What Frightened Pilate? -- By: Parke P. Flournoy

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 082:327 (Jul 1925)
Article: What Frightened Pilate?
Author: Parke P. Flournoy


What Frightened Pilate?

Parke P. Flournoy

With all the power of the Roman empire behind him and an apparently helpless prisoner before him, why should he have been frightened at all? Any scholar, with the Greek New Testament before him, can find out by looking at, and closely studying, the full bearing of a little phrase of two words—a preposition and an adjective.

In the 1st verse of the 19th chapter of the Gospel according to John, we are told that Pilate, after making every endeavor to rid himself of the responsibility of trying Christ, “scourged Him” (hoping, it seems, that this might serve to pacify the high-priest, the members of the Sanhedrin and the howling mob behind them), went forth again, and said unto them, “Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him.”

“Then came Jesus forth wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, ‘Behold the man.’”

“When the chief priests, therefore, and officers saw Him, they cried out, ‘Crucify Him, Crucify Him.’ Pilate saith unto them, ‘Take ye Him and crucify Him,’ for I find no fault in Him.”

“The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law He ought to die; for He hath made Himself the Son of God.”

“When Pilate, therefore, heard that word he was the more afraid [this implies that he was already afraid, before this]: and went again into the judgment hall and saith unto Jesus, ‘Whence art Thou?’ But Jesus made him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto Him, ‘Speakest Thou not unto me? Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?’ “

“Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given Thee from above. There-

fore (διὰ τοῦτο) he that delivered me unto Thee hath the greater sin.”

Pilate had “feared the more” when told by Christ’s accusers, when he asked them what was His crime, that it was that “He made Himself the Son of God.” He knew that the Jews, instead of worshipping many gods, like his own nation and others, worshipped the one true God, the maker of heaven and earth; and there, from Herod’s palace which he occupied at the recurrence of the feasts of the Jews, was their magnificent temple near at hand. Herod’s temple was the central shrine of the Israelites of Palestine, of the Dispersion, and of the gentile proselytes from the synagogues all over the empire. The thought must have come to him, as belief in heathen divinities was declining among...

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