Christian History Project. This site contains the text of 12 volumes on the history of mankind over the last 2,000 years written from a 'collectively-denominational' Christian perspective.

13. About Jesus / Pontius Pilate |
Madman or God?

This is a continuation of the twelfth segment (Gethsemane) of Chapter One on Jesus of Nazareth entitled Madman or God?. It is from Volume One, The Veil is Torn, of the twelve-volume historical series: The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years. This section of the chapter shows the extent of political maneuvering by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to avoid condemning Jesus to death.

Only the insinuation of imperial treachery was able to move the Roman Pilate to convict Jesus

Such a sentence required Roman approval because the Romans would have to carry it out. This meant taking the case to Pilate who, seeing the Jewish authorities wanted the man dead, instantly decided to try keeping him alive. He stalled, sending the case to Herod Antipas because the man was a Galilean, not a Judean, and therefore the matter was not within his jurisdiction. But Herod bounced it back after discovering the man had been born at Bethlehem in Judea after all, and was therefore Pilate’s problem.

Now Pilate, whatever else might be said about him, was a Roman. And the Romans, for all their brutality, had a powerful sense of justice. There seemed to be a miscarriage of it here. Furthermore, Jesus, standing calm, silent, utterly controlled, impressed him. Here was a Jew behaving like a Roman. Then, too, there was that curious story of Pilate’s wife dreaming about the man and sending a note warning her husband to have nothing to do with the case.

So Pilate’s next move was to offer Jesus as “Passover Prisoner”—it was a tradition that one condemned man be liberated every year on the national holiday. But this move had been foreseen, and the crowd was coached into demanding someone else. “Ecce homo!” cried Pilate to the crowd—“Behold the man!” But, stirred up by the high priests and elders, they cried for his blood: “Let him be crucified!”

And in the end, Pilate caved in. Caiaphas apparently knew him well. Pilate had already been on the carpet at Rome for his treatment of the Jews. Jesus was talking of establishing a “kingdom.” That would have to be deemed sedition. If Pilate let him go, said Caiaphas, he would demonstrate himself “not Caesar’s friend.” That ploy was all it took. Pilate symbolically washed his hands to absolve himself of what he considered an unjust verdict, then ordered the crucifixion to proceed. That meant first the lash, and then the cross.

To continue reading from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years, Volume One — The Veil is Torn, Chapter One on Jesus of Nazareth entitled Madman or God? and would like to proceed to the next section on Curtain Torn.