the Baptist (Lk. 3:19-20).  When the twelve disciples were preaching, He was gravely concerned (Lk. 9:7-9) and even searched for an opportunity to kill Jesus. But friendly Pharisees warned Jesus of imminent danger at which time Jesus referred to him as the “fox” (Lk. 13:31-35).  Now Herod had his fourth encounter with Jesus. Evidently, he pretended to have some interest in the ways of God.  His life had deteriorated spiritually and morally and his only interest was some form of entertainment, miracles, or sideshow.  Jesus, however, did not consent. In fact, the entire courtroom mocked Jesus and, sarcastically, gave Him all appearances of a king. When they were finished with Him, He was sent back to Pilate.  However, Herod’s refusal to pronounce a sentence of any kind strongly suggests that he considered Jesus innocent.



But the questions persist.  Why did Herod Antipas, who once tried to kill Jesus, now find Him innocent?  Was this declaration of innocence truly the result of Herod’s concern for judicial equality, or did some people of his household, who had supported Jesus financially, have an influence on his decision?


  1. There was Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward who became a follower of Jesus (Lk. 8:3)


  1. Manaen became a believer and was a member of Herod’s court (Acts 13:1). No doubt, there were others as well.


Since Herod’s decision appears to be out of character, one must suspect that these and other believers, who served in the royal household, demonstrated their influence to find Jesus innocent. He had no interest in justice, but only wanted to be entertained. When that attempt failed, he returned Jesus to Pilate.


That very day Herod and Pilate became friends. Previously, they had been hostile toward each other.” There are few verses in the Bible that imply political alliances as much as this one. In ancient times, as today, the world of politics can demand strange alliances even among those who despise each other.  Such was the case here. For years there had been a peaceful hatred between Pilate and Herod Antipas.  However, neither could be vocal about the issue or Rome would have removed the accuser from office. Now, before them was a man whom neither of them found to be guilty.  There is no recorded information as to why Pilate and Herod were hostile with each other, but previously there was at least one event initiated by Pilate that might have been the cause.


As has already been stated, scholars have long suspected that the hostilities between the two leaders resulted from a massacre in Jerusalem (Lk. 13:1) after Pilate raided the temple treasury to pay for an aqueduct that was under construction.[3]  Justification for this opinion is based, in part, on the fact that in A.D. 36, Pilate was ordered to Rome by Vitellius, the legate of Syria, to defend similar actions concerning a Samaritan rebellion.  In that case, he imprisoned and then slaughtered Samaritan rebels. However, by the time he arrived in Rome, Emperor Tiberius had died.


History is inconclusive as to what became of Pilate. Eusebius said that he was exiled and then committed suicide,[4] although another account says he suffered death under Emperor Nero. Regardless, his final hours were not peaceful.[5]

[1]. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament. 9.

[2]. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament. 31.

[3]. More information, including a quotation from Josephus, is found at 09.03.08.


[4]. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History. 2.7.


[5]. See 16.01.06.Q1 concerning the consequences that fell upon those who opposed Jesus.



Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.04.06 THIRD ROMAN TRIAL: PILATE’S WARNING AND QUESTIONS RELEASE

15.04.06 Mt. 27:19; Lk. 23:13-16 Praetorium (or Herod’s Palace), Thursday morning




Mt. 19 While he was sitting on the judge’s bench, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for today I’ve suffered terribly in a dream because of Him!”


Lk. 13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14 and said to them, “You have brought me this man as one who subverts the people. But in fact, after examining Him in your presence, I have found no grounds to charge this man with those things you accuse Him of. 15 Neither has Herod, because he sent Him back to us. Clearly, He has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will have Him whipped and then release Him.” [17 For according to the festival he had to release someone to them.]


Pilate would have been wise if he had listened to his wife.[1] The ancients strongly believed in dreams, and often, made decisions accordingly.  In this case, he did not heed her dream and warning.[2]  Some in the early church believed she became a Christian, which is altogether possible after having a dream as this one. The Greek Church eventually elevated her to sainthood.[3]


The soldiers of the elite Praetorium Guard were among the finest soldiers of the Empire and personal bodyguards of Emperors and puppet kings.  Mark 15:16 could imply that the Praetorium was also the palace, and twice Josephus said the fortress was “like a palace.”  However, scholars believe Herod’s palace – the one built by his father – was near the Jaffa gate.[4]  A portion of Josephus’ description follows:


Next to this, and before you came to the edifice of the tower itself, there was a wall three cubits high…. The inward parts had a largeness and form of a palace, it being parted into all kinds of rooms and other conveniences, such as courts, and places for bathing, and broad spaces for camps; insomuch that, it might seem to be composed of several cities, but its magnificence it seemed like a palace.


Josephus, Wars 5.5.8 (240-241a)


A second reference by Josephus is to the judge’s seat that was also in the Antonia Fortress.  An example of a court trial that occurred in “the palace” took place before Gessius Florus.  He reigned only from A.D. 64 to 66, and was possibly the most vicious of all rulers.  There is little question among historians that he was a major cause of the Second Revolt that led to the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. At one time the Jews came before him with a complaint, just as they had done decades earlier before Pilate about Jesus. Josephus recorded the event before Florus.  Notice the similarities.


Now at this time Florus took upon his quarters at the palace; and on the next day he had his tribunal set before it, and sat upon it (the judge’s chair), when the high priests and the men of power and those of the greatest eminence in the city came all before that tribunal upon which Florus commanded them to deliver up to him those that had reproached him.


Josephus, Wars 2.14.8 (301-302a)[5]


The term “palace” is from the Latin praetorian,[6] and refers to the Antonia Fortress as used by Josephus. Some scholars believe the same connection can be made with the Pilate having been in the Antonia Fortress to pass judgment upon Jesus.


I have found no grounds to charge this man.” After cross-examining Jesus in the presence of the Sanhedrin, Pilate declared that he found no fault with Him.[7]  This was his second declaration of innocence, which was also in agreement with Herod.  However, to appease the Jews and to secure his own political survival, Pilate decided to have Jesus punished instead of being crucified.  He hoped they would give up their demands for a crucifixion because he made three significant observations about Jesus.


  1. As a peaceful man, Jesus avoided all forms of force.


  1. Jesus did not attack or criticize the oppressive Roman government.


  1. His criticisms were directed mainly towards the temple priesthood and public teachers.


Therefore, Palate summarized that the priests and rabbis were merely envious and wanted Jesus dead for their own selfish reasons. So he offered them a choice between Jesus and Barabbas.

[1]. One tradition says her name was Claudia Procula while other traditions state her name was Claudia or Procula. See Jordan, Who’s Who in the Bible. 240.


[2]. Macartney, Great Interviews of Jesus. 107.

[3]. Lindsay, The Life and Teachings of Christ. 3:206.

[4]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 424-26.

[5]. Parenthesis mine.


[6]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:272-73.


[7]. It should be noted that in the account presented by Mark, he clearly states that the only charge against Jesus is a religious one. Mark appears to be passionate about any readers concluding that there may have been any possible treason or rebellion charges against Jesus. Luke and many other writers seem to have praised the Romans at the expense of the Jewish leadership.



Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.04.07 JESUS OR BARABBAS

15.04.07 Mk. 15:6-10 (See also Mt. 27:15-18; Jn. 18:39)




6 At the festival it was Pilate’s custom to release for the people a prisoner they requested. 7 There was one named  Barabbas, who was in prison with rebels who had committed murder during the rebellion. 8 The crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do for them as was his custom. 9 So Pilate answered them, “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews for you?” 10 For he knew it was because of envy that the chief priests had handed Him over.


Unfortunately, Pilate failed to realize that these Jews were not the same people who waved palm branches and sang “Hosanna” when Jesus entered the city on a donkey.  Since it was the Roman custom in some areas to release a convicted prisoner at Passover (Jn. 18:39) to appease the Jews, he thought this would be a good time to release Jesus.  It is difficult to understand why he thought that he could have released Jesus to the very same Jews who were trying to kill Him.  Yet, that was his attempt. The irony is that Jesus had not yet been convicted and, therefore, Pilate broke from the Roman custom in an attempt to appease them.


Some writers have said this Roman custom of releasing a prisoner at Passover was unique to Jerusalem. But history seems to indicate otherwise.


  1. In Egypt there was a parallel custom where a prefect said to a prisoner, “You deserve to be scourged for the crimes you have committed, but I grant you to the crowd.”[1] This may have been an annual event that had its own name – the privilegium paschale was not limited to Jerusalem historically.[2]


  1. Centuries earlier, Jehoiachin, King of Judah, was freed by Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach) in 561 B.C. after Nebuchadnezzar died and Amel-Marduk ascended to the throne (2 Kgs. 25:27-30; Jer. 52:31-34).


  1. Convicted prisoners were released at times of religious significance in Assyria and Babylon.


  1. In Greece, prisoners were released at the six-day Athenian Festival of Dionysus, known as the Greater Dionysia.[3]


Therefore, while the custom of releasing a prisoner was not accepted by most Roman governors, many living within their provinces were aware of it. Clearly this was an attempt by Pilate to appease the Sadducean crowd.

[1]. Cited by Stein, R. Jesus the Messiah. 232.

[2]. Merritt. “Jesus Barabbas.” 67.


[3]. “Dionysia.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 8:283.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.04.08 CROWD DEMANDS BARABBAS

15.04.08 Mk. 15:11; Jn. 18:40; Lk. 23:18-19; Mt. 27:20-21  




Mk. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd so that he would release  Barabbas to them instead.


Jn. 40 They shouted back, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.

Lk. 18 Then they all cried out together, “Take this man away! Release Barabbas to us!” 19 (He had been thrown into prison for a rebellion that had taken place in the city, and for murder.)     

Mt. 20 The chief priests and the elders, however, persuaded the crowds to ask for  Barabbas and to execute Jesus. 21 The governor asked them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”

Barabbas!” they answered.


“Then they all cried out together.”  Unfortunately, throughout most of church history, the prevailing opinion has been that all the Jewish people cried out against Jesus.  Really?  This demands some serious thought!  Were those whom Jesus healed and raised from the dead now demanding that Pilate crucify Him? At this point only the Sadducees and possibly the elders and scribes were before Pilate. Luke 19:47-48 states that the chief priests were unable to stop Jesus because all the people were very attentive to Him. On another occasion all the people listened to him gladly (Mk. 12:37).


If there was a change in public sentiment, it is not recorded in the Bible.  The only reason the trials were held at night was Jesus was extremely popular and a day trial would certainly have caused a riot.  Why would the rejoicing crowds who witnessed Jesus perform dozens, if not hundreds of healings and raise Lazarus from the dead, suddenly want to see Him crucified? As is explained below, the term all refers only to the small crowd that was before Pilate, not to every Jew in the land.



15.04.08.Q1 Does the word “all” mean the entire Jewish community; every Jew in the land?

Those who believe that the word “all” refers to every Jew in the land may have difficulty explaining why, in John 8:30, so many put “their faith in Him” but only twenty-nine verses later the same group wanted to stone Him. If this were the case, then a major event that caused the change in public opinion was never recorded in biblical, Jewish, or secular history – and that is highly unlikely.


Yet, later, in Matthew 27:22, the gospel writer said, “They all answered.”  Throughout church history, this phrase has often been used to condemn all the Jews because of a single word: all.  Even today, many well-meaning Christians believe all the Jews of Israel condemned Jesus to die.  One must ask what had occurred between the time Jesus rode into Jerusalem when everyone praised Him and anticipated He would deliver them from the brutal Romans, and now, when He was standing before Pilate.  What could possibly have caused the radical transformation of public opinion, which escaped not only the gospels but also all of the extra-biblical Jewish writings? The answer is – absolutely nothing!  If anything had occurred that would have changed public opinion, the gospel writers would certainly have written about it.  Clearly not all the Jews were against Jesus, but only all those Jews who stood before Pilate.


Consider this train of thought: Did His mother Mary condemn her Son?  She was Jewish. How about the disciples?  They were also Jewish. What about the hundreds of people He healed and the thousands He fed?  And why would all of them have condemned Him to the cross? The common opinion that all the Jews of Israel condemned Jesus is obviously not well thought out. The thousands who loved Him were busy with their Passover observances and were probably wondering if He would make an announcement at the temple about being the messiah. They certainly would never have believed He would be tried illegally at night.  Yet the very purpose of the night trials was to keep the public ignorant until Jesus was convicted.  Therefore, those who responded to Pilate were not the same people who praised Jesus when He entered Jerusalem.


That raises the obvious question: Who were all the people who demanded the death of Jesus?  It was Caiaphas and his small group of temple power brokers who were willing to go to any length to insure that Jesus would not overthrow their positions as the religious establishment.


Because this is an important point, extra detail is hereby given. The word all does not always mean exclusively every person, but the definition can include a majority of people who are at a specific place at a specific time. Even though most of the New Testament was written in Greek, the writers were Jews who thought and expressed their ideas like other Jewish people. In Hebrew, the word kol, meaning all does not always mean every single entity or person, but rather, the majority.[1] 


A biblical example of the use of all in this sense is found in the account of Saul when he fought the Amalekites.  In a battle recorded in 1 Samuel 15:7-8, 20,  Saul “totally destroyed with a sword” all the Amalekites, yet later they appeared again in 1 Samuel  27:8, 30:1,18, in 2 Samuel 8:12, and in 1 Chronicles 4:43.  Did the Scripture writers make a mistake when they said Saul totally destroyed all the Amalekites?  No. Saul killed all the Amalekites who were on the battlefield, but not the entire people group. Ironically, eventually one of them killed Saul (2 Sam. 1:8-10).  Incidentally, Scripture centuries later recorded that the evil Haman was an Agagite (Esther 3:1) but Josephus said he was part of a clan within the larger tribe of Amalekites.[2]


To modern readers, the gospel writers seem to have been a bit loose with the word all. Matthew (26:56) and Mark (14:50), both said that all the disciples fled when Jesus was crucified. Yet among the last words of Jesus were His instruction to Mary, His mother, who would live out the rest of her life under the care of John. Both stood before Jesus as He died upon the cross. So clearly, the word all means a vast majority, and not every single person.[3] The gospel writers were not loose with their vocabulary; they just had a broader definition to it.


Another thought to consider is this:  the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17 speaks of those who are “in” Jesus as He is “in” God the Father.  But that prayer would not make any sense if all the Jews were shouting for His crucifixion. Without question, that prayer would be considerably different.


Those who were before Pilate were, at most, a few hundred accusers from the temple leadership. This is supported in the New Testament (Acts 2:23, 36; 1 Thess. 2:14-15) and the Babylonian Talmud.[4]  However, the clearest support for this is from Josephus, who stated that,


Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross.

Josephus, Antiquities 18.3.3 (64)


The term “principal men” clearly refers to the Jewish leaders of the temple elite – namely the Sadducees and the family of Caiaphas. Josephus made a point of saying that only a few selected leaders were responsible for the crucifixion, not all the Jews.  In addition, Luke made a point to record that Joseph of Arimathea was a believer and, although he was member of the Sanhedrin, he did not agree to the plan and action to execute Jesus (Lk. 23:50-51). So clearly, not all members of the high court wanted Jesus dead. Furthermore, if anyone would have understood the times and the environment of this major religious event, it would have been Josephus. Concerning Jesus, he added that,


Those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him.

Josephus, Antiquities 18.3.3 (64)


Finally, in His high priestly prayer of John 17, Jesus prayed for Himself (vv. 1-5), then for His disciples (vv. 6-19), and finally for all believers (vv. 20-26). Noteworthy, is the fact that He does not forgive them because they did not commit the sin of demanding that He be crucified – they are “in Him.” They were unaware that the religious leaders tried Jesus in an illegal system of trials until the sun rose and He was on His way to the cross.  Then it was too late.


Another example of where a term that appears to be all exclusive, but isn’t, is the word destroy as found in Acts 13:19.[5] The context of the passage is that Paul is speaking to the men of Israel and gave them a summary of their history. In verse 19 Paul said that God destroyed the seven nations of Canaan[6] and gave the land to the people of Israel as an inheritance. The term destroyed can mean that every man, woman, and child was killed, which obviously never happened.  In fact, when Jesus multiplied bread and seven baskets of bread were left over, that was symbolic that He is the Provider for the Gentile people.[7]  Clearly the word the apostle used was never intended to convey complete annihilation of the various Gentile tribes.


“‘Barabbas,’ they answered.”   The Jewish leaders responded to Pilate’s offer by demanding the release of Barabbas to insure the death of Jesus. It was Barabbas who was a notorious criminal (Mt. 27:16), robber (Jn. 18:40), murderer (Lk. 23:19), and, worst of all, an insurrectionist (Mk. 15:7).  These qualities were typical of the Zealots of the day, who fought against the Romans whenever possible.  However, the word for “robber” in John 18:40 would be better translated as “rebel.”  According to Roman law, rebels were crucified whereas robbers were imprisoned or scourged but never crucified. The Romans crushed insurrections without care for the loss of innocent life.

Herein is another amazing irony: It was Barabbas (Heb. Bar-Abbas) whose name meant son of the father, or son of the master.[8]  The Jews chose a counterfeit son of the father instead of the true Son of the Father.  Barabbas was released while Jesus, who was innocent, who raised the dead, and who is the true Son of the Father, died for the sins of Barabbas and everyone else.[9]   Furthermore, the early Syrian and Armenian gospel manuscripts record his name as Jesus Barabbas.[10] Barabbas is a metaphor for the crucifixion experience.  If those early transcripts are true, then the obvious question is why the name “Jesus” was dropped for the biblical record? The theory is that because the common name of Jesus became so highly honored, no church father desired it to be associated with one who was a killer and Zealot, and therefore, it was dropped.   Barabbas was guilty of being anti-Roman in a manner similar to what Jesus was accused of, yet Jesus willingly and peacefully died on the cross that was prepared for the “son of the father.”


Since every male child is a “son of the father,” there is the obvious question of who would give their son such a name.  The answer lies in the Jewish culture.  In ancient times the local rabbi was seen as the spiritual father and, out of kindness and respect, he was at times called “Father.”  This would have been evidenced by the letter “s” at the end of the name, “Barabbas.”  Therefore, there is a high probability that Barabbas was the son of a rabbi – a rebellious young man, who brought much shame to his father by,


  1. Not following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a rabbi, and


  1. Rebelling against the religious system, and


  1. By becoming a freedom-fighting Zealot.


Simply said, Barabbas was a son who rebelled against his father and the religious code. In later years, the Zealots started two rebellions of phenomenal significance:


  1. The conflict that resulted in the Roman destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, and


  1. The insurrection led by Simon bar Kokhba that caused all Jews and Christians to be exiled from Jerusalem in A.D. 135. The city was destroyed both times.


Finally, Barabbas most certainly looked upon Jesus as the one who saved his life.  However, he was just as guilty as were the other two rebels (sometimes called thieves) who were crucified with Jesus.  The probability is almost certain that Barabbas and the two thieves had previously fought the Romans together.  Romans often executed entire groups of rebels at the same time.  Therefore, Barabbas not only saw the one who saved his life, but also his two friends die for the same sins for which he was guilty.

[1]. Stern, Restoring the Jewishness. 26-27.


[2]. Josephus,  Antiquities 11:6.2-3.

[3]. Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 3:417-18.


[4]. Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a; see 18.03.03.


[5]. The King James Version and Holman Christian Standard Bible use the word destroy. Some other translations use the word overthrew which is a better term.


[6]. Deut. 7:1; Jos. 19:51.


[7]. See 10.01.25 Mk. 8:1-10; Mt. 15:29-39.


[8]. Stimpson, A Book about the Book. 70.


[9]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 427; Kalland, “Abba.” 1:6-7; Rees, “Barabbas.” 1:429.

[10]. Gilbrant, “Luke.” 673; Barclay, “John.” 2:249; Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 320-21.   


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.04.09 JESUS’ CRUCIFIXION DEMANDED

15.04.09 Mt. 27:22-23; Lk. 23:20-23 (See also Mk. 15:12-14) 




Mt. 22 Pilate asked them, “What should I do then with Jesus, who is called Messiah?”

They all answered, “Crucify Him!”

23 Then he said, “Why? What has He done wrong?”

But they kept shouting, “Crucify Him!” all the more.


Lk. 20 Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify! Crucify Him!”

22 A third time he said to them, “Why? What has this man done wrong? I have found in Him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore, I will have Him whipped and then release Him.”

23 But they kept up the pressure, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And their voices won out. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand 25 and released the one they were asking for, who had been thrown into prison for rebellion and murder. But he handed Jesus over to their will.


“What should I do then with Jesus, who is called Messiah?”  Pilate specifically referred to Jesus who is called the Messiah. Some translations read, “Jesus, who is called the Christ”[1] Why?  It might be because two of the oldest versions of the New Testament – the ancient Syriac and Armenian versions – present the name of Barabbas as Jesus bas. This is supported by two early church fathers, Jerome and Origen, who agreed with the translation. [2] If true, this is probably the reason why Pilate referred to Jesus, who is called Messiah or the Christ in Matthew 27:17 and again in 27:22. It should be noted that Jesus was a common name, as were the names Matthew and Simon.


“They all answered.”  Due to the significance of understanding the term all, please see comments in 15.04.08.Q1 above – “Does the word “all” mean the entire Jewish community; every Jew in the land?”


Crucify! Crucify Him,” Literally, “crucify him, crucify him.” The Jewish leadership not only wanted Jesus dead, they wanted Him cursed because the Mosaic Law stated that anyone who was “hung from a tree” was cursed (Deut. 21:22-23).  This method of execution was reserved for the worst of criminals, including Zealots, who frequently rebelled against Roman authority. While the Assyrians, Phoenicians, Greeks, and the Persians all practiced a form of crucifixion in the first millennium B.C., the Romans popularized it.



15.04.09.Q1 Would God punish all people because of the decision of their leaders?


The leader of a nation directs its prosperity, peace, and even its cultural changes.  The position of a king or national leadership is extremely important in the eyes of God.  When the Sadducees had Jesus crucified, they cast the direction the Jewish people would take for centuries to come.  Their own Hebrew Bible is full of historical accounts that preserved the results of poor leadership decisions.  Note these examples:


  1. When the Pharaoh of Egypt took Sarah into his court, his household got sick (Gen. 12:17).


  1. When Abimelech planned to take Sarah, all the women in his household became infertile (Gen. 20:18).


  1. Centuries later the Pharaoh’s sinful decision not to permit the Israelites to leave Egypt resulted in numerous plagues upon his people, the deaths of all “first borns,” his own death, and the loss of thousands of Egyptian soldiers (Ex. 9 – 12).


  1. When Moses sent out spies into Canaan only two returned with a favorable report, yet everyone had to endure forty years of wandering aimlessly through the desert. Why? It was because they had made a decision against the desires of the Lord.


  1. When the Philistine soldiers took the Ark of the Covenant, their families and neighbors developed cancer tumors (I Sam. 5:6; 6:1-12).


  1. When King David disobeyed the Lord and took a census, he had the unusual choice of three punishments: famine, conquest, or a plague. He chose a plague and seventy thousand of his citizens died (2 Sam. 24:10-15; 1 Ch. 21:7-14).


  1. When Joshua and the Israelites captured the city of Ai, a certain man by the name of Achan stole silver and other valuables in disobedience to the Lord’s command. As a result, he and 36 other individuals of his family perished (Jos. 6:16-26).


The consequences of the decisions of a king upon his people are proverbial. The writer of Proverbs 29:4 said, “By justice a king gives a country stability.”  The Sanhedrin, which served as Israel’s legislative body as well as its supreme court, failed to mete out godly decisions and justice which eventually led to increased instability that resulted in destruction.


It should be stated that the converse is also true.  When the careless Jews failed to examine and purify themselves prior to Passover (2 Ch. 30:18-19), the righteous king Hezekiah prayed that God would pardon those who failed to purify themselves.  The result of one godly king was that, “and God heard Hezekiah and healed the people” (2 Ch. 30:20).  Passover, like communion, is a highly important soul-searching event.  The Apostle Paul said death would come upon some who took communion lightly (1 Cor. 11:27-30). The decisions of a national leader can be either a blessing or a curse upon the people.  It is a principle of life.

[1]. The terms Messiah and Christ both mean Anointed One.


[2]. Barclay, “Matthew.” 2:361.


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