Jesus' Scourging


#1

I’m gonna talk about a very minor topic here (as I always do). But first, an intro.

Vivid descriptions of the physical passion of Jesus is one popular trend / cliche among modern Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant. (All the more so around this time of year!) I think most of us at some point in our lives have heard a sermon or read a book, an article or a webpage or heard a radio show narrating in graphic detail how Jesus was supposedly scourged and crucified, how He was nailed, and speculating just what Jesus’ cause of death was (usually attributed to either asphyxiation or hypovolemic shock). For example, stuff like that 1986 paper On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ written by two physicians from the Mayo Clinic and a United Methodist pastor, and books like Pierre Barbet’s A Doctor at Calvary and Frederick Zugibe’s The Crucifixion of Jesus. This is not something limited to these ‘for the general Christian public’ works; scholarly papers and articles often themselves indulge in sometimes vivid descriptions of how crucifixions were carried out.

Now here’s a word of advice about these descriptions. Most of these articles or books are written in a matter-of-fact way: the ‘standard procedures’ of crucifixion in the ancient world they describe are established as fact. But in reality, much of what we supposedly ‘know’ about crucifixion is actually 90-95% conjecture. These modern descriptions of crucifixion - particularly the medical ones - are actually a mish-mash of various ancient texts describing people who were hung on a crux or a stauros (texts which while having some common elements between them, also have differences that cannot be harmonized smoothly), the Shroud of Turin (while many people - including me - believe that it is likely Jesus’ burial cloth, the issue is still far from settled; because of its ambiguous status the Shroud is not really the best artifact to build a foundation on if you’re doing historical work), and pure conjecture (just what was the ‘regular’ height of a cross? How were crosses erected? etc.)

There are really only a few elements the ancient texts agree on. There is disagreement on most other details, from which we can infer that there was probably no ‘standard procedure’ for crucifixion other than that the victim should be hung in some way on a ‘cross’ (crux / stauros). (In fact, a recent scholar named Gunnar Samuelsson had argued based on this lack of agreement that there was probably no single method of execution called ‘crucifixion’ in ancient times, but rather a family of related ‘suspensionary punishments’ - i.e. execution methods that involved the hanging or suspension of the victim - that while sharing common terms like crux or stauros are not identical with each other. In other words, no two hangings or ‘crucifixions’ were the same; each were unique ‘suspensionary punishments’ in their own right.)

Guess what one of the few elements that appear across various ancients texts describing crucifixion (either explicitly mentioned or implied) was. It is that the person to be executed was beaten or whipped before he was crucified.


#2

Lots of various examples abound.

For me, i see different examples of nailing in the hands v nailing in the wrists. Some were nailed through the feet while others through the ankles!

Shroud of Turin, the body is nailed through the wrists?

Why did Padre Pio have the stigmata through the hands? Was Jesus really nailed through the hands?


#3

Here are just some examples of sources describing or implying a pre-crucifixion scourging (other than the gospels).

And at once, those collected from the homes and those brought in from the country, as many as the informers declared to be a part of the conspiracy, after being scourged and maltreated by torture, were all suspended / hung (aneskolopisthēsan).

  • Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 5.51.3, supposedly describing the crushing of a slave uprising under the consulship of Postumus Cominius and Titus Larcius (ca. 500/499 BC)

When the plot was revealed, the ringleaders were arrested and after being scourged were led away to be crucified (epi tou stauros apechthēsan); as for the men who had laid information against them, two in number, each received his freedom and a thousand denarii from the public treasury.

  • Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 12.6.6, supposedly describing another slave revolt in 419/8 BC

Some who were familiar with the country told him that if [Hannibal] marched into the neighbourhood of Casinum and occupied the pass, he would prevent the Romans from rendering assistance to their allies. He accordingly ordered a guide to conduct him there. But the difficulty which the Carthaginians found in pronouncing Latin names led to the guide understanding Casilinum instead of Casinum. Quitting his intended route, he came down through the districts of Allifae, Callifae, and Cales on to the plains of Stella. When he looked round and saw the country shut in by mountains and rivers he called the guide and asked him where on earth he was. When he was told that he would that day have his quarters at Casilinum, he saw the mistake and knew that Casinum was far away in quite another country. The guide was scourged and crucified (in crucem sublato) in order to strike terror into the others. After entrenching his camp he sent Maharbal with his cavalry to harry the Falernian land.

  • Livy, History of Rome, 22.13.9; Hannibal crucifying a guide during the Second Punic War (218-201 BC)

On his return to Gades, Mago [Hannibal’s brother] found the gates closed against him, so he anchored off Cimbii, a place not far from Gades, and sent envoys to lodge a complaint against the gates being closed to him, an ally and a friend. They excused themselves by saying that it was done by a gathering of the townsmen who were incensed at some acts of pillage committed by the soldiers during the embarkation. He invited their sufetes - the title of their supreme magistrate - together with the city treasurer to a conference, and when they were come he ordered them to be scourged and crucified (cruci adfigi).

  • Livy, 28.37.2

Can anyone be found who would prefer to be driven to that infelix lignum (‘unfortunate wood’), already disabled, already distorted, the breast and shoulder deformed into an ugly hump, he would have many reasons to die even beside the crux, than to draw the breath of life among such numbers of outdrawn torments.

  • Seneca the Younger, Epistle 101.10-14

The relations and friends of those who were the real victims, merely because they sympathized with the misery of their relations, were led away to prison, were scourged, were tortured, and after all the ill treatment which their living bodies could endure, found the cross the end of all, and the punishment from which they could not escape.

  • Philo, Against Flaccus 72

It was a flight out of narrow lanes and a slaughter of those who were caught; no method of seizure was left out, and many of the moderate people were seized and led up before Florus. He maltreated them with whips and crucified them (άνεσταύρωσεv). The total number of those killed that day, with wives and children - for they did not even spare the infants - was about three thousand and six hundred together. The new cruelty of the Romans made the offense heavier; Florus dared to do at that time that which no one (had dared) before, to scourge before the tribunal and nail to a cross (staurō prosēlōsai) men of equestrian rank, who, though Jews by birth, anyway were of Roman dignity.

  • Josephus, Jewish War 2.306-08, describing the actions of Roman procurator Florus (AD 64-66)

Whoever will want to exact punishment on a male slave at private expense, as he [the owner] who wants the [punishment] to be inflicted, he [the contractor] exacts the punishment in this manner: if he wants [him] to bring the patibulum to the cross, the contractor will have to provide wooden posts, chains, and cords for the floggers and the floggers themselves. And anyone who will want to exact punishment will have to give four sesterces for each of the workers who bring the patibulum and for the floggers and also for the executioner.

  • Lex Puteolana (De publico libitinae); regulations for private crucifixions of slaves

#4

Actually this is where the ancient sources are silent. What we have are:

(1) Ancient sources describing people being nailed to the cross. These texts however doesn’t really say where these people were nailed through: Arms? Legs? Hands?

(2) John 20:25 and 27’s implication that Jesus was nailed in His ‘hands’, again not a very specific reference since the Hebrew and Greek words for ‘hand’, yad and cheir, could encompass everything up to the forearm. (The passion narratives proper only say Jesus was ‘crucified’, but doesn’t mention the nails. Also note that there’s no mention in the gospels of Jesus’ feet being nailed; that idea comes from a literal interpretation of Psalm 22’s “They pierced my hands and my feet.”)

(3) The ankle bone of a man named Jehohanan (found in a tomb in a near Jerusalem) with an iron nail and remains of a wooden plaque or board used as a kind of washer sticking out of it, suggesting that he was likely crucified. (Interestingly, Jehohanan’s arms do not show any real damage, suggesting that his hands/arms were probably not nailed. In other words, somewhat the opposite of Jesus’ case.)

(4) Early artworks (possibly) depicting people crucified. One of the earliest is a fresco from a tomb in Rome dating from the mid-3rd century BC showing a naked man who is likely crucified. It seems that the man is portrayed as being pinned to this horizontal beam by a nail through his hand or forearm (the feet doesn’t seem to be nailed, however). This is really the only depiction that probably shows a nail; the others (including the two depictions of the crucified Jesus that likely predate the 4th century) are really crude drawings or engravings.

http://www.klosterkirche.de/zeiten/hl-woche/img/alexamenos.jpg
A graffiti mocking a Christian named Alexamenos from ca. the 3rd century, our earliest depiction of the crucified Jesus (here shown with the head of a donkey). One might interpret the line below the feet as a sort of footrest or pedestal. The drawing is so crude that it doesn’t really give us any indication of whether the artist intended for the figure to be nailed.


A carved gemstone from ca. 2nd/3rd century depicting the crucified Jesus, most likely used as a talisman. Note how the legs are not nailed but dangling (instead Jesus here is portrayed as likely ‘sitting’ on the peg-like projection that juts out near the middle of the vertical post just below the crotch); in fact, the arms here seem to be just tied.


#5

There was a reason why scourging was the one consistent element of a crucifixion.

The flogging wasn’t simply done to physically weaken the victim (that was a side effect than the main purpose), it was also done to symbolically emasculate and shame him - to ‘depersonalize’ him, to make him ‘unhuman’. From the ancient perspective, ‘real’ human beings - i.e. free Roman citizens - are not scourged (with whips) or crucified; only slaves or non-citizens - basically, ‘subhumans’ - are.

Nowadays Western Christians tend to focus more on the physical side of crucifixion, but that’s not really what made it terrifying for people back then. Many ancient cultures - Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures included - were honor-shame societies (many modern Western societies by contrast are what we call ‘guilt societies’; even today, some cultures like East Asian countries like China, Korea and Japan still lay stress on honor and shame - ‘losing face’, as the Chinese would say).

Here are a couple of nice pages that explain how honor-shame cultures work for you folks who don’t live in this form of society. :smiley:

doceo.co.uk/background/shame_guilt.htm
andynaselli.com/honor-and-shame

(Shameless plug here, but I also started a thread along these same lines just last year: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=875145)

It was not simply the physical torture of crucifixion, then, that made this death so despised. Rather, the public humiliation that went along with it made it all the more loathsome. Crucifixion played upon widely held ideals of masculinity. In the ancient context of Mark’s Gospel, it was thought appropriate and necessary or adult males to demonstrate prowess. Demonstrations of prowess could take any number of forms, such as the conferral of benefits; teaching, rhetoric, the writing of poetry; military victory; or avenging some type of insult or injury. Overly reserved men gave the appearance of being effeminate. ... **T]o be rendered unable to demonstrate prowess, to be made powerless, was shameful for a man. To be beaten, to be unable to repulse an attacker, was degrading because it was the inverse of the masculine ideal. ...] Crucifixion, a very public act of brutal physical abuse, represented the loss of prowess and power in the extreme.**

Status had a direct bearing on the likelihood that one might die by crucifixion. It was a punishment for the lower classes, a fact that increased its power to degrade. ...] Among the upper classes ...] the cross was an obscenity, best not to be spoken of in polite company. For the lower classes, it was a very real threat and a shocking manifestation of the violence that could be inflicted when the more powerful members of society felt threatened by their social subordinates.

Joel Marcus discusses crucifixion as a death that was generally reserved for people who had “gotten above themselves.” Slaves who revolted against their masters or people who engaged in rebellion against the government would be good candidates for this punishment. Irony, Marcus argues, was the very intention of such a death: “this strangely ‘exalting’ mode of execution was designed to mimic, parody, and puncture the pretensions of insubordinate transgressors by displaying a deliberately horrible mirror of their self-elevation.” The “elevation” of crucifixion, the “enthronement” upon the cross, was a way of mocking those who had acted above their proper social station.

The deterrent force of the cross also relied upon the group-oriented personality of the ancient world. People were embedded in groups, which consisted not just of families, but friends, patron-client relationships, and other types of voluntary associations such as collegia, religious groups, or philosophical groups. ...] Certain people were more important for a group’s collective honor than others. For example, the father was the most visible representative of a family’s honor. ...] Crucifying the head of a group, then, would bring considerable shame on all the members of the group. The cross did not simply punish one person, but shamed all people associated with that person. It could serve as a group punishment inflicted upon a visible member of that group.
  • David F. Watson’s Honor Among Christians: The Cultural Key to the Messianic Secret (pp.69-71)

Crucifixion was this drawn-out process of physically weakening and socially shaming the victim. A scourging was the prelude to it, if you will.


#6

When a portion of the Dead Sea scrolls came to the Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta about 10 years ago, there was an ankle bone that had a large nail preserved through it.
They presented it as “the only physical proof that exists proving crucifixion as a method of capital punishment” from that era.

Just thought I’d mention it. It was an interesting exhibit. The fragment of the Scroll was a portion that dealt with the measurements of the Temple. Amazing calligraphy, lots of talk of cubits.
There was also the Ossuary of Caiaphas, the High Priest and one from an unknown poor person for contrast. The former being ornately carved terra cotta, the other absolutely devoid of ornamentation.
There was a pile of Widow’s Mites, and the cornerstone tile/block from the Temple with Pontius Pilate’s name engraved on it. They noted that it was the only “in print” reference to Pilate in existence.
I took my 8th grade Catholic School class to view the exhibit with the principal at the time.


#7

I don’t remember where I heard or read it, but the fact that stigmatist St. Pio had the marks on his hands doesn’t mean that his suffering was not from the Lord and authentic. Also it wasn’t because of the stigmata that he was canonized a saint, but for heroic virtue.


#8

There is more than Psalm 122 concerning nails through the feet.

When our LORD had been raised, He said to His companions, “See my hands and my feet… a spirit hath not flesh and bones…”

Why mention the feet unless they, like His hands, bore the marks of the Passion?

ICXC NIKA.


#9

I believe one explanation posited was that nails used for crucifixion may have been at an angle, entering through the palm and exiting through the back of the wrist. This would put it going through the thickest part of the hand, and exiting through the wrist, which was stronger than the hand, giving better support for the body. Also, due to the angle, it would have been significantly more difficult for the person being executed to try to pull the nail out of the wood (not that they’d be able to anyways), as well as ensuring (or making it more likely) that the primary artery through the wrist was missed, which would prolong the individual’s suffering. Since crucifixion was used to dissuade people from committing crimes against Rome, they were intentionally painful and prolonged.


#10

Thank you for that information.


#11

I heard that, too. It would go along with the Shroud of Turin, too, where the nail wound is on the wrist.


#12

One another possible interpretation was: because people back then believed that the feet of ghosts do not touch the ground. A mid-2nd century work known as the Didascalia Apostolorum interprets Jesus’ command in the light of this belief that ghosts levitate: “That you may know that it is I, put your finger, Peter, in the nailprints of my hands, and you, Thomas, put your finger in the spear-wounds of my side; but you, Andrew, look at my feet and see if they do not touch the ground. For it is written in the prophet: ‘The foot of a ghost or a demon does not join to the ground’.”

Besides, Luke doesn’t mention explicitly in his gospel whether Jesus was nailed. In other words, it’s not like John where Jesus’ showing His hands and side is related to Him showing His crucifixion scars. For all we know, Luke’s Jesus was simply inviting them to touch His exposed body parts to see that He isn’t a ghost, regardless of whether there were stigmata there or not. (I think the thing here is that we’re harmonizing, reading John into Luke. Yes, it’s a common method among us Christians, but at the same time we should also try to read the gospels on their own independently - in other words read John as John and Luke as Luke.)

Come to think of it, early Christians themselves never seemed to agree on this detail. We can already find the idea that the feet were nailed from Justin Martyr; this idea won because it’s a nicer fit with Psalm 22. But then again you have things like the Gospel of Peter where only the nails through the ‘hands’ are mentioned (‘And they drove the nails out of the Lord’s hands and laid him on the earth…’)


#13

And does it really matter? He was scourged and crucified; an excruciating way to die regardless of exactly where the nails were placed.


#14

Yep, that was Jehohanan’s heel.

biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/roman-crucifixion-methods-reveal-the-history-of-crucifixion/

biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/roman-crucifixion-methods-reveal-the-history-of-crucifixion/

Just thought I’d mention it. It was an interesting exhibit. The fragment of the Scroll was a portion that dealt with the measurements of the Temple. Amazing calligraphy, lots of talk of cubits.

The Temple Scroll?

There was also the Ossuary of Caiaphas, the High Priest and one from an unknown poor person for contrast. The former being ornately carved terra cotta, the other absolutely devoid of ornamentation.

There was a pile of Widow’s Mites, and the cornerstone tile/block from the Temple with Pontius Pilate’s name engraved on it. They noted that it was the only “in print” reference to Pilate in existence.

Yeah. It was actually from an amphitheater from Caesarea that Pilate had dedicated to the emperor Tiberius.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilate_Stone


#15

Yup! That’s the one!


#16

I’ll get right down to business: Jesus’ scourging in the gospels.

While most people disagree which gospel came first, almost nobody disputes that Matthew and Mark are likely the earlier of the four gospels to be written. In Matthew’s and Mark’s narrative, Jesus’ scourging is tersely mentioned in a context which we might find consistent with the other ancient sources: a prelude to crucifixion.

http://biblestudy.home.insightbb.com/Flogging.JPG

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the praetorium); and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck his head with a reed, and spat upon him, and they knelt down in homage to him.
And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. (Mark 15:15-20)

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat upon him, and took the reed and struck him on the head.
And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe, and put his own clothes on him, and led him away to crucify him. (Matt. 27:24-31)


#17

Luke meanwhile, while still having the same basic account as Mark or Matthew, has a rather different story.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him; neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him; I will therefore chastise him and release him.”
But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas” — a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder.
Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; but they shouted out, “Crucify, crucify him!”
A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving death; I will therefore chastise him and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed.
So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

You might note two things here: there is no explicit mention in Luke of Jesus being scourged. Instead, Pilate repeatedly offers for Jesus to be ‘chastised’ or ‘punished’ (paideusas; it might be a sort of probationary beating - in this case, not a part of crucifixion - but the verb is actually ambiguous) and then released; an offer at all instances rebuffed by the crowd (specified in verse 13 as “the chief priests and the rulers and the people”). (There is a slight ‘continuity error’ here: the passion prediction in Luke 18:31-33 does contain a prediction of Jesus being scourged, but when we get to the passion itself, Luke doesn’t mention the scourging.)

One possible reason why Luke omitted the scourging was because he wanted to show the trial before Pilate as never really being a properly-conducted criminal trial. Luke’s solution to the dilemma of Jesus dying as a condemned criminal is to deemphasize the death of Jesus as a government-sanctioned execution, but rather cast it as an unrighteous murder of God’s righteous servant. The careful omission of that single element - the scourging - actually casts doubt on the validity of the whole proceedings. Luke has made the trial before Pilate ‘irregular’ and questionable by omitting any mention of the preliminary flogging before the crucifixion.

Secondly, Luke, who was probably writing for an audience of gentile (Roman?) upper-class nobles - has a stronger pro-Roman tendency (just look at his portrayals of Roman soldiers and officials; many of them are positive - or at least, non-negative), so Pilate in Luke repeatedly tries to appeal to the crowd to simply have Jesus ‘punished’ but not executed. A side effect of this is that the anti-Jewish element is heightened.

Matthew and Mark make it clear that while the crowd did ask for Jesus’ death, Pilate is still the one who sentences Jesus to death and that the crucifixion itself was performed by his troops: “and having scourged Jesus, he handed him over (as we learn from the following verses, to Pilate’s soldiers) to be crucified.” In Luke, however, no mention is made of Pilate passing any sort of sentence or verdict; instead, the narrator only says obscurely: “And their voices prevailed … Jesus he delivered up to their will.”

Luke’s statement is open to the interpretation that the “they” to whom he handed Jesus over to is “the chief priests and the rulers and the people” mentioned earlier (to whom the earlier “theys” refer to): in other words, in this reading the Jewish crowd is presented by Luke as the ones who actually crucify Jesus. Luke’s omission of the mocking by Pilate’s soldiers doesn’t really help: he does retell a mocking of Jesus, but this happens at the court of the (half-) Jewish tetrarch Herod Antipas and perpetrated by his soldiers.


#18

(Continued)

This might also explain why Luke omitted the sentence and the pre-crucifixion scourging, thereby making the whole trial before Pilate questionable: no, Jesus’ execution was not properly conducted, legally speaking. In fact, it’s questionable whether the crucifixion in Luke was even an execution; in this reading, Luke makes it appear more like a mob lynching: Luke’s Pilate bows down to Jewish pressure and gives Jesus to the temple authorities and the crowd, who crucify Him themselves.* (Note also Stephen’s death in Acts, which is also described like a sort of lynching by the people who had enough of Stephen’s words, performed under no official sentence: “But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him.”) This would fit in with his portrayal of Jesus’ death as an unjust rejection and murder of an innocent person by His own people - Jesus is cast in the same light as the prophets, who were rejected by their fellow Israelites.

But at the same time, while Luke seems to use omission and ambiguous innuendo to vilify the Jewish crowd and lessen Roman culpability to an extent, he doesn’t quite succeed in covering up his tracks completely: he still includes the sign - offensive to Jewish sensibilities - posted on Jesus’ cross (“This is the King of the Jews”), and still mentions “soldiers” who mock Jesus at Calvary. (But then again, one could also read these soldiers as referring not to Pilate’s soldiers, but to the temple guards or to Antipas’ soldiers, who had already mocked Jesus earlier in the narrative.) Also the passion prediction in Luke 18 pointedly says that “the Son of man … will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they (the ‘Gentiles’ mentioned earlier?) will scourge him and kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” And of course, Luke still mentions the centurion. In fact, Luke’s centurion does what Luke’s Pilate didn’t: give the Roman verdict regarding Jesus. “Certainly this man was innocent/righteous.” Again, it all goes back to the Lukan stress on Jesus’ innocence and the crucifixion as an unjust murder of a righteous man.

  • I would just note here that the early Christians generally interpreted Jesus’ words at the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” as referring not to Roman soldiers (which is the more common interpretation nowadays), but to the Jews. In fact, some Christians found this saying troubling because of this - remember that this was a time when Jewish-Christians relations were at a low point and both sides kept vilifying each other - and went to measures like rewording or even deleting the passage in question from copies of Luke’s gospel or to reinterpret the prayer in such a way so as to soften its impact. (For the interested, Nathan Eubank’s A Disconcerting Prayer: On the Originality of Luke 23:34a goes into more detailed information about the passage, arguments for its authenticity, and early Christian dealt with this prayer of Jesus.)

#19

I guess we will never know the full details of how Jesus was scourged or crucified. These details are just not written!


#20

Now for John’s gospel:

After [Pilate] had said this, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, “I find no crime in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover; will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe; they came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.
Pilate went out again, and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

John’s version of the events has more in common with and is easier to conflate with Luke than Matthew and Mark. (Both Luke’s and John’s Pilate state a belief in Jesus’ innocence and tries to appeal to the crowd three times. And both gospels seem to subtly leave open the interpretation that the Jewish crowd crucified Jesus, though they (could) never really hide the fact that the crucifixion was performed by Roman soldiers.) But whereas in Luke Pilate only threatens to have Jesus ‘punished’ (but apparently not carrying it out when Jesus is sent off to be crucified), in John Pilate does have Jesus scourged in the middle of the trial. In this case, rather than as a prelude to crucifixion (as in Matthew and Mark), John’s scourging is more a sort of legal device to extract evidence or to obtain a confession (cf. the scourging that was almost about to be inflicted on St. Paul in Acts 22:24). John’s Pilate tries to demonstrate to ‘the Jews’ that despite having Jesus whipped he never got any admission of guilt, and hence Jesus’ flogged body is a sign of His guiltlessness.

Upon this Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend; every one who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar.”
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

As in Luke, no mention of a pre-crucifixion scourging is made (in John this makes better sense, since Jesus was already whipped - no reason to flog Him a second time). Another point of similarity between Luke and John is the use of the third-person plural pronoun “they” to vilify the Jewish crowd. A literal reading of John would also have the “they” to whom Pilate hands Jesus over to to be ‘the Jews’ mentioned earlier.

Despite this subtle innuendo, John still betrays knowledge of Roman involvement in the crucifixion: mention is made of “the soldiers [who] crucified Jesus” in 19:23-25 and 32-34 (but then again, it is not explicitly said that these are Pilate’s soldiers, so one could also interpret these soldiers in John as actually being those of the Jewish authorities; cf. 18:2, where Judas procures “a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees”), and it is implied Pilate is running the show (in 19:19-22, Pilate writes the sign on Jesus’ cross and refuses to change it despite protests from “the chief priests of the Jews;” “the Jews” petition Pilate for the legs of the crucified men to be broken in 19:31).


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