In my previous post I discussed some of the important differences between our four Gospels in their accounts of  Jesus’ trial before Pilate.  Just read them, carefully, compare them in detail with one another, and see for yourself!  I continue with that discussion here, and then look to see what we can say are (certainly? probably?) “distorted memories” of the event in our accounts.  This again is taken from my book Jesus Before the Gospels  (HarperOne, 2016).


Another difference in John’s account is that Jesus and Pilate have several extended conversations.  Jesus is not silent before the accusations, as in the other accounts.  Instead, he uses the charges brought against him to speak to Pilate about himself, his identity, his kingdom, and the truth.   As in Luke, Pilate tries to release Jesus three times, but “the Jews” will not hear of it: they insist that Jesus be executed.   Pilate finally brings Jesus outside and shows him to the Jews and tells them to “Behold your King.”  The Jews urge him to crucify Jesus.  Pilate asks whether they really want him to crucify their king, and the Jewish chief priests reply, “We have no king but Caesar.”  Pilate then “handed him over to them to be crucified” (19:16)

This is a stunning sentence.  When it says “to them,” whom does it mean?  The closest (grammatical) antecedent is “the chief priests.”   In this account, Pilate not only gives Jesus over to the will of the Jewish leaders and the people they represent as in Luke 23:25.  He gives him over “to them” to be crucified.  The Jewish authorities are literally responsible for Jesus’ death.

As we have seen, one indicator that an account may preserve a distorted memory is when it differs from another version of the same event in ways that cannot readily be reconciled.  We should recall

Unlock 4,000+ Articles Like This!

Get access to Dr. Ehrman's library of 4,000+ articles plus five new articles per week about the New Testament and early Christianity. It costs as little as $2.99/mth and every cent goes to charity!

Learn More!