- Christogenea Internet Radio
On the Gospel of John, Part 45: Gods and Emperors
In our last presentation of this 18th chapter of the Gospel of John we attempted to answer the question which was posed by Pontius Pilate, where he had asked what is truth? with the assertion that real truth is what is relative to the Will of God. So Pilate did not receive an answer to his question, since, as we have also frequently explained throughout this commentary, Yahweh God endows men with wisdom and knowledge on a need-to-know basis. So Pilate did not really need to know the truth, since it was written in the prophets that the Christ had to die, as Christ had also frequently told His Own disciples, and perhaps if Pilate had learned the truth in his conversation with Christ, the Will of God may have been hindered. Therefore it must have also been the Will of God that Pilate did not find the truth.
There are apocryphal tales which indicate that Pilate had later learned the truth concerning Christ, but I would not repeat any of those. Another lie is the description of the fate of Pilate as it is recounted in the so-called “lost” chapter of Acts, a forgery which represents itself to be the 29th chapter of Luke’s second book. There are Identity Christians who promote that work as “truth” when it is actually an absolute fraud. As we already explained here, Pilate had remained stationed in his office in Judaea until 36 AD, or perhaps as late as 37 AD, when he was relieved after complaints of how he had handled a sedition in Syria, and he returned to Rome. From that point he disappears from the historical record, and later Christians who reported his having committed suicide, such as Eusebius of Caesareia, lacked any substantiation to establish the claim as fact.
Now we shall commence with our commentary on these last few verses of John chapter 18 from precisely where we had left off, in the middle of verse 38 where Pilate is recorded as having asked “What is truth?” at that point he left off questioning Christ in the Praetorium, and went back out to inquire of the Judaeans:
And saying this he again went out to the Judaeans and says to them: “I find not any guilt in Him. 39 But it is a custom with you that I shall release one for you on the Passover. Therefore do you wish that I release for you the King of the Judaeans?”
Since Christ Himself had admitted no wrongdoing, Pilate had not yet heard testimony bearing any evidence for the accusations for which the Judaeans sought to have Him executed, and therefore he could not judge Him guilty. So it seems that Pilate was mocking the Judaeans themselves, and not Christ, where he had asked whether he should “release for you the King of the Judaeans?” But if Pilate understood this to be the charge, we are not told by John how Pilate had understood it. By the manner in which John recorded the initial inquiry which Pilate had made of Christ, he had not yet heard the charge, at least in the presence of Christ.
In the opening verses of Luke chapter 23 we read “1 And rising, the whole multitude of them brought Him before Pilatos. 2 Then they began accusing Him saying ‘We have found Him perverting our nation and preventing giving tribute tax to Caesar, and saying of Himself to be the anointed king.’” So as they brought Christ to Pilate, various Judaeans must have been shouting out charges at him. But that does not necessarily mean that these things all happened at once. The gospel of Mark accords with what we may read in Matthew chapter 27 where it says “11 Then Yahshua stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying: ‘Are You the King of the Judaeans?’ And Yahshua said to him: ‘You say.’ 12 And to that which had been brought as an accusation against Him by the high priests and the elders He answered nothing. 13 Then Pilatos says to Him: ‘Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?’ 14 And He did not reply to him with even one word, so for the governor to wonder exceedingly.” But the private questioning of Christ by Pilate in the Praetorium is not recorded in those other three gospels.
So while it is apparent that all of this which the other gospels described happened publicly, while here Pilate had already questioned Christ privately, it seems to corroborate what Christ had answered privately as it is recorded in John. When Pilate asked Christ publicly whether He was the King of the Judaeans, Christ only answered “you say”, not denying the charge, but attributing the sentiment to Pilate himself. However where it is recorded in Matthew that Pilate had asked Christ if He heard the many things the Judaeans were testifying against Him, we may understand that the crowd of Judaeans must have been yelling out the charges against Christ as Pilate was endeavoring to ascertain the truth of the matter, and that in turn corroborates the account as it was given in Luke.
As a digression, it is just before this point that Matthew had recorded the fate of Judas Iscariot, where he had hanged himself. Then it is evident that the public questioning of Christ which is recorded in the other three gospels, which we have just discussed here, had happened at this point, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 27. In Mark’s rather concise account of these events, found in chapter 15 of his gospel, we read: “2 And Pilatos questioned Him: ‘Are You King of the Judaeans?’ Then responding to him He says ‘You say!’ 3 And the high priests accuse Him of many things. 4 Then Pilatos questioned Him again saying: ‘Would You not answer anything? Look at how many things they accuse You of!’ 5 But Yahshua did not yet answer anything, consequently for Pilatos to wonder.” This agrees also with what is found in that corresponding passage at Matthew 27:11-14. Standing before Pilate in the presence of the Judaeans, Yahshua hardly answered any of Pilate’s questions, He made no rebuttal of the charges, and His silence fulfilled the Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah chapter 53: “7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
Now the Judaeans answered Pilate in a manner which he probably would never have expected:
40 Then they [P66, A and the MT insert “all”] cried out again saying [P66 wants “again saying”; our text for the entire clause follows א, B and W] “Not this man, but Barabbas!” And Barabbas was a robber.
At this point the gospels of both Matthew and Mark record of Pilate, as it is in Mark chapter 15, “10 For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.” That idea is expressed by John in his record of the plot which they had against Christ, in John chapter 12 where it says “47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him…”
Then there is another passage in Matthew which is not found in any of the other gospels, in chapter 27, where it is speaking of Pilate and we read: “19 When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” Some commentators think that this was an interpolation, but there is no manuscript evidence which supports that contention. Rather, a statement here in John chapter 19 seems to corroborate it indirectly.
Here John stated rather concisely that “Barabbas was a robber”, but there is much more to the account of Barabbas than that. In Matthew we read “16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.” Luke called Barabbas a murderer in Acts chapter 3, but in chapter 23 of his gospel he explained that “for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, [he] was cast into prison.” Mark’s otherwise concise account informs us more fully: “7 And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.” So Barabbas was evidently the leader of a sedition, and was somewhat infamous, and the apostles certainly did not hold him in any high esteem. However the Judaeans would rather have seen a man who led a violent sedition freed, a man who was a threat to the civil authority, than see Christ freed, a man who was peaceful, but who was a threat to their own perceived religious authority.
But here we must have another digression, to explain a problem which is peculiar to Christian Identity. Long ago, Wesley Swift either repeated or contrived a fabulous tale about this Barabbas. So I wrote the following in my commentary on Luke Chapter 23, given here in December of 2012. Because I have already repeated some of the things which I said there in the context of the preceding verses, here I will cite it as I did in a more recent Critique of Wesley Swift given here in May of 2016: “There was a fascinating story told by Wesley Swift in relation to this Barabbas, which must be addressed here. The story is found under the title of The Blue Tunic Army Of Christ and it is found in most of the archives of Swift's papers, including the one at Christogenea. I do not know if Swift originated the story or not, however I do know this: there is absolutely not one shred of Biblical or historical evidence in support of that story. In the story, Swift claims that Barabbas was the leader of an organized resistance movement which had the blessings of Christ and which served to protect Him, sort of like the National Socialist Brownshirts of the 1920's…. There is no reason to doubt the Gospel accounts, and there is no indication that Barabbas was anything more than a common robber involved in sedition and murder, none of which Christ had anything to do with. Wesley Swift pointed out many good things concerning Scripture, and for that reason his work is worth preserving. However his many innovations, and additionally his tendency towards syncretism, allow for the propagation of a lot of error if his work is not treated with care.”
Wesley Swift created more than one lie in his Blue Tunic Army of Christ sermon, and we must eradicate those lies from our Christian Identity profession if we are ever going to legitimately claim to stand for the truth. As Paul of Tarsus wrote in chapter 3 of his epistle to the Romans, “7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” While “what is truth” is relative to the Will of God, Yahweh our God does not need the help of our lies, so in a rhetorical question Paul professed that if we do lie, we are sinners even if we think the lie is for the good of God.
Returning to this morning upon which Christ is brought before Pilate, there is another account in Luke which is not recorded in John or the other gospels, and which is difficult to place into the chronology of the narrative as it is recorded here in John. But that does not mean that it didn’t happen, rather, it may only mean that perhaps John did not think it necessary or important enough to include. So in Luke chapter 23, after it is recorded that the Judaeans were shouting out charges of sedition, we read: “4 Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. 5 And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. 6 When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean. 7 And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time. 8 And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. 9 Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing. 10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. 11 And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. 12 And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.”
Pilate would send Christ to Herod but Herod did not have the authority to execute a capital offense. As it is recorded in Luke chapter 3, Herod was tetrarch of Galilee. This Herod is Herod Antipas, and his brother Herod Philip was also a tetrarch, which means leader of a fourth-part. The title was used from the time that the kingdom of Judaea was divided into four parts among several of the sons of the first Herod. That happened because the heir of the first Herod, his son Archelaus, was quite wicked and was removed from the kingdom by the Romans, and Judaea was reduced to the status of a province. Herod Antipas is the same Herod who was rebuked by John the Baptist for taking his brother Philip’s wife as his own. While Herod Antipas and Herod Philip were both sons of the first Herod, another, older son, named Aristobulus, had a daughter named Herodias. She became the wife of each of these others, so that she was married to two of her own uncles. She was the wife of Herod Antipas who was recorded as having demanded the head of John the Baptist, which is found in Mark chapter 6.
With this we shall commence with John chapter 19:
XIX 1 So then Pilatos took and whipped Yahshua. 2 And the soldiers having braided a crown out of thorns placed it upon His head, and with a purple cloth they cloaked Him. 3 And they came to Him [A and the MT want “And they came to Him”; the text follows P66, P90, א, B and W] and said “Hail! King of the Judaeans!”, and had given Him slaps on the face.
The word ῥάπισμα is a stroke or blow with a rod, or a blow with a hand, and the word was commonly used to describe a slap on the face, so we translated it in that manner. The final Greek clause may have been left as “had given Him slaps.” Here it might be evident that Christ was indeed sent to Herod and returned either at or before this point in John’s narrative, as Luke explains that as the source of what he had called a “gorgeous robe”, as it is in the King James Version. That certainly may be this same “purple cloth” which is mentioned here by John. As we can tell from verse 4, Pilate had these things done to Yahshua within the Praetorium, so the Judaeans did not witness them unless the courtyard was visible and they could see it from a distance. If Herod were in Jerusalem at this time, as it is reported by Luke, then Herod may well have been in the Praetorium itself, and the narrative comes together quite well with that understanding.
Here once again, as it was at the home of the high priest much earlier on this morning, we see the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah chapter 53: “4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” In this respect we may also read from Isaiah chapter 50: “5 The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. [Likewise, Christ had to drink the cup which He was given.] 6 I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. 7 For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. 8 He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. 9 Behold, the Lord GOD will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.” Once the children of God realize eternal life, the meaning of those last words concerning His adversaries, where it says “they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up”, shall indeed be fully understood.
4 And [א wants “And”; W and the MT have “Therefore”; the text follows P66, A and B.] Pilatos went outside [P90 wants “outside”; the text follows P66, א, A, B, W and the MT] again and says to them: “Behold, I bring Him outside to you, that you may know that I find not any guilt in Him!” [P66, P90 and W have “...that I do not find guilt in Him!” א has “...that I do not find guilt!” The text follows A, B and the MT.] 5 Then Yahshua came outside, wearing [P66 has “having”] the crown of thorn and the purple cloth. And he says to them: “Behold the man!” [P66 wants the final clause, “And he says to them: ‘Behold the man!’”]
For clothing, purple was of course the color of royalty. Generally, only kings and certain priests were permitted to wear it in designated ways. The use of other types and colors of clothing were also often regulated by Roman law, especially the toga and for women, the stola.
Here Pilate once again attested that he could not find a just cause for which to condemn Christ, in spite of the shouting accusations of the Judaeans. So evidently by his having scourged and mocked Christ he had hoped to placate the Judaeans who wanted Him killed. However making such an exhibition, he also seems to have been mocking the Judaeans, and not yet taking their charges seriously he made light of them instead, which may have even agitated them further. So John records the reaction of the Judaeans:
6 Therefore when the high priests and the deputies saw Him they cried out, saying [א wants “saying”] “Crucify Him!” [P66 has only “Crucify!” א, A and the MT have “Crucify! Crucify Him!” B and W have “Crucify! Crucify!” Our text follows P90, a 2nd century papyrus.]
According to Luke, the first charges that the Judaeans had shouted out against Christ, as he wrote in chapter 23 of his gospel, indicated that He was a usurper and a tax protester, where they said: “We have found Him perverting our nation and preventing giving tribute tax to Caesar, and saying of Himself to be the anointed king.” Of course, these charges were not true, and Pilate must have known that there was no evidence in support of them, because there were no signs of any such sedition among His followers. But not yet having found anything for which Christ could be justly executed, Pilate is apparently exasperated, and offers to grant them their wishes if they would fulfill the act themselves, since he wants no part in it, where John wrote that:
Pilatos says to them: “You take and [P66 wants ‘and’] crucify Him. For I do not find guilt in Him!”
Here we must digress once again: Having undue influence and control of modern print and electronic media, the modern Jews purposely and persistently misrepresent the events surrounding the death of Christ in all of the media accounts and literary products by which they endeavor to convince the gullible that Jesus was a Jew, and that Jesus was really killed by the Romans, unjustly portraying Pilate as the true culprit. Here in the accounts of John it is clear that Jesus was anything but a Jew, and that He stood in steadfast opposition to that anti-Christian element in Judaea which later retained their identity as Jews, those who remained Jews after the destruction of Judaea, whom Christ had also denounced as not having a common origin or identity with Himself and His people. Here in John’s gospel it is also quite evident that these ancient Jews, those who conspired against Christ, were also attempting to get Pilate to take responsibility for the act, while at the same time pressuring him politically so that he ultimately had little choice but to comply with their wishes.
Therefore, so that they could further compel Pilate, the Judaeans made another charge which would have been seen as an offense to Rome, since it concerned a title which was held exclusively by the emperor:
7 The Judaeans replied to him [P66, P90, א and W all want “to him”, which perhaps I should have followed]: “We have a law and according to the [A and the MT have ‘our’; the text follows P66, א, B and W] law He is liable to die, because He has made Himself a son of God.”
There is a law against blasphemy, which is found in Leviticus chapter 24 where it says “16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.” But there is no law against any Israelite considering himself to be a son, or a daughter, of God. Rather, it is what the Scriptures themselves actually teach, for example in Deuteronomy chapter 14 where it says: “1 Ye are the children of the LORD your God…” On many occasions in the prophets and the Psalms the children of Israel are described explicitly as children of God.
At least some of the adversaries of Christ had already publicly claimed for themselves to have God for a father, in John 8:41 where they said “We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” Mentioning fornication in company with fatherhood, they also were claiming an actual, literal, descent from God. So with this it should be evident, that the Judaeans were not making this accusation of blasphemy against Christ in relation to the Hebrew Scriptures, but they were making it in relation to Roman law. This significant difference first becomes evident in John chapter 10 where we read: “ 32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? 33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. 34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?”
As another digression, the Wisdom of Solomon is counted as an apocryphal book, and academics usually will not assign a date to it older than the first century BC. They would probably not admit it was that old except that fragments of it were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, so they have not much choice. However the book was a part of the traditional Septuagint and many early Christians considered it to be a part of the canon. For my part, I do believe it is a part of the canon, and that it belongs in our Bibles right between the Books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, because I also am persuaded that it was written by Solomon.
In chapter 2 of the Wisdom of Solomon there is a lengthy passage which is prophetic of the enemies of Christ, and is certainly also, for that reason, to be reckoned as a Messianic prophecy: “10 Let us oppress the poor righteous man, let us not spare the widow, nor reverence the ancient gray hairs of the aged. 11 Let our strength be the law of justice: for that which is feeble is found to be nothing [of] worth. [This expresses the pagan concept that ‘might makes right’, which is also the basis for emperors and kings who considered themselves to be gods.] 12 Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous; because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings: he upbraideth us with our offending the law, and objecteth to our infamy the transgressings of our education. 13 He professeth to have the knowledge of God: and he calleth himself the child of the Lord. 14 He was made to reprove our thoughts. 15 He is grievous unto us even to behold: for his life is not like other men's, his ways are of another fashion. 16 We are esteemed of him as counterfeits: he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness: he pronounceth the end of the just to be blessed, and maketh his boast that God is his father. 17 Let us see if his words be true: and let us prove what shall happen in the end of him. 18 For if the just man be the son of God, he will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies. 19 Let us examine him with despitefulness and torture, that we may know his meekness, and prove his patience. 20 Let us condemn him with a shameful death: for by his own saying he shall be respected. 21 Such things they did imagine, and were deceived: for their own wickedness hath blinded them. 22 As for the mysteries of God, they knew them not: neither hoped they for the wages of righteousness, nor discerned a reward for blameless souls.” Reading this may cause us to recollect many things which Christ had said, and how He had spoken to His enemies during the course of His ministry. Then as it continues, it further evokes things that Christ had said relating to the very purpose of the gospel: “23 For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. 24 Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it. 3:1 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them.”
In earlier times, it would not have been an offense to a pagan such as Pilate, that someone would call themselves a “Son of God”. According to the ancient classical poets, all of the Greeks and Romans had at one time esteemed themselves to be descended from one or more of their pagan gods and goddesses. The origins of entire tribes were said to come from the union of various gods with earthly women. [This is also reminiscent of Genesis chapter 6.] But in times more recent to Pilate, Julius Caesar himself had claimed the Roman idol Venus as an ancestor, and his descent from Aeneas to validate his own right to rule over the Romans.
Therefore, and much more significantly within the historical context of the time of Christ, both Julius and then Augustus Caesar had been deified, and shortly thereafter even living emperors started to be worshipped as gods. After his assassination, Julius Caesar was formally deified in the Roman Senate as the divine Julius. Octavian, later known as Augustus Caesar, was adopted as his son and heir, and during his long rule he was known by the title Divi filius, which is Son of God. While there was a subtle distinction between the word divus, which is technically god-like, and deus, or god, divus was nevertheless translated as god and the distinction was not understood in the provinces, nor was it maintained by the emperors.
The Crucifixion took place in the rule of Tiberius, who also had been designated by the title Divi filius, and it was maintained by later emperors. Even though living emperors were being worshipped as gods, they did not assume the title of god during their lifetimes, but did use the title “Son of God”, as the heirs of their fathers who were deified. So even Nero had rejected the title divus in reference to himself while he still lived, as Tacitus had described in the closing sentences of Book 15 of his Annals of Rome. But by the end of the first century the emperor Domitian was being addressed by the title Dominus et Deus, or “Lord and God”. Towards the end of his Histories, Tacitus ascribed to the emperor Vespasian miracles such as the healing of a man with a withered hand and the opening of the eyes of another man who was blind. These things were written of Vespasian as he was still in Alexandria in Egypt, at a time when he had only recently become emperor but had not yet entered Rome. I cannot help to think that those things were written to magnify the cult worship of the emperor as god in light of the reports circulating concerning the Christ.
However Christ during the time of His ministry had never explicitly called Himself God, but only the Son of God, which is not blasphemy in the Scripture. But the Roman emperors called themselves the Son of God in relation to their fathers, because in that respect the god they referred to in the title was their father, the former emperor. Like the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, the emperors had believed that once they died, they became gods. Again, in Book 15 of his Annals of Imperial Rome, writing of the events of the year 65 AD, Tacitus explained that there was a proposal by the Roman Senate “that a temple should be erected, as a matter of urgency, to the Divine Nero.” Then he recorded the response, regardless of any presumed intentions behind the proposition, and said: “But Nero himself vetoed this in case the malevolent twisted it into an omen of his death. For divine honors are paid to emperors only when they are no longer among men.” Nero was mad, but he was not quite so mad as Domitian would later prove to be, since he did not want to be called “God” while he still lived.
The emperors, calling themselves “Son of God”, believed that when they died they became gods and the designated heir, whom they would adopt as a son if he was not a natural son, would in turn use the same title. So the Jews condemned Christ for professing for Himself to be God according to what the Romans believed, but not according to Scripture, because He used the phrase Son of God to describe Himself. So while there was no offense to the God of Scripture, the use of the title would certainly have been a further offense to Caesar.
Therefore it is apparent that this accusation was made by the Judaeans for that very reason, so that in the eyes of Pilate they could magnify the gravity of their charges that Christ had claimed to be King of the Judaeans. Pilate, being a Roman and a pagan, having his religion dictated and regulated by the pagan Roman priesthood, the Senate and the emperor, he would not have interpreted this statement in the same way as the Judaeans who uttered it, and the Judaeans must have known that, taking advantage of the Roman belief in order to help condemn Christ. So John records Pilate’s reaction, after hearing that He “made Himself a son of God”:
8 Then when Pilatos heard this word, still more he feared, 9 and entered into the Praetorium again and says to Yahshua: “From where are You?” But Yahshua gave him no reply.
While there were no reports of any violence or acts against Rome which could justly be attributed to the followers of Christ, and therefore Pilate was not persuaded by the charges of sedition, Pilate must have known that Christ did indeed have a great number of disciples and followers, because the cohort of soldiers and the Roman tribune who commanded them must have been lent to the Judaeans by Pilate himself the night before, when they set out to have Christ arrested. Moreover, if Herod Antipas had heard many things in reference to Christ, and had even hoped to see a miracle from him, we cannot take it for granted that Pilate was ignorant of those same reports which Herod had heard. The Judaeans themselves, as it is recorded in John chapter 12, had admitted that the reports were widespread.
The explanation made by Matthew is not directly corroborated in the other gospels, that Pilate’s wife had warned him of a dream which she had about Christ. But here it certainly is corroborated, because nothing else could explain why Pilate should have had any fear at all in relation to Christ. But here, upon hearing this charge that Christ had claimed for Himself to be a “Son of God”, John writes of Pilate that “still more he feared, and entered into the Praetorium again and says to Yahshua: ‘From where are You?’” Pilate sought the truth of the matter, but he could not know the truth, so because it continued to elude him he once again expressed exasperation:
10 Therefore [א and A want “Therefore”] Pilatos says to Him: “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You and I have authority to crucify You?” [P66, W and the MT invert “release” and “crucify”; the text follows א, A and B.]
Here it is evident once again that Pilate must have had some reason to fear Christ, and the dream described by his own wife, the extant reports of miracles, the testimony which he heard from Christ Himself that, “My kingdom is not of this world”, along with all the other things he must have heard, provide the apparent reasons for his fear. Politically, it would have been both safe and easy for Pilate to have complied with the demands of the Judaeans. There was no obvious reason for him to resist their demands, but there was a political risk if he continued to refuse. On many occasions the Judaeans had sent embassies to Rome to complain whenever they were dissatisfied with the actions of the proconsuls or other rulers of their province. Pilate would indeed suffer that later, when he was relieved and sent to Rome in 36 AD, only a few years after this time. [Perhaps it was 37 AD since the calendar is not that certain.] But if Christ were unjustly executed, He would have no advocate to send an embassy to Rome on His behalf, and it is very unlikely, with the leaders of the Judaeans on his side, that there would have ever been any political repercussions for Pilate to fear. In fact, the subsequent history of Pilate in Judaea proves that he had suffered no repercussions for the act. So something greater must have caused him to seek a reason not to comply with their demands, even if he did ultimately give in to their demands.
Now Yahshua’s answer may have further compounded Pilate’s fears and the predicament which they had created for him:
11 [P66 inserts “And”] Yahshua replied to him [P66, A and the MT want “to him”; the text follows א, B and W]: “You do not have any [א and A have ‘you have not any’; the text follows P66, B, W and the MT] authority over Me if it was not given to you from above. For this reason he who delivered Me to you has greater fault.”
Instead of compounding Pilate’s fear, it seems that this actually should have relieved Pilate of any worries of supernatural reprisal for what he was being compelled to do against his own will. In any event, the lengths which Pilate had gone to in an attempt to avoid executing Christ proves his lack of culpability in the act, that he had no intentions or desires to carry out His execution, until he himself was threatened with political reprisal by the Judaeans.
Ostensibly, where Christ said “he who delivered Me to you has greater fault”, he refers not only to Judas Iscariot, but to the high priests and to every other Judaean who took part in the conspiracy against Him. So we read in Matthew chapter 27, where upon the demands of the people that Christ be executed, and Barabbas released, “22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. 23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. 24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” So every Judaean present accepted perpetual responsibility for the murder of the Christ, and those who have not been, and who will not be granted His mercy, will not escape His wrath. For that reason also did Paul call the true Israelites in Judaea “vessels of mercy”, and they ultimately lost their identity as Judaeans. But Paul called the Edomites in Judaea “vessels of destruction”, and they are the ancestors of the Jews of today, who certainly do have the liability for His blood on themselves and their children, and for that they will pay the ultimate penalty.
Pilate, rather than being put at ease by this statement, had instead continued to seek a way not to have to crucify Christ, which is further proof that the Jews alone were responsible for the crime. Pilate continued to seek a way to spare Christ, in spite of the fact that Christ would not assist in His Own defense, which also made a defense difficult, and impossible for Pilate:
12 From this point Pilatos sought to release Him. But the Judaeans cried out, saying [א has “But the Judaeans said”] “If you should release this man, you are no friend of Caesar! Anyone making Himself king speaks in opposition to Caesar!”
Of course, claiming for ones to be a king would be in opposition to Caesar, but Christ never claimed for Himself to be a king in a way that threatened Caesar.
Some of my commentary for this verse has been adapted from the text of my December, 2011 commentary on Mark chapter 15.
As it is recorded in Matthew, “24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.” For that, in consideration of Pilate, we read in the 26th Psalm: “5 I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked. 6 I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD.”
In the political climate of the time, the exclamation that “If you should release this man, you are no friend of Caesar” is actually a political threat. If Pilate had not relented, and especially if a riot had happened in the city, where typically tens of thousands of outsiders were also gathered for the feast, then he himself would have had to answer to Caesar against all of the resulting accusations of the Jews. That would have been a situation he could not have won, since the life of one man – a man who was not a Roman – was simply not esteemed in contrast to the peace imposed by Roman tyranny. As we had already said, just a few years after this Pilate handled an actual sedition in a manner which displeased the Judaeans, and he was relieved of his post and sent to Rome to account for his actions. In our last presentation of this commentary we cited the account of that which is found in Josephus, in Book 18 of his Antiquities.
Except for the ten Senatorial provinces of the empire, all of the other provinces were considered to be Imperial provinces. The governors of these provinces were appointed directly by the emperor, who at this time was Tiberius Caesar. The phrase “friend of Caesar” represented a political designation in Rome, and the emperors gave their friends such appointments as governorships of provinces, which were often very lucrative. As we also explained in our last presentation of this commentary, citing Josephus once more in Antiquities, Book 20, Pilate had already held this office in Judaea since 26 AD, or about 6 years up to the time of the event of the crucifixion of Christ. The Judaeans here are actually making a veiled threat, that if Pilate did not accede to their wishes, that they could begin to accuse him before the emperor of being a traitor.
Nearly 30 years later another procurator of Judaea, Felix, “desiring to bestow a favor upon the Judaeans” as it says at Acts 24:27, left Paul in bonds when he left office. He evidently did so because he was leaving Judaea for reason of the Judaeans of Caesareia, who had an accusation against him that he had to answer before Caesar Nero. According to Josephus, in Book 20 of his Antiquities, Felix only escaped punishment because of the influence that his brother, Pallas, had with the emperor. And this was in spite of the fact that he evidently sought to make amends with the Jews by leaving Paul in bonds. A close examination of their history certainly betrays the fact that the Jews as a people have been accustomed to creating political agitation, so that they may be favored as a special class.
In Strabo’s Geography, in Book 11 (11.13.2) there is a statement concerning the Medes of his own time where he said in reference to them that “they got back Symbacê from the Armenians when the later became subject to the Romans; and they themselves [the Medes] have attained to friendship with Caesar.” Later, in Book 13 of his Geography (13.2.3), speaking of Theophanes, a historian of the 1st century BC, Strabo said “Theophanes was also a statesman; and he became a friend to Pompey the Great, mostly through his very ability, and helped him to succeed in all his achievements; whence he not only adorned his native land, partly through Pompey and partly through himself, but also rendered himself the most illustrious of all the Greeks.” Pompey was assassinated during the Civil War with Caesar in 48 BC.
But continuing with Strabo: “He left a son, Marcus Pompey, whom Augustus Caesar once set up as procurator of Asia, and who is now counted among the friends of Tiberius.” Strabo was writing this while Tiberius was emperor, and therefore we see in these citations that the appellation “friend of Caesar” was a sort of official designation awarded to political friends and allies of the emperor. Likewise, Flavius Josephus also frequently mentioned the status which Herod had enjoyed as a “friend of Caesar”, and when Herod had angered Caesar, as it is recorded in Antiquities, Book 16 (16:290) how Caesar had “… wrote to Herod sharply. The sum of his letter was this, that whereas of old he had used him as his friend, he should now use him as his subject.”
Therefore it should be clear, that Pilate feared political reprisal from denying the Judaeans their desire to kill Christ, and that they certainly were threatening political reprisal by exclaiming that if he did not give in to their demands, that he was “no friend of Caesar”. But once Pilate was forced to conceded to their demands, he washed his hands proclaiming his own innocence, and the Judaeans gleefully accepted the guilt, as it is recorded in Matthew.
13 Therefore Pilatos hearing these words led Yahshua outside and sat upon a [W and the MT have “the”; the text follows P66, א, A and B] step in a place called [P66 wants “in a place called”]“Stonepaved”, but in Hebrew [P66 inserts “called”] “Gabbatha”.
The word translated as step, βῆμα or βᾶμα, refers to a bench or elevated seat from which judgment was pronounced. While it is a Greek word, there is a Hebrew word bamah, Strong’s # 1116, which means a high place. The Greek noun has a corresponding verb, βαίνω, which means to walk, step, or mount, but I would certainly make the correlation to the older Hebrew word as its root.
In the original Strong’s Concordance, the word gabbatha is said to be derived from a word relating to the Hebrew word gab (Strong’s 1354, 1355) which can refer to a vault, or an arch. However many related words listed after those definitions can mean elevated, high or lofty which are more similar. John’s statement that the place is “ in Hebrew Gabbatha” once again shows that his gospel account was originally written in Greek.
The word λιθόστρωτος is literally paved with stones, although it is often believed, and is certainly plausible, that the stones here must have formed some sort of mosaic. The overall description seems to portray a decorative plaza outside of the Praetorium where judgments were publicly pronounced.
14 Now it was the preparation day of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour.
The preparation day was the day before the Passover, which began in the evening. The disciples had already had their own Passover meal, and later in this chapter John again refers to this day as the day of “the Jews' preparation”, further indicating that perhaps the temple was using a different calendar. That would explain several anomalies in the chronology of events in the New Testament.
The Judaeans had brought Christ to Pilate at daybreak, which is the meaning of the word πρωΐα that appears in John 18:28. The markets opened at the third hour, which roughly corresponds with 9:00 AM. Now it is around 12:00 PM, or noon, being the sixth hour. According to charts provided at the website timeanddate.com, on April 2nd of this year sunrise in Jerusalem is at 6:26 AM according to the modern conventional clocks set for the appropriate time zone. So the events of this day have already consumed about 6 hours, and with that we may determine just how concisely the gospels were written.
And he says to the Judaeans: “Behold, your king!”
It once again seems that Pilate was taunting the Judaeans, rather than Christ. He will continue to do that as the day proceeds. Now they convict themselves once again where they respond:
15 Then they cried out [א and W have "But they said"; the text follows P66, A, B, and the MT, which all vary slightly] “Kill! Kill! Crucify Him!” Pilatos says to them: “Shall I crucify your king?” The high priests replied: “We have no king except Caesar!”
Professing to have no king but Caesar, who was a profane man who considered himself to be the “Son of God”, who used as an official title the label Divi filius, which is Son of God in Latin, and which was made in reference to another man, the Judaeans proved themselves to be idolaters and, once again, hypocrites. But as the Wisdom of Solomon also attributed words to them which said, “let our strength be the law of justice,” it is clear that they loved the righteousness of men rather than the righteousness which is of God. For them, truth is only what is politically expedient, rather than what is relative to the Word of God.
They continue with that attitude to this very day, often even considering themselves to be gods. In like manner they also continue to manufacture for themselves their own “truth”. So to them, the Christ for whom they exhibit vile hatred, they also lay claim to as one of their own, while at the same time they blame Christians for a holocaust that never happened. But the day is coming, when Jesus shall indeed give them a holocaust.