Creed: From the Religious Hypocrites to Pilate's Court
- Monday, August 29, 2005
Editor's Note: "Creed" is an ongoing article series that discusses the core beliefs of Christianity as expressed in the Apostle's and Nicene creeds. Links to other installments are listed at the end of this article.
When I was a little girl I read everything I could get my hands on. When all the books and magazines had been exhausted, I would read cereal boxes. (I wasn’t as bad as my best friend about this, though. She read dictionaries and encyclopedias.) My mother had a nice collection of books, mostly religious. One book in particular helped me understand that while the Bible tells us what we need to know, it doesn’t necessarily provide all the details.
For example, when we read that Jesus was scourged and crucified, it sounds like bam-boom-done! But as a child I had no idea what the punishment of Roman scourging was about. I couldn’t begin to imagine the agonies and tortures of Roman crucifixion.
Until I read “The Day Christ Died,” by Jim Bishop (1957, Harper & Brothers, New York), I was like so many Christians who recite the creeds and say, “…suffered under Pontius Pilate.”
Who Was Pilate Anyway?
Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor who presided over Judea during the time of Jesus. Though his headquarters was in Caesarea, he was required to be in Jerusalem for various occasions, such as The Passover, if for no other reason than to ensure that the law was being abided by. When he was there, he stayed in the home of Herod the Great (the one who had attempted to kill Jesus just after his birth in Bethlehem and who, himself, died in 4BC.)
Pilate was not a big fan of the Jews. In fact, he was known for slaughtering them in any given whim. In the NIV study notes for Luke 13:1—which reads: Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices—the commentators say, “The incident is otherwise unknown, but having people killed while offering sacrifices in the temple fits the reputation of Pilate.”
Four Writers, One Story
All four of the gospel writers tell the story of Jesus before Pilate. After the chief priests and elders had questioned him enough before the high priest, Caiaphas, and had beaten him up, they bound him and hauled him over to where Pilate was staying.
According to the gospels, it was now very early on Friday morning during the time of the celebration of Passover. Because Pilate’s residence was Gentile, those who brought Jesus to the governor were unable to even enter his palace. Pilate, understanding the custom, came to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
The chief priests and elders were a wise bunch, surely, but their answer was no answer at all. They said, “If he were not a criminal we would not have handed him over to you.”
Now, you tell me; is that an answer to the question?
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