15.04.06 Mt. 27:19; Lk. 23:13-16 Praetorium (or Herod’s Palace), Thursday morning
THIRD ROMAN TRIAL: PILATE’S WARNING AND QUESTIONS RELEASE
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. The ancients strongly believed in dreams, and often, made decisions accordingly. In this case, he did not heed her dream and warning. 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.
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. 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)
The term “palace” is from the Latin praetorian, 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. 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.
- As a peaceful man, Jesus avoided all forms of force.
- Jesus did not attack or criticize the oppressive Roman government.
- 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.
. 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.
. Macartney, Great Interviews of Jesus. 107.
. Lindsay, The Life and Teachings of Christ. 3:206.
. Farrar, Life of Christ. 424-26.
. Parenthesis mine.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:272-73.
. 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.