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Fact or fiction: Pontius Pilate as Jesus’ defense attorney

February 12, 2015

This post that I published early last year is worth revisiting. Is there any third party evidence for the “Jews persecuted Christians” blood libel, that is something outside of the information we have in the New Testament and post-first century Christian works (where Jews are sometimes described as crucifying Christian saints)? In the NT we have Pharisees alternate between being best of friends and protectors of “Christians” and their worst enemies, while Romans are portrayed as either just bystanders (or rescuers, in Paul’s case) or, unlike the brutal Pilate of actual history, helpless protectors of Jewish messianic leaders against relentless Jewish viciousness. This post is about the fictional portrayal in the New Testament of Roman governor of Judea Pilate trying save Jesus from the hands of the Jewish mob.

Daily Minyan

Pontius PilateThe New Testament presents the Jewish leaders and the Jewish people as a bloodthirsty mob out to get Jesus, mercilessly calling for his blood, without any regard for justice. This is the lens through which Christendom would come to view the whole of Jewish people for the next two thousand years. At the same time, the ruthless murderer Roman procurator of Judea Pontius Pilate, a man who would often slaughter people indiscriminately and without trial, a foreign ruler who crucified hundreds if not thousands of Jews and Samaritans under his charge, is portrayed as going out of his way to spare Jesus’ life. He is even shown as almost pleading and trying to reason with Jews in Jesus’ defense, acting not as a vicious executioner who hated Jews with every fiber of his being, but as a defense attorney for a Jewish messianic candidate. (Note: it was the Roman policy to execute all…

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