Did Jesus suffer under Pontius Pilate? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
First off in starting this, I can’t help but think of the words of N.T. Wright on the Nicene Creed where we will read about Jesus being born of the virgin Mary and then crucified under Pontius Pilate. Wright says that he can see Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John sitting in the background saying “You know, we spent a lot of time writing that stuff in the middle and think it’s pretty important.” The creed doesn’t cover the deeds of Jesus in his life there, so I won’t be talking about them here, but I definitely urge you to study the life of Jesus as well.
Bruno Bauer was one of the first people to suggest that Jesus never even existed. Now that led to some problems. If Jesus never existed, what about all these other people that are talked about in the Gospels? Bauer said most of them never existed either. He included Pontius Pilate. Josephus talks about him some as does Philo, but he’s not talked about much elsewhere. In fact, Tacitus only mentions him one time and here’s the interesting thing about it. The only place Tacitus talks about him is also the only place Tacitus talks about Jesus.
Unfortunately for Bauer, we now have archaeological evidence for Pilate. There has been an inscription found that dates to the time of Tiberius and describes Pilate as the prefect of Judea. It would be amusing to see what someone like Bauer would do with this today. Fortunately, the idea of Christ never existing didn’t really have any severe consequences. It’s not like Karl Marx saw it and took hold of it and it became part of the ideology to some extent of the Soviet Union. Oh wait….
Now some wonder about the idea of suffering. Why would Pilate even care? Pilate was not a great lover of the Jews. Why would he even capitulate to the chief priests who were insisting that he be the one to crucify Jesus Christ?
Well back then, it wasn’t like Pilate had poll numbers. He wasn’t going around Judea saying “Vote for me as Prefect!” He had also already had trouble with the Jews, involving an attack on them when they complained about him using temple funds to build an aqueduct as well as his sneaking in insignias of the emperor one night that the Jews saw as a violation of the second commandment against idolatry.
Add in this other thing as well. Pilate had a close relationship with Sejanus and it could be that the crucifixion took place after Sejanus had got in trouble with the emperor for charges of planning a revolt. Pilate could have seen his career in Jeopardy. A line like “You are no friend of Caesar” would have hit home.
With this in mind, it is entirely plausible to think that Jesus did indeed suffer under Pontius Pilate. How exactly was it that He did suffer? That will be the subject of our next blog post on the Apostles’ Creed.